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The Bauhaus
people, places, products & philosophy


Marcel Breuer:
designs for tubular chairs.

Bauhaus philosophy
Manifesto, legacy, influence



Gropius formulated a manifesto for the Bauhaus which started "The final goal of all artistic activity is architecture." The Bauhaus principles are best summarized by Alfred Barr, the Director of the Museum of Modern Art 1938, in his preface to the book Bauhaus (edited by Gropius and Bayer):

  • most student should face the fact that their future should be involved primarily with industry and mass production rather than with individual craftsmanship

  • teachers in schools of design should be men who are in advance of their profession rather than safely and academically in the rearguard

  • the schools of design should, as the Bauhaus did, bring together the various arts of painting, architechture, theatre, photography, weaving, typography, etc., into a modern synthesis which disregards conventional distinctions between the "fine" and "applied" arts

  • it is harder to design a first rate chair than to paint a second rate painting-and much more useful

  • a school of design should have on its faculty the purely creative and disinterested artist such as the easel painter as a spiritual counterpoint to the practical technician in order that they may work and teach side by side for the benefit of the student

  • manual experience of materials is essential to the student of design- esperience at first confined to free experiment and then extended to the practical workshop

  • the study of rational design in terms of techniques and materials should be only the first step in the development of a new and modern sense of beauty

  • because we live in the 20th century, the student architect or designer should be offered no refuge in the past but should be equipped for the modern world in its various aspects, artistic, technical, social, economic, spiritual, so that he may function in society not as a decorator but as a vital participant.

Gropius himself said,"The Bauhaus does not pretend to be a crafts school; contact with industry is consciously sought...the old craft workshops will develop into industrial laboratories: from their experimentation will evolve standards for industrial production...The teaching of a craft is meant to prepare for designing for mass production. Starting with the simplest tools and least complicated jobs, he gradually acquires ability to master more intricate problem and to work with machinery, while at the same time he keeps in touch with the entire process of production from start to finish." (Naylor, p.93) Bauhaus teaching aimed to develop rational principles to determine the organization of type, rules, white space, colors, etc.(Livingston, p.145)




The Bauhaus firmly establish industrial design. It stripped away the decoration, and left clean lines of function. To some this represents the removal of all that is human in the crafts. To the teachers and followers of the involved in the Bauhaus, function was the primary concern, removing the past was a secondary consequence. The Bauhaus ushered in the modern era of design. While there were similar movements, such as the de Stijl, the Bauhaus has become the symbol of modern design. It did achieve many of Gropius's goals. It left a legacy for visual communication programs, art and design schools to follow. Many of these schools use the courses developed at the Bauhaus.

A Primer of Visual Literacy by Donis A. Donis (1973) is one of the most widely used books in visual communications courses. In this book the author state the following of the Bauhaus:

Their probing for a means to reconcile the artist and the machine became the inspiration for the "Bauhaus," an art school started by Walter Gropius and a distinguished group of teachers in Germany directly after the ending of the war, in 1919. Its purpose was to pursue new forms and new solutions to man's basic needs as well as his aesthetic ones. The Bauhaus' curriculum returned to fundamentals, the basic materials, the basic rules of design. And the question they dared to ask led to new definitions of beauty in the unadorned and practical aspects of the functional.

Functional Techniques:
  • Simpicity
  • Symmetry
  • Angularity
  • Abstraction
  • Consistency
  • Unity
  • Organization
  • Economy
  • Subtlety
  • Continuity
  • Regularity
  • Sharpness
  • Monochomaticity




The Bauhaus influenced Later art movements such as Abstract Expressionists and Op-Art. The Abstract Expressionist's theme revolved around the color theories which evolved from the Bauhaus classes. The Hard-Edge and Minimal movements of the Abstract Expressionists explored color through clean, clear edges of solid color.(Piper, p.686) Op-Art is optical art, which tricks the retina to create the illusion of movment.(Piper, p.708) Op-Art is widely used in modern commercial graphic design.


Originaly launched November 1996.
Last updated 2008.
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