Technology and Modernism: Bauhaus

The Nineteenth-Century was a whirlwind era of advancement in technology and the development of industrial design. A demand for individuals who could combine artistic with technological skills (Sparke, 158) arose when British manufacturers desired “appropriately trained” workers. The idea of the craftsman and the artist as separate individuals was not part of the forward thinking concept of modernism. The solution to this issue was conceived in the form of the Staatliche Bauhaus, a new educational program that attempted to establish a relation between the emerging modernism of the fine arts and a broad range of design and craft fields (Pile, 320).

German architect and designer, Walter Gropius, headed the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany, which began with the combining of the Academy of Fine Art and the School of Applied Arts. Staff members of the Bauhaus included some of the most influential expressionist painters of the time – Lional Feininger, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Oscar Schlemmer – who, although sometimes collaborated teachings, specialized in specific areas of study.

The institution’s guild-inspired system allowed for exploration of art and design, but also called for some concentrated learning as well. The Bauhaus’ goal was to bring together all creative effort into one whole, to reunify all the disciplines of practical art – sculpture, painting, handicrafts, and the crafts – as inseparable components of a new architecture (Gorman, 98). This new architecture was idealized in the design and construction of the Bauhaus’ second location in the city of Dessau (the Bauhaus was forced to move in 1925 due to economic and political problems). With Gropius designing the new buildings himself, he developed what was then classified as the ‘International Style’. The term reflects the fact that modernism was not marked by the strong national differences typical of earlier design (Pile, 330). The interior and exterior designs reflected each other, both expressing simplicity and functionality.

Unfortunately, the Bauhaus was force to close in 1933 under the direction of Mies van der Rohe, due to both financial pressures and the hostility toward all avant-garde ideas that marked the rising of the Nazi movement (Pile, 330). Although the school closed, many of its teachers and students took their knowledge and spread it to different areas throughout Europe, and many even traveled to the United States to pursue their idea of modern design and express it as desired.

The concept of the International Style was a huge movement for design and architecture. It signified the passing of specific national differences and the unification of them all. Do you think this movement was disadvantageous in the sense that various places of significant architectural styles lost their prominence? Or was it beneficial because of the integration of one style? Also, was the International Style successful as compared to previously developed styles (i.e. Victorian design, Eclecticism, etc.)? Are the principles behind the International Style something we still see in today’s design field?

(Villa Savoye – International Style Example – Google Images)