In 2019, Germany will be celebrating the centenary of the founding of the Bauhaus together with partners all over the world. Founded in Weimar in 1919, relocated to Dessau in 1925 and closed in Berlin under pressure from the National Socialists in 1933, the school of design only existed for fourteen years. Despite this, the Bauhaus still has an impact all over the world.
As it turns out, I am heading out to Weimar for the next week to take part in the celebration of the 99th anniversary of the Bauhaus movement. This will be the first time I have been back to Germany since I spent time there while in college. One of the main differences between then and now is that I’ll be sleeping in a hotel rather than on a train, but the other difference, and probably the more important one, is that I have been preparing for this trip by reading a bunch of books and doing a lot of preparatory research.
This is the conceptual diagram showing the structure of teaching at the Bauhaus, that was developed by Walter Gropius in 1922. As described by the Bauhaus Archive:
The programme places building at the center of all the activities. But a regular course in architecture was only introduced at the Bauhaus in 1927. Only the most talented students were admitted to the architecture course. At the start of their studies, they received a year of basic training in the so-called preliminary course, in which they were able to experiment with color, shape, and materials, with no specific goals. Depending on their individual suitability, this was followed by practical work in the workshops and accompanying disciplines. The students entered the workshops as ‘apprentices’ and were to sit their ‘apprenticeship’ exams within a given time period.
The outer ring indicates a preliminary 6-month course in basic materials and involved painting and rudimentary experiments in form-making. The inner two rings indicate a 3-year period where students were introduced to workshop training conducted by two masters: one artist, and one craftsman. The center of the wheel references building construction, engineering, and Architecture, which was studied in theory and then skills learned would put into practice by working on the actual constructions of buildings.
The Bauhaus in its international forms is still the most effective cultural export that Germany produced during the twentieth century, and it has shaped today’s lived-in world in many ways. The ideas of the Bauhaus in the fields of fine and applied art, design, architecture, and education were disseminated all over the world by its former teachers and students, to countries including the United States, China, Israel, Switzerland, Japan, and Mexico. Its global approach involving a rethinking of the world was central to its effectiveness.
The Bauhaus was a vibrant school of ideas and a realm of experimentation. Lesser known paths led to new terrains, which were explored there with insatiable curiosity through experimentation, production, drawing, and study. Learning and experimentation took place using real materials and in real life. This involved nothing less than a transformation of everyday life, housing, and social coexistence – issues that are as up to date and relevant today as they were 100 years ago.
With its universal design methods – elementary in terms of formal language, comprehensible and accessible to all – the Bauhaus stands worldwide for a grand idea, for interdisciplinary design, for an unconditional quest for utopias, opportunities, and inspiration. All quests and experiments also involve mistakes and failed or incomplete projects – and these also form part of the international history of the Bauhaus.
I have been looking forward to this trip for the past several months. There is a huge series of events taking place over the next several days – lectures, moderated panels, and a great many tours. If you have ever been to this part of Germany, please let me know if there is something you think I should make a point to see. Otherwise, I plan on sharing photos of my adventures in semi-real time throughout the week on my Instagram account and I hope you can live vicariously through me.
Bis dahin, eine schöne Woche, meine Freunde!
[until then, have a great week my friends!]