Theory and Design in the First Machine Age

By Reyner Banham | Go to book overview

20: The Bauhaus

ALTHOUGH THE BAUHAUS has become so established a symbol of Modernity that the adoption of its methods is a recognised sign that a school has 'gone Modern', it had many roots in the past. It was formed by the fusion, in 1919, of two existing institutions in Weimar, one an Academy of Fine Arts with a tradition that reached back into history, the other a Kunstgewerbe school founded by Henry van de Velde after he came to Weimar in 1903 at the behest of the last Grand duke of Sachsen-Weimar, at the beginning of that wave of enthusiasm for improved design that also produced the Werkbund. From both institutions Gropius inherited buildings, a few members of the pre-War staffs, and, to begin with, what might be termed the 'goodwill'.

Though his action in fusing the two schools was a pioneering gesture, it was not an original idea. Something of the kind had been in van de Velde's mind even before he came to Weimar, and while he was there proposals came from the Academy for closer relationships between the two schools. At the level of practical experiment, Poelzig at Breslau had instituted craft workshops in the Academy even before 194, and in the same period Richard Meyer ran art classes in the Kunstgewerbe school at Hamburg.1 The ground was thus prepared well before Gropius took over the two schools in Weimar, and his action realised a concept that was already current in progressive circles. Over and above this, the staff he gathered round him in the first years of the Bauhaus could hardly be called new men possessed of dangerous new ideas. They were recruited mainly through two overlapping connections that had existed before the War--Der Sturm in Berlin, and his friends in musical circles in Vienna. Most of the men produced in this way had been born before 1890, their art and their reputations had begun to mature before 1914.

Most of them were also painters, in spite of the fact that the Bauhaus was intended to train for all branches of design, culminating in architec

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1
On the subject of attempts to bring the Academies and the Kunstgewerbe schools closer together, see Nikolaus Pevsner, Academies of Art ( Cambridge, 1940, pp. 274, 275).

-276-

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Theory and Design in the First Machine Age
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Acknowledgements 6
  • Illustrations 7
  • Introduction--The Machine Age 9
  • Section One 13
  • 1: the Academic Tradition and the Concept of Elementary Composition 14
  • 2: Choisy 23
  • 3: the Academic Succession 35
  • 4:England:Lethaby and Scott 44
  • 5: Germany 68
  • 6: the Factory Aesthetic 79
  • 7: Adolf Loos and the Problem of Ornament 88
  • Section Two 98
  • 8: Futurism 99
  • 9: Futurism: Theory and Development 106
  • 10: Sant'Elia and Futurist Architecture 127
  • Section Three 138
  • 11: Holland 139
  • 12: De Stijl: the Dutch Phase 148
  • 13: Expressionism 163
  • 14: De Stijl 185
  • Section Four 201
  • 15: Architecture and the Cubist Tradition 202
  • 16: Progressive Building in Paris 214
  • 17: Vers Une Architecture 220
  • 18: Le Corbusier 247
  • Section Five 264
  • 19: the Berlin School 265
  • 20: the Bauhaus 276
  • 21: Germany: the Encyclopaedics 305
  • 22: Conclusion 320
  • Index to Proper Names and Buildings 331
  • Index, to Topics, Publications, and Organisations 335
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