Bauhaus: The First Design School of Modern Times

Craft isn’t entirely synonymous with mass production. But in the early 1900s, the Bauhaus, a group, and school of architects and designers sought to reconcile these two methods. Founded in the city of Weimar, the Bauhaus integrated a wide variety of arts and design, from graphics to ceramics, to demonstrate a synthesized approach to the burgeoning modernist style formed just after World War I and heavily influenced by the Deutsche Werkbund just before it.

By moving from a more expressive ornate style of Art Nouveau and Expressionism to one of a more pared down “New Objectivity,” Walter Gropius and his fellow instructors in the Bauhaus advocated for minimalist, streamlined designs. With the Bauhaus school, it was Gropius’ ideal “to create a new guild of craftsmen, without the class distinctions which raise an arrogant barrier between craftsman and art.” In this way, Bauhaus art and architecture students broke down barriers not only between disciplines but also between class to deliver what they believed to be optimal, efficient designs for a wide-ranging public. can be seen in the architecture of J.J.P Oud’s housing, and Marianne Brandt’s famed ashtray and homewares, and in the furniture designs of Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, who used bent tubular steel as an industrial material to create a sleek, curvaceous support for his Brno chair.

The Bauhaus didn’t stay put. It moved from Weimar, to Dessau, and to Berlin. During the World War II, the school was dismantled and the pedagogical diaspora spread to more far-flung cities to form a group of Bauhaus NYC thinkers, some in London, and also Chicago. The philosophies of Bauhaus design changed and shifted during these years, but always, the Bauhaus movement advocated for more critical and patient attention to craft and access to quality design.

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