Whether it was the school’s intention or not, their curriculum left a lasting impression on the world that we see today. The Bauhaus wanted to create a style that would outlive it’s time by designing a universal language. The school tried achieving this universal language by incorporating international style and innovation into their curriculum. Following I’ve given examples to their legacy..
The International Style
The international style was a movement during the 20s that attempted to effectively communicate across national and cultural boarders. The Bauhaus followed three main guiding principles to achieve their goal: Form follows function, geometric forms and no ornamentation. Following these principles allowed the Bauhaus to create a style that is recognizable decades after it closed.
The first principle I'll discuss has become a motto for the school, form follows function. The idea is simple: The physical characteristics (form) of anything should communicate it's function. For example, the handle of a door, or lack of, should communicate how the door is meant to be opened. It's easier to push something with an opened hand. It’s also easier to pull something with a closed hand. Adhering to the principle, form follows function, a door meant to be pulled to open should have a handle and a door meant to be pushed to open should not have a handle — usually a flat metal slate will be in place where it is meant to be pushed. In this example, the function (how to open a door) is communicated by its form (pull handle on door or push door to open). This way, no matter where someone is from or what language they speak they'd immediately understand how to get through the door.
The international style also tried to simplify shapes into basic forms such as circles, triangles and squares with clean, straight or circular lines. Abstracting silhouettes of objects into basic shapes can be understood by different people better than nationally-specific shapes. For example, teapots come in an array of shapes and sizes. English teapots are usually rounder than Russian teapots. Neither design is right or wrong, but the form could be simplified so that the teapot’s shape could be understood by both countries.
An example of simplifying the silhouette would be to make the body of the teapot a perfect circle and allowing the bottom half to hold the tea. The top half of the circle would become the handle. Traditional spouts go from thick at the base to thin where the tea pours out; the spout could instead be an even cylindrical tube the extends outward in a straight line from the body. I've illustrated the teapot in the banner accompanying this essay. The teapot is reduced to basic shapes with clean lines and curves that can communicate it's meant for tea. Even though we removed the traditional handle, a spout is universally accepted as a characteristic that teapots have so people would still know how to use the item. Let's say I removed the spout instead of the handle, the teapot could be confused for a pitcher instead.
A third principle used at the institution was stripping designs of ornamentations. International style strived to be timeless, not belonging to any era in history. This reason was because they didn’t want their designs to be a trend that could go out of style. Medieval architecture is known for elaborate designs that can't be taken in with one glance and that reference biblical characters or scenes. The 70s in the United States was a loud decade with flower motifs and peace symbols everywhere — a response to the threat of nuclear war. The Bauhaus wanted their designs to be detached to any ideas that carried a message other than the functionality of the object. A chair, for example, would not have an elaborate design on its surface, rather it would have a smooth finished.
Innovation by merging artist and artisan and experimenting
Innovation was rooted deep into the foundation of the Bauhaus seen from not only what they taught but also how they taught it. Art schools before them would have their students recreate famous works of art while the Bauhaus’s preliminary classes focused on expressionism and incorporating curriculum that re-taught artists how to see and understand the world.
The first method of innovating was by merging the artist and the artisans into one person. Before, a building would come together by an architect building the foundation and then an artist would create the exterior and interior art. Michael Angelo didn’t design the Sistine Chapel, he just painted the ceiling of it. The building might’ve looked at whole lot different if Michael Angelo also designed the architectural foundation. Of course, funding played a major role when it came to elaborate buildings back then so we can’t blame them.
The Bauhaus wanted to equip their students with the knowledge it took to both build the foundation and create the designs that went into the structure. Walter Gropius came up with the curriculum that began with classes on design principles, moved to multimedia workshops and ended with advanced architecture classes. The preliminary courses focused on teaching the students good, effective design that followed the school’s principles. The secondary classes were individual workshops that focused on different media for creating such as weaving, welding, woodworking, photography, typography, etc. The final classes were advanced architecture; students had to be accepted into the courses. The architecture classes also weren’t offered until the last couple of years of the school.
The Bauhaus openly advocating for discovering new ways to do something by experimenting. Removing sentiments of tradition and nostalgia, they experimented with new materials and techniques in hopes of discovering innovative designs. Their theatrical performances is a good example of their experiments. Costumes, props and dances were used to explore the relationship between space and form. Rather than just performing for entertaining an audience, they expected their audience to observe and analyze what was being performed.
The Bauhaus also believed in conserving the environment. Although they didn’t include gardens in their architectural designs, they did believe in using only the least necessary amount of materials. The Wassily Chair, for example, is made of only welded rods and strips of leather as back, arms and seat support. Using the least amount of materials to create furniture allowed the students and factories, to mass produce the furniture with quality materials.
It’s an understatement to say the Bauhaus was ahead of it’s time because they tried to change the status quo forever — and they did. The legacies they left behind — international style, form follows function, experimenting, etc. — have inspired great designers like Steve Jobs. Under Jobs’ leadership, Apple has been a pioneer under minimalist design and innovators in technology. These examples are just a few compared to the many discoveries the institution made during their time. Were the school allowed to stay open passed 1933, arguably they’d be a driving force across nations and cultures reaching for better living.