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History of Architecture (AP313) | Term Paper | 2013

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The German Werkbund and Development of Bauhaus
Term Paper for History of Architecture (AP131)

Nalin Bhatia
Roll Number: 21
Sushant School of Art and Architecture

The German Werkbund
The German Werkbund or Deustcher Werkbund (German Association of Craftsmen), founded in 1907,
was an association of artists, architects, designers, and industrialists. The organisation was founded as
a response to reform design and craftsmanship in mass production as well as establish a link between
its artistic and economic aspects. The founding members were 12 architects, including Peter Behrens,
Theodor Fischer, Josef Olbrich, Bruno Paul and Richard Riemerschmid; as well as industrialists and
manufacturers. The integration of the industry already expressed the ground breaking approach of the
Deutsche Werkbund.
The groups main intellectual leaders were architects Hermann Muthesius and Henry van de Velde, who
were greatly inspired by William Morriss Arts and Crafts movements and his ideals. Hermann
Muthesius set up a state sponsored mixture of art and industry which reflected his initial aim to
improve the competitiveness of German industry in global markets. The extent of Werkbundd interests
was evident from its motto: "Vom Sofakissen zum Stadtebau" (from sofa cushions to urban construction).
Like the Bauhaus design school, which opened a decade later, the Werkbund involved Germany's two
most promising young designers, Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who would become
highly influential in 20th century architecture.
The Werkbund was loosely based on the Arts and Crafts movement, especially its functional aspects. It
intended to produce architecture that utilized mass production, but at the same time incorporated
craftsmanship. Art and crafts were to be used but in way that complimented the spirit of Modern
Germany. The founders of the Werkbund saw that through the integration of applied arts and industry
a national style in tune with the modern age could be developed. The Werkbund saw the potential of
mass production and wanted German designers to take advantage of it.
Its initial aim was to establish a partnership of product manufacturers with design professionals to
improve the competitiveness of German companies in global markets and put Germany on a
competitive footing with England and the United States.
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Soon after its formation, the Werkbund split into two factions. One, led by Muthesius, who advocated
the greatest possible use of mechanical mass production and standardized design. The other faction,
headed by van de Velde, maintained the value of individual artistic expression. The Werkbund
adopted Muthesius ideas in 1914.
The Werkbunds influence was further enhanced by its first exhibition of industrial art and architecture
in Rheinpark, Cologne (1914). Among the buildings exhibited were some of the most notable examples
of modern architecture in steel, concrete, and glass. Belgian architect Henry Van de Velde (1863-
1957) designed the Werkbund Theatre in late Art Nouveau style. Muthesius, Hoffmann and Behrens
designed buildings in a style of Neoclassical architecture. Bruno Taut(1880-1938) designed a pavilion
of steel and glass for the German glass industry. Other examples were an administrative office
building, the Pavilion for Deutz Machinery Factory, and garages by the architect Walter Gropius. The
exhibition also featured a transport hall with a railway sleeping car by Gropius and a railway dining-
car designed by August Endell, which contained built-in floor and wall cupboards, a space-saving
feature which would influence post-war apartment design.

Figure 3: The Cologne Exhibition Model Factory Figure 3: Bruno Tauts Glass Pavilion
Ref : Ref:

The 1920s caused a shift from handicraft and expressionism towards industry and functionalism. The
members focused more on the social aspects of architecture and urban planning
World War I caused some setback to the Werkbunds activity, however it revived itself with an
exhibition at Stuttgart (1927), organized by the German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The
exhibition showcased contemporary European developments in architecture and construction by
architects like Mies, Gropius, and Le Corbusier. They adopted Muthesiuss ideas of high degree of
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standardisation of design and materials, making it possible to build inexpensively and on a large
The Werkbund also participated in the Paris exhibition of industrial arts and building held in 1930,
where their works were exhibited by Gropius, along with Lszl Moholy-Nagy, Marcel Breuer, and
Herbert Bayer.
The Werkbund disbanded in 1933, with the advent of the Nazi rule. However, it was revived in 1949
after World War II. In 2008, a joint meeting to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the foundation
of the Deutsche Werkbund was held in Berlin. Today the Deutscher Werkbund has about 1500
members all over Germany.

