Sources

A Century Ago, Birth Of The Bauhaus

The Bauhaus movement came to life in Germany after the end of World War I. And it lives on today in many ways.

The Bauhaus-Archiv museum in Berlin, designed by Walter Gropius
The Bauhaus-Archiv museum in Berlin, designed by Walter Gropius
Thomas Schmid

BERLIN — The Bauhaus, founded a century ago in 1919 in the turbulent period of the Weimar Republic, was quickly crushed by the Nazis, which described it as a prime example of "cultural Bolshevism."

The Bauhaus was by no means alone in its early efforts to find new forms and a kind of function-less architecture without ornamentation. There was also the German Werkbund, and other attempts to combine artistic individuality and the spirit of industrial modernity. But why has only the Bauhaus survived?

As paradoxical as it sounds, the Nazi attacks on the Bauhaus were ultimately a boost to its international reputation. Its success is mainly due to the industrial designer and architect Walter Gropius (1883-1969), founder of the Bauhaus, without whose inexhaustible energy the movement would not have made it through the first year. The years after the end of World War I were rife with departure and exile.

Gropius was a guru in his own way. A guru, of course, who was also a citizen and master. He was able to inspire young people with his fascination with unconditionality. Alfred Arndt, one of his followers, enthusiastically described Christmas 1919 at the Weimar Bauhaus. Surrounded by a chalkboard, candles, a large wreath of roses, Gropius read the traditional Christmas story to his pupils, then served them all meals.

Other gurus in those years were also marked by the impression that the old order was broken, and were all looking for a new community. Gropius wrote: "The more we succeed in making the communion of our work ever more intimate, the more it will be possible to establish the connection between industry, craft, science and the space-shaping forces of our time from the common spiritual center." In the Bauhaus Manifesto, it is even said that the new form of building will "rise to heaven as a crystalline symbol of a newcoming faith."

Walter Gropius (on the right, with a bowtie) at the opening of the 2nd São Paulo Art Biennial in 1953 — Photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra

The Bauhaus wanted to counteract the industrial standardization and leveling of the craft with pursuit of the unique. But unlike almost all other reform movements of the time, the Bauhaus was aware that there was no alternative to industrial modernity.

It avoided both the glorification of industrial gigantomania, as cultivated in the Soviet Union, as well as any "back to nature" ideology. Modern man suffered from the alienation that the technological world necessarily brought with it, but at the same time he lived off the achievements of this technological world.

With its festivals, exaltations and community, it took part in the movement of retreat. But with his strict form, his tireless efforts to reconcile individuality and norm, it was also part of modernity. It tried to do what many others did not: to contribute to the success of the republic.

The weight of this can be measured by comparing the Bauhaus with other intellectual currents of the time. Many left-wing intellectuals were relying on the Soviet Union, communism and the supposedly inherent potential of liberation. Many right-wing intellectuals, instead, rejected the idea that industrial modernity suited the republic, which knows only masters and servants.

From Dada to Surrealism, many artists worked on the destruction of form and meaning. Judging from this, the Bauhaus's persistent efforts to provide understandable, appropriate and beautiful new forms are not high enough. In a time of cult of negativity, a conspiratorial group was working on a positive project at the Bauhaus: reconciling the conventional and the unknown. Construction instead of destruction.

The project of architectural modernism was not founded in a metropolis but in the provinces.

The Bauhaus was not founded by chance in Weimar in 1919. Weimar was the place where the republic named after the city was baptized. It was not a large city. The project of architectural modernism was not founded in a metropolis, as was to be expected, but in the provinces.

Walter Gropius fought in World War I, the first industrial mass war. And he learned its lessons. The war, which was carried out with the use of enormous technical destructive capacity, had proved that industry and machinery could be extremely destructive. Gropius and his Bauhaus team noted this with great concern.

They tried to, in a playful, witty, ironic, but also serious and meaningful manner, give life to the idea that even in times of industrial standardization it must be possible to allow the good form to emerge.

The Bauhaus became a workshop of the future: everything had to stay in flux, nothing was final. According to architectural historian Wolfgang Pehnt, "the geometric devices, the slender, elongated room figures, the white building cubes with wide-open ribbon windows, the ventilated row buildings of "open construction" were a time-warping program."

