Photos: The Incredible Legacy of the Bauhaus School of Design

Though open for just 14 years, the Bauhaus marked the beginning of Modernism and its impact is still felt today

Built by Belgian architect Henry van de Velde, this building was the site of the original Bauhaus school in Weimar. Traces can be found today in wall paintings, reliefs and the reconstructed Walter Gropius Room. Today it is used by Bauhaus University. (© Andreas Weise / Thüringer Tourismus GmbH)
Also designed by van de Velde, the Former School of Arts and Crafts was used by the Bauhaus between 1919-1925. Notable features include an unusually lit wide winding staircase as well as three reconstructed wall paintings by Oskar Schlemmer, completed for the first major Bauhaus Exhibition in 1923. Today it is home of the Faculty of Design at Bauhaus University. (© Maik Schuck / Thüringer Tourismus GmbH)
The interior of the room for handicraft in the Architecture Department of the Bauhaus University in Weimar, Germany. (© Nathalie Mohadjer / Bauhaus-Universität)
Van de Velde designed and lived in House Hohe Pappeln from 1908-1917 when he was art adviser to Grand Duke Wilhelm Ernst. In his design, van de Velde avoids elaborate decoration, instead applying principles of practicality in line with aesthetics of modern industry. Today, the ground floor and garden are open to visitors. (© Jens Hauspurg / Weimar GmbH)
German architect Alfred Arndt designed Haus des Volkes in Probstzella during the time when Hannes Meyer and Mies van der Rohe were directors of the Dessau Bauhaus. The hotel was presented as an example of Bauhaus work at the Bauhaus touring exhibition from 1929-1930. Recent reconstruction has restored the complex to its former glory. (© Bauhaushotel "Haus des Volkes")
For the 1923 Bauhaus Exhibition in Weimar, a model house was built in only four months on the road "Am Horn" and went down in architectural history as the "Haus am Horn.” (© Guido Werner / Weimar GmbH)
The Haus Auerbach in Jena, Germany, built in 1924 by Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer, was Gropius' first private home in the Bauhaus style. Commissioned by physicist and art collector Dr. Felix Auerbach and his wife, Anna, the building features basic geometric shapes, interlocking block forms, ribbon windows and a roof deck. (© Thüringer Tourismus GmbH )
The Friedrich Schiller University cafeteria in Jena, Germany, built in the Bauhaus style by Ernst Neufert and Otto Bartning in 1929-1930. (© Tino Zippel / JenaKultur)
A residential complex in Weimar, Germany, showing architecture inspired by the Bauhaus movement. (© Thomas Härtrich / Thüringer Tourismus GmbH)
In 1937, Walter Gropius was invited to teach at Harvard. He brought former Bauhaus student Marcel Breuer to Harvard the following year, and they founded a joint architecture practice. Gropius’ house in Lincoln, Massachusetts attracted a slew of commissions for private houses. Daderot / Wikimedia Commons)
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed the Farnsworth House, located near Plano, Illinois, as a weekend retreat for Dr. Edith Fransworth, a prominent nephrologist. Completed in 1951, the design features floor-to-ceiling glass windows and exposed steel. The house was named a National Historic Landmark in 2006 and is now operated as a museum. Victor Grigas / Wikimedia Commons)
The 26-floor glass-and-steel towers, known as the 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments, were designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe on the shore of Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois. Completed in 1951, the buildings became models for glass skyscrapers throughout the world. Dennis Flax / Wikimedia Commons)
S.R. Crown Hall, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, is currently the home of the Illinois Institute of Technology's College of Architecture. The building, completed in Chicago in 1956, balances steel and glass in a minimalist, open design that is considered one of van der Rohe's greatest works. Arturo Duarte Jr. / Wikimedia Commons)
The Seagram Building, located in Midtown Manhattan, was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The building, completed in 1958, features a distinctive glass and bronze exterior and a large, open granite plaza at the entrance. (© Lady-Photo / iStock)
In 1946 Walter Gropius founded The Architects Collaborative (TAC). Among his most recognizable projects is the MetLife Building in New York, opened in 1963 as the PanAm Building. (© Morag Cordiner / iStock)
Marcel Breur famously designed the building that housed the Whitney Museum of American Art from 1966 to 2014. (© Mizoula / iStock)

Lasting just 14 years, the Bauhaus school revolutionized the art world in the early 20th century. The brainchild of architect Walter Gropius, it established the principles of modern design and produced a generation of artists who would go on to design such iconic buildings as the MetLife Building and Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Opened in 1919 in the town of Weimar in Thuringia, Germany, the Bauhaus’ mission was to unify art, design and crafts as a symbol of a new and coming future.

It comes as no surprise that Bauhaus has its roots in Weimar. After the First World War, people were open for new ideas and the Weimar Republic, declared in 1919 in the ‘German National Theatre,’ was the first-ever democracy in Germany. As a new political and social center, Weimar attracted many free spirits. These new thinkers built on the town's 200-year-old cultural legacy. In the 18th and 19th century, the Thuringian town had already made a name for itself as the home of great literary, musical and artistic minds, such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, Johann Gottfried Herder, Johann Sebastian Bach and Franz Liszt. They defined the epoch of Classicism with their ideas, making Weimar the ‘Cultural Capital of Europe.’ Today, Weimar is famously known for its 14 Unesco World Heritage Sites in and around town, representing both the bygone era of Classicism and the Bauhaus movement.

Where Bauhaus began

It was in the School of Arts and Crafts in Weimar that Walter ​Gropius summoned international avant-garde artists to teach workshops ranging from textiles to metalworking, cabinet making and typography with a focus on the intersection of form and function. In 1919, he published a manifesto about his ideas, which is now said to be the official founding document of the Bauhaus. ​Later, moving the school to Dessau in 1925, Gropius emphasized the importance of designing for mass production. Out of this new focus on “art into industry” came lightweight, mass-producible metal chairs and steel-frame construction, among other distinctly modern elements. Simple geometric shapes and easily replicable elementary color palettes became the movement's signatures.

In 1928, under Hannes Meyer, the school’s intention shifted towards the social function of design, designing for public good. Pressured by a right-wing government, Meyer resigned just two years later, passing the reigns to architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. To escape local political pressures, Mies van der Rohe relocated the Bauhaus to Berlin, yet was forced by Nazis to shutter the school in 1933.

Despite its short tenure, the effects of the Bauhaus were long lasting. Many of Bauhaus’ key minds continued their craft in Germany, and many more emigrated to the United States during World War II, assuming positions at universities and art institutions. Gropius and Marcel Breuer​ taught at Harvard, Josef and Anni Albers set up shop at Black Mountain College, and László Moholy-Nagy, together with Mies van der Rohe, established the “New Bauhaus” at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Over time Bauhaus doctrine won international recognition, and in 1996, more than a dozen Bauhaus-inspired buildings in Weimar and Dessau were declared Unesco World Heritage Sites.

Many of these sites can be visited today, and in 2019 Germany will celebrate the centenary of the art school. Click through the slideshow above to discover the incredible legacy of the Bauhaus from its beginnings to today.

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Discover more about the beginnings of the Bauhaus in Thuringia, Germany.

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