No art movement in history has impacted the world of products quite like the Bauhaus. Founded in 1919 by the architect Walter Gropius in Weimar, Germany, the school’s original manifesto proposed a union of art, architecture and design via a curriculum that would “create a new guild of craftsmen, without the class distinctions that raise an arrogant barrier between craftsman and artist.”
Gropius and his fellow Bauhaus instructors — Paul Klee, Wasily Kandinsky, Oskar Schlemmer, Herbert Bayer and Marcel Breuer — preached a multidisciplinary approach to design that was built upon the tenets of modernism. Its central axiom has become prevalent across myriad disciplines: form follows function.
Thus, the products that emerged from Bauhaus were stripped of nearly all ornamentation and made from common materials that lent themselves to mass production — buildings, chairs, wristwatches and everything in between. Today, the influence of the Bauhaus is evident everywhere you look, from Apple’s iPod to the Porsche 911. Distinctly modern, relentlessly practical and admittedly polarizing, it was a movement that continues to inform multiple creative disciplines, and 100 years after the school’s founding, its popularity shows no signs of waning.
A Brief Illustrated History of Bauhaus Products
1924 — MT8 Table Lamp
by Wilhelm Wagenfeld and Carl Jakob Jucker
An early Bauhaus design, the MT8 lamp was crafted after the central tenets of the school, using simple shapes and, with the inner components mostly exposed, eschewing ornamentation. Though unpopular on its release, the MT8 lamp is still in production today and has since become one of the most recognizable designs to emerge from the school.
1925 — Fagus Shoe Last Factory
by Walter Gropius
Carl Benscheidt, the original owner of the Fagus Factory, was dissatisfied with the building’s exterior and hired Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius to redesign it in 1925. The result, which included liberal use of glass and rapid fluctuations in height and contrast, were revolutionary for the time. In 2011, UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site.
1925-1926 — Model B3 (“Wassily”) Chair
by Marcel Breuer
The so-called “Wassily” chair was created by famed master carpenter Marcel Breuer while he was an instructor at the Bauhaus. Inspired by bicycle design, Breuer used tubular steel to construct the chair’s frame, which was then covered in fabric or leather. The chair, another Bauhaus icon, has been mass-produced since the 1950s.
1926-1927 — Nesting Tables
by Josef Albers
Originally designed for a private apartment and crafted of solid oak and lacquered acrylic glass, Josef Albers’s nesting tables, meant to function “independently and interdependently,” brought the artist’s passion for color to an otherwise simple, utilitarian form. They were considered groundbreaking for their integration of color into furniture design and remain in production today.