In fact, the idea that Bauhaus is a strictly formalist and functionalist affair has little to do with its early history.
Indeed, the phrase “form follows function” comes, actually, from an American architect named Louis Henry Sullivan.
The artist is an exalted craftsman.” The second sentence of the manifesto reads, “To embellish buildings was once the noblest function of the fine arts; they were the indispensable components of great architecture.” The entire manifesto is much like the exclamation mark that adorns its first sentence.
It is a document of enthusiasm, spirit, imagination and faith. This utopianism is tempered with a sense of history and tradition that was characteristic of the first decades of the 20th century.
But Bauhaus went further than any of those movements in its embrace of what we now think of as the Modern with a big ‘M’. The biggest question when it comes to Bauhaus is whether the movement lost – or found – its way through the course of the 20th century.
It speaks of a passion and excitement and humanity that has little to do with our popular image of Bauhaus and the International Style of architecture and design.There is an almost religious quasi-mysticism to this statement.This makes sense, since Gropius is here alluding to the medieval guild system in which art emerged from the years’ long, careful learning of a craft under the tutelage of an acknowledged master.The second essay will explore the middle period, as Bauhaus – now a set of ideas and some key individuals – left Germany and moved into western Europe and then America.The final essay will treat the later years of Bauhaus up until the present.2019 marks the 100 year anniversary of The Bauhaus.In honor of this anniversary, I will be publishing three essays exploring the history of The Bauhaus. We’ll move more or less chronologically starting here with the early history of the school.While the nation reeled from defeat in a ruinous war and the collapse of its aristocrat-based social order, a man named Walter Gropius sat down to write a founding document for a school of art and design.In 1919 Walter Gropius penned a short document titled, “Bauhaus Manifesto and Program.” On that day, the Bauhaus was born.It’s a line from Sullivan’s late-nineteenth century essay, “The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered.” There is nothing in Gropius’ 1919 manifesto that comes anywhere close to the idea that form should follow function, that ornament is an enemy, or that formal simplicity is a goal in and of itself.Gropius has one guiding obsession throughout his manifesto: that all arts should return to their basis in craft.