The Bauhaus was the first model of the modern art school. The Bauhaus curriculum combined theoretic education and practical training in the educational workshops. It drew inspiration from the ideals of the revolutionary art movements and design experiments of the early 20th century. A woodcut (shown right) depicted the idealized vision of Walter Gropius, a “cathedral” of design. Bauhaus 1919-33 The Bauhaus began with an utopian definition: “The building of the future” was to combine all the arts in ideal unity.
In order to reach this goal, the founder, Walter Gropius, saw the necessity to develop new teaching methods and was convinced that the base for any art was to be found in handcraft: “the school will gradually turn into a workshop”. artists and craftsmen directed classes and production together at the Bauhaus in Weimar. This was intended to remove any distinction between fine arts and applied arts. Of course, the educational and social claim to a new configuration of life and its environment could not always be achieved.
And the Bauhaus was not alone with this goal, but the name became a near synonym for this trend. The Bauhaus occupies a place of its own in the history of 20th century culture, architecture, design, art and new media. One of the first schools of design, it brought together a number of the most outstanding contemporary architects and artists and was not only an innovative training centre but also a place of production and a focus of international debate.
At a time when industrial society was in the grip of a crisis, the Bauhaus stood almost alone in asking how the modernisation process could be mastered by means of design. Founded in Weimar in 1919, the Bauhaus rallied masters and students who sought to reverse the split between art and production by returning to the crafts as the foundation of all artistic activity and developing exemplary designs for objects and spaces that were to form part of a more human future society. Following intense internal debate, in 1923 the Bauhaus turned its ttention to industry under its founder and first director Walter Gropius (1883–1969).
The major exhibition which opened in 1923, reflecting the revised principle of art and technology as a new unity, showcased the full spectrum of Bauhaus work and prototypes. The Haus Am Horn provided a glimpse of a residential building of the future. In 1924 funding for the Bauhaus was cut so drastically at the instigation of conservative forces that it had to seek a new home. The Bauhaus moved to Dessau at a time of rising economic fortunes, becoming the municipally funded School of Design.
Almost all masters moved with it. Former students became junior masters in charge of the workshops. Famous works of art and architecture and influential designs were produced in Dessau in the years from 1926 to 1932. Walter Gropius resigned as director on 1st April 1928 under the pressure of constant struggles for the Bauhaus survival, He was succeeded by the Swiss architect Hannes Meyer (1889–1954) whose work sought to shape a harmonious society. Cost-cutting industrial mass production was to make products affordable for the masses.
Despite his successes, Hannes Meyer’s Marxist convictions became a problem for the city council amidst the political turbulence of Germany in 1929, and the following year he was removed from his post. Under Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886–1969) the Bauhaus developed from 1930 into a technical school of architecture with subsidiary art and workshop departments. After the Nazis became the biggest party in Dessau at the elections, the Bauhaus was forced to move in September 1932. It moved to Berlin but only lasted for a short time longer.
The Bauhaus dissolved itself under pressure from the Nazis in 1933. Architecture “The building is the ultimate goal of all fine art,” the Bauhaus manifesto proclaimed back in 1919. Architecture training at the Bauhaus in Weimar was initially the prerogative of Walter Gropius private architectural practice and for a short time courses were run by his partner Adolf Meyer and in association with the “Baugewerkschule” (building trades school) in Weimar. The Bauhaus workshops were involved in these efforts through Gropius’s office.
This collaboration produced the Haus Am Horn in 1923. Some new methods based on specific types and standardisation were employed not only to produce new architecture but to anticipate a new lifestyle through this architecture. In 1927 Walter Gropius offered Hannes Meyer a position in charge of architecture classes. That year Hannes Meyer began to put together a curriculum which included all relevant subjects such as planning, design, draftsmanship, construction, town planning. Architecture for Walter Gropius and Hannes Meyer alike mainly denoted the “design of life’s processes”.
Hannes Meyer went far beyond Gropius’s “study of essentials”, which focused too much on the object for his taste, turning his teaching programme into one where the concrete conditions in society and the factors determining architecture and its use formed the starting point for all planning and design. The habits of the future residents of an estate or a house were studied in scientific detail. From 1930 to 1933 Ludwig Mies van der Rohe carried on with much of what had been started under his predecessors.
At the same time Mies van der Rohe streamlined the curriculum to produce something like a system of courses which left almost no room for utopian experiments. The majority of the new student intake at the Bauhaus had already completed a course of studies, and the Bauhaus became a “postgraduate school”. Mies van der Rohe’s teaching focused on the design of specific buildings whose appearance owed nothing to Gropius’s “study of essentials” or to the collective satisfaction of “the people’s needs”, but which were to be “the spatial implementation of intellectual decisions” (Mies van der Rohe) in an aesthetically consummate fashion.
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