The Bauhaus, or “house of building” was an art and design institution beginning and ending long before anyone reading this was alive. Fortunately, it’s legacy lives on in Berlin at the Bauhaus Archive. I had the pleasure to visit the location yesterday and take a brief tour.
A Bauhaus History Primer
I’ll try not to get into a history lesson here and just stick to some brief facts.
- The school was started by Walter Gropius in 1919;
- Craft and technique were the focus of the school;
- An original learning approach was used that is the basis of modern classroom learning. Basics, followed by practical application concluded by technical skill learning;
- Under the direction of another famous architect, van der Rohe, the school moved to Berlin in1932 where it came to its end under the newly formed Nazi regime in 1933.
You may have heard of the word Bauhaus, but like me, didn’t realize its impact on modern design. Tubular steel furniture? Bauhaus. Practical and affordable mass produced furniture? Bauhaus. Using an artistic approach for design? Bauhaus.
Unfortunately, the archive directors don’t allow photography, but let me show you some images available from the web.
I bet you recognize this chair. Mies van der Rohe at his best – you’ve probably seen a cheap Barcelona reproduction in a dentist office waiting room. The original on display didn’t have a pleats: lines between the buttons were out of a beaded strip (I don’t know the word) sewn in.
And this one. The original was in many more pieces that were bolted together.
I think the most interesting thing I noticed was how true the saying is “that there’s nothing new under the sun”. All of these great designs and ideas were happening in 1925. There was a craft maker movement happening almost 100 years ago! It makes perfect sense – we were leaving a time of rapid industrialization and globalization from the late 1870s to the beginnings of World War One.
Seems familiar doesn’t it? Globalization – the internet and jet travel have made the world very small. Products we create ship overseas in days. Rapid industrialization is getting crazy. I just spent the morning working on a design for a laser etching machine that will cost about $200. Fifteen years ago you couldn’t get an ink printer for that – 20 years ago and a true black and white copy instead of a weird smeared purple ink one would cost you a buck a page. Penelope Trunk, a well respected blogger, even writes about preparing children for their roles in an automated world.
We might just be headed for another movement. Even better, and what I believe, is that we have already started one. The plethora of makers doing things better is astounding.
The great thing about this modern revolution that we are in is the harmony that we use computers, robots and craftsmanship. I use a laser cutter to quickly cut steel parts. That high production method doesn’t stop me from hand sanding each corner to remove a burr; just like Walter Gropius would have wanted.
…the needs of the majority of people are, on principle, similar. The home and its furnishings are matters of mass demand, and their design is more a matter of reason than a matter of passion.
– 1925 Walter Gropius
This sums up a lot of what I think about building furniture the Raum way. People want great stuff and they want it cheaply. We want to deliver on that. However, I hope Raum’s future products inspire just a little bit of passion.
Bauhaus Archive Information
Bauhaus-Archiv / Museum für Gestaltung
D – 10785 Berlin
Director: Dr. Annemarie Jaeggi
Vereinsregister 4275 Nz
Museum, bauhaus-café, bauhaus-shop
Wednesday – Monday: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; closed Tuesdays