In 1969, Jay Doblin, Director of the IIT Institute of Design, launched a two-year celebration of the Bauhaus. "50 Years Bauhaus" included an opening ceremony, exhibition, and Walter Gropius-inspired “Bauhaus Fest," and paid tribute to two recently deceased Bauhaus titans: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (d. August 17, 1969) and Walter Gropius, (d. July 5, 1969).
The celebration was co-hosted and co-sponsored by the Illinois Institute of Technology and what was then the Federal Republic of Germany. Requiring a coordinated effort across the Atlantic, two concurrent exhibitions were arranged: one in Chicago, the other in Stuttgart. In a time before widespread global communications, this took a considerable investment of time, money, and effort.
50 Years Bauhaus (Invitation) by IIT Institute of DesignIIT Institute of Design
The monumental achievements of the Bauhaus were remembered in the form of photographic duplicates. These were disseminated as publicity materials, like this view of the original Bauhaus school building designed by Walter Gropius in Dessau.
Bauhaus Building by Walter GropiusIIT Institute of Design
The retrospective was funded through grants provided by Chicago's leading foundations, including the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts and the Joseph and Helen Regenstein Foundation.
Ernest Graham founded the Graham Foundation. As Daniel Burnham’s principal assistant, Graham oversaw construction of the World’s Fair of 1893 in Chicago, elevating D. H. Burnham & Co. to international prominence.
Joseph Regenstein was an American industrialist in charge of the Arvey Corporation. His philanthropy can be seen throughout the city of Chicago today.
50 Years Bauhaus, An International Exhibition (Invitation) by IIT Institute of DesignIIT Institute of Design
The Chicago-based portion of the 50 Years Bauhaus exhibition brought together various members of the Bauhaus diaspora who had scattered throughout the United States. Herbert Bayer—who had been living in Aspen, Colorado and working on architectural and graphic design projects for Walter Paepcke's Aspen Institute—designed exhibition materials, brochures, and posters for both Stuttgart and Chicago.
50 Years Bauhaus (Catalogue & Poster) by Herbert BayerIIT Institute of Design
Crown Hall, emblematic of Mies's "skin and bones" interpretation of Bauhaus teachings, served as the staging ground for the Chicago exhibition, housing at once the opening reception, the physical exhibition, and accompanying events.
Crown Hall by Ludwig Mies van der RoheIIT Institute of Design
The exhibition brought together work by László Moholy-Nagy (founder of The New Bauhaus in Chicago), Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
Special events included a symposium, public lecture series, citywide tours, and performances of Oskar Schlemmer's ballets.
The production was chaired by William Hartmann, managing partner of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the notable architectural firm that continued to develop the Illinois Tech campus using Mies' architectural vernacular.
50 Years Bauhaus, An International Exhibition (Poster) by Chad Taylor, IIT Institute of DesignIIT Institute of Design
Included in the show were physical artifacts exemplary of the Bauhaus, like Marcel Breuer's Cesca Chair and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Chair. Originally designed in Germany, at the time of the show both products were being produced, manufactured, and sold in America by Knoll.
Photograph of the Crown Hall Bauhaus Exhibit by IIT Institute of DesignIIT Institute of Design
A comprehensive survey of the short-lived Bauhaus school, the exhibits comprised architecture, design, dance, weaving, sculpture, and the metal workshop. Particular attention was given to the school's philosophy as expressed in Gropius' preliminary course (Vorkurs), which in turn inspired the Institute of Design's Foundation curriculum.
Diagram of the Crown Hall Bauhaus Exhibit by IIT Institute of DesignIIT Institute of Design
Although remembered as an artistic movement, the Bauhaus was truly an experimental laboratory. Instructors used their own homes as testing grounds for their ideas about modern living, as this photograph by Marcel Breuer attests.
Dining Set by Marcel BreuerIIT Institute of Design
The 50 Years Bauhaus forum provided an opportunity for the Institute of Design's then-director, Jay Doblin, to reflect on the contribution of the Bauhaus to American education. Although Doblin was in the process of repositioning the school, he recognized that the Foundation program and the formalization of design education were important legacies to carry into the future.
"The Institute of Design" & "The Bauhaus" by Jay Doblin & Walter GropiusIIT Institute of Design
In September, Doblin reconvened a special symposium dedicated to the memory of Walter Gropius, Founder & Director of the Bauhaus.
The roster of attendees comprised a who’s who of past and present Bauhaus practitioners, including Max Bill, Hans Wingler, and György Kepes, as well as Sibyl Moholy-Nagy and Ise Gropius—widows of deceased Bauhaus masters and creative forces in their own right.
Much like this year's centenary celebration, 50 Years Bauhaus was an international celebration of the enduring international legacy of the German-born art school.
Bauhaus Symposium by IIT Institute of DesignIIT Institute of Design
Images courtesy of University Archives and Special Collections, Paul V. Galvin Library, Illinois Institute of Technology
Written by Todd Cooke