The Bauhaus design school is approaching 100 years since its founding and still to this day we're decorating our homes with the famous Wassily chair, designed by Marcel Breuer and famously named after his good friend Wassily Kandinsky. This chair was the first to use tubular steel for decorative purposes. The Bauhaus school and style is still relevant to design today, not just because of its history, but because of its philosophy that the marriage of form and function is still the back bone of taste and sophistication.
The Bauhaus was an art school founded by Walter Gropius in 1919. Gropius's goal was to 'create a new guild of craftsmen, without the class distinctions which raise an arrogant barrier between craftsman and artist.' The school's roots lay in the arts and crafts, but also combined modernism, and constructivism. In the end the reigning principles taught at the Bauhaus school were that design is in the service of the community, and the perfection and efficiency in geometry. Throughout this learning period Gropius grew weary that the school would be confined to its ideas instead of producing goods for their market. He wanted the goods produced to be accessible for all people.
The school had multiple locations throughout the years, including Dessau, an industrial town near Berlin in 1925. During this time students turned masters included Josef Albers, Marcel Breuer, Herbert Bayer, and Marianne Brandt. Although they had brought in teachers such as Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee to promote production, it was from this point on that the Bauhaus started to decline, beginning with Gropius's resignation in 1928.
At the time that Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was appointed as director, he had already designed the German pavilion at the 1929 Barcelona Exposition and his famous Barcelona chair. Although he began his directorship obeying the government's needs, things quickly spiraled as Hitler became more and more powerful. Many Bauhaus artists were exiled to America, and others were killed by the Nazis. Luckily, in America, Bauhaus artists were able to successfully showcase their designs.
Marcel Breuer followed his mentor, Gropius, to Cambridge where he joined the faculty of Harvard's Graduate School of Design. In 1941 Breuer left Massachusetts and moved to New York City where he maintained his practice permanently. From there on he has designed institutions, houses, and commercial buildings all over the world. He went on to design buildings such as The Whitney Museum in New York City in 1966, the IBM research center in La Gaude France, and The Hooper House II in Baltimore in 1959. During this period where Bauhaus artists were successfully disseminating their ideas, it was Florence Knoll who began to see the potential and asked who would design the interiors to these modern buildings? She decided to license Bauhaus and other furniture designs for mass production. To this day Knoll is still one of the only distributors of genuine Bauhaus furniture.
What we consider the classic modern look began with the Bauhaus school, and it spans into every art medium; architecture, interior design, graphic design, textiles, and fashion. One of the school's main philosophies was that the relationship between teacher and student was a collaborative one, and in the end it was about reaching a common goal. For this reason, the Bauhaus school was successful and impactful - they looked at a world they thought could be better and worked to improve it in their way. They broke down the elements, simplified them, and then built them back up.