Bauhaus style: when design and handicraft converged

Bauhaus – the beginning of artistic modernism

The Bauhaus came about more or less as a direct consequence of industrialisation: Henry van de Velde and Walter Gropius developed their idea of streamlined design to oppose the opulent shapes that were considered aesthetically pleasing at the time but were almost impossible to achieve using industrial production methods. The objective was to develop a design language that was compatible with the emerging industrial manufacturing in order to prevent crafts from becoming completely irrelevant.

The ‘staatliches Bauhaus’ initially started out as a small work group that brought artists and craftspersons together. But soon the revolutionary concept was making waves. The simple, modern designs of the early Bauhaus were a cause of controversy, as they ran entirely counter to the common image of “attractive” design or even “attractive” architecture, which at the time was richly decorated with ornaments and stucco.

Form Follows Function – the significance of function

Initially, the founder of the ‘staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar’, architect Walter Gropius, placed the main focus of the Bauhaus movement on architecture and building. But this soon changed, as it quickly became apparent that the concept could be applied meaningfully to absolutely every area of design.

At the time, the streamlined, simple form that is now characteristic of Bauhaus style was a design revolution. Form was no longer purely dictated by fleeting ideas of aesthetics, but instead followed the premise of function: “form follows function” was the overarching motto, a maxim which is still widespread in many areas of design today.

In fact the design of the Bauhaus movement is so timeless that its principles are still valid in current design products. For example, the minimalist Next stackable bowl is an excellent example of how little a product needs in order to be functional as well as aesthetically pleasing. Using concrete as a material gives the stackable bowl an exclusive feel, while the stackable shape makes it especially space saving and the integrated compartments mean that small items can be stored easily and tidily.

The streamlined designs of the Bauhaus movement and its successors adjusted to the requirements of industrial production always aimed to view design as a piece of cultural folk heritage rather than a luxury item – as had long been the case up to that point. This approach was adopted regardless of whether Bauhaus architects were managing the construction of social housing or in functional, easy-to-care-for products for everyday use.

A movement that refused to die

The National Socialists’ rise to power in Germany in 1933 marked the end of the ‘staatliches Bauhaus’, with the revolutionary designs denounced as “degenerate”. It wasn’t long before Bauhaus followers were forced to dissolve the movement. But this did not mean the end of the Bauhaus, as many of the creative people involved emigrated to carry on their work elsewhere, thus driving design and architecture forward on a global scale.

Many of the criteria set out at the time, such as unconditional functionality or the aesthetics of minimalist design, stood the test of time and are now seen as standard for modern design. If you want to discover how closely design and function are still intertwined today, take a look at our award-winning products on Red Dot 21. From the exclusive office set Block from Korn Produkte to the bright and colourful FLIP alarm clock from DesignWright: The selected design products on Red Dot 21 will present you with a perfect symbiosis of function and design.


Posted on 28.04.2016

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