The Bauhaus, 100 years on

This year marks the centennial of the legendary design school of the interwar years. But amid the celebrations, there is confusion about its authentic legacy.

By Matthias Streit

A century ago, as Germany was still licking its wounds from World War I, the Bauhaus school of design opened its doors in the eastern city of Weimar. The legendary name still resonates: If you have €237,000 ($273,000) in spare change, you can buy yourself a turnkey “Bauhaus” home, all set to be constructed on a piece of empty land.

The ready-made abodes – prefabricated, modern, stylish and typically bright white in color – vaguely reflect the popular conception of the Bauhaus label. But what does it actually stand for today?

The Bauhaus brand has become a compendium of modernist clichés: design classics like the Wassily Chair or, in architecture, clear lines, flat roofs and divided facades. The slogan “form follows function” has somehow become associated with Bauhaus, although it was actually coined in the United States 20 years previously.

Bauhaus did not promote a single formula or style, but an ethos and an educational program. Its founding director, architect Walter Gropius, dreamed of merging art and crafts into a single holistic discipline, with students learning across many different fields, from architecture and painting to weaving and woodwork.