Latter-day Bauhaus?

Muriel Cooper and the Digital Imaginary

Hans M. Wingler, Bauhaus: Weimar, Dessau, Berlin, Chicago,
Promotional Poster for the MIT Press Publication, Bauhaus.
© 1969 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, by permission of The MIT Press.

The Bauhaus is a monument—a book with the physical heft to match its scholarly ambition. Published in 1969 by the MIT Press, The Bauhaus: Weimar, Dessau, Berlin, Chicago stands fourteen inches tall, ten inches wide, and two and-a-half inches thick, weighing in at over ten pounds. It is the revised, expanded, and redesigned translation of editor Hans Wingler’s 1962 German tome Das Bauhaus, 1919–1933: Weimar, Dessau, Berlin. In its 680 pages, The Bauhaus assembles some two hundred archival documents and 800 illustrations, most never before published in English.

Received ecstatically by students of Modernism, the “Bauhaus Bible” remains the standard reference on the subject, and recently went into yet another printing.1 Muriel Cooper, the MIT Press’s first Design and Media Director, consistently rated the book as one of her proudest achievements among the nearly 500 she would design or oversee during her tenure.2

For some, however, it was too much information. Early in the project, Wolf von Eckhardt, the former art and architecture critic at the Washington Post, had advised MIT Press director Carroll Bowen that about half the documents from the German original be omitted for an English-speaking audience, citing just two of the more soporific entries: “There is a lengthy, name-studded report of the Appropriations Committee of the Thuringian state legislature, for instance. Or the jury report on the libel suit against one of Gropius’ detractors.”3 Not heeding the advice, Bowen expanded the original—by a hundred pages, and a couple inches in each dimension—adding a ninth section to chronicle the vicissitudes of the New Bauhaus in Chicago. Upon its release, critics noted the massive scale of The Bauhaus, and indeed some complained.4 One went further, seeing it as symptomatic of the contemporary media landscape. F. Lanier Graham, then Associate Curator at the Museum of Modern Art, concluded his book review in Progressive Architecture by describing The Bauhaus as “a monument to an awkward age in the history of disseminating information, and an unfortunate episode in the poundage of publishing.”5

The book’s designer, Muriel Cooper, would have disagreed with this characterization, but might have found a grain of truth in it. After its publication, Cooper restaged The Bauhaus in various media, including posters, a film, and an exhibition. This research coincided with Cooper’s first exposure to programming, and can be understood as a way of prototyping in analog the effects she would spend the rest of her career seeking from software. Montage techniques allowed Cooper to manipulate the variables of space and time, juxtapose multiple media in a single frame, and imagine responsive interfaces beyond the book. The Bauhaus is thus both a landmark and an inflection point for this influential but understudied graphic designer: at once her masterpiece in print and evidence of a growing anxiety about the medium; a gesture toward reading’s possible futures, and a source of durable metaphors for them. Choosing this particular book for her research was also no coincidence: in both subject and the scale, The Bauhaus was an ideal test case for Cooper.

The Bauhaus as Idea

Hans M. Wingler, Bauhaus: Weimar, Dessau, Berlin, Chicago; hardcover cover image.
© 1969 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, by permission of The MIT Press.

Hans M. Wingler, Bauhaus: Weimar, Dessau, Berlin, Chicago; paperback cover image.
© 1969 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, by permission of The MIT Press.

The exhaustive, documentary format of The Bauhaus was a precondition for its publication. Entrepreneur Emil Rasch, whose family company had manufactured Bauhaus wallpaper designs since the late 1920s, was convinced of the need for an “independent and objective view of the Bauhaus,” apart from that of its protagonists.6 Founding a publishing house to produce the book, he commissioned Hans Wingler, the founding director of the Bauhaus Archive in Darmstadt since 1960, to edit it. Das Bauhaus was to condense a vast new archive into a single volume.

Before the book’s publication, little archival information had been available on the legendary school, in spite of its being what architectural historian Reyner Banham would call, looking back on the three decades of the postwar period, “the official world-Establishment model of design education.”7 The destruction brought on by the Second World War and the division of Germany hampered access to materials, and key protagonists, many of whom had emigrated to the U.S., controlled and contested the school’s legacy. English speakers had little choice but to subsist on the compact catalog for the Museum of Modern Art’s 1938 retrospective, edited by Herbert Bayer and Walter and Ise Gropius, and pointedly titled Bauhaus 1919–28—its end date coinciding with that of the authors’ tenure at the school, rather than its official closure five years later.8 Wingler’s Bauhaus was instead to be a far-reaching and inclusive volume. The format is tripartite: a brief introductory essay offers context; archival documentation forms the bulk of the book; and a section of illustrations concludes it. Sidestepping the potential irony of historicizing an institution antagonistic to history, The Bauhaus gives a flat, archival treatment to documents, and segregates them from a section of illustrations.9 The book announces its ambitions in terms of intellectual and cultural history at the outset, with an epigraph from the school’s final director, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, declaring: “The Bauhaus was an idea.”

