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Bauhaus Design Movement: Past, Present & Its Fashion Influence

Bauhaus“the house of building” originating from the German word ‘Hausbau’
Bauhaus Movementthe study, integration, and teaching of architecture, sculpture, painting, and textiles in relation to the material world & the reflection of unity in all arts. (Walter Gropius, 1919)

Origins & Understanding

When we peel back the layers of history, we begin to see how today’s trends, movements, and influences still draw from themes established in the past. More specifically, understanding world history through art helps us further understand how artists and designers move through artistic principles given their chosen disciplines. Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus movement in Weimar, Germany.

World-renowned visual artists like Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky took precedence in this movement. He and many others saw the vision for integrating craft and artisan efforts into the material world and outward designs. Elements such as pottery, weaving, wall painting, and eventually typography were utilized to convey the message of unifying all arts into the material world. Other core curriculum components were cabinetmaking and metalworking, which ultimately took complete form in interior design.

Within the early 20th century, Bauhaus movement perspectives began to switch gears in teaching and curriculum. Shortly after making Dessau, Germany, the main location for further teachings in 1925, the Bauhaus focus started aligning with the emphasis on mass production. The new school building birthed new ideas and concepts for the Bauhaus movement. Despite the Bauhaus movement holding magical elements that proved to be interesting and eccentric to the masses, schooling was in a constant state of being financially unfeasible. This shift curated a new slogan, “Art into Industry”, where industry efforts meant focusing on mass production while keeping craft and artisanship as the core focus. With a now tailored focused mass production, this was a hopeful sign that funding Bauhaus would no longer be a constant issue.

In 1928, Gropius stepped down from his term as the Director of Bauhaus, and architect Hannes Meyer took his place. In Meyer’s short director run, he maintained the emphasis on mass production and avoided courses that he felt were too formal. In 1930, Meyer resigned due to pressures from the German government, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe took his place. Alongside colleague Lilly Reich, who oversaw the departments of interior design, weaving, and building; they both introduced the emphasis of architecture into the Bauhaus movement. The Bauhaus school eventually moved to Berlin as World War II progressed, Bauhaus teachings and ideals began to make their way over into the United States. Influencing many young designers and architects, Gropius and many others of his early department heads continued the Bauhaus teachings at Harvard, Black Mountain College, and Yale. Eventually, they opened the New Bauhaus in Chicago in 1937.

Bauhaus & Graphic Design

The ideals of the Bauhaus movement to integrate all art mediums took hold in the graphic design world. Though typography was something that was later introduced in the Bauhaus teachings, it proved to hold significance to the movement’s message and forms. Moholy-Nagy and Herbert Bayer were the pillars of these teachings within the Bauhaus schooling. Graphic design began to take a stake in communication between artists and eventually held its identity in corporate and advertising settings. Typography elements in graphic design emphasize expression and visual clarity. Eventually, photography became another crucial aspect of the Bauhaus design movement in terms of graphic design. Utilizing imagery and san serif typefaces created room for more communication via different mediums and eventually prompted more avant-garde aesthetics into these seemingly rigid and strict spaces in Germany at the time.

Bauhaus Movement in Interior Design

Gropius’s intention in the Bauhaus teaching was to integrate all levels of art in a materialized form. Still, it was only natural that the things he and other department directors created found real purpose in interior design. Cabinetmaking and metalworking were two of the curriculums with a lot of creative distinction. Department director Marcel Breuer inspired students to look at an object’s current existence and re-imagine it to bring it into a minimal form of existence via exploration that pulled away from the conventional. For example, Breuer was fascinated with his bike and the metal steel that held it together. This interest sparked inspiration and motivation to redefine the look of chairs. He eventually created chairs from the steel tubes of a bicycle that proved to be lightweight and accessible to be mass-produced. Hence, re-imagining something already made in the material world, dematerializing it from the original form, and integrating another level of art (metalworking) to redefine a chair’s look, weight, and feel. The same could be said for light fixtures and tableware created with these teachings in mind.

Bauhaus Influence in Fashion, Editorial & More

The Bauhaus design movement took Germany by storm and, soon after, the United States by storm. Principles in typography and photography influenced graphic designs that later became precedents in editorial design. Re-imagining, deconstructing, and re-inventing furniture elements became clear and sought after within the interior design world. But what about fashion? As we dive deeper into history and inspiration, we realize that all these mediums interchangeably communicate. Someone prominent within the Bauhaus movement’s teachings regarding textiles is Gunta Stölzl. Stölzl was the director of textiles during the early years of the Bauhaus movement. As a designer and weaver herself, she stepped into the Bauhaus design movement and emphasized an abstract approach. There was encouragement for experimentation with materials, especially unorthodox ones.

Elements like fiberglass, cellophane, and metal were brought into play in her classes. In addition to the study of color theory, there was room growing for an emergence of thinking outside the box when it came to the creative process of generating fabrics and textiles. Aesthetics in minimalism, color, form, and shape via experimentation of the Bauhaus design movement birthed artists like Anni Albers and influenced designers like Roksanda Ilinčić, Mary Katrantzou, and Jonathan Saunders. Hugo Boss also curated their 2015 Autumn/Winter collection, drawing inspiration from Anni Albers, who became a noteworthy textile artist. Albers also integrated printmaking into her artistic discography. Her art style combined traditional craft and art prompted Hugo Boss to showcase her art on the runway to tie the designs together.

Bauhaus’ Impact Seen Today

The Bauhaus design movement and its efforts throughout the 20th century are still significant today. History has a beautiful way of resurging itself through fresh minds and new eyes. The design theories introduced by Walter Gropius and his many colleagues and collaborators still shine through in today’s modern world. Some examples of Bauhaus can be seen within the interior design world through lamps and chairs. Experimentation of materials, sleek lines and silhouettes, and bold use of colors all align with Bauhaus design. Simultaneously, the Bauhaus movement may have been ahead of its time with principles in re-imaging shape and bringing things to a more minimal and natural form – ideals that currently take hold today as fashion evolves and advanced technology emerges. Understanding that older concepts like the Bauhaus movement can generate new inspiration puts us all in a constant space of creative revolution and evolution.

 

Written by: Uma Pena-Cabrera, Student Writer

Date: June 25, 2023

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