Founded originally as a private school prior to World War II, the Bauhaus school of design in Germany sought to marry a wide range of design disciplines together, such as typography, architecture, art and industrial design. Little did the founders know at the time, that the teachings and fundamentals preached would form the foundation of modern design as we know it today. This is not to say that 21st architecture adheres totally to the requirements preached back then, but it has evolved in such a way that there are still hints of the original Bauhaus style visible in new builds. And, it is probably unlikely that this will ever change.
Although Bauhaus architecture was originally designed to cater for the social housing crisis, many of the principles taught by Walter Gropius, who was head of the architecture faculty, have been adapted to suit modern design today as a
style, rather than a
practice. When one thinks of Bauhaus style architecture, the mind usually wanders to thoughts of minimalist and modern structures. While this may be true in some respects, there are many wonderful homes built today that pay homage to one of the greatest design movements in history. Take a look…
The first and most important teaching by the Bauhaus school was to reject the ornamentation and lavish decorative qualities of the previous architecture and design trend. Bauhaus design is practical and functional, and every aspect designed must have a use, or at least, a perceived one. Before this time, the upper class societies in Europe favoured the Art Deco style, which was full of over-the-top trimmings and whimsical, unnecessary details. In pure rejection of this, the Bauhaus movement taught their students to leave this fanciful style of design behind, and move instead, toward a pragmatic and streamlined version for conceptualising housing, interior design, furniture, art and even graphic design. In this example, a striking contrast between black and white can be seen and has been executed to great effect. You may or may not know, but Bauhaus teachings suggested that both the colour and material palette be monochromatic, with the only acceptable
pop of colour coming from the primary tones—blue, yellow and red.
The waves of the Bauhaus teachings were felt far and wide, and after the school was disbanded during the Nazi regime, many of the founders and teachers fled to countries such as America, Switzerland and England. Because of this, their principles and fundamentals were allowed to flourish on an international scale with many of the original participants going on to design buildings in major cities outside of Germany. Even now, 60 years on, their forward thinking designs are still being praised. Evident in both residential and commercial buildings is principle of
geometry. Using curves and shapes that allowed for space wastage or poor spatial layout were frowned upon. Where possible, it was also encouraged to make the building as unobtrusive as possible to the landscape it was situated upon. The best example of this is Farnsworth House, by Mies van der Rohe, which, if you are an architecture or design aficionado, may think that the pictured house bares striking similarities to.
Prevalent in most architecture during the Bauhaus period was of course, as mentioned above, strict geometry and strong, rectilinear forms. While some people may perceive this as boxy, the reasons for such a design feature were clear. Both the internal and external layout of a house could be open and well laid out, making best use of the available space. This was especially important in social housing situations where only a limited amount of square metres could be dedicated to each occupant. Why? Because it's not the overall mass that makes a difference, but the space that is housed inside. This theory applies to every element inside the house, inclusive of the furniture.
Materials in their raw and most pure state were held in high regard as they showcased the surface in a naked and stripped back form. This also meant that far less energy (both physically and environmentally) was used during the manufacturing process, which during the 1920s would have been a cost related factor. Allowing an organic, or factory made material, to show off both its beauty and wonderful imperfections was a very important notion. Surfaces such as wood and marble are naturally imperfect—their grain, veins and composition are subject to their development or growth. Why hide, or try to disguise such a wonderful feature? Let it take its place amongst the design and speak in volumes for itself, as it does in this example where wood, steel and glass are balanced to perfection.
The aesthetic qualities of a home or element of furniture were to be considered after the functional aspects were dealt with. The phrase ’Form ever follows function’ was coined during this period, and even today, leads us to consider the actual use, prior to the beauty—which, in theory, should organically evolve later in the process.
If you are interested in reading more about the Bauhaus movement or want to know how to bring it into your own home, take a look at the following ideabooks: