bauhaus
imaginista
Article

On Behalf of Progressive Design

Two Modern Campuses in Transcultural Dialogue

At the Ahmedabad Declaration, Gajanan Upadhyaya chairs in the auditoriums at NID 1978. photo: Bauhaus Lab 2017.

“The Indian state has only existed for 13 years. And world history would be unthinkable without its unorthodox influence. India has delivered more new content in the last decade than any other country.” HfG Ulm founder Otl Aicher’s report on his trip to India in 1960 and the slides he took during his journey across the country are impressive observations of a country in upheaval. From today’s perspective, this material reads like an overture to the future collaboration between two design schools: the HfG Ulm and the NID in Ahmedabad.

“The Indian state has only existed for 13 years. And world history would be unthinkable without its unorthodox influence. India has delivered more new content in the last decade than any other country. He, not Russia, brought the concept of coexistence into the discussion. It has established the concept of positive neutrality. It has conceived non-violence, the idea of the third force, non-alignment towards the power blocs. It has softened classical diplomacy and the politics of power. His path of liberation from colonialism was an example for a number of states. It has produced political personalities of unusual moral authority: Gandhi and Nehru. Although it is a speculative assertion, there is some evidence that without India we would be in a massive confrontation between East and West today.”1

Otl Aicher, Otl Aicher, Impressions from his trip to India, 1960, photo: Otl Aicher, 1960.
© HfG-Archiv/Museum Ulm.

Otl Aicher's report on his trip to India in 1960 with the strange title Prerequisites for Development is a fascinating document testifying to the mood of a generation that had experienced National Socialism and war, and then watched with concern the postwar geopolitical tensions of the Cold War. It is a report on the country's economic, social, political and cultural situation—not free of exoticism—but at the same time full of sympathy for the subcontinent's desire to modernize. In addition to this typewritten manuscript, there is another document of this journey in the Ulm archive: “India 1960: Thoughts on the occasion of a visit to India in May 1960.” In sketches and texts, the designer made concrete suggestions for solving traffic problems, organizing settlement structures and building houses. The slides that Aicher took during his journey across the country are impressive snapshots of a country in upheaval. From today’s perspective, the materials gathered on this journey by HfG (Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm) founder Otl Aicher read like an overture to the future collaboration between two design schools, which has had a lasting influence on post-war modernism in design and architecture: the HfG Ulm and the National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad.

Both campuses were exemplary platforms in the struggle for a contemporary design attitude, which generally determined the discourses on modernism in architecture and design of the 1950s and 60s. The American architectural historian Sarah William Goldhagen speaks of “Anxious Modernisms,” of the search for creative positions in a changed global order, shaped by Western mass consumption and the emergence of welfare societies, of the systemic competition between East and West, and new alliances within the global South. The fact that in the 1950s people distanced themselves from “classical modernism” had not only generational causes. It was above all indicative of social, economic and cultural shifts which assigned a new role to the designer.2 Newly founded universities and colleges emerged around the globe, part of the promise of modern interventionist governments to facilitate education and social advancement. These institutions served as a breeding ground for debates focused on re-establishing a critical design practice capable of intervening in everyday life. In the geopolitical context of the Cold War and national independence, the two universities HfG and NID, integrated as they were within international networks of experts, institutions and actors, were special places for the redefinition of the relationship between design and society.

After the Bauhaus: Ulm

The building of the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm, 1955/56, photo: Sigrid von Schweinitz.

© HfG-Archiv/Museum Ulm.

Together with Inge Scholl and Hans Werner Richter, Otl Aicher was one of the founders of the HfG Ulm. First of all, the university, determined by the spirit of anti-fascism, was charged with producing a new generation of democratically oriented journalists, academics, cultural actors and publicists committed to the public. The idea of such a new and independent school was based on the adult education center initiated by Inge Scholl. The elder sister of the Hans and Sophie Scholl—core members of the White Rose student resistance movement executed for treason by the Nazis near the end of World War II—had established HfG as a place for political debate and democratic education in Ulm. Scholl was convinced that the search for an intellectual and cultural new beginning after the disaster of National Socialism had to begin with the schools. In 1949 Inge Scholl worked together with Otl Aicher and Hans Werner Richter on a curriculum for contemporary/political “re-education.” Thanks to their broad international network, they also came into contact with Max Bill, a former Bauhaus student and president of the Schweizerischer Werkbund (Swiss Werkbund). Bill, for his part, regarded the focus on political education as too exclusive. In his opinion the political portion was better understood as an integral part of the entire curriculum. Possessing an authentic Werkbund-ish attitude, Bill began to teach political education within everyday life, applying it to the design of everyday necessities, urban planning and architecture. Bill was offered the post of school director on account of the cultural capital he possessed, including his Bauhaus past and his relationship with Walter Gropius, and thus, with the American occupation forces. Paul Betts has pointed out that the Bauhaus, as the cultural representative of a past uncontaminated by National Socialism—namely the Weimar Republic— offered the example of Germany’s liberal democratic heritage in the project of reorientation towards Western liberalism. Walter Gropius in particular occupied a privileged position in postwar West German/American cultural policy. According to Betts, Gropius and the "Americanized" Bauhaus now embodied what the culture of the Cold War was all about, namely the cultural values West Germany’s shared with the United States: antifascism, anticommunism, international modernism. The cleansing and de-politicization of Bauhaus history from a past interwoven with leftist tendencies was part of this strategy.3 Against this background, the Bauhaus represented a persuasive, ideologically unimpeachable cultural legacy in the founding of the HfG, which also helped to justify the financing of the school with funds from the American Re-Education Fund. Many former Bauhaus actors, including Walter Gropius, were present at the opening of the Ulm-Kuhberg campus designed by Max Bill. But as important as their support for the formation of the HfG may have been at the outset, in its curriculum, its architecture and its products, the school constantly struggled to establish a contemporary reference to the Bauhaus.

