Better Living with the Bauhaus

By Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau

The Bauhäusler revolutionised interior design with their elegant and functional furniture, and their influence has lasted to the present day. A short walk through time and spaces.

House for an intellectual worker. Seat at the living room window (1932) by Friedrich EngemannBauhaus Dessau Foundation

“It’s harder to build a good chair than a skyscraper.”

Mies van der Rohe, Bauhaus Director from 1930 to 1933

As we know, no skyscrapers were built at the Bauhaus, but it did produce one or two rather good chairs. And what’s more, ‘Living for the Future’ took shape in the furniture and spatial ideas of its avant-garde designers.

So – lights up!

Untitled (Bauhaus building, Dessau, architect Walter Gropius, view from the west with workshop wing) (1931/1932) by unknownBauhaus Dessau Foundation

Light was an important element at the Bauhaus – natural light, allowed to flow resplendently into the room through large glass facades …

Untitled (Sketch Bauhaus products, from Alfred Arndt's class) (1928/1929) by Eduard LudwigBauhaus Dessau Foundation

… and artificial light from beautiful light sources created by the designers.

The most celebrated must be the table lamp designed by 23-year-old Wilhelm Wagenfeld in Weimar. These exquisite lights are still being made today.

Marianne Brandt, a silver tea-infuser (1924/1924)British Museum

One or two lamps by Marianne Brandt can still be found on the shelves as well. She was a student in the metal workshop and as well as the world-famous tea-infuser (here in the picture) she designed in all 28 lamp models at the Bauhaus …

… such as the timeless globe lights in the new Bauhaus building in Dessau, which was opened in December 1926.

These arresting lamp constructions in the canteen are by her fellow student Max Krajewski (Born 1901) …

… and so are these in the auditorium.

Krajewski found that his ceiling construction “integrated well into the interior. It did not overburden the upper space but made it dissolve.”

Meanwhile, the lower space was where another model student worked his magic – Marcel Breuer created the folding chair construction in the auditorium.

Marcel Breuer with his Harem (from l. to r.: Marcel Breuer, Martha Erps, Katt Both, Ruth Hollos) (1926) by Erich Consemüller (Photo)Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

Born in Hungary, he came to the Bauhaus in 1920 and attracted attention a mere two years later with his ‘ti 1a’ lattice chair. Marcel Breuer said about his creation, “The starting point for the chair was the problem of combining sitting comfortably with the simplest possible construction.”

Lattice chair ti 1 a and table Ti 9 (1923) by Marcel BreuerBauhaus Dessau Foundation

Breuer covered narrow slats with strips of fabric, which saved both materials and time. But most importantly he created something that was both – chair and sculpture.

Canteen stool (1926) by Marcel BreuerBauhaus Dessau Foundation

Not long afterwards the shiny chrome curve of his bicycle handlebar gave him the idea of making chairs out of tubular steel.

His first tubular steel furniture immediately became a design classic – the ‘B9’ stool, which could also be used as a side table.

In the canteen of the new Bauhaus building, just a folding wall away from the auditorium with its rows of folding chairs, the B9 is an absolute eye-catcher.

In around 1925 Breuer designed the ‘B3’ club chair, which he was to produce with his own firm in 1927. As clear and strict as the chair’s lines were, so uncertain was its designer:

“When I (…) saw my first steel club chair finished I thought that this (…) was the piece that would bring me the most criticism; (…) it is (…) the most logical and the least ‘homely’, the most machine-like. The opposite (…) was the case.“

The chair is still being produced. In the 1960s it was given the catchy marketing name of ‘Wassily’ …

Untitled (Georg and El Muche, Wassily and Nina Kandinsky near the masters' houses, Burgkühnauer Allee, Dessau) (1926/1927) by unknownBauhaus Dessau Foundation

… after the Bauhaus teacher Wassily Kandinsky (here in the picture: second from the right), who is supposed to have really liked the chair.

Portrait Carl Fieger (1935/36) by Foto-Fischer, DessauBauhaus Dessau Foundation

Carl Fieger liked it too. A close colleague of Walter Gropius and Bauhaus teacher of architectural drawing, he drew inspiration from Breuer’s ‘B3’ …

House Fieger: seating group with tubular steel chairs and wooden table (1927) by Carl Fieger (design)Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

… and designed these unusual club chairs for his house.

