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Culture

Celebrations Mark 90 Years of Bauhaus

Bauhaus, the modern design movement that originated in the eastern German city of Weimar, marks its 90th birthday on April 1. Celebrations will include a special exhibition at the city's Bauhaus Museum.

The Bauhaus Masters, left to right: Albers, Scheper, Muche, Moholy-Nagy, Bayer, Schmidt, Gropius, Breuer, Kandinsky, Klee, Feininger, Stolzl, Schlemmer.

The Bauhaus Masters in a group photo

Bauhaus might be turning 90, but for enthusiasts of the German design movement, the art, furniture and architecture it inspired still looks fresh and young. The school was founded in 1919 by architect Walter Gropius, who wanted to create something bold and forward-thinking in the wake of World War I, which he described as a "catastrophe of world history."

Bauhaus classics designed by Marcel Breuer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Bauhaus classics designed by Marcel Breuer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Gropius was 35 when he applied to the city of Weimar to establish an academy there. By the time he received his permit, he'd penned a manifesto which would prove to be the beginning of an aesthetic upheaval that would reach far beyond Germany's borders.

In a pamphlet he wrote for an April 1919 exhibition entitled "Exhibition of Unknown Architects," Gropius described his goal as being "to create a new guild of craftsmen, without the class distinctions which raise an arrogant barrier between craftsman and artist."

He argued that a new era had begun with the end of the war, and he wanted a new architectural style to reflect this. Crucially, he advocated architecture and consumer goods that were functional, inexpensive and consistent with the industrialization and mass production that was changing the face of Europe.

Bauhaus building in Dessau

The Bauhaus buildings in Dessau, shown here, and Weimar are UNESCO World Heritage sites

The school existed in three German cities: Weimar (1919 -1925), Dessau (1925 - 1932) and Berlin (1932 - 1933). In 1933, it was closed by the Nazi regime. During its years of operation, the school attracted avant garde artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee and Lyonel Feininger. Along with Gropius, Hannes Meyer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe acted as architect-directors.

Bauhaus spirit lives on

But although the original Bauhaus school had a relatively short lifespan, the Bauhaus principles and aesthetic have lived on and served as the inspiration for more schools of design, particularly in the United States, where many of those associated with the Bauhaus movement settled in the 1930s.

Today, the Bauhaus school is called the Bauhaus University of Weimar. Although Weimar is commonly seen as the cradle of great German literary figures such as Goethe and Schiller, the popularity of Bauhaus has also contributed to the city becoming a popular tourist destination in recent years.

Many designers are taking the 90th anniversary as an occasion to bring remakes of Bauhaus classics to the market.

At the interior design trade show Ambiente in mid-February in Frankfurt, a number of porcelain and glassmakers showed variations of designs that originated at the Bauhaus school. Examples include tea sets by KPM in Berlin and by Rosenthal in Selb. Gropius designed the TAC collection in 1969 for Rosenthal, which is offering the set in the Bauhaus colors of blue, yellow and red to mark the anniversary.

Lamps in the Bauhaus style

Lamps in the Bauhaus style

A highlight of the Bauhaus Anniversary Week celebrations in Weimar will be the 11th International Bauhaus Colloquium featuring architectural experts from around the world debating the political and ethical challenges of globalization, and how architecture responds to them. The Bauhaus Colloquia are highly-regarded conferences on architectural theory and have been held regularly since 1976.

Meanwhile, Weimar is already looking ahead a decade to the Bauhaus centenary, and plans to open a new museum dedicated to the movement in 2019.

DW.DE