Max Bill’s university building is still regarded as a model for creating a cooperative living and working environment between students and lecturers. In both its organization and structure it refers to the Bauhaus building in Dessau, but in its rationalism Bill’s building radically rejects hierarchies, and environs tendencies towards representation and subjectivity. In the early years, the curriculum, too, was still organized in the Bauhaus tradition: at the HfG there was a basic apprenticeship—initially taught by Josef Albers (who had previously conducted the preliminary course at the Bauhaus) and Walter Peterhans (former head of the Bauhaus photography class)—and the training took place in workshops designed after the Bauhaus model. But while Bill’s intended to train the “artist designer” as a cultural mediator between industry and the market, charged with creating good forms for everyday objects as “cultural goods,” his successor, the Argentine Tomás Maldonado, distanced himself from Bill's moral idealism. What Maldonado wanted was a school that could handle the current tasks of industrial design, ascribing a completely new role to the designer. The designer, Maldonado thought, should be an active partner of modern industry; more a coordinator than a mediator.4 And his orientation towards a scientific design theory based on rational criteria imparting the latest technical knowledge, along with his introduction of so-called development groups, also found international recognition. In the intellectual climate of post-war Germany, however, this was considered controversial, since the belief in technological progress had been so deeply shaken by the Nazi killing machines and the atomic bomb. After all, it was also the National Socialist legacy, in which aesthetics and politics were so closely interlinked, which had forced the Ulmers to adopt a creative attitude based on science and rationality.5 Supported by a network of international designers and theoreticians such as Abraham Moles, Bruce Archer, Charles Morris, and Charles and Ray Eames, a design culture was promoted at HfG, opposing the flood of mass-produced consumer goods with rationally justifiable consumer goods.

In the school's own magazine, ulm, Maldonado asked in 1963 whether the Bauhaus was still topical. With certain restrictions, this question, he said, could be answered in the affirmative: not the Bauhaus introduced as an educational institution or art and architecture movement of the 1920s, but the attempt “to uncover a humanist view of technical civilization” was once again relevant in the 1960s. In contrast to a more restorative understanding of the Bauhaus in post-war Germany, Maldonado called for “a ruthless examination of conscience” in examining the reasons why the Bauhaus was closed three times. Even though the comprehensive volume on the Bauhaus edited by Hans Maria Wingler contributed to this project, once again hardly any note was taken of the work of Hannes Meyer, who in particular should be considered a role model for the HfG Ulm.6

Foundation course with Tomás Maldonado at HfG Ulm, 1955.
© HfG-Archiv/Museum Ulm.

The examination of the legacy of the Bauhaus finally forms something like the basso continuo of the school on the Kuhberg. While Maldonado distanced himself from the “expressionist Bauhaus,” which in his view was represented by his predecessor Max Bill and the former Bauhäuslers still teaching at the school, whose position, in his estimation, was that of an outmoded neo-academic formalism. Already in the HfG’s founding phase Max Bill had to deal as well with accusations from the artist group The International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus, with Asger Jorn, one of the group’s chief protagonists, expressing his desire to use the international movement of an imaginary Bauhaus to promote free experimentation, the ecstasy of expression, and waste in play. The correspondence between Jorn and Bill is an impressive testimonial to the cultural conflicts of those years, of the misunderstandings, irritations, and divergences that characterized the period.7 They are to be understood as the quest of a new generation—confronted with mass consumption, Cold War hostilities and environmental destruction—to ask how the Bauhaus could be inherited as modernity in postwar Europe. While Jorn spoke of the Bauhaus as an “artistic inspiration,” Bill vehemently denied this: “The Bauhaus is not the name of an artistic inspiration, but the name of a movement that represents a very well defined doctrine.”8 As untimely as the HfG's adherence to the principles of functional and systematic, rationally and scientifically justifiable design was, in view of the growing international criticism of functionalism—from the post-war debates of the CIAM initiated by Team X to the debates between Marguerite Wildenhain and Charles Eames in 1957 on the role of crafts in Pacific Grove at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in California9—the Ulm position remained vitally important: “Bill`s endeavor to re-enchant everyday commodities as un-alienated ‘cultural objects’ and Maldonado`s attempt to rationalize design education as an alternative, engaged consumer science were related responses to the cultural crisis of the postwar design object.”10

When, at the height of the international student protests in 1968, the exhibition 50 Years of Bauhaus opened at the Württembergischer Kunstverein in Stuttgart, an event where Walter Gropius was among the speakers, he was not understood by the students protesting against the closure of the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm. It was a historical moment at which Bauhaus museums met a living successor institution. The cultural orientation needs, generational conflicts and identity debates occurring in West German post-war society, in which the struggle for the cultural classification of the Bauhaus was embedded and upon which the Ulm University of Applied Sciences finally disintegrated, were publicly staged here. Against this background, Gropius’s speech, with its appeal to HfG students not to worry about politics but concern themselves instead with developing their expertise as designers of a new aesthetic, could only cause misunderstandings.11

Hans Gugelot, Curriculum for NID, 1965, © Gugelot Archive, Hamburg.

