ARCH+ features 36: Bauhaus project
In 2019, the Bauhaus movement will celebrate its one hundredth birthday. The "Project Bauhaus" initiative will mark this milestone with a five-year process to take critical stock of the Bauhaus ideas and to test their potential to answer significant questions relating to the present. Within the framework of ARCH+ features, question 1 for 2015 was announced and dealt with in four discussion sessions held in parallel: Can design change society?
The brief, to-the-point panels are designed to highlight the different aspects of design, to open up public access to the discussion in the project group, and to stimulate further thought and involvement. In his introduction, Nikolaus Kuhnert, Editor of the journal Arch+, explained the wide-ranging impetus for inspiration and points of connection the Bauhaus movement offers for our current times. He emphasized that Bauhaus has to be understood beyond its own time within the context of the event, not with the goal of historization but of creatively unlocking its potential for present-day architecture and society.
Jesko Fezer, Architect, Designer and University Lecturer talked in his introduction on wide-ranging aspects of the Bauhaus phenomenon. During the discussion with Jan Wenzel that followed, he turned his attention to the topic "Kairos and design". How important was "taking advantage of the right moment" to the foundation and development of the Bauhaus movement? And what is the significance to be attached to the movement's ambivalent relationship with state institutions, which acted as an enabler in some historic situations, but as a restrictive force in others – culminating in destruction? Given this historically precarious relationship and the fact that the 100 year anniversary of the Bauhaus movement is being elevated to a state affair of prestigious proportions, the question arises – according to Fezer and Wenzel in their summing up – whether this occasion should not prompt a process of self-criticism on the part of the state.
The Architect and Professor at Kassel University Philipp Oswalt was the Chair of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation for around five years up to February 2014. His introduction sought to build conceptual bridges between the Bauhaus of the inter-war years and the present.
The graphic designer and art historian Walter Scheiffele took a closer look at the "Bauhaus Myth“. It is the outcome of a momentous staging by Walter Gropius’, who stylized the Bauhaus movement to a singular event and consequently went on to hold sway over interpretation of the entire modernist movement in Germany. With the establishment of this "unique selling proposition", the undeniably successful relationship of the Bauhaus protagonists with the politics and economics of their time has shifted out of focus. The retouching processes to the links with social movements and technical developments which are needed in our modern culture have tended to stick rigidly to the documents of the time, and they continue to have an impact to this day.
The art and culture historian Anja Baumhoff illuminated the Bauhaus movement as a social experiment. Influenced by the Life Reform movement, the early Bauhaus oscillated between social romanticism and utopian excess. Design was understood as a social phenomenon which it was believed could change society in the long term.

All pictures courtesy of: David von Becker
© 2020 S. Siedle & Söhne OHG