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
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.
In 2019, Germany will be celebrating the centenary of the founding of the Bauhaus. Founded in Weimar in 1919, relocated to Dessau in 1925 and closed in Berlin under pressure from the Nazis in 1933, the school of design only existed for a total of 14 years. Nevertheless, its effects can be felt today. Discover what's in store for the 100th anniversary.