Design for Independence: The NID

Two years before Otl Aicher undertook his trip to India in 1960, Charles and Ray Eames had presented their India Report (sponsored by the Ford Foundation) on behalf of Jawaharlar Nehru, president of a youthful independent Indian state.12 The origin of this cooperation went back to Pupul Jayakar, founder of the All India Handicraft Board and her contacts to the influential textile entrepreneur family Sarabhai in Ahmedabad, capital of the Indian textile industry. The intention of this report, now regarded as the founding document of the National Institute of Design, was to examine the conditions and possibilities for modern design education in independent India and to make proposals for the curriculum of a design school. Nehru’s modernization agenda also included an active design and architecture policy. Massive infrastructure projects, the expansion of large industry, and the promotion of modern educational institutions—all these were aims of the government's five-year plans for a modern India, which would thus leave its colonial past behind. Modern architecture and design were not only symbols of this transformation but also agents for practicing a modern way of life

Hans Gugelot with students at NID, 1965, © Gugelot Archive, Hamburg.

It was precisely here that the possibility of the bloc powers accruing political influence within a country publicly committed to the Non-Alignment Movement seemed on offer. The Design Today in America and Europe exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1959—conceived for India and featuring a best-of selection of Western design presented in a domed building designed by Buckminster Fuller—was not only an exciting case of cultural diplomacy in the context of the Cold War but also proof of the political importance attached to the design of modern consumer goods. It was agreed that the exhibition choices for this show would be left to the newly founded National Institute of Design (NID) as a teaching collection. Like the HfG Ulm, the NID was conceived from the beginning as a global platform for design education. A whole series of international experts had committed themselves to supporting the establishment of the NID as the first modern design school in India, including Louis Kahn, Charles and Ray Eames, Alexander Girard, Claude Stoller, George Nakashima and Hans Gugelot, and their consulting activities were underwritten by the Ford Foundation. At the same time—and the Eames emphasized this in their report—India possessed its own rich heritage of quotidian design objects. The Lota, a water vessel made of clay, became a metaphor for this culture of shaping, making and fabricating that the Eames admired, albeit not without a certain exoticism. Thus the NID had from the very beginning to fulfil two tasks: on the one hand, it was to become a motor for modern industrial product design; on the other, it was also charged with contributing to the promotion and improvement of regional cottage industry. The curriculum of the new institute was therefore firmly anchored in so-called “craft documentations”—that is, student field studies exploring local craft culture.

This was, however, a difficult undertaking, precisely because the NID saw itself as a postcolonial design institute whose mission was to refrain from repeating the colonial project of “craft improvement.” The intention of the Institute was that “design” be developed as a modern profession within existing conditions prevailing within India’s consumer goods market.13 Kumar Vyas, a lecturer at both the HfG and the NID, later wrote that the school’s mission was to establish a postcolonial design discourse in which Western international post-war design represented one resource among many, but whose core, however, was to develop the country's indigenous pre-colonial design practices. This coexistence of modern design thinking and traditional practices must determine postcolonial design culture, a project already implicit in the term Kalaa—a word whose translation references the unity of artistry, a scientific conception of craftsmanship and technical knowledge—which was suppressed in the course of the European formation of the Arts and Crafts movement.14 In this respect, the starting positions of these two pioneering institutions of modern design education were extremely different. As the flagship of a new India, the NID was confronted with the task of integrating low-income consumers from a mostly rural population into design thinking while at the same time responding to the dynamics of a modernization project oriented towards industrialization. The Ulm University of Applied Sciences, on the other hand, fought for a relationship between consumerism and moral demands on the production of consumer goods in a society driven by the Marshall Plan, the resulting economic miracle and the inexorable growth of consumer society that followed.15 The two schools were seeking concepts for contemporary design education against the background of these contradictory problem horizons. It was the Ulm Institute, following the thoughts of Kumar Vyas, that offered the NID an alternative to the colonial legacy.

NID metal workshop 1960s.
© KMC Photo Archive National Institute of Design.

Object conversations: India Lounge and Milk Kiosk

When Hans Gugelot was invited to teach a workshop in Ahmedabad in the summer of 1965, he brought with him an eighty-page curriculum paper in which he suggested students should first have a diploma in engineering or architecture prior to embarking on the practical study of product design. In his summer course, Gugelot was to work with Indian colleagues and students on a tangential fan, a cylindrical device that allows even air distribution without additional baffles and vanes. Following a letter Gugelot wrote to his wife, the India Lounge Chair, which he designed together with Indian colleagues, including the architect and designer Gajanan Upadhyaya, was a by-product of this workshop:

“In the meantime I have made a small armchair, the model is ready on Monday. very simple. The seat is covered with fabric only at the front and at the top, the inserted seats (from below) make it hang well. ... I want to show that you can get results with simple things too.”16

The low seat height was probably inspired by the stools discovered on site. At the same time, this lightweight piece of furniture, which has become known in design history by two names—India Lounge or 24/42 Chair—made of teak wood and woven Indian textile, was the product of a formal dialogue between two design orientations, the system design of the HfG Ulm and the “low-cost design” of the Indian designers; a dialogue that increasingly shaped the work of the NID in the following years. (For instance, in the 1970s M P Ranjan and the Center for Bamboo Initiatives paved the way for a design culture committed to local problems and whose knowledge and experience was then transferred to industrial production.)

Hans Gugelot, India Lounge, 1965, © Gugelot Archive, Hamburg.

