Moving Away, Hangzhou

Exhibition in China

IFE university in ILE-IFE Nigeria
Architects Arieh Sharon and Eldar Sharon
Arieh Sharon digital archive.

Marcel Breuer’s filmstrip ein bauhaus-film. fünf jahre lang (a bauhaus film. five years long, 1926) visualizes the development of chair design from crafted object to industrial prototype towards a future where designed objects become obsolete. Breuer wrote about the need for design to evolve in response to changing needs, something to consider when reflecting on the international reception of Bauhaus ideas. The collage appeared in the Bauhaus magazine, no. 1 (1926) as an advertisement, reflecting the attempt to sell and promote Bauhaus products designed by students and teachers in a more creative and ironic way.

While Breuer’s collage addresses the chair – the magazine’s contents introduce the reader to the basic principle of Bauhaus design, which was to go beyond the individual object in order to think about the building as a whole. This meant the development of new designs for cups, chairs, textiles, wall colours and flooring, through to campus architecture, single houses and housing estates. In its later period this extended from environmental and urban studies to city planning on a grand scale. Bauhaus ideas, including the potential for modern design to transform the human environment, has spread throughout the world to, for example, the United States, the Soviet Union, China, India, Mexico, Chile, Iran and North-Korea. Never as pure dissemination, but always accepted and rejected in relation to local conditions.

Two decades after the Bauhaus closed its doors the HfG Ulm (founded in 1953) continued but also contested Bauhaus ideas. It regularly hired Bauhaus masters and students to teach a version of the preliminary course, based on a visual and tactile training in colour and form, considered a basic qualification for new students. When HfG Ulm developed links with the National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad (founded in 1961) and the Industrial Design Centre (IDC) in Mumbai (founded in 1969), aspects of the preliminary course were incorporated into the Indian curriculum, along with workshop based teaching. From the perspective of post war Germany and post-Independence India, design was understood by these schools as a catalyst for economic reconstruction, and in India it was also seen as a development tool that could utilise centuries old Indian crafts traditions, as well as artisan and vernacular skills, through field work and projects undertaken by students.

Bauhaus ideas entered China through architects such as Richard Paulick, who was Walter Gropius’ assistant and Wang Dahong (a student of Gropius). Both were hired to teach at the Architecture Department of St. John's University established in 1942, which had a curriculum that directly referenced the Bauhaus model. After 1945, these two architects played an important role in the development of a Greater Shanghai Plan, a modern urban project based on rationalist principles. In the same period, the renowned Chinese architect Liang Sicheng began a new approach to teaching architecture at the Tsinghua University (Beijing) which was strongly influenced by Gropius. Subsequently, during the cultural revolution Bauhaus ideas were attacked as bourgeois, but in recent decades have they been rehabilitated in China.

The way in which a Bauhaus’s design ethos spread internationally, its institutional role and its evolution from within diverse cultures, forms the basis of the bauhaus imaginista exhibition Moving Away. The title indicates both the migration of Bauhaus ideas, as well as the distance produced by time and geography. The exhibition will be presented as part of the opening of the China Design Museum (located on the China Academy of Arts campus Hangzhou). It will feature a range of objects and prototypes for commercial production as well as plans and studies of architectural and urban projects, which will be shown alongside original works from the academy’s collection of Western modernist design. To accompany the exhibition, an international symposium (April 9–10, 2018) will address a rich history of Bauhaus’s relationship with design and architecture in Asia.

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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

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 one on the other. After completing his studies I. M. Pei worked with Gropius on plans for a university in Shanghai, which he was subsequently able to realise in Taiwan in association with Chang Chao-Kang and Chen Chi-Kuan. → more

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Courtesy Western Artists and India: Creative Inspirations in Art and Design (The Shoestring Publisher, 2013) edited by Shanay Jhaveri. → more

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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

●Correspondent report
Weaving through Hangzhou and Moving Away

As a correspondent for the bauhaus imaginista project, I was invited to share my impressions and thoughts of the exhibition in Hangzhou. The following text and gif collage is a personal encounter with Moving Away and an attempt to capture the affective dimension of the exhibition. → more

Documentation of the exhibition installation in China

Documentation of the exhibition installation of bauhaus imaginsta: Moving Away at the China Design Museum of CAA in Hangzhou → more

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