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The Story: Modernist Architecture and the Bauhaus
Modernist Architecture and the Bauhaus
Charles Jencks who studied postmodernism (defining the term), the failings of modernism and the Bauhaus stated in an interview, "The Bauhaus was the greatest design institution of the 20th Century. Without a doubt, its affected everything, our cities on a huge scale - turned them into rather mechanical-like machines." [Whitford, 1990]
The history of the Bauhaus is discussed here in three phases:
The Bauhaus Inception
The Bauhaus School from 1919 to 1933
The Bauhaus Movement from 1933 to the Present
The Bauhaus was the idea of the German architect, Walter Gropius. Gropius became an internationally renowned architect particularly for his factory designs and an influential member of the Deutsche WerkBund before the Great War of 1914.
Gropius entered the war optimistic about the preoccupation of the time - the machine. However, while serving as an officer, Gropius witnessed the mechanized slaughter that changed the world. Like many other men and women of his generation, he longed for a future that would see the taming of the machine. Gropius recalled that after coming back from the war, there was a specific moment where he came to the realization that, "I will have to take part in something completely new which would change the conditions I had been living in before."
According to historian Paul Johnson, "nearly all the major creative figures of the 1920s had already been published, exhibited or performed before 1914, and in that sense the Modern Movement was a pre-war phenomenon. But it needed the desperate convulsions of the great struggle, and the crashing of regimes it precipitated, to give modernism the radical political dimension it had hitherto lacked, and the sense of a ruined world on which it would construct a new one" [Johnson, 1983, p.8-9].
After the war, Gropius was appointed to head the publicly funded Weimar School of Arts. Weimar was the capital and cultural center of the newfound Republic. It was a turbulent period with much rioting. There was strong support for socialism and communism.
Gropius declared his utopian ideas and the new name of the school in his manifesto for the Bauhaus ("Build House"). His manifesto was an essential vision statement for the Bauhaus School in its establishment in 1919. The Manifesto was illustrated by a woodcut of a Gothic cathedral rising to the sky. It declared, "The ultimate aim of all creative activity is the building. We must all return to the crafts. The school is the servant of the workshop and will one day, be absorbed by them. Let us together create the new building of the future which will one day rise towards the heavens as the crystalline symbol of a new and coming faith." [Whitford, 1994] Gropius later stated that he felt these utopian ideas were realized. For better or for worse, the glass and metal skyscrapers of the modern world are a testament to the influence of Bauhaus.
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