In the same year Hans Gugelot traveled to Ahmedabad, Sudhakar Nadkarni presented his diploma thesis for the design of a milk kiosk in Ulm. Nadkarni came from an Indian middle-class family and had studied applied arts at the Sir JJ School of Art in Bombay. The profession of industrial designer had only just been developed in India. In 1962 Nadkarni travelled to Ulm to study product design with Gugelot and his colleagues. During his studies in Ulm he met Kumar Vyas, who had studied at the Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design in London.17 Both would later teach product design at NID. Nadkarni experienced the HfG at the stage of its consequent orientation towards a design theory linking the interaction of science, technology and industry. He, too, wanted to make a contribution to the modernization processes of his country, and was convinced of the social role of the designer.

Sudhakar Nadkarni’s diploma subject, “The design of a milk kiosk” is proof of the designer's social awareness and desire to contribute to the immediate needs of the Indian population. The thesis consisted of two parts: a scientific analysis and a design section. Beginning with a detailed study of the surroundings of the milk kiosk—including its normal location in urban space, its relationship to traffic, residential areas and urban infrastructure—Nadkarni the proceeded in the following section to describe the social composition of the typical consumer, the processes and activities comprising the everyday life of such a distribution center. This included a survey of milk kiosk operators and users carried out in Bombay as well as research on the climatic conditions and movement sequences within the kiosk.18 This systematically acquired knowledge formed the basis for the milk kiosk’s design. The material selected by Nadkarni were inexpensive because they were modular, standardized, durable and readily available in India, and its size was sufficient to accommodate two people working inside it. Functional, ergonomic and climatic aspects were taken into account in the design with regard to the users.

Although the milk kiosk’s implementation never extended beyond creating a prototype, Nadkarni’s thesis is not only an interesting document of the Ulm method, the systematic approach to a design task, where scientific analyses serve as justification for the respective design steps. It also offers direct insights into the social circumstances and material conditions of 1960s India, where the infrastructure of daily milk supply was indeed foundational to satisfying the basic needs of the Indian metropolis. The work was based on a conviction, shared between Ulm and Ahmedabad, that only a rationally founded design could deal with the basic systems of society—infrastructure, health care and food supply—and thus take the everyday needs of people seriously. As illustrative of the two school’s shared attitude, one viewing design as a tool for improving the everyday lives of the many, it is an outstanding document.19

Sudhakar Nadkarni, Model of a milk kiosk 1964/65, photo: Sudhakar Nadkarni.
© HfG-Archiv/Museum Ulm.

Reconsideration

While the HfG Ulm was unable to withstand the stresses that generational conflict, cultural crises and political disputes arising from the student protests of 1968 had brought to light, the NID continued to pursue the design agenda it formulated in its founding years. The international conference Design for Development held at the NID in 1979 was the culmination of this design discourse, which from its outset sought to create a distance between its notions and practices and the hegemony of the Western design paradigm. In the context of Western exports of modernization models to developing countries, the NID sought out alternative practices for economic and social change. In Ahmedabad in 1979, the international delegates now advocated for a postcolonial understanding of design without reference to Western influences. They wanted to detach themselves fully from the West’s hegemony, where design was associated with formal aesthetic values. They instead turned to vernacular and “appropriate technologies” in proposing designs for objects of everyday use.

Saloni Mathur described this change within Indian design culture, “with proposals for adapting indigenous forms, from the tiffin lunch box to the automated rickshaw, entering conventional design media” as “design in an Indian idiom.”20 This also included the critique of a design education oriented towards technocratic functionalism and formal aesthetics. According to Alison Clarke, the Ahmedabad Declaration advocated “design as a tool for social change within a humanist paradigm that crossed both post-industrial and so-called developing nations.”21 Here an "alternative design movement underpinned by theories of anthropology, intermediate technology, development studies and neo-Marxist critique of Western consumer culture" was formed.22 Had the National Institute of Design bid farewell to what Saloni Mathur called the “problem-solving spirit of the Nehruvian era,” including its alliance with the Ulm Institute? If today the Ahmedabad Declaration is undergoing a re-evaluation in the design discourse of social and critical design, then the conversations and misunderstandings between these two Campuses, so influential for post-war modernism, decisively contributed to this paradigm shift.

