The Bauhaus was a German school of design from 1919 to 1933. It was a movement that was strongly influenced by the outcomes of World War One and rejected the ideals of the past and embraced the age of the machine. By focusing on the materials and the eradication of superfluous decoration, the Bauhaus established a new ideal, which was, form following function. Through their manipulation of established and new products this enabled them to emphasise the very ‘materiality’ of the items they produced. They simplified design, rejoiced in the quintessential embodiment of the elements and deliberately did not attempt to hide any constructional components. No longer was there a standard response to these elements, as the importance of the material itself emerged. Although relatively short lived, this movement had a major impact on world architecture and design, which is still evident today.
The Bauhaus movement’s most obvious influence was on architecture. Its impact can be seen in both major and domestic projects. The school broke away from the previous ‘elaboration [and] incremental development of past models’ and heralded the notion that ‘modern life had been so thoroughly transformed by technology and social change’ as to warrant a radically different approach (Lewis 2001, p. 40). Their teachings embraced the importance of the ‘manual experience of materials’ (The Bauhaus, People, Places, Products and Philosophy 1996) and students were encouraged to work with industrial products such as mass produced steel and glass to envelop and reflect the idea of ‘purpose.’ It was their strong rejection of the past and tradition that enabled them to move away from the expected.
The Bauhaus developed this concept further as they ‘stripped away the decoration, and left clean lines of function’ (The Bauhaus, People, Places 1996). This concept continued to evolve until ultimately the form of an object was created in accordance with its purpose. An example of this approach is the Bauhaus building, Dessau, Germany 1925/26, which has been described as one of the most influential buildings of the Twentieth century (Droste 1993). It features a curtain wall attached to a skeletal frame with different sections created for different and specific uses (Droste 1993). Decoration and ornamentation were considered unnecessary, as the function of the building became paramount. This building with its unique structural iron grid encased in glass does not attempt to disguise the support mechanisms that provide its strength. In fact, these features are accentuated, not intentionally, but the lack of their concealment does highlight their purpose and function within the structure. Additionally the unique and extensive use of glass assisted in revealing its internal machinations. Architecture to this point had rarely been so communicative.
It was this new approach to architecture and material use that led to the expansion of the International Style. With the closure of the school in 1933 many of its teachers migrated to America and France. This dispersed movement of intellectual property contributed to the Bauhaus ideals, patterns and standards being spread around the world (Wullschlager 2002). Their use of modern materials, the rejection of tradition and the concept that items were produced in relation to their function and purpose, heralded an innovative approach to architecture. America, in particular, absorbed these ideas and concepts (Kentgens-Craig 1999). They appealed to America, as she wanted a built architecture that demonstrated its post war culture, civilization and power (Kentgens-Craig 1999). These foundations supported the evolution of the ‘International Style’ of architecture and the modern era was born.
There were two influential ex Bauhaus directors that became foremost proponents of this new style, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius. Both, still deeply entranced by the Bauhaus...
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