Before you start reading this new series, I know that some of you haven’t received the daily email update that a new post has been published. It didn’t go at all on Monday morning and was sent manually at about 9pm. This morning it went to some people and not others. It’s being investigated and hopefully corrected and in the meantime do check in manually. Tomorrow’s post (sponsored by Houseof is about how to put the lighting right without having to call an electrician in and on Thursday an interview with television presenter and former editor of Elle Decoration Michelle Ogundehin. It’s worth checking for manually! My apologies for the glitch and do bear with it. We will get it sorted.
It’s the anniversary of the design school this year and while it’s a reference that gets bandied about all the time by everyone from Sainsbury’s to House and Garden, what exactly is it?
Here are 10 things you need to know about Bauhaus and you will be able to bandy it about with the rest of them
1 The Staatliches Bauhaus was founded by an architect Walter Gropius in Germany in 1919 to bring all branches of the arts under one roof. Names such as Josef Albers, Wassily Kandinsky, and Paul Klee all came to work as instructors but the idea was less about the teacher pupil relationship and more about a community of artists working together.
2 From the start there was an emphasis on function which came before form (Danish design tends to put the two on an equal footing) and the aim was to bring art back into contact with daily life so architecture, performing arts and design were given as much importance as fine art. It was about pieces being beautiful and useful so yes William Morris was thinking this 50 years earlier and no doubt had an influence on the school.
3 The Bauhaus moved from Weimar to Dessau in 1925–6 where Gropius created a new building for the school. In 1932 it moved to Berlin where it was closed in 1933 by the Nazis and many of the artists moved to the US. The Nazis regarded the schools as hotbeds of communist intellectualism.
4 Bauhaus style is characterised by abstract shapes, balanced form and little ornamentation. In its art forms there is typically bold typography and blocks of colour. The buildings are also geometric and tend to be open plan with lots of glass to allow the light in. In interior design the spaces are simple, open and minimal.
5 Classic examples include the Wassily chair by Marcel Breuer and paintings by Klee and Kandinsky. Breuer’s chair was modern and forward looking – apparently inspired by the handlebars on his bike – the metal industry had only just learnt to bend hollow metal tubes like this. Imagine it against the prevailing décor of the 1920s with its brown furniture and richly upholstered sofas and chairs. In contrast Bauhaus furniture is light and minimal and made of modern materials such as plywood, steel and leather.
6 There were also lots of textiles with richly coloured geometric patterns. Last year the Tate held an exhibition featuring the work of Anni Albers at the Tate.
7 The largest group of Bauhaus buildings in the world is in Tel Aviv, in Jerusalem, where many of the German Jewish architects from the Bauhaus fled. The resulting 4,000 buildings are now known as The White City of Tel Aviv.
Over the years many of the features have been ripped out and there was a tendency to glass over the balconies to create extra rooms (many of the flats were small) but this has now been disallowed. The law now states that if you move into a Bauhaus apartment with any original features you must keep them.
8 I wrote this for The FT in 2012: During the 1930s, a number of Jewish architects who had trained at the Bauhaus school in Germany fled the Nazis and headed to Palestine. Between 1931 and 1937, they embarked on a building spree. This was partly down to luck: in 1925, the city authorities had adopted a scheme by Sir Patrick Geddes, a Scottish biologist, sociologist and town planner, for the design of the city.
For the newly arrived architects the timing was perfect, as they found themselves commissioned to create hundreds of new apartment buildings. The Bauhaus style was based on a few simple rules: it was minimalistic, asymmetric and restrained. Decorative elements that served no purpose were omitted. In Tel Aviv, these rules were adapted to suit the local climate. The new buildings were raised on pillars, known as pilotis, to allow the sea breeze to circulate and to prevent dust from coming inside. Roofs were flat to provide gardens where residents could socialise. Balconies were added, and the odd decorative feature also crept in, with fish ponds and statues at the entrances to many of the apartment blocks. Finally the concrete was painted white, and the city earned its nickname.
9 Classic Bauhaus designs include: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer, Frank and Anni Albers, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky
10 Modern Bauhaus inspired designs include lighting by Bert Frank, wallpaper by Mini Moderns, Design K at Heals, some Ferm Living, Fritz Hansen.
So there you have it: 10 Things You Need to Know About…. to be continued….