●Footnotes
  • 1 Otl Aicher: “Voraussetzungen der Erschließung 1960.” Otl Aicher Estate Ai.Az.2074 Nr.1.98, p. 19, HfG- Archiv/Ulm Museum.
  • 2 Sarah Williams Goldhagen & Rejean Legault (eds.): Anxious Modernisms. MIT Press, Cambridge 2002.
  • 3 Paul Betts: “Das Bauhaus als Waffe im Kalten Krieg. Ein Amerikanisch-Deutsches Joint Venture,” in: Philip Oswalt (ed.): Bauhaus Streit. 1919–2009: Kontroversen und Kontrahenten. HatjeCantz, Ostfildern Ruit 2009, pp. 196–213, here: p. 206.
  • 4 Paul Betts: The Authority of Everyday Objects. A Cultural History of West German Industrial Design. University of California Press, Berkeley 2004, p. 170 ff.
  • 5 Ibid.
  • 6 Tomás Maldonado: “Ist das Bauhaus aktuell.” In: ulm, No. 8/9, 1963, pp. 5–13.
  • 7 See: Asger Jorn: “Notes on the Formation of an Imaginist Bauhaus,” www.bopsecrets.org/SI/bauhaus.htm (Accessed 5 November 2018).
  • 8 Quoted by Jörn Etzold: “Unreines Erbe. Das Imaginistische Bauhaus und das Neue Babylon,” in: Sonja Neef (ed.): An Bord der Bauhaus. Zur Heimatlosigkeit der Moderne, transcript Verlag, Bielefeld 2009, pp. 29–43, here: p. 34.
  • 9 Marguerite Wildenhain & Charles Eames: “Asilomar Conference Proceedings 1957,” in: Glenn Adamson: The Craft Reader, Berg Publishers, Oxford 2009, pp. 570–576.
  • 10 Betts: The Authority of Everyday Objects, 2004, p. 177.
  • 11 Frederic J. Schwartz: “The Disappearing Bauhaus. Architecture and its Public in Early Federal Republic,” in: Jeffrey Saletnik & Robin Schuldenfrei (eds.): Bauhaus Construct: Fashioning Identity, Discourse and Modernism, Routledge Chapman & Hall, London 2009, pp. 61–82, here: p. 79.
  • 12 The 1958 India Report by Charles and Ray Eames can be downloaded free of charge from the Research Archive of Edition Moving Away of this online journal.
  • 13 Farhan Sirajul Karim: “MoMA, the Ulm and the development of design pedagogy in India,” in: Shanay Jhaveri & Devika Singh (eds.): Western Artists and India. Creative Inspirations in Art and Design, The Shoestring Publisher, London 2013, pp. 122–139, here: p. 132 (also available free of charge in the Research Archive of the Edition Moving Away of this online journal.)
  • 14 H. Kumar Vyas: “Design History. An Alternative Approach,” in: Design Issues, Vol. 22, No. 4, Autumn 2006, p. 28.
  • 15 Karim: “Moma, the Ulm and the development of design pedagogy in India,” 2013, p. 132.
  • 16 Hans Gugelot, Letter to his wife, Ahmedabad 1965, HfG- Archiv/Ulm Museum.
  • 17 Biography of Sudhakar Nadkarni: http://www.dsource.in/sites/default/files/resource/history-product-design-india/design-mentors/prof-s.nadkarni/file/Prof_Sudhakar_Nadkarni.pdf (accessed 5 November 2018).
  • 18 Sudhakar Nadkarni: Gestaltung eines Milch-kiosks, diploma thesis, 1966, Inv.-Nr. K_68_1_1, HfG-Archiv/ Ulm Museum.
  • 19 The research on the milk kiosk was part of the Bauhaus Lab 2017, Bauhaus Dessau Foundation: Between Chairs. Design Pedagogies in Transcultural Dialogue, Spector Books, Leipzig 2018.
  • 20 Saloni Mathur: “Charles and Ray Eames in India,” in: Art Journal, Vol. 70, No. 1, Spring 2011, pp. 34–53, here: p. 39.
  • 21 Alison Clarke: “Design for Development ICSID and UNIDO. The anthropological turn in 1970s Design,” in: Journal of Design History, Vol. 29, No. 1, 1 February 2016, pp. 43–57, here: p. 46.
  • 22 Ibid.
●Author(s)
●Latest Articles
●Article
The Spread of the Bauhaus in China

As early as the end of the 19th century up to the beginning of the 20th century, which is to say before the founding of the Bauhaus and after China’s forced opening through war to the outside world, China had already been witness to various experiments in modernization. Such experiments contributed to the laying down of a foundational mindset necessary for the acceptance of the Bauhaus in China’s traditional culture. → more

●Article
Richard Paulick and the Remaking of a Greater Shanghai 1933–1949

The article focusses on Richard Paulick’s sixteen-year exile in Shanghai. It is an examination of the interaction between a Bauhaus socialist and a Far East port city in its rush to modernize at the midpoint of the twentieth century. → more

●Exhibition Slide Show
Bauhaus in China

In 2012, China Academy of Art (Hangzhou) set up the Bauhaus Institute in the context of establishing Bauhaus and European modern design collections. The Bauhaus Institute aims to explore the value of the Bauhaus heritage in the development of contemporary design through academic research, education & the popularization of design. → more

●Article
Bauhausmoderne und Chinesische Tradition — Franz Ehrlichs Entwurf für ein Haus des Handels in Peking (1954–1956)

In den frühen 1950er-Jahren bestanden gute diplomatische, politische und ökonomische Beziehungen zwischen der Volksrepublik China und der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik. Beide, sich als sozialistisch verstehende Staaten, waren 1949 gegründet worden. In diesem Aufsatz geht es um die besondere Beziehung zur chinesischen Architektur, Kunst und Gestaltung, die Franz Ehrlich entwickelte. → more

●Article
Modern Vernacular — Walter Gropius and Chinese Architecture

This essay explores the connection between Walter Gropius and I. M. Pei, as well as the influence of the one on the other. After completing his studies, I. M. Pei worked with Gropius on plans for a university in Shanghai, which he subsequently realized in Taiwan, than in association with Chang Chao-Kang and Chen Chi-Kuan. → more

●Article
Bauhaus and the Origin of Design Education in India

This article is an example of “writing by being,” because the author had the privilege of being part of the pilot “batch” of Indian design teachers. These students, many from an engineering background, were to be India’s future design educators, and their first exposure to design education took place at the newly-founded National Institute of Design, India’s first design institute, established in 1961 and inspired to a large measure by Bauhaus ideology. → more

●Article
Moving Away from Bauhaus and Ulm — The Development of an Environmental Focus in the Foundation Programme at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad

