One of the most influential architectural and artistic trends of the twentieth century was the Bauhaus school, the world’s first design school. The Bauhaus was formed in 1919 in the city of Weimar in Germany and it was based on a new radical concept in art education: the unity of art, technology and crafts in a single form of creative expression that integrated skills in architecture, sculpture and painting.
Political upheavals in interwar Germany led to the closure of the Bauhaus School in 1933 and many of its key figures moved to the United States where they founded the New Bauhaus in 1937 in Chicago.
This school is considered to be the origin of industrial and graphic design as we know them today and had a profound impact on all subsequent artistic and architectural developments.
Two fundamental Bauhaus principals: simplicity and functionality
Functionality: form follows function
Bauhaus endorses the North American architect, Louis Sullivan’s principle and applies it in design and architecture. Bauhaus design endeavours to resolve functionality issues with minimal ornamentation and strives for harmony between function and artistic and technical manufacturing techniques.
Simplicity and geometric shapes
Bauhaus design can be characterised by simplicity of lines and shapes, using straight lines and smooth curves. Influenced by Cubism and the work of contemporary artists such as Picasso and Gris, Bauhaus uses abstract and simple geometric shapes to create innovative and contemporary design objects.
The Bauhaus did not begin classes in architecture until 1927 and Bauhaus-style buildings from this initial period such as the Chicago Tribune Tower Project or the Bauhaus building itself in Dessau were solely designed by its founder, Walter Gropius.
This architectural style spread later to the United States and through European architects such as Mies Van der Rohe, director of the Bauhaus when it closed in 1933, it evolved to become what is now known as International Style architecture.
Although tuition in painting was more a means rather than an end itself, great masters of modern painting such as Klee, Kandinsky and Moholy-Nagy were involved at the Bauhaus school from the very beginning and left their mark in the school´s pictorial and graphical creations.
Graphic arts and printmaking
The Bauhaus printmaking workshop only operated during the first phase of the school and is considered to be a pioneer of graphic arts and typography. Its designs for several international projects and collections of Bauhaus posters and postcards with a distinctive typeface and design became one of the most important advertising media for the school.
Sculpture workshops for stone work and wood-carving operated at the school. Representative samples of this art form include the reliefs created in wood to decorate the Sommerfeld house by Groupius and Meyer or the stone wall decorations for the Bauhaus´ own school buildings.
Applied arts and industrial design
Industrial design products brought distinctive Bauhaus style to the general public. From unmistakable Bauhaus wallpaper designs to furniture and lighting which have now become design classics such as the Wassily chair by Marcel Breuer.
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