Design Classics

10 Things You Need To Know About…. Bauhaus

15th October 2019
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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

barcelona chair by mies van der rohe and lilly reich via knoll

barcelona chair by mies van der rohe and lilly reich via knoll

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.

white leather wassily chair by marcel breuer via knoll

white leather wassily chair by marcel breuer via knoll

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.

brno chair by ludwig mies van der rohe in 1930 via knoll

brno chair by ludwig mies van der rohe in 1930 via knoll

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.

Anni Albers
Design for Wall Hanging 1926

Anni Albers
 Design for Wall Hanging 1926

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.

Design K at Heals

Design K at Heals is a modern interpretation of Bauhaus

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.

bauhaus wallpaper by mini moderns

bauhaus wallpaper by mini moderns

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.

Liberty Bauhaus, Collier Campbell, late 60s, red, purple, yellow and blue linen union cushion cover, throw pillow cover, homeware deco

Liberty Bauhaus, Collier Campbell, late 60s, red, purple, yellow and blue linen union cushion cover via Etsy

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.

kernal table lamp by bert frank bauhaus inspired

kernal table lamp by bert frank bauhaus inspired

So there you have it: 10 Things You Need to Know About…. to be continued….


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  • East Lifestyle 19th October 2019 at 7:04 am

    Useful one. Thanks for this blog.

  • Janet Whincup 15th October 2019 at 1:57 pm

    Brilliant and informative

  • Anna 15th October 2019 at 12:27 pm

    Late at night BBC ran a couple of interesting films on the subject which are still on iPlayer
    and another film about Anni Albers, illustrating how chauvanistic Gropius was. Women were pushed to weaving and wallpaper design, the only part of his project that made any money!

  • Velvet 15th October 2019 at 10:34 am

    I loved it! I just want to add on that Gropius designed the headquarters building in Dessau. (It is known as the Bauhaus). It served as a training center, workshop and residence, while Gropius made sure that the structure differed enough in style to accommodate for the various functions. He also used a color scheme to differentiate the different building elements. After the heavy bomb damages during WWII the building suffered, it has been fully restored, and now stands proud as one of the largest and innovative Modernist buildings.

  • Betty 15th October 2019 at 8:58 am

    A really informative article – thank you.

  • Jean Rowland 15th October 2019 at 8:54 am

    A particularly interesting and informative post, thank you so much. This is a style I find very appealing, particularly the textiles. This was a good read (as always!) to start the day!

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