The National Institute of Design (NID) came into existence at the intersection of postcolonial aspirations to design a new nation and the new citizen and Cold War cultural diplomacy. It was located in Ahmedabad, a medieval western Indian city on the banks of the river Sabarmati, famous for its textile mills and as the place where Gandhi began his anti-British campaigns. Initially it was housed, perhaps quite appropriately, in a museum building designed by Le Corbusier where discussions began on the appropriate educational philosophy and pedagogy: Who would produce new lotas for the new nation? Who would teach them and how? → more

●Article
Contemporary Reflections on NID History — Teaching through the Design Archive

I often stage chance encounters for students with archival materials at the NID: a rare photograph of the building in construction, an odd handwritten scribble on a drawing by M.P. Ranjan, a stunning collection of sound recordings by David Tudor and John Cage. The amazement and wonder created by this staging becomes the starting point for the pedagogical value of archives. → more

●Exhibition Slide Show
National Institute of Design

The industrial design and visual communication projects executed by faculty members of the Industrial Design Centre (IDC), Mumbai, and the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, reveal their strong emphasis on securing a good “standard of living” through design for the Indian masses, and projecting the image of a modernizing forward-looking nation.  → more

●Video
Jawaja Project — A Case study

The NID was involved in a joint venture with the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad in the adoption for development of a group of villages in Rajasthan. Could local self-reliance emerge from a process of mutual learning between communities and other groups of people? The film shows how leather work and weaving emerged as the opportunity and basis for sustained group effort. → more

●Photo Essay
Abraham & Thakore — NID Fashion

Like most designer start-ups, A&T started as a very small design studio. We began by designing and manufacturing modest batches of textile and fashion items, manufactured mostly on handlooms and tiny printing and embroidery sheds in India’s still pervasive small-scale industrial sector. And indeed, 25 years on, our supply chain is still reliant on and supportive of many of these small enterprises. → more

●Video
Architects’ Congress

The passenger ship Patris II transported the participants of the 4th International Congresses of Modern Architecture (CIAM) from Marseilles to Athens and back. Bauhaus teacher Moholy-Nagy, travelling as a “friend of the new building movement” produced this half-hour soundless film as a travel journal. → more

●Article
From Recognition to Rejection — Hannes Meyer and the Reception of the Bauhaus in the Soviet Union

The history of the Stalinist critique of the Bauhaus and Hannes Meyer has two chapters. The first chapter spans the time from 1929 to the Architects’ Congress in the Soviet Union in 1937; the second consists in the condemnation of the Bauhaus in the GDR that took place on the trip by East German architects to Moscow in spring of 1950. This text tells the story of the first chapter. → more

●Translation
The Moscow Bauhaus Exhibition Catalogue (1931)

When Hannes Meyer had emigrated to the Soviet Union in 1930, one of the first things he did was organizing an exhibition about "his" Bauhaus. As early as in February 1931 Meyer had the exhibition “Bauhaus Dessau. Period of Hannes Meyer’s directorship. 1928-1930” already ready to receive the Moscow public. It was shown at the renown State Museum of New Western Art. This is the first English translation of the exhibition catalogue. → more

●Article
After the Ball — Hannes Meyer Presenting the Bauhaus in Moscow

Hannes Meyer arrived in the USSR just a couple of months after being dismissed from his position as Bauhaus director in October 1930. These months were filled with attempts by Meyer and his supporters to protest this decision through all possible means: media campaigns, open letters, student demonstration and court trials. After arriving in Moscow, Meyer carried on the fight against his unfair dismissal. → more

●Exhibition Slide Show
Bauhaus Exhibition Design

From the outset the Bauhaus created several national and international exhibitions to promote the school’s educational ideas, architecture and design ethos. These exhibitions had a significant impact on its reception. → more

●Interview
Praised, Sentenced, Forgotten, Rediscovered — 62 Members of the Bauhaus in the Land of the Soviets

In my interview with Astrid Volpert, she reviews her decades of research on Bauhäusler who emigrated to the SU and makes it clear that there were far more than seven of them heading east. Persons traveling from the Bauhaus to Russia were from eleven countries. They belonged to various denominations—there were Protestants and Catholics, Jews and atheists. Of the 15 women and 47 men, only 21 of them were members of communist parties. → more

●Artist Work
Sketch One: Lotte and Hermina — Script-Reading and Screening by Wendelien van Oldenborgh

The script that the artist Wendelin van Oldenborgh created for bauhaus imaginista: Moving Away. The Internationalist Architect as a public moment is an insight into the development of her larger film project which will premiere as a contribution to the bauhaus imaginista exhibition at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, March 2019. It features archive material around the personas Lotte Beese and Hannes Meyer, Hermine Huiswoud and Langston Hughes. → more

●Artists Work
Bauhaus in Russia — Haunted Houses

The following material was produced during the photographic workshop Bauhaus in Russia: Haunted houses, which took place in the framework of the exhibition bauhaus imaginista. Moving Away: The Internationalist Architect at the museum of contemporary art “Garage” in Moscow. Through an open-call we invited participants from several Russian cities to take part in the visual research on both the visible and invisible legacies of the “bauhauslers”. → more

●Article
Moving Away to the Other End of the World — Reflections on the Letters Between Tibor Weiner and Hannes Meyer from the DAM Archive

