The Roaring Fork Valley joins an international celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus.
(lunatics, and also, Committee members)
Chloe C. Tabah
"A Bauhäusler then was frequently considered a Tollhäusler (lunatic), while today 100 years after the founding date, Bauhausler is considered an honorary title." – Bauhaus and Bauhaus People, edited by Eckhard Neumann
The mission of the Bauhaus 100: Aspen is to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Bauhaus and to commemorate its influence on Aspen and illuminate the many ways in which it has impacted the city and continues to influence and inspire artists, designers, architects, landscape architects, and thinkers in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Participating organizations will offer events, in alignment with their unique institutional mission, that raise awareness about the Bauhaus school in this collaborative, Valley-wide endeavor. The goal is to educate the community and visitors about the Bauhaus through a diverse presentation of events, which will hopefully lead to an appreciation of the unique influence it has had on the character of Aspen. The event will span from January-August 2019.
A: The Bauhaus is a modernist art school established by Walter Gropius in 1919 in Weimar, Germany emphasizing the integration and equality of all the visual arts. The principles of the Bauhaus encouraged conversations between practitioners of various trades and media, created an outpouring of avant-garde experimentation, and re-imagined the image of the modern era.
After losing funding from an increasingly conservative local government that did not support the school’s revolutionary functional aesthetic, the school moved to Dessau in 1926. When the Nazi party gained control of Dessau, the school moved to Berlin, where it was ultimately pressured to close in 1933 by the now totalitarian regime.
Though its tenure was brief, the Bauhaus was a radical departure from tradition and ornamentation, establishing its novel theory of beauty through function as a major influence on all 20th century art, architecture, and design. Gropius and his followers succeeded in shaping and improving the human habitat through a synthesis of the fine arts, crafts, and industrial manufacturing.
A: The history of the Bauhaus is inextricably linked with that of the Weimar Republic, Germany’s first experiment in democracy following the popular revolution that dissolved the Prussian Monarchy in 1918. The poverty and discontent following the country’s devastating defeat in First World War may have sowed the seeds of fascism, but the turbulence also allowed for a reconsideration of politics, education, and the arts in Germany. As the school’s seminal visual theorist Johannes Itten recalls, “the general unrest, disorder, lack of direction, and uncertainty in the years following WWI fostered the establishment of new institutions with new types of programs."
The Bauhaus was in large part a response to the industrialism of the day, and its mission of uniting the arts with manufacturing was preceded by the state-sponsored Werkbund of 1907 which sought to improve the competitiveness of German mass-production with England’s more attractive craft products. In line with educational reform of the times, the Bauhaus instituted practical, hands-on learning techniques reminiscent of the guild system’s apprenticeship, a still-prominent feature of Germany’s dual education system today. Furthermore, Gropius aimed to establish an “educational institution to provide artistic advisory services to industry, trade, and craft,” further integrating the commercial industries with the arts through education. During its tenure, the school was commissioned to build several important architectural projects and produced many iconic home furnishings.
The ultimate demise of the school came about shortly after the Reichstag Fire of 1933 in the capital, an emergency situation which gave Hitler the premise to eliminate nearly all civil liberties such as freedom of the press, habeas corpus, and the privacy of telephone and post, ultimately consolidating Nazi power and ending the Weimar Republic. Within two months the gestapo closed and searched the school’s Berlin location on suspicion of communist ties and propaganda printing. When faced with the possibility of reopening with a curriculum revised to meet “the demands of the new State,” the Bauhaus’s final director Ludwig Mies van der Rohe opted to close. As many of the school’s masters fled the coming horrors of World War II, Bauhaus teachings spread throughout the world, notably to Chicago, where the New Bauhaus was founded by Moholy-Nagy, and ultimately from Chicago to Aspen.
A: Not at all. The Bauhaus was about the role of commerce and industry in life, and was a reminder of the essential role of creativity in our everyday activities. By combining art, craft, and technology under one roof, the Bauhaus established an artistic utopia and explored the integration of art into all aspects of the human environment, from industrial design and architecture to typography and interior design, the Bauhaus established the presence of 'fine art' in everyday objects.
The influence of Bauhaus design can be found in almost all modern thought. From your Apple electronics and the fonts that populate them to our furnishings and the architecture that houses them, Bauhaus redirected the focus of individual artistry and craftsmanship into our new, mass-produced environments, emphasizing a less ornate, more functional approach to the creative process.
A: Bauhaus architecture and design is revered in some circles, but also has many critics. They believe that the Bauhaus celebrates cold, homogeneous design for the sake of rejecting old, Bourgeois aesthetics. The ideas of community and transparency touted by the Bauhaus also come into question. Tom Wolfe’s popular 1981 essay ”From Bauhaus to Our House” asked whether Bauhaus truly represented liberty, or if its structures were antithetical to intimacy and individuality.
Furthermore, while the school espoused a communal atmosphere in which Gropius promised no discrimination between "the beautiful and the strong sex," the reality wound up being less utopian for women. While the initial wave of applicants boasted more women than men, the Bauhaus ultimately restricted the number of females enrolled and increasingly pushed them into ceramics and textiles, which were deemed more appropriately feminine.