The Bauhaus Idea and Bauhaus Politics

The Bauhaus Idea and Bauhaus Politics

The Bauhaus Idea and Bauhaus Politics

The Bauhaus Idea and Bauhaus Politics

Excerpt

In April 1919 the Bauhaus opened its doors in Weimar, under the directorship of the architect Walter Gropius. It was the successor institute to the Grand Ducal Saxon Art Academy and the Grand Ducal School of Arts and Crafts, the latter having been shut down at the outbreak of the World War.

Our first statement about the Bauhaus already contains the seeds of a conflict: the former Weimar Academy of Fine Arts, with its long tradition of landscape painting, was now renamed and headed by an architect enthralled not by the past or the present but by vistas of technological progress. As early as 1910 Walter Gropius presented his proposal For the Establishment of an Architectural Guild Founded on an Aesthetically Unified Basis and, by focusing on economy, speed and efficiency, and keeping in view the technological possibilities, had arrived at the concept of the 'factory-made building'. This approach, which was, on top of everything, internationalist, existed worlds apart from the emphatically nationalist culture epitomized by the genteel local school of landscape painting. Yet it was within this setting that Gropius had to find the modus vivendi for the survival of the new approach by the side of the old. Whether such coexistence is at all possible, and if so, under what conditions, is a question to which the history of the Bauhaus cannot give a universally valid answer. The historical circumstances surrounding its existence were far too special. The fact of the matter is that the town of Weimar wanted no part of the renewal symbolized by Gropius's first great achievement, the Fagus Shoe Factory, built in 1911 near Alfeld. This building was the first truly pure and elegant embodiment of functionalist architecture, a veritable manifesto of architectural modernism, with its . . .

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