This article examines the correspondence between a teacher (Hannes Meyer) and his former student (Tibor Weiner), who met at the Bauhaus in Dessau, going on to live for a period in the Soviet Union. Each migrated to Latin America shortly before the outbreak of World War Two, and returned to Europe in the late 1940s. The surviving letters between Meyer and Weiner, preserved in the DAM Archive in Frankfurt am Main, are not only a testimony of comradeship but also a window into some key moments in the first half of the twentieth century. → more

●Artist Work
To Philipp Tolziner

For the exhibition bauhaus imaginista: Moving Away. The Internationalist Architect at Garage Contemporary Museum of Art, the contemporary artist Alice Creischer has been invited to respond to the personal archive of Bauhaus architect Philipp Tolziner. She produced reading of material relating to the architect’s socialist backgrounds and his work in the Soviet Union.  → more

●Exhibition Slide Show
From the Philipp Tolziner Archive, 1928–67 — Selection of Personal Dokuments

In his personal archive the architect Philipp Tolziner collected and preserved his works from his time at the Bauhaus, as well as information on the migratory existence of Bauhaus teacher Hannes Meyer and the seven students who worked as a group in the Soviet Union. → more

●Article
Meyer’s Russia, or the Land that Never Was

It is quite hard to know where to start with Hannes Meyer in Moscow. It’s hard because, while there is plenty of documentation on him and his team in the Bauhaus Brigade—as well as other Western designers and architects (of these, Ernst May is at least as significant as Meyer, as is the Dutch designer Mart Stam, and each went on to produce more substantial work than Meyer after their respective Russian episodes)—the legacy of his work there presents certain difficulties in evaluating. → more

●Article
Hamhŭng’s Two Orphans (To Konrad Püschel) — East German Internationalism in North-Korea Emerging through a Chronopolitical Lens

Doreen Mende’s work Hamhung’s Two Orphans, which borrows its title from a chapter of the cine-essay Coréennes (1959) by Chris Marker, proposes to trace the transformation of the Bauhaus’s relevance from its prewar internationalist modernity into elements of the GDR’s socialist internationalism when architecture operated as a state-crafting instrument during the global Cold War. → more

●Article
The Extension Buildings of the ADGB Trade Union School in Bernau — Documents of the Formalism Debate in the GDR

The former ADGB Trade Union School is regarded today as an icon of modern architecture. Designed at the Bauhaus under the direction of Hannes Meyer and Hans Wittwer together with the students of architecture, the building ensemble still stands as a paragon of collective work, reform pedagogical ideas and analytic architecture. Less attention has been paid to the extensions to the school, planned 1949–51 by Georg Waterstradt. These buildings stand as a valuable testimony to the vigor of GDR architecture. The “formalism debate” led to a rejection of Bauhaus architecture, and thus, the set of political-architectural principles exemplified by the Trade Union School. → more

●Article
The “School in the Woods” as a Socio-pedagogical Ideal — Functional Analyses and Photographs by Peterhans

The building theory classes at the Bauhaus focused on imparting a functional understanding of architecture. Building had become a science. As a result, the ADGB Trade Union School was designed logically from the inside out. Walter Peterhans’ photographs of the school images illustrate both the architect’s intentions for the building and the environmental studies conducted by Bauhaus students. → more

●Article
Selman Selmanagić at the Crossroads of Different Cultures — From Childhood Years in Bosnia to Bauhaus Education and Travels

Selman Selmanagić’s childhood years in Bosnia, on the eve of the First World War, as well as his education in Sarajevo, Ljubljana and at Bauhaus Dessau between the two world wars, together with his work in Palestine and Berlin, shaped his worldview and experience with different cultures and traditions. Throughout his career, he perpetually strove to find contemporary answers for the challenges of the time he was living in. → more

●Article
The “Hungarian Bauhaus” — Sándor Bortnyik’s Bauhaus-Inspired Budapest School Műhely 1928–1938

One of the many Hungarians associated with the Bauhaus, painter and graphic designer Sándor Bortnyik (1893-1976) opened his art and design school, Műhely, in Budapest in 1928 to bring the Bauhaus’s sprit and some of its teaching methods into Hungary. Even if Bortnyik’s school did not have the scope of the Bauhaus, it was an efficient experiment in an independent form of institutionalized education in the field of modern graphic design and typography. → more

●Exhibition Film Stills
Scenes from the Most Beautiful Campus in Africa — A Film about the Ife Campus

Zvi Efrat, 2019, Film stills from the Exhibition video projection, 25 min, color, sound,

English, Courtesy of the artist. → more

●Article
The Legacy of Arieh Sharon’s Postcolonial Modernist Architecture at the Obafemi Awolowo University Campus in Ile-Ife Nigeria

The significance of Arieh Sharon’s postcolonial modernist architecture at Obafemi Awolowo University Campus at Ile-Ife is multi-dimensional. Built between 1960 and 1978, at first glance the campus core consists of an ensemble of modernist buildings. In this article Bayo Amole examines some of the physical and conceptual characteristics of the campus master plan and core area design in order to illustrate their significance as examples of postcolonial modernist architecture—identifying the most important aspects of their legacy, which has continued to guide the design of the campus as it has developed over the course of more than a half century. → more

●Article
Beyond Cement and Iron — Contextualizing Israeli Architecture in Africa

My focus on construction and planning is not incidental. These fields played a crucial role in space-shaping processes during the first decades of the Israeli state, as well as in the construction of the territorial identity of its new citizens. Simultaneously, during the 1960s, the modernist construction projects undertaken in African countries post-independence were also evidence of a desire amongst newly independent African nations for postcolonial national unity. → more

