Bauhaus: The strains of middle age

Morgan Meis in The Easel:

Walter Gropius was fond of making claims about The Bauhaus like the following: “Our guiding principle was that design is neither an intellectual nor a material affair, but simply an integral part of the stuff of life, necessary for everyone in a civilized society.” Idealistic and vague, perhaps to a fault, but one gets the point. Bauhaus design was never intended to be alienating. It was supposed to be the opposite. It was supposed to preserve the relative “health” of the craft traditions while marching boldly into a new era. It was supposed to help cure the potential wounds of modern life, wounds caused, initially, by the industrial revolution and its jarring impact on everything from the natural landscape to the material and design of our cutlery. Anti-alienation was really the one guiding intuition behind The Bauhaus as a school and then, more amorphously, as a general approach to architecture and design.

Somehow, though, something changed. Perhaps this was due to the process by which Bauhaus ideas spread from Weimar and out into the world at large, including the historical circumstances by which leading practitioners of Bauhaus were driven from Germany (by Nazism) and then found themselves in places like England and America. Whatever its precise origin, by the 1960s and 70s, Bauhaus ideas were frequently cited not as a cure for alienation but rather as its cause.

More here.

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