House Fieger: tubular steel set of table and 4 chairs (1927) by Carl Fieger (design)Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

In this seating group, on the other hand, Fieger completely re-interprets traditional bentwood designs – tubular steel meets bistro chair.

Thomas Flake and Hannes Meyer (during inspection of the building site for the ADGB Trade Union School in Bernau) (1928) by Erich ConsemüllerBauhaus Dessau Foundation

Under Hannes Meyer’s leadership as Bauhaus Director (1928 to 1930) furniture was to be not just functional but above all cheap and easily transportable …

Folding chair ti 240 (1929) by Bauhaus Dessau, fitting-out workshop (design)Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

… like this folding deckchair, the ‘ti 240’ from 1929.

This meant that tubular steel – much more expensive than wood – was now only used very sparingly …

Tubular steel chair with adjustable backrest (prototype) (1931) by Friedrich EngemannBauhaus Dessau Foundation

… and sometimes in very exciting combinations, such as this chair, designed by Friedrich Engemann for his house in Fischereiweg in Dessau.

For this the Bauhaus teacher combined tubular steel with cheap and bendy plywood.

Desk (1930) by Friedrich EngemannBauhaus Dessau Foundation

Wood meets metal in his desk as well.

Collapsable desk (ca. 1929) by Wera (Vera) Meyer-Waldeck, Josef PohlBauhaus Dessau Foundation

This timeless desk looks like something from a present-day furniture catalogue.

Portrait Wera Meyer-Waldeck (1930, 2012) by Gertrud Arndt (née Hantschk)Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

Bauhaus student Vera Meyer Waldeck designed it in 1927. Besides this, she also designed a lot of other furniture pieces for the ADGB Trade Union School in Bernau near Berlin.

Haus Fieger Dessau, kitchen, built-in kitchen cupboard (1927) by Carl FiegerBauhaus Dessau Foundation

Kitchens à la Bauhaus were modern too: in 1923 the Bauhäusler presented an early fitted kitchen in the Haus am Horn in Weimar – and that was three years before Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky created the famous Frankfurt Kitchen. And then there is this kitchen design from 1927 by Carl Fieger.

Cabinet from the living room in the experimental House Am Horn (1923) by Breuer, Marcel (design)Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

While cupboards were fitted into the kitchen and optically concealed, they were allowed to show themselves off to full self-confident effect in the living room – like this one made of various rectangular elements, which was crafted by Marcel Breuer in 1923 for the Haus am Horn in Weimar.

Design sleeping room private house (1931) by Friedrich EngemannBauhaus Dessau Foundation

And what about Bauhaus beds?

Room 2.55 in the studio building, Bauhaus building, 2.8.2018 (2018) by Walter Gropius (Architecture)Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

In the Prellerhaus in Dessau you can try them out for yourself if you rent what was once a studio flat occupied by Bauhäusler.

Fieger furnishings, bedroom (1927) by Carl Fieger (design)Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

If the student pallet bed is too plain for you, then maybe you should take a leaf out of Fieger’s book. He preferred bright colours for his bedroom.

Untitled (Ludwig Mies van der Rohe during a stay in Pura, Ticino, lying on a stone bench) (1933-10) by Fritz SchreiberBauhaus Dessau Foundation

“Less is More” was the credo of Ludwig Mies von der Rohe, who found a stone bench quite enough here in Ticino.

Untitled (Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Profile portrait) (1931) by unknownBauhaus Dessau Foundation

As it happens, the third Bauhaus Director designed his world-famous seating furniture – such as the cantilevered Weissenhof Chair or the Barcelona-Chair – before his time at the Bauhaus, but they are traded under this brand nowadays anyway.

Untitled (model of a courtyard house from class with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe) (1932) by Gerd Balzer (?)Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

His time in office is when architecture really came into its own.

Read more about Bauhaus Architecture

Credits: Story

Text / Concept / Realisation: Cornelia Jeske

Editing: Cornelia Jeske, Astrid Alexander

Translation: Catherine Hales, Stephan Schmidt

© Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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