One hundred years ago, the Western world was awash in the first era of mass-produced industrialized goods. (It’s difficult to imagine a time when technology was rapidly upheaving the way humans live, isn’t it?) It was in this context that Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus art school in 1919. Contrary to adopting a Luddite philosophy, the school birthed a set of principles for how craftsmen, designers and architects ought to approach commercial design. The school only existed for 14 years, but as the former masters spread throughout the world, their work and teachings became practically synonymous with modernity as we know it. “Bauhaus style” emerged as the foundation for so many things, it’s hard to imagine our world now without the creations of these most salient of influencers.
Prototypes of lamps, kettles and the like were crafted by hand at the school to be mass produced later. Bauhauslers preferred materials available in an industrial context such as metal and glass. Design that could be scaled for factory manufacture was part of the intent.
The Barcelona chair by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and the Wassily lounge chair by Marcel Breuer were both designed at the school in the 1920s. The two styles are still in production today—the official versions are made by Knoll.
Marina City, built by Bertrand Goldberg in the 1960s, is in downtown Chicago. The mixed residential and commercial complex was meant to be an urban oasis that conveniently met the needs of its inhabitants. It was the tallest reinforced concrete structure in the world at the time it opened. The Pan Am Building (now the MetLife Building) in New York City was built between 1960 and 1963 by Walter Gropius, Emery Roth & Sons and Pietro Belluschi. The 59-story building was the largest commercial office building by square footage at the time of its opening. In 1963 it stood out, but now fits the imagined archetype of a corporate headquarters.
Ever used an Apple product? If so, you have come in direct contact with the Bauhaus principle of merging technology with design, and the importance of beauty in everyday, functional items. Steve Jobs attended the 1983 International Design Conference at the Aspen Institute—coincidence?
Walter Gropius tapped Herbert Bayer to create a typeface for the school. Bayer’s response was to devise an unadorned (hence: sans serif) “idealist typeface.” He went so far as to eliminate uppercase letters in his effort to simplify typesetting. Paul Renner designed Futura with similarly simple geometric forms.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was commissioned to build this one-room weekend retreat by Edith Farnsworth in Illinois. The Farnsworth House was conceived and constructed between 1945 and 1951. The structure is representational of Mies van der Rohe's theories on how architecture fit with a new, modern world.
Photography by: MARIANNE BRANDT TEAPOT PHOTO COURTESY OF TECNOLUMEN; MARINA CITY PHOTO BY VICTORIA PALACIOS ON UNSPLASH;