The Bauhaus
Bauhaus, or Staatliches Bauhaus, was a school of design, architecture, and applied arts that existed in
Germany from 1919 to 1933. The Bauhaus developed as one of the most important and influential
manifestations of the twentieth century. Its a phenomenon that is still current and embedded in the
public consciousness. The works of Bauhaus artists are admired and praised in great museums around
the world. Bauhaus products such as the Marcel Breuers famous tubular steel furniture become a highly
traded design classic. Bauhaus buildings, such as the sites in Weimar and Dessau, are considered as
elements of architectural history and form a part of Germanys cultural heritage. The Bauhaus is
regarded in history as the original modernist art school.
The Bauhaus was founded by the architect Walter Gropius, who combined two schools, the Weimar
Academy of Arts and the Weimar School of Arts and Crafts, into what he called the Bauhaus, or house
of building. In spite of its founder being an architect, the Bauhaus did not have an architecture
department during its initial years. Its primary goal was to create a work of art in which all the art
disciplines including architecture would be brought together, but at the same time create design that
would lend itself to mass production and be accessible to the masses.
Gropius explained his vision for an integration of art and design in the Proclamation of the Bauhaus
(1919), which described a utopian craft guild combining architecture, sculpture, and painting into a
single creative expression. Gropius developed a craft-based curriculum that would make artisans and
designers capable of creating useful as well as beautiful objects appropriate to the new system of
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The Arts and Crafts Movement, Art Nouveau and the Werkbund were all its precedents but flawed in
their core. All these sought to integrate craftsmanship in design and manufacture, but in their attempt
ended up creating products that were far too expensive for the common person to afford. In contrast,
the nineteenth century reform movements, for all their good intentions, were expressions of luxury, and
the Werkbund established the most immediate precedent for the Bauhaus. Hence, Gropius directed the
schools design efforts toward mass manufacture. On the example of Gropius ideal, modern designers
have since thought in terms of producing functional and aesthetically pleasing objects for mass society
rather than individual items fora wealthy elite.
The Bauhaus Manifesto
Art is not a "profession." There is no essential difference between the artist and the craftsman. The
artist is an exalted craftsman. In rare moments of inspiration, moments beyond the control of his will,
the grace of heaven may cause his work to blossom into art. But proficiency in his craft is essential to
every artist. Therein lays a source of creative imagination. Let us create a new guild of craftsmen,
without the class distinctions which raise an arrogant barrier between craftsman and artist. Together let
us conceive and create the new building of the future, which will embrace architecture and sculpture
and painting in one unity and which will rise one day toward heaven from the hands of a million
workers like the crystal symbol of a new faith.
The Bauhaus School

Figure 3: The Bauhaus Building in Dessau
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As an architect, Gropius believed that a building should be at the centre of the teaching of all the arts,
hence the name Bauhaus (House of Building) and in 1925 the Bauhaus moved from Weimar to Dessau
and into a new purpose-built home which reflected the core Bauhaus values.
Designed by Gropius, workshops, studios, classrooms, offices and living space were all housed within
an asymmetrical structure featuring walls of glass, enclosed between strips of concrete rendered in
white. The building had a feeling of openness, clean lines and simplicity and this Bauhaus style of
architecture set a standard that became known as the international style and one which has influenced
generations of architects since and which still retains its appeal today.
For admission at the Bauhaus workshops, the students were required to attend a six month preliminary
course taught by Johannes Itten, Josef Albers, and Lszl Moholy-Nagy. The workshops-carpentry,
metal, pottery, stained glass, wall painting, weaving, graphics, typography, and stagecraft-were
generally taught by two people: an artist (called the Form Master), who emphasized theory, and a
craftsman, who emphasized techniques and technical processes. After three years of workshop
instruction, the student received a journeymans diploma.
The Bauhaus included among its faculty several outstanding artists of the 20th century. In addition to
the above-mentioned, some of its teachers were Paul Klee (stained-glass and painting), Wassily
Kandinsky (wall painting), Lyonel Feininger (graphic arts), Oskar Schlemmer (stagecraft and also
sculpture), Marcel Breuer (interiors), Herbert Bayer (typography and advertising), Gerhard Marcks
(pottery), and Georg Muche (weaving).
The furniture workshop under the direction of Marcel Breuer from 1924 to 1928, this studio
reconceived the very essence of furniture, often seeking to dematerialize conventional forms such as
chairs to their minimal existence. Inspired by the extruded steel tubes of his bicycle, he experimented
with metal furniture, ultimately creating lightweight, mass-producible metal chairs. Some of these chairs
were deployed in the theatre of the Dessau building.
Although Bauhaus members had been involved in architectural work from 1919 (notably, the
construction in Dessau of administrative, educational, and residential quarters designed by Gropius),
the department of architecture, central to Gropius program in founding this unique school, was not
established until 1927; Hannes Meyer, a Swiss architect, was appointed chairman. Upon Gropius
resignation the following year, Meyer became director of the Bauhaus until 1930. He was asked to
resign because of his left-wing political views, which brought him into conflict with Dessau authorities.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe became the new director until the Nazi regime forced the school to close in
1933. During the years of World War II, many of the key figures of the Bauhaus emigrated to the
United States, where their work and their teaching philosophies influenced generations of young
architects and designers. Marcel Breuer and Joseph Albers taught at Yale, Walter Gropius went to
Harvard, and Moholy-Nagy established the New Bauhaus in Chicago in 1937.
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The Bauhaus had far-reaching influence. Its workshop products were widely reproduced, and
widespread acceptance of functional, unornamented designs for objects of daily use owes much to
Bauhaus precept and example. Bauhaus teaching methods and ideals were transmitted throughout the
world by faculty and students. Today, nearly every art curriculum includes foundation courses in which,
on the Bauhaus model, students learn about the fundamental elements of design.

1. Moonan, Wendy. German Design for an Industrial Age. The New York Times. December 7, 2007.
2. Michael Siebenbrodt, Lutz Schoebe. Bauhaus. s.l. : Hatje Cantz, 2009. ISBN-10: 1859956262.
3. Kentgens-Craig, Margret. The Bauhaus and America. s.l. : The MIT Press, 2001. p. 288 . ISBN:
9780262611718 .
4. West, Shearer. The Visual Arts in Germany 1890-1937: Utopia and Despair. New York : Manchester
University Press, 2000. ISBN 071905278.
5. The Bauhaus. Abstract Art Framed. [Online] [Cited: March 17th, 2014.] http://www.abstract-art-
6. Kapsreiter, Adriana. Aspects of Labour and Work in the German Werkbund Exhibition in Cologne
1914. [Online] [Cited: March 17, 2014.]

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