A lot of love for detail: The exhibition 100 Years Bauhaus is about to be completed. Photo: Koelnmesse, Thomas Schriefers
Bauhaus means modernity. There are no two ways about it. And although we have now been living in the postmodern era for decades, the Bauhaus style still exerts its influence on architecture and furniture design even today. To mark the centenary of Bauhaus, imm cologne is therefore dedicating the passages between halls 3 and 11 to its own exhibition entitled “100 years of Bauhaus – work in progress”.
A combination of art and craftsmanship
In 1919, the State School of Building (Staatliches Bauhaus) was founded in Weimar, Germany, by the architect Walter Gropius as a new kind of art school. Alongside Gropius himself, classes were also taught there by other personalities in the art world such as Lyonel Feininger, László Moholy-Nagy, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky. They quickly transformed the school in Thuringia into a meeting point for the international avant-garde movement. By combining different disciplines like architecture, art and crafts, the aim was to develop a new way of thinking to promote a more humane society. In rejecting typical ornamentation, the style based an object’s design on its function. Beauty was found in practical purpose. The efficiency and utility of a product took centre stage. The Bauhaus philosophy thus followed the design principle “form follows function”, which was first formulated by the American architect and leading exponent of the Chicago School, Louis Sullivan. In particular, this guiding principle found its strongest expression in the product design of the Bauhaus and was further interpreted by the exponents of the school as a renunciation of all ornamentation.
Use of new materials and technologies
Originally designed for the German pavilion at the 1929 World Exhibition in Barcelona: the Barcelona Chair by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Photo: Knoll International
Seating objects like Mart Stam’s cantilever chair – the first in the history of furniture – and the steel club chair “B3” by Marcel Breuer were created entirely in the spirit of Bauhaus. Their uncomplicated, functional form was perfectly suited to the modern buildings of the time. The “S43”, a variation on the cantilever chair presented in 1931, combined a tubular steel frame with moulded wooden shells for the seat and back, thereby achieving absolute minimalism. The pleasant oscillating effect produced by the frame also meant it was possible to do without upholstering. Its clear, understated form made the cantilever chair an exemplary design concept of the modern age. Now a design icon, the MR90 “Barcelona” chair by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, which the architect and director of Bauhaus in its later years had created in 1929 for the German pavilion at the Barcelona International Exposition, also perfectly conforms to the motto formulated by Mies himself: “less is more”. The minimalist concept of the Barcelona chair, a modern throne whose form derives from the scissor-like design of antique, folding chairs, integrates traditional craftsmanship into modern furniture design.
Basic geometric shapes as the foundation of a new style
The exponents of Bauhaus nurtured a great love of simple geometry, and it was no coincidence that its students engaged with the cubist artwork of Picasso and Gris. In accordance with the cubist approach, they reduced objects down to their basic geometric shapes and used these abstract forms to produce new products. Marianne Brandt’s teapot is one of the products that comes closest to the principles of form expounded by Bauhaus. The product’s basic geometric design is formed from basic shapes: the circle, sphere and square. Shapes that appear again in the “Idell” desk lamp designed by Christian Dell for Kaiser – another modern design classic.
The fascination with Bauhaus
It is still only a draft: The Bauhaus exhibition at the imm cologne 2019. Graphic: Thomas Schriefers
But why is it that objects like the glass lamp created in 1924 by Wilhelm Wagenfeld still exude a timeless sense of modernity? And how is it that chairs designed almost 90 years ago are still ideally suited to daily use today? Companies like Technolumen, Tecta, Thonet and Knoll International offer answers to these questions and more at the Bauhaus special exhibition at imm cologne. Tried-and-tested products will be used to demonstrate in what way Bauhaus is, of course, still part of the modern interiors scene in 2019. Alongside the exhibition, several talks on The Stage – imm cologne’s lecture forum in Hall 3.1 – will shine a light on the subject of Bauhaus from a wide range of different angles. An overview of the talks:
- Is Bauhaus a brand? – Dr Thomas Schriefers – Monday, 14 January 2019, 11:30 a.m.
- Inspired by Bauhaus. People and ideas at the Ulm School of Design – Christiane Wachsmann (Ulm School of Design) – Monday, 14 January 2019, 12:15 p.m.
- Bauhaus between then and now – Philipp Thonet (Thonet) – Monday, 14 January 2019, 3:30 p.m.
- I AM A CHAIR – Werkbund, Bauhaus and the future of seating – Dr Thomas Schriefers – Friday, 18 January 2019, 11:30 a.m.
- The women from Bauhaus: Marianne Brandt, pioneer of product design – Anne-Kathrin Weise – Friday, 18 January 2019, 12:15 p.m.
- Törten – crime stories from a Bauhaus housing estate – Professor Natascha Meuser (Dr.-Ing.) – Friday, 18 January 2019, 1:00 p.m.