Architecture & Design

Bauhaus in 7 Minutes: Revolutionary Design Movement Explained

For many artists, architects, and historians, the Bauhaus is a symbol of modernism and artistic ingenuity. However, to the vast majority of people, the Bauhaus seems like a rather peculiar and short-lived German art school. Honestly, both views are correct. That said, it’s difficult to summarize the Bauhaus and its complex history in just a few sentences. So, let’s take a closer look at the Bauhaus, its birth, its guiding principles, its products, and ultimately — its demise.

During its heyday (1919-1933), the Bauhaus was the cradle of modern design. After WWI, the phrase “made in Germany” often aroused distrust among the general public. Fortunately for Germany’s economy and global reputation, modernist architect Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus, which emerged as a new type of art school, combining the mass production of goods with modern artistic experimentation. This, in turn, helped improve the quality of post-war German goods.

Needless to say, the school always had a unique atmosphere. As Gropius's dream of a community of designers, apprentices, and craftsmen became a reality, the school grew into a kind of commune. People from different backgrounds all lived in close proximity to one another. They worked together, partied together, and shared ideas with one another. As a result, many of Gropius’ contemporaries viewed the school as a kind of secular cult.

In addition to its philosophical and political effects, the Bauhaus was notorious for its outrageous parties. Since the earliest days of the school’s existence, Gropius supported the idea that theater shows, lectures, poetry, music, and costume parties should all be part of the training program. In his opinion, rest and relaxation were no less important for creative thinking than work. These “holidays” began as opportunities for personal improvisation, eventually developing into large-scale performances with costumes and decorations that came directly from the school’s workshop.

Despite its bizarre and challenging reputation, the Bauhaus fundamentally changed the world of design — especially when it came to furniture. In the 14 years of its existence, the school's students created many legendary designs. It is worth remembering that all the school’s students were not just learning and training, but also working. Their products were patented and sold under the school's brand.

One of the most famous products created at the school was the “Basil” chair by Marcel Lajos Breuer. Breuer went from student to master at the Bauhaus and left a significant mark on the Bauhaus. His chair was very much liked by Wassily Kandinsky, who in Dessau furnished his entire house with products of his younger colleague. Decades later, when Breuer relaunched the mass production of these chairs in Italy in the 1960s, he paid tribute to the artist and renamed the chair “Vasily.”

Despite Gropius's modern thinking, women were creatively oppressed at the Bauhaus. In almost every case, female students were sent to work in the textile workshop. Gropius believed that it was not a woman's business to work with furniture or metal products. This certainly did not detract from the genius of women like Gunta Stölzl and Anni Albers. Additionally, Alma-Siedhoff Buscher created furniture, Lucia Moholy engaged in nude photography, and Margarete Heymann wore a man's suit and worked with ceramics.

However, the most famous example of female creativity at the Bauhaus came from Marianne Brandt and her legendary teapot. Marianne Brandt was the first woman to begin working with metal, eventually becoming the head of the metal workshop. Brandt made her famous kettle back in 1924 — her first year of study. In doing so, she managed to combine luxury with democracy and aesthetics with practicality.

Walter Gropius's dream that, as in the Middle Ages, architecture would be the final product of the synthesis of arts, did not come true right away. Officially, the architectural workshop didn’t appear until 1927 with the arrival of Hannes Mayer. In any case, students worked at the construction site of the Sommerfeld house in Berlin. The mansion was built in the spirit of German expressionism rather than functionalism, which was traditionally associated with the Bauhaus style.

The main architectural project of the Bauhaus was the school building itself in Dessau, designed by Walter Gropius. It was an ode to the functionalism and machine aesthetics of the 20th century. The building also served as an advertisement for goods produced under the Bauhaus patent.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. The Bauhaus went through three different stages: Weimar (1919-1925), Dessau (1925-1932), and Berlin (1932-33). During this time, the school had three directors: Walter Gropius, Hannes Mayer, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. None of these phases were easy, but Rohe's years were the most difficult by far.

In 1930, the school had to be temporarily closed, and the dissenters disbanded. Students protested the closure and the censure of the Nazi party. As a result, Rohe banned all political activities under threat of expulsion. After that, things were pretty quiet for a while. But in 1931, political unrest outside Dessau began to threaten the Bauhaus. The Nazis gained control of the Dessau City Council. Subsequently, the city of Dessau terminated work contracts with Bauhaus and canceled its subsidies. In 1932, the school was destroyed by the Nazis and officially closed in 1933 after Rohe moved the institute to Berlin.


Modern art and design might be completely different if not for the Bauhaus school. Even though it had a short and tumultuous history, the Bauhaus had a tremendous impact on both art and mass production in the 20th century. To this day, reflections of the Bauhaus’s products and vision can be seen in products and art pieces around the world.

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