●Article
Colonial Architecture in Ile-Ife

The architectural heritage credited to the colonial intervention of the British in Nigeria is a blend of features imported by Europeans accustomed to a temperate climate, mixed with adaptations derived from the principles of modern architecture and concessions to the region’s tropical climate. As such, colonial buildings of this era can be regarded as a hybrid architectural style. → more

●Article
Nigerian Campus Design — A Juxtaposition of Traditional and Contemporary Architecture

The early to mid-twentieth century saw the International Style and modernism rapidly influence major Nigerian cities and towns, first as a result of colonialism and then independence. Discussing the architecture of two first-generation Nigerian Universities, the University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University, this article builds upon the established discourse concerning how architects assimilated the International Style into the tropical climate and sociocultural context of Nigeria. → more

●Article
Bauhaus Modernism and the Nigerian Connection — The Socio-Political Context of Arieh Sharon and the University Of Ife Design

It should be considered “against the run of play” for a Bauhaus-trained Israeli architect such as Arieh Sharon to have been named designer of the post-independence University of Ife. This paper examines how developments in the socio-political context of Nigeria and international politics—including history and policies in the education sector—“constructed” Sharon’s involvement in the University of Ife design and the spread of Bauhaus modernism to tropical architecture. → more

●Article
Tropical Architecture / Building Skin

Like the modernist architecture that preceded it, tropical architecture was co-defined with modern bodies and the bodies of the tropics: initially those of colonizers but soon colonized bodies as well. The technologies of tropical architecture, based on a modernist rationalism adapted to tropical climatic conditions, were, in turn, offered as a developmental asset to colonized subjects, especially young people. → more

●Article
Nation Building through Campus Architecture — Israeli Architects Arieh Sharon and Eldar Sharon’s Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Campus in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, 1962–1976

The campus of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Nigeria, the first phase of which was built between 1962 and 1972, is a fascinating example of modernist architecture in Africa. As a case study of Africa’s assimilation of the modern style, its design is intriguing also due to the fact that it was built by Israeli architect Arieh Sharon (1900–1984), aided by his son, Eldar Sharon (1933–1994). → more

●Article
A Hot Topic — Tropical Architecture and Its Aftermath

Both the tropical architecture discourse in general and British notions of modernism in particular were embedded in larger discussions on climatic and culturally sensitive approaches to building developed within the International Congresses of Modern Architecture (Congrès International d’Architecture Moderne—CIAM) from the 1950s onward—notions rooted in the hygienic and medical discourses of colonial occupation. → more

●Article
The New Culture School for Arts and Design — Launched in 1995

The New Culture School for Arts and Design in Ibadan, Nigeria has involved the development and construction of a space for creative people working in many different media in order to advance their professional proficiency in the fine arts, theater, music, film, photography, design, writing and more. → more

●Article
Communistic Functionalist — The Anglophone Reception of Hannes Meyer

Philip Johnson described Hannes Meyer as a “communistic functionalist” whose most notable achievement was to have preceded Ludwig Mies van der Rohe as director of the Bauhaus. The position he assigned to Meyer was reinforced in the Bauhaus Exhibition of 1938 at MoMA. The particular view of the Bauhaus presented at MoMA in 1938 corresponds to the place of Meyer in the historiography of modern architecture in the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s. The view that Meyer’s work allegedly lacked aesthetic interest, rendering it irrelevant to an Anglophone audience. → more

●Article
From Social Democratic Experiment to Postwar Avant-Gardism — Asger Jorn and the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus

The project bauhaus imaginista would be negligent if it did not address the artist group referenced by its title, the Mouvement Internationale pour un Bauhaus Imaginiste (International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus, or IMIB), founded in 1953 by Danish artist Asger Jorn together with a handful of French and Italian colleagues. Many of the theoretical and artistic positions advocated by the IMIB were developed dialectically in response both to the historical Bauhaus and the reconstitution of a Bauhaus-inspired pedagogical program at the Hochschule für Gestaltung (HfG) in Ulm. → more

●Translation
Letter from Asger Jorn to Max Bill — February 12, 1954

Asger Jorn read of Max Bill’s plans for the new Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm (HfG), a school modeled after the Bauhaus, in the British Architects’ Yearbook 1953, where Bill had placed a promotional article to attract prospective students and teachers. Excited by the possibility of participating in a new democratic pedagogical experiment and in pursuing his interest in fusing art and architecture, he wrote to Bill, inquiring about the role of art at Ulm and expressing his desire to secure a teaching position.

This is a translation of one of the letters Jorn send to Bill. → more

●Article
Biology and Educational Models in the Pacific Southern Cone

The Chilean encounter with second-order cybernetics in the early 1970s was an essential part of the modernization project the state had been promoting since the 1920s, a project which also encompasses the 1945 reform of the architecture school. But if one reviews the history of this project with greater care, one can identify the reform of the new art school of 1928, which was the product of a social movement that began after the First World War, and that was able to implement in the main school of art of the country, a “first year of trial” similar to the methodology of the Bauhaus preliminary course, influenced by the trends of the “Active” or “New” school of the time. → more

●Article
For the Faculty of Architecture at METU — Bauhaus was a Promise

“ARCH 101 Basic Design” is the title of the introductory course offered to the first-year students in the METU Faculty of Architecture (Middle East Technical University, Ankara). Since the establishment of the school, this course has been conducted with a very strong Bauhaus impact. → more

+ Add this text to your collection!