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The Story: The Bauhaus Movement
The Bauhaus Movement
With the closing of the Bauhaus School in 1933, the Bauhaus movement began as teachers and students migrated across Europe and North America. Various work and collaborations were undertaken in Europe where the Bauhaus influence was evident. However, it was in the United States that the modernist movement in architecture took its strongest root where American firms and institutions sought many of the Bauhaus masters. Gropius became head of architecture at Harvard. Mies van der Rohe was invited by American architect Philip Johnson and later in 1938 became the Director of the School of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology. [Raeburn, 1980]
The path to America was paved through the growing popularity of what was termed the "International Style". The term was derived from a book written by Gropius in 1925 called "International Architecture" [Wolfe, 1982, p.37]. In 1927, the Stuttgart Government put Mies van der Rohe in charge of the worker-housing exhibition. He brought together the top modernist architects - Walter Gropius, Bruno Traut, Max Traut, Peter Behrens, Oud and Mart Sam of the Dutch "De Stijl" and Victor Bourgeois of Belguim. Included in the group was the man later to be considered the greatest and most influential architect of the 20th century, the Frenchman, Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, who abandoned his real name to become known as Le Corbusier [Risebero, 1997, p.245].
It was at the Wiessenhof WerkBund project that a common reductionist, cubist style emerged to define the "International Style". Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson for the Museum of Modern Art popularized the term through an article published in the Museum catalogue. It was Johnson's aim to introduce the "International Style" into American architecture.
In the United States of America, the Bauhaus principles revolutionized art education, previously dominated by the Beaux-Arts method. Through its influence in education and in practice, the modernist movement flourished. The Bauhaus movement became responsible for the modern face of architecture in many of the American cities such as Chicago and New York. Chicago has been described as "row upon row of Mies van der Rohe buildings".
In 1935 Gropius wrote his book entitled, "A New Architecture and the Bauhaus". He declared that a breach had been made with the past, which allows us to envisage a new aspect of architecture corresponding to the technical civilization of the age we live in [Gropius, 1965, p.19]. There were two key elements in his "New Architecture" namely, standardization and rationalization. Standardization did not mean that architecture was in the hands of an elite something that Gropius did not support in his call in his manifesto for all architects, artists and designers to return to the "crafts". He acknowledged that "personal interest in architecture is something that concerns every one of us in our daily lives" and that this "has been very widely aroused" [Gropius, 1965, p.20].
Gropius also reflected that what he viewed as "rationalization" was not meant to place functionalism over aesthetics. "For instance rationalization, which many people imagine to be its cardinal principle, is really only its purifying agency. The liberation of architecture from a welter of ornament, the emphasis on its structural functions, and the concentration on concise and economical solutions, represent the purely material side of that formalizing process on which the practical value of the New Architecture depends." He continues that the other "the aesthetic satisfaction of the human soul, is just as important as the material. Both find their counterpart in that unity which is life itself. What is far more important than this structural economy and its functional emphasis is the intellectual achievement, which has made possible a new spatial vision" [Gropius, 1965, p.23-24].
One might interpret the following as an elitist statement, "For whereas building is merely a matter of methods and materials, architecture implies the mastery of space" [Gropius, 1965]. However, the distinction between architecture, engineering and construction in all forms of human endeavor is not a question of dominance of roles, or that only specific roles "analyze and design", but that these are done at different layers of abstraction, planning and execution. The desire to execute or implement without fully reflecting on design issues is as true now as it was then "For the last century the transition from manual to machine production has so preoccupied humanity that, instead of pressing forward to tackle the new problems of design postulated by this unprecedented transformation, we have remained content to borrow our style from antiquity and perpetuate historical prototypes in decoration" [Gropius, 1965, p.24].
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