21st-century Modernity, from 1919 on
The chair or couch on which you sit.
The table on which you’re resting your mobile or pad.
The desk on which your laptop or desktop resides.
The light fixture on your desk or above your head.
The windows in your room, your house, or in the café where you’re reading this.
The “universal” idea of living in a house or apartment with the furnishings we all take for granted from bathroom to bedroom and kitchen to living room is a relatively young idea by historical standards. It’s easy to imagine a time where only the rich upper-class could afford and were allowed to have and live in heated furnished residences, and the poor lower-class lived in unheated homes under damp dirty squalid conditions. Past designs with its heavy stone, porcelain, and ornate decorative components gave way to steel, glass, lightness of space, to favouring function over form. Simpler designs were meant to provide universal access: to the home, and to the essentials which furnished the home.
Architect Walter Gropius founded Bauhaus in Weimar in 1919 and became the first Bauhaus director. In 1925, political reasons and oppression forced Bauhaus to move from Weimar to Dessau. Gropius designed the building which when completed in 1926 became the Bauhaus headquarters in Dessau. The building is known as an original work of modernist industrial architecture and an example from the “New Objectivity” (“Neue Sächlichkeit”) movement from the 1920s in Germany. The glass and steel multi-storeyed framework and facade, unsupported fully-windowed corners, and abundant ambient light and open spaces gave the building a distinction as a new kind of architecture, described also as “a new kind of weightless elegance. The building itself was used to illuminate Bauhaus’ key principles including architecture as the product of collaboration between art and technology (following examples provided by industry at the time), active collaboration among all teachers and students, blurring hierarchical lines of “teacher” and “student”, and a seamless merging of work-time inside the studio and personal-time outside.
In 1932, Bauhaus was forced to move again, establishing themselves in Berlin for one year before they were forced to close for good in 1933. The movement didn’t end there, as its practitioners departed for other countries, especially the United States.
Bauhaus served as the “Hochschule für Gestaltung” (School for Design), opening its doors to architects, builders, dancers, designers, painters, photographers, and sculptors. In their unique way, they sought to break staid modes of thinking and from the realms of arts and sciences found new ideas and methods regarding static- and dynamic-forms to living. The new “modernity” established in the early 20th-century persists to this very day.
The Bauhaus Dessau was inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.
“Man muss um den Bau herum gehen, um seine Körperlichkeit und die Funktion seiner Glieder zu erfassen.”
(“You have to walk around the entire building to appreciate its physicality and functional elements.”)
“… als eine ‘hohe Schule der Gestaltung’ ist das Bauhaus Dessau kein künstlerisches wohl aber ein soziales Phänomen.”
(“… as a university of design, the Dessau Bauhaus is not an artistic but a social phenomenon.”)
-Hannes Meyer, from “Bauhaus und Gesellschaft”, 1929.
Locations: Weimar 1919-1925, Dessau 1925-1932, Berlin 1932-1933.
Directors: Walter Gropius 1919-1928, Hannes Meyer 1928-1932, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe 1932-1933.