Bauhaus school building in Dessau, Germany, designed by Walter Gropius — Photo: Hjochheim

There was a certain dogmatism in the movement: the more radical, the better; the goal was reduction to the purest form at any price. Chairs, kitchen tables, and houses where always austere. If a man was not modern enough to feel comfortable in this ambiance, it was a bad sign for humanity. The Bauhaus sometimes had a penchant for avant-garde pride. And the avant-garde could also carry terrible things. Fritz Ertl, Bauhaus student from 1928 to 1931, later designed the barracks of Auschwitz.

And the Bauhaus succumbed to a predilection for dogmatism. Without it, an interdisciplinary experiment that consistently brought together painters, craftsmen, technicians, textile workers, typographers and architects could have been inspired, in the age of mass production to lift the craft out of the niche and make it industrially usable.

This art school lived within the Weimar Republic. Its presence is still felt today.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Geopolitics

"The Truest Hypocrisy" - The Russia-NATO Clash Seen From Moscow

Russia has decided to cut off relations with the Western military alliance. But Moscow says it was NATO who really wanted the break based on its own internal rationale.

NATO chief Stoltenberg and Russian Foregin Minister Lavrov

Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS via ZUMA
Pavel Tarasenko and Sergei Strokan

MOSCOW — The Russian Foreign Ministry's announcement that the country's permanent representation to NATO would be shut down for an indefinite period is a major development. But from Moscow's viewpoint, there was little alternative.

These measures were taken in response to the decision of NATO on Oct. 6 to cut the number of personnel allowed in the Russian mission to the Western alliance by half. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the removal of accreditations was from eight employees of the Russian mission to NATO who were identified as undeclared employees of Russian intelligence." We have seen an increase in Russian malicious activity for some time now," Stoltenberg said.


The Russian Foreign Ministry called NATO's expulsion of Russian personnel a "ridiculous stunt," and Stoltenberg's words "the truest hypocrisy."

In announcing the complete shutdown in diplomacy between Moscow and NATO, the Russian Foreign Ministry added: "The 'Russian threat' is being hyped in strengthen the alliance's internal unity and create the appearance of its 'relevance' in modern geopolitical conditions."

The number of Russian diplomatic missions in Brussels has been reduced twice unilaterally by NATO in 2015 and 2018 - after the alliance's decision of April 1, 2014 to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between Russia and NATO in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea. Diplomats' access to the alliance headquarters and communications with its international secretariat was restricted, military contacts have frozen.

Yet the new closure of all diplomatic contacts is a perilous new low. Kommersant sources said that the changes will affect the military liaison mission of the North Atlantic alliance in Moscow, aimed at promoting the expansion of the dialogue between Russia and NATO. However, in recent years there has been no de facto cooperation. And now, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has announced, the activities of the military liaison mission will be suspended. The accreditation of its personnel will be canceled on November 1.

NATO told RIA Novosti news service on Monday that it regretted Moscow's move. Meanwhile, among Western countries, Germany was the first to respond. "It would complicate the already difficult situation in which we are now and prolong the "ice age," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters.

"Lavrov said on Monday, commenting on the present and future of relations between Moscow and the North Atlantic Alliance, "If this is the case, then we see no great need to continue pretending that any changes will be possible in the foreseeable future because NATO has already announced that such changes are impossible.

The suspension of activities of the Russian Permanent Mission to NATO, as well as the military liaison and information mission in Russia, means that Moscow and Brussels have decided to "draw a final line under the partnership relations of previous decades," explained Andrei Kortunov, director-general of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs, "These relations began to form in the 1990s, opening channels for cooperation between the sides … but they have continued to steadily deteriorate over recent years."

Kortunov believes the current rupture was promoted by Brussels. "A new strategy for NATO is being prepared, which will be adopted at the next summit of the alliance, and the previous partnership with Russia does not fit into its concept anymore."

The existence and expansion of NATO after the end of the Cold War was the main reason for the destruction of the whole complex of relations between Russia and the West. Today, Russia is paying particular attention to marking red lines related to the further steps of Ukraine's integration into NATO. Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov previously stated this, warning that in response to the alliance's activity in the Ukrainian direction, Moscow would take "active steps" to ensure its security.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