In April of 1919, a hundred years ago now, in the Germany battered after the defeat in World War I, the architect Walter Gropius he founded the school of architecture, the most influential art and crafts of the 20th century: the Bauhaus. It happened in the capital of Germanic classicism, Weimar, which celebrates the centenary in style with the inauguration today of the Bauhaus Museum, a new building that exhibits a thousand pieces of the oldest collection of a movement that dynamited the previous canons and created a way to combine the beauty artistic of the objects with their functionality that would transcend epochs and borders.
A century later, those Bauhaus designs (in German, housing construction) still look modern. In their time they were so radical and uncomfortable, and the students and teachers of the school were behaving so unconventionally, that style and people became unbearable for Nazism. In 1925 a local philonazi party succeeded in driving the Bauhaus out of Weimar, which moved to the city of Dessau, where Gropius would build the famous rectangular building as the new headquarters of the school, which was also expelled there in 1932 by winning the Nazi Party the municipal elections. Your last director, Mies van der Rohe, took the classes to Berlin, where a handful of students and teachers resisted a few months until, with Hitler and his family already in power, they had no choice but to dissolve in July 1933.
In total, the school had a short life: 14 years. "But the Bauhaus has influenced design throughout the world; Teachers and students who left Germany for Nazism expanded their ideas by working in other countries, "said the director of the Bauhaus Museum, Ulrike Bestgen, on Thursday during the presentation.
The new museum is a gray and minimalist cube, designed by the German architect Heike Hanada, which covers 2,000 square meters on five levels, and which has cost 27 million euros, discharged by the German state and the land of Thuringia. Its promoters expect to receive one hundred thousand visitors a year. This is the highlight of this centenary, in which all of Germany has turned, with hundreds of events, conferences and exhibitions. Dessau will open its museum in September, and at the end of the year it will reopen, enlarging the Bauhaus-Archiv and the Design Museum of Berlin.
The slogan of combining beauty of the object with its function has been very influential
For now, the Bauhaus Museum in Weimar can be admired icons such as the cradle designed in 1922 by Peter Keler under the supervision of the artist and Professor Wassily Kandinsky; the 1924 teapot by Marianne Brandt; the table lamp by Wilhelm Wagenfeld and Carl Jakob Jucker; Siedhoff-Buscher's wooden toys; or the airy chairs of Marcel Breuer. The core of the sample are the 168 pieces that Gropius donated to Weimar when he left.
But attention, alerts the director Ulrike Bestgen, "is a myth that in the Bauhaus everything was totally revolutionary, and that everything was totally new". The Bauhaus developed from a precursor tradition in Weimar that already struggled to combine fine arts and artistic trades. Gropius founded the Bauhaus State School (that was his official name) merging the Great Saxon Duke School of Art - the first in Germany to admit female students - and the Grand Saxon School of Arts and Crafts, initiated in 1907 by the Belgian architect and designer Henry van de Velde.
In fact, in 1919 the groundbreaking teachers and students of the newly created Bauhaus settled in buildings designed by Van de Velde, the same ones that now house the Bauhaus University, which proclaims itself the heir of the original, and in which students are trained of all the world.
For all these reasons, the Bauhasian jubilee in Weimar is completed with the opening today of the exhibition Van de Velde, Nietzsche and modernism around 1900, in the nearby Neues Museum, on the background that paid the emergence of the Bauhaus in the city . Here the philosopher Nietzsche died, and here he also has his cult.
The fact is that at the beginning of 1919, while in the National Theater -which stand the statues of Goethe and Schiller, two illustrious residents, and where now young people use the skateboard- the deputies of what we now know as Republic Weimar wrote the first democratic constitution in the history of Germany, Walter Gropius prepared the new school.
The center accepted women, but they were channeled to the looms and home design
To this end he signed as professors artists and architects such as Gerhard Marcks, Lyonel Feininger, Johannes Itten, Oskar Schlemmer, László Moholy-Nagy, Paul Klee and the aforementioned Kandinsky, among others. The students had to learn a trade in one of the workshops, but also try a bit of everything (painting, ceramics, weaving, graphic arts, metallurgy, theater, architecture), as Gropius and his cloister did not distinguish between disciplines. "As a school, the Bauhaus was a great experiment in creative experiences," says specialist Ulrike Bestgen.
The school admitted women, but Gropius' famous claim that there would be no "differences between the fair sex and the strong sex" already illustrates the relative liberation in which the students were trained, which tended to be channeled towards the looms or the design of household supplies. "It depends on whether we look at the half-full glass or the half-empty glass," says specialist Anke Blümm during a tour of the museum. Women could not participate in all the workshops, they suffered that obstacle, but in spite of everything several managed to be creative, so their time in the Bauhaus should be considered as positive ".
Weimar has more plans for his great Bauhasian year. In May another exhibition on functional housing will open in the Haus am Horn, designed by Georg Muche, which is the only example of authentic Bauhaus architecture built in Weimar. "During the renovation works, people who have passed by believed that it was a new house in the final phase of construction, and it is one hundred years old! -Explained in his explanation before the house the specialist Christian Eckert-; that already says how visionary they were. "
And they were more and more. Gropius' successor as director, the Swiss architect Hannes Meyer, emphasized the social vocation of the Bauhaus with its maxim of designing "for the needs of the people, not for the needs of luxury", which gave it a left wing aura that drove Dessau City Council to dismiss him in 1930. It was a turbulent time, and the third director, Mies van der Rohe, opted to focus on aesthetics. That did not help the Nazis leave them alone either. The Bauhaus school disappeared like this in 1933, swept by Hitler like the Weimar Republic in which he had been born.