The Bauhaus and the World

This famous avant-garde school existed in Germany from 1919 to 1933, but its ideas spread around the entire world

By Google Arts & Culture

Germany: The Bauhaus – An International Design School

The Bauhaus was constantly on the move. Established in 1919, it changed its location several times, moving from Weimar to Dessau (1925) and from Dessau to Berlin (1932). Like its closure in 1933, this was always for political reasons. Many of the members of the Bauhaus subsequently fled the Nazis, emigrating to many different countries around the world and taking the Bauhaus ideas with them to every continent. But they often found that the fame of the art school and its revolutionary ideas and designs had preceded them.

Netherlands: New Building in Rotterdam

Who actually influenced whom, the Bauhaus the Dutch avant-garde or vice versa? The fact is that the Dutch De Stijl movement had a huge influence on the Bauhaus, and Walter Gropius drew a lot of inspiration from the social housing projects he saw on his various trips to Rotterdam. At the same time, Dutch designers and architects were also fascinated by the Bauhaus. This mutual inspiration and influence can be seen in the Sonneveld House, built in the Dutch Functionalist style for one of the directors of the Van Nelle factory.

Israel: The White City in Tel Aviv

When Arieh Sharon, an architect and graduate of the Bauhaus, arrived in Tel Aviv with his Bauhaus diploma in his pocket in 1931, the city was in a state of change. Jewish immigrants were streaming to Palestine from all over the world to build a future for themselves. Sharon and other immigrant architects gave the city a face. They brought the teachings of European avant-gardism to Israel and built in a style that was plain and functionalistic, with clear lines and curved balconies. In all, 4,000 houses were built in the 1930s in the Bauhaus and International style, and nowhere can more Bauhaus be seen today than in Tel Aviv.

England: A stop-off with Isokon

When in 1934 Walter Gropius and his wife Ise moved into their London exile home, they were thrilled. “Finally, we are living the way we have always advised others, the way we have built for others.” No wonder, for the architects of the Lawn Road Flats had taken some of their inspiration from the Bauhaus for these buildings with flat roofs and balconies all the way round. The design firm took the name Isokon, a contraction of “Isometric Unit Construction” and it was the British answer to the Bauhaus. Marcel Breuer and László Moholy-Nagy moved in there as well, and, like Gropius, who was Head of Design of the Isokon Furniture Company from 1935, made themselves useful. Moholy-Nagy designed the firm’s logo and brochures, and Breuer designed various items of furniture such as the legendary Long Chair. But these prominent Bauhausers soon moved on again – to America.

USA: Bauhaus teachers at the Black Mountain College

As the Bauhaus in Berlin was being shut down in 1933, a school with a very similar educational approach was opening in the woods of North Carolina. The head of the Black Mountain College, which taught young people art, literature, music and acting, was Josef Albers, who had taught the legendary preliminary course at the Bauhaus. Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer even designed a new campus for the college, but, in the end, a different design was used because of the cost.

USA: The New Bauhaus in Chicago

In 1937 László Moholy-Nagy founded the New Bauhaus in Chicago, the philosophy of which was much the same as that of the early Bauhaus, where he taught from 1923 to 1928. Even the Bauhaus logo, designed by Oskar Schlemmer, was adapted for the new school. In 1949 the school, by then concentrating mainly on photography, became part of the Illinois Institute of Technology. Its architecture department was headed by another former Bauhaus member, Mies van der Rohe, who also planned the entire campus. The Crown Hall, which became the home of the School of Design in 1955, is counted as one of his masterpieces.

Brazil: A school in a museum

Architect Lina Bo Bardi moved from Italy to Brazil in 1946 because her husband was to head the new Museu de Arte São Paulo (MASP). She helped to create the Instituto de Arte Contemporânea (IAC), which opened a year later and was the first school for design in Brazil and was heavily influenced by the Bauhaus. The Instituto opened with an exhibition of work by the former Bauhaus student Max Bill. The school was active until 1953. The new build of the MASP, designed by Bo Bardi, was inaugurated in 1968.

India: The National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad

In 1957 the American designer couple Charles and Ray Eames travelled across India at the invitation of the Indian government, and their subsequent India Report led to the foundation in 1961 of the National Institute of Design (NID), the beginning of design training in India. It was modelled on the Bauhaus, with the designer seen as a bridge between tradition and modernity. The NID is today regarded as one of the best design schools in the world. But the Bauhaus had already arrived in India, with the first Bauhaus exhibition outside Germany being shown in Kolkata in 1922.

Nigeria: The campus at Obafemi Awolowo University

The campus of what is now the Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria occupied the Israeli architect Arieh Sharon for more than two decades. The biggest challenge in its construction was the climate. But even as a student at the Bauhaus under its Director Hannes Meyer, Sharon had been concerned with the effect of the weather on construction planning. On the campus he aligned the building to the course of the sun and made sure of shade and natural ventilation. References to the local Yoruba culture were also integrated, as can be seen here for example over the entrance to the library.

Australia: The Bauhaus Down Under

When Harry Seidler, the son of a Jewish textile factory owner, was born in Vienna in 1923, the Bauhaus in Germany was only to last another 10 years. But Seidler was taught by prominent Bauhaus members anyway. In 1945, he was a master student of Walter Gropius at Harvard; in 1946, he studied with Josef Albers at the Black Mountain College, and he worked for Marcel Breuer in New York. When he moved to Sydney in 1948, he built this house for his parents there, and introduced the principles of the Bauhaus to Australia.

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