7 International Examples of How the Bauhaus Lived On After 1933

After the dissolution of the Bauhaus due to Nazi political pressure in April 1933, the ideas, teachings, and philosophies of the school were flung across the world as former students and faculty dispersed in the face of impending war. Of the numerous creative talents associated with the Bauhaus, many went on to notable careers elsewhere. Some made a living as artists or practitioners, others either continued or began careers as teachers themselves - and many did both throughout the course of their lives.

7 International Examples of How the Bauhaus Lived On After 1933 - More Images+ 6

The revolutionary pedagogy that both defined and doomed the school was carried across the world as the students and faculty sought new homes, transforming a relatively contained philosophy into the era-defining movement that encompassed the globe. Some founded schools of their own to continue their work, others joined existing institutions and disrupted them from within, leaving a trail of modernism and interdisciplinary teaching in their wake. It is no stretch to say that this diaspora has had an effect on architectural/design education so significant that it remains to this day. 

While the influence of the Bauhaus pervades the curricula of architecture schools worldwide, the following 7 schools can trace their roots or changes of course to the Bauhaus-carriers. These schools, and an overview of their connection to the Bauhaus, after the break:

1. New Bauhaus School (today, the Institute of Design at IIT)

If the name didn’t give it away, this school intentionally practiced the Bauhaus ideology brought to Chicago by László Moholy-Nagy. A Hungarian painter and photographer, Moholy-Nagy had been a professor at the Bauhaus from 1923-1928. In 1937, he was invited by American industrialist and philanthropist Walter Paepcke to move to the US to become the director of the New Bauhaus School, which eventually transitioned to become the Institute of Design and is today a part of the Illinois Institute of Technology. [1]

László Moholy-Nagy. Image © Wikimedia user DalglishSarah licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

With a mission to “ensure...society has access to the maximum use of constructive abilities for its benefit [2],” what had been the New Bauhaus became the first institution in the United States to offer a PhD in Design. Today the Institute of Design, or ID, describes itself as “grounded in human-centered design and systems thinking [2],” recalling the Bauhaus ideals of integration and versatility, which Moholy-Nagy also exemplified in his work.

Work by László Moholy-Nagy. Image © Wikimedia user Sailko licensed under CC BY 3.0

2. Ulm School of Design (Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm)

Closer to the home of the Bauhaus, in Ulm, Germany, former student Max Bill became the first rector of the Ulm School of Design. Founded in 1953 by Bill along with Inge Aicher-Scholl and Otl Aicher, the school took the Bauhaus approach of integrating art and craft with technology and emphasized a holistic, multidisciplinary method of design [3]. At the Ulm School, disciplines including sociology, politics, economics, and systems-thinking were combined with design and technology; the school was also a pioneer in the field of semiotics (the study of signs and symbols and their use.)

Ulm School of Design building by Max Bill . Image © Flickr user alphanumeric licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Bill wasn’t the only Bauhaus alumni involved in the school at Ulm. When it first opened, faculty included Josef Albers, Johannes Itten, and Walter Peterhans, all former Bauhaus instructors, and Helene Nonné-Schmidt, a Bauhaus graduate. Visiting lecturers included Mies van der Rohe, Herbert Bayer, and Walter Gropius (founder of the Bauhaus). The goal of the school was to create a teaching and research institution with a focus on humanistic education and integrating creative activity into everyday life. The “Ulm Model” remains a significant influence in international design education today [4].

Max Bill. Image © Marcel Vogt licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

3.  Nieuwe Kunstschool (New Art School)

Another Bauhaus student who went on to found his own school was Paul Citroen, a drawer, painter, and photographer who studied under Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, and Johannes Itten during his time at the Bauhaus. Citroen’s Bauhaus influence is most apparent in his portrait photography, which often shows the subject staring directly into the camera. By 1933, Citroen was living in Amsterdam, where he, together with Jan Havermans and Charles Roelofsz, founded the Nieuwe Kunstschool [5].

Paul Citroen. Image © Hans van Dijk / Anefo licensed under CC0 1.0

The school only lasted eight years before closing its doors for good, but its modern style of teaching and approach to art and design set it apart and helped it compete with its contemporary, the more conservative Institute for Applied Arts Education (now the Rietveld Academy). Citroen’s aim with the school was Bauhaus-inspired: he wanted to teach basic principles while creating conditions that foster creativity. With its basis in Bauhaus disciplinary integration, the New Art School was unique for including subjects like typography and fashion, making it the first artistic fashion education available in the Netherlands [6].

