103 years of the Bauhaus: How it has conquered our homes
In its centenary, the Bauhaus is not only rationalism. It appears in unexpected forms and details in our homes.
The Bauhaus was born in March 1919 in Weimar with the ambitious purpose of rethinking the world through art. World War I had just ended, leaving an unprecedented trail of devastation, and the modern optimism of pre-war architecture, design, and art seemed out of place to young people who had lived through the nightmare of the trenches and now faced an economically and morally ruined Germany. It was a failed attempt: in 1933, the Gestapo sealed the doors of its last headquarters in Berlin, and the years to come soon proved that everything can get worse, even nightmares.
More than a trend-setting center, the Bauhaus was a catalyst for the significant currents and debates of the international Modern Movement. The spread of its legacy in the United States after 1938 identified it above all with a functional, rationalist, and formally restricted style. But the short history of the Bauhaus was as fierce as it was varied; it taught some of the significant figures of the historical avant-garde, and its influence goes far beyond the strict limits of what is known as "Bauhaus style." Here we show some examples that overflow them from their imprint in today's domestic interiors.
- Not just tubular chairs
In 1923, the Bauhaus showed its project to Weimar and the world for the first time in a major exhibition. Its centerpiece was a house designed by Georg Muche, the Haus am Horn, whose living room, illuminated by a panoramic perimeter window, is seen in this image in the restitution of its interior that today can be visited in the former capital of Thuringia.
Although the exhibition sought the collaboration of local industry, most of the works on display responded to the markedly expressionist orientation then dominant in the school. However, the design of the Haus is Horn advanced rationalism and the interest of the director and founder, Walter Gropius, in industrialized and standardized architecture.
But the chairs (Lattenstuhl) and table with which a very young Marcel Breuer furnished his living room has little to do with the machinist-inspired tubular steel chairs identified with the "Bauhaus style" and much to do with the cult of craftsmanship and the folk and folkloric typologies of the Arts & Crafts heritage. Old black-and-white photos - and that's all the world saw of the Bauhaus for years - tend to minimize the differences.
Why do we naturally see that in this renovation of a rustic house in Andorra, by Andrea Conti and Isa Cert, a rationalist kitchen coexists naturally with traditional pine chairs? Precisely because the Bauhaus taught us to establish these synergies.
Breuer rethought the popular chairs in elementary terms for the Haus am Horn. Andrea and Isa recognized the essential minimalism of the Modern Movement in the tasty traditional juice of these old pine chairs they found on-site, along with the table of the same material with melamine top. It's not just a style; it's wisdom back and forth.
- Also innovative textiles...
Where does this air of family between this 19th-century apartment in Vilanova i la Geltrú -reformed by Jordi Calbetó and Oriol Vañó, of Cavaa Arquitectos- and the images of the Haus am Horn come from? From something generic: a particular conception of space, a way of bathing it in light. And of something concrete: the role of the carpet, its geometry, its chromatism. The Bauhaus textile workshop was the realm of Gunta Stolzl and, later, of Anni Albers. It gave the school many commercial satisfactions and, at the same time, it was a laboratory where both tribal decorative patterns and new materials were experimented with. Marta Erps designed those of the house am Horn. The one in Canada is not a textile but a glazed ceramic pavement painted in situ that acts as a joint between the dining room and the kitchen. Is there any more experimental twist?
- Wooden houses
Would anyone associate the Bauhaus with a wooden house? Of course, we should because the first house to come out of the Bauhaus was built entirely of that material.
In 1921, Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer designed a villa in Berlin for the timber merchant Adolf Sommerfeld. The stained glass windows, furniture, and equipment came from the Bauhaus workshops, as did the reliefs that decorated its exterior beams and exterior panels, the work of Joost Schmidt. Almost a century later, the architect Enric Espinet, once retired, decided that wood could be the constituent material of his family home because "it is efficient, ecological and aesthetically warm." The dining room chairs are Breuer's cantilevered cantilever chairs in a twist of fate.
- Pop objectivism
The idea of superimposing planes of pure color to define a space is as much a part of neoplastic painting as it is of Bauhaus interiors, which are so closely related to it. Yet, the black-and-white period photos led many to believe that color was not part of the Bauhaus concerns. The interior designers at Nimú correctly interpreted that influence when they designed two bathrooms in a Madrid house for a couple who had come back from a trip to Germany fascinated by a visit to the school's headquarters in Dessau and other period works. Here is that appear rational and objective accuracy is identified with the Bauhaus style.
However, it is enough to change the plan to see how this style adapts to very contemporary contexts. The white grid of tiles and the washbasin, slightly and intentionally out of scale, take on a new meaning when it becomes the background of this figurative mirror in the style of Claes Oldenburg. The scene is almost a comic that Roy Lichtenstein monumentalized in three dimensions. The washbasin is also the bathroom of a dachshund named Otis is a detail halfway between Andy Warhol and Peggy Guggenheim.
- And also steel pipe with a twist
The Bauhaus did not invent tubular metal furniture. Still, Marcel Breuer found its ultimate meaning when he designed in 1925 what we all know as the Wassily chair, which is an armchair. Breuer had bought a new bicycle from the famous Adler brand. Until then, he had always designed upholstery and wooden chairs, but his brand-new Adler led him to think about taking advantage of industrial advances applied to the manufacture of furniture for the machine age. Similarly, in the 1950s, Giulio Castelli, founder of Kartell, would think about how to take advantage of the contributions of Italy's automotive auxiliary industry for the home. Today, Andrea Serboli and Matteo Colombo (CaSA) are once again bringing together bicycles, metal tubing, and household equipment in an unusual way in this apartment in Barcelona: a solution that the owner can use to store his bikes, but also to fix the mirror in the bathroom or to support a vine on the terrace. Ideas are always beyond style.