Bauhaus Architecture: Sleek and Simple, but Thoroughly Modern

Bauhaus architecture is a design movement that emerged in post-World War I Germany in the early days of the artistically free Weimar Republic. German artists began to question their country’s past and rejected the Prussian styles. They also rewrote all the rules. This was the case in the Staatliches Bauhaus in architecture. Walter Gropius founded it in 1919.

Bauhaus was founded to modernize art. It sought to radicalize design principles in a country devastated by war machines. Bauhaus architecture combines the applied arts of the industrial age with the fine arts to produce modern, sleek designs.

What is Bauhaus Architecture?

Bauhaus architecture placed function first, and a core principle of truth to materials guided it. Materials were only used in their natural state, with very little modification. This was a strong rebuke to industrialization, mass production and consumerism. Bauhaus design celebrates raw materials and makes them part of the overall design. Bauhaus buildings are made from industrial materials such as concrete, glass, or steel.

Bauhaus architecture is a form of balance that seeks to achieve asymmetry. This is because perfectly symmetrical buildings are seen as part of the industrialized world. It’s reminiscent of warehouses and factories that once dominated the landscapes of German cities.

Bauhaus architecture is a minimalistic style that focuses on functional shapes, such as squares, triangles and circles. There is very little embellishment. Bauhaus buildings are often geometric with flat roofs, streamlined facades, and starkly geometric shapes. Abstract shapes are only used sparingly to ornament. Bauhaus buildings can be found with rounded corners and curves because Bauhaus is an architectural movement, not a style.

Although Bauhaus buildings may not be the same for everyone, there are some common traits of Bauhaus architectures:

  • Simple and functional design, minimal ornamentation
  • Use of basic geometric shapes such as triangles, squares and circles.
  • Asymmetry is preferred over symmetry
  • Smooth façades and clean lines
  • Modern materials like steel, glass, and concrete can be used in their natural state.
  • Flat roofs

Bauhaus Architecture: History

In 1919, Walter Gropius founded the Staatliches Bauhaus art school in Weimar (a central German city). Bauhaus is inverted hausbau, German for “house design”; the school trained many disciplines. However, Gropius chose the name Bauhaus to express his desire to revolutionize architecture and create a new German home that would mark a new period in German history.

Although Germany was an industrialized nation before World War I, it was a country that had seen rapid growth. To support the war effort, thousands of factories were set up. This changed the character of Germany’s cities and extended into the countryside. Gropius was aware of industrialization’s necessity, but he disliked its total neglect of art and absence of design. Gropius believed that war had caused a huge rift between the worlds of fine arts like painting, drawing and sculpture and the applied arts such as graphic design, furnishings design and architecture.

The school experienced many relocations, school buildings, and directors over the next 14-years. Its goals and tenants changed with each move. The Bauhaus school was founded on the principle of reintegrating art and industrialization.

Bauhaus moved from Weimar, Germany, to Dessau and then to Berlin before it was closed down by the Nazis in 1933. Over its 14-year history, three directors helmed the school. The first was Walter Gropius, then Hannes Meyer and finally Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the father of Modernist architecture. Each director had a unique influence on the movement, and styles changed and evolved under their leadership. The Bauhaus school’s core principle was to unify art and industrialization.

Notable Bauhaus Buildings

Fagus Factory

Alfeld, Honover, Germany

Walter Gropius designed this factory in 1911, eight years before he found the Bauhaus school. Gropius designed the building to be used by workers. He lined the factory’s exterior with curtain walls made of glass that let in sunlight. These glass walls revolutionized architecture and engineering. Gropius replaced the factory’s exterior walls with reinforced concrete columns that supported it from the inside.

Haus am Horn

Weimar (Germany)

The Bauhaus school was once located in Weimar. This is a large city in central Germany. It houses one of the earliest examples of Bauhaus residential architecture. This rectangular, sleek home was designed by Georg Muche and is located on the Bauhaus-Universitat Weimar campus.

Bauhaus Dessau

Dessau, Germany

When Gropius decided to move the Bauhaus school out of the increasingly-conservative Weimar, he chose the industrial town of Dessau, which promised him a prime real estate and full funding to build a new modernist Bauhaus campus. He designed an asymmetrical building in 1925 that paid tribute to Dessau’s Junkers aircraft factory. When viewed from the top, the building appears like an aeroplane propeller (as it would in a Junkers biplane).


Katherine L. Branton

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