Bauhaus furniture is some of the most iconic and well-known in the world. But what is it, exactly? And where did it come from?
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the history of Bauhaus furniture design and explore how it has transformed the way we live and work. We’ll also introduce you to some of the key architects and artists associated with this movement and discuss the impacts of their work on modern architecture.
So, let’s get started!
What is Bauhaus Furniture?
The Bauhaus school was founded in 1919 by Walter Gropius, an architect and former student of the Weimar Academy of Fine Arts.
The school aimed to unify art, craft, and technology in creating affordable mass-produced items for a new mode of living. This would involve a lot of experimentation with materials and designs. Gropius believed that “new materials always lend themselves to new forms.”
Therefore, Bauhaus furniture was often made from wood or metal, stripped back to its raw state – without the common finishes. However, it also involved many trials and errors when designing pieces that could be manufactured effectively.
Marcel Breuer known as a famous designer tried making chairs out of concrete in one fascinating case but found they would crack when sat on! So, he devised a process for casting iron, which he used to make the first tubular steel chairs.
In terms of design, Bauhaus furniture was stripped mainly of ornamentation and decorative elements, with each piece being pared back to its essentials almost like today’s monochrome design. In place of classical details such as fluting or cabriole legs, you’ll find simple lines and an absence of surface decoration.
There were no excessive adornments on the backs of chairs either – everything was designed with a purpose in mind. Gropius said that “the ultimate aim is not art but utility.”
Bauhaus furniture also demonstrates great innovation regarding materials and finishing techniques. For example, Marcel Breuer experimented extensively with different forms, functions, and finishes for his tubular steel chairs. And the result was furniture that was both functional and stylish – a hallmark of Bauhaus design.
The History of Bauhaus Furniture
Here is a brief history of Bauhaus furniture history.
The earliest years: 1919-1925
The first years of the Bauhaus school saw various designs emerging under Walter Gropius’s leadership. This was partly because he brought together students from multiple art schools with different ideas about design. Many students were not yet familiar enough with industrial technologies to produce functional products on a large scale.
Some early products produced by the school included careful reproductions of traditional material, for example, textiles, ornaments, or tapestries. These were created using new manufacturing processes but did not entirely focus on designing new pieces instead of housing old ideas in new formats.
This did not last long, however. From 1922 onwards, Gropius increasingly emphasized that Bauhaus should be a school where new technologies could be applied to functional products for everyday use, emphasizing rigorous simplicity and minimalism.
As this approach gained traction, it became clear that new furniture was needed for teaching purposes which reflected these values.
Mies van der Rohe produced the Barcelona sofa (1929), Marcel Breuer created the Wassily chair (1925), and other designers joined him in making modernist chairs which would form part of what we now know as Bauhaus furniture design.
The final years: 1925-1929
As time went on, the Bauhaus school became increasingly famous for its innovative and progressive approach to design. National governments began funding students from across Europe to study at prestigious schools. Various private companies also began collaborating with teachers to create new pieces that reflected these values.
This period saw a surge in activity from Gropius’s students, who designed all kinds of functional objects from chairs to door handles, table lamps to rugs. As the movement gained momentum, it became clear that people wanted this.
Bauhaus-inspired designs could be seen cropping up all over Europe and America as people realized the value of minimalism in their lives.
The end: 1929-1933
The Bauhaus school was closed in 1933 after the rise of the Nazi party. As part of their racist agenda, they did not approve of the international approach to design that Gropius had pioneered and shut down his institution.
This significantly impacted architecture and furniture alike; many architects found themselves without work or looking for new employers while designers were forced to adapt their style to stay in business. This did not stop innovative designs from emerging during this period, though.
Hans and Sophie Scharoun designed Amphitheatrical arranged seating (1930) and other modernist pieces that show some inspiringly creative approaches to construction and design.
Bauhaus Architects and Artists
As we’ve seen, the Bauhaus school was founded by Walter Gropius in 1919. But it wouldn’t have been such a success without the contributions of some of its key architects and artists.
Let’s start with Walter Gropius himself, born in Berlin in 1883. He studied at the Technical University of Berlin, where he developed a passion for architecture. And after World War I, he designed several famous buildings during his time as head of the Bauhaus school between 1919 and 1928.
Two other vital architects were Hannes Meyer (1889-1954) and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969). The former began teaching at the Bauhaus school in 1930 – continuing after Gropius left, the latter became its director shortly afterward.
Both continued to teach there until it closed down, with their students including some of the greatest artists and architects of modern times. These included Eero Saarinen (1910-1961), Charles and Ray Eames (1912-1988 and 1907-1978, respectively), and Ludwig Hilberseimer (1885-1967).
As for the artists, they were no less influential in shaping the look and feel of Bauhaus furniture. Some of the most famous include Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), Paul Klee (1879-1940), and Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946). Kandinsky was one of the school’s original teachers, while Klee and Moholy-Nagy joined in 1922.
Together, these architects, artists, and designers helped create a unique furniture style that was functional and stylish. And while it took some time for the general public to catch on, the result was furniture that was accessible and ahead of its time.
The Impacts of Bauhaus Design on Modern Architecture
The Bauhaus school closed down in 1933 after the Nazis came to power in Germany. However, its influence continued to be felt long after that. Many of the ideas developed at the Bauhaus shaped the way we live and work today.
For example, the idea of form following function – which was championed by Walter Gropius – is still popular in modern architecture. And the use of lightweight materials like metal and plastic has become commonplace in everything from furniture to cars. Meanwhile, flat roofs and plate glass can be found in countless buildings worldwide.
And it’s not just the look of modern architecture that was influenced by Bauhaus design. It’s also had a lasting impact on environmental thinking, industrial development, and industrial production. So, we see things like energy-saving designs, recyclable materials, and modular building blocks working together to create low-maintenance homes.
Bauhaus furniture combines clean lines with natural colors and textures while embracing new ideas about living our lives. And as its influence has spread throughout the world, it continues to inspire modern designers and architects to this day when planning interior design.