4. Black Mountain College, North Carolina

Josef and Anni Albers, who were Jewish, were forced to flee Germany in 1933 after both studying and teaching at the Bauhaus. American architect Philip Johnson helped them secure positions at the new experimental art school, Black Mountain College, in North Carolina. Anni taught weaving and textile design while Josef was the head of the art program [7][8]. In line with Bauhaus ideals, Black Mountain was committed to an interdisciplinary approach to education and considered art an essential component.

Main building of the former Black Mountain College. Image via Wikimedia under public domain

Josef Albers’ teaching approach was described as running “his own academy,” illustrating his influence on the development of the art program. During this same time, Anni was becoming influential as well as her design work and weavings were exhibited throughout the US; she also wrote and published numerous articles about design. The Albers’ left Black Mountain in 1950 when Josef became head of the design department at Yale and shortly after, in 1957, Black Mountain College was closed due to a greatly decreased number of students [9].

5. Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD)

Architecture was first taught at Harvard in 1874, predating the founding of the Bauhaus in 1919. The GSD itself began years later in 1936, but the two schools share an important link: Walter Gropius. Along with Marcel Breuer, Gropius joined the GSD faculty when they both moved to the United States in 1937. As chair of the Department of Architecture, Gropius went on to revamp the Beaux Arts-style School of Architecture into what some have termed a “Harvard Bauhaus [10].”

Walter Gropius. Image © Louis Held under public domain

The history of Harvard and the Bauhaus goes back a bit further, though, with Harvard hosting the first American Bauhaus exhibition in 1930. This year the relationship continued, as the new exhibition The Bauhaus and Harvard opened this month (February 2019) to mark the 100-year anniversary of the Bauhaus’ founding. Gropius was extremely influential in establishing GSD as an unofficial “center” for the Bauhaus in America as well as spreading Bauhaus instruction throughout the country. Harvard’s own Graduate Center, designed by Gropius’ office, was the first modernist building on campus in 1950 [11].

6. Aspen Institute

While not technically a school, the Aspen Institute was founded on similar principles to the Bauhaus applied in broader terms, with the help of a Bauhaus graduate, architect Herbert Bayer. The Aspen Institute still exists today as an international nonprofit think tank. Primarily founded by Walter Paepcke (the same who invited Moholy-Nagy to Chicago) in 1949, he had recruited Bayer a few years earlier in 1945 [12].

The vision for the Institute has echoes of Bauhaus ideals, as a place where artists, leaders, thinkers, and musicians could gather to reflect on societal and cultural values. While perhaps more utopian (where the Bauhaus was practical), the idea behind the Institute was to create an oasis where those gathered could step away from everyday life for a more objective view [13]. Since its inception, the Aspen Institute has hosted an International Design Conference to recognize some of the country’s most accomplished artists.

7. Pond Farm

Married couple and former students of the Bauhaus ceramics program, Frans Wildenhain and Marguerite Wildenhain (née Friedlaender), traveled an interesting path from the Bauhaus to a community called Pond Farm in California. While studying at the Bauhaus, Marguerite worked alongside Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Gerhard Marcks, and Max Krehan and in 1925 became the first woman to earn the Master Potter certification in Germany [14]. Frans studied under Moholy-Nagy and eventually became head of the pottery department at the State School of Applied Art after the Bauhaus dropped the ceramics department in its move to Dessau.

Barn at Pond Farm. Image © Wikimedia user MikeVdP licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

After the Nazis took control of Germany, the Wildenhains relocated to the Netherlands and eventually the United States. Marguerite, who was Jewish, was able to relocate in 1940, but Frans, who was not, was not allowed to join her for seven years [15]. During those years, Marguerite became the first artist to accept an invitation from Gordon and Jane Herr to move to their artists’ community, Pond Farm. Gordon had met the Wildenhains a few years earlier while they were living in the Netherlands. Frans finally joined Marguerite at Pond Farm in 1947 and began teaching sculpture. The structure of Pond Farm’s community had been directly inspired by institutions like the Bauhaus and it now had two Bauhaus-educated artists-in-residence teaching workshops. These workshops were taught using a Bauhaus-style kick wheel and students focused on mastering the process of the craft rather than creating finished products [16].

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Cite: Megan Schires. "7 International Examples of How the Bauhaus Lived On After 1933" 12 Feb 2019. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/911148/7-international-examples-of-how-the-bauhaus-lived-on-after-1933> ISSN 0719-8884


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