And in 1969—far from being a settled and dusty matter—the Bauhaus was still a current idea. The American publication project, which lasted some ten years in total, was an active negotiation and renegotiation of an evolving legacy and still lively institutions.10 In January 1969, for example, shortly before the book was to go to print, Wingler alerted Bowen of the sudden closure of the Hochschule für Gestaltung (Institute of Design) in Ulm, the Bauhaus’s successor institution in Germany, requesting that a paragraph of eulogy be added. Even in the book’s third hardcover printing in 1979, the inside title page displayed a chronology ending with an open date range (“1944– ”), acknowledging Chicago’s still operational Institute of Design, first founded as the New Bauhaus. Protagonists in the story also had their say, as with the repeated insistence of former Bauhaus master Josef Albers, that his teaching role had been seriously underrepresented, particularly compared to that of his colleague László Moholy-Nagy.11 And finally, for all its aspirations to “objectivity,” critics like Banham—and even, confidentially, the book’s translator Wolfgang Jabs—commented on Wingler’s own biases, and perpetuation of an established, Gropius-centric narrative.12 For Muriel Cooper, who graduated from the Massachusetts College of Art in 1951, the Bauhaus idea also remained vibrant.13 As she later recalled, “The people and works of the Bauhaus were my conceptual and spiritual ancestors, so I felt a particular bond with the material.”14 In her first design job in Boston, Cooper freelanced briefly at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), which is likely where she first interacted with the Hungarian émigré and former colleague of Moholy-Nagy, György Kepes. Kepes had been teaching visual design in the Department of Architecture at MIT, and designed the exhibition and publicity for an ICA retrospective of his friend Walter Gropius in 1952, the same year he retired as Chair of the Department of Architecture in Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.15 Kepes recommended Cooper for the role of in-house designer at MIT’s new Office of Publications, where she began that year.

Cooper worked five years in the Office of Publications, modernizing the image of the Institute in its announcements and prospectuses, before taking a Fulbright study trip to Milan. Upon returning in 1958, she established a freelance design studio in her home, working with clients in the Boston area. In search of a designer to help rebrand the Institute’s “Technology Press” as the now-independent MIT Press, Bowen found Cooper, who already had some history at MIT. Her first major task in 1962 was to design a mark for the new press. What emerged is the now-iconic seven-bar logo, or colophon, which schematically represents the lowercase letters “mitp” as abstracted books on a shelf. At the same time, it suggests a kind of machine readable graphic, as if to anticipate Cooper’s later concerns.16


The MIT Press had intended to copy Das Bauhaus in format and design, but Bowen and Wingler were dissatisfied with the original. They solicited Herbert Bayer, former master of the Bauhaus’s printing and advertising workshop, and then living in Aspen, Colorado, to redesign it. In his initial critique, Bayer suggested that the book’s margins be widened, given that the ample text “needs relief.” Yet he was reluctant about making the book larger, “as it is already a rather unhandy volume.”17 In the end, Bayer proved unavailable for the substantial effort of the redesign. However, Muriel Cooper was well positioned to take up the task. In addition to designing several award-winning books for the Press, Cooper established the first in-house design program at an American academic publisher, implementing efficient systems to produce a burgeoning list of titles. In 1967, she was named the first Design Director of the MIT Press.

As Bowen recalled, “Muriel spotted a camel of a design in the German edition, a camel being a horse drawn by a committee.”18 Though it was expected to last just three months, The Bauhaus redesign occupied nearly two years of Cooper’s time, and ultimately differed in almost every respect from the original. By enlarging an already “unhandy” object, Cooper made a virtue of the book’s scale, elevating it to self-conscious monumentality. The mammoth size was said to be justified by the need to accommodate the original, archival color plates from the German edition— not implausible, but also not the first time a technical requirement has been cited to justify a design decision.19

The tenor of the book changed as well. Das Bauhaus had featured Oskar Schlemmer’s 1932 Bauhaus Stairway on its dust jacket and as its frontispiece— the ultimate image of Bauhaus nostalgia, painted three years after the artist’s resignation from the Bauhaus, two years after the closure of the Dessau building whose interior it depicts, and just a year before the institution’s rather foreseeable demise. Cooper’s design, by contrast, is purely typographic. “BAUHAUS” appears in massive white Helvetica bold type across the length of the monolithic black slipcover. The book inside emerges as its negative, with black type on a white ground. Freed of pictorial associations and historical baggage, Cooper presents the Bauhaus as a contemporary idea.

Though it quickly became a hallmark of MIT Press design, the Helvetica type used throughout the book would have looked startlingly new in 1969. While Helvetica was released in Europe in 1957, it only started to become available for general use in America around 1968.20 Had Cooper wanted to pay straightforward, historical homage to the school, it would have looked quite different, perhaps using the typography of Bauhaus masters Herbert Bayer or Josef Albers, or the compositional devices of Constructivism. Instead, the book conforms most closely to so-called “Swiss” or “International Style” typography, built upon the innovations of the “New Typography” practiced at the Bauhaus, and characterized by the use of a modular grid system, sans serif type, and asymmetric compositions.21 MIT was a pioneer in the absorption and elaborations of this style in America, first with the design team Cooper assembled in the Office of Publications (later renamed Design Services), and then at the Press.22

Cooper accommodated the book’s diverse content within a three-column grid system. In the main section, the text of archival documents fills the right two thirds of the page; the dense paragraphs, with their ragged right edge, are separated from one another only by a single line break. Floating in the left-hand column, flush with the top line of each entry, are a few lines of text identifying the document. This text-heavy section works to flatten the archive, giving disparate materials the same typographic treatment and allowing the reader to interrogate their individual characteristics. In the illustration section that follows, photographs of Bauhaus objects and persons are disposed rhythmically and asymmetrically on the page, with captions consolidated in a single block of text. Unlike the German original, Cooper ventilates the space between pictures with ample white space, and unmoors images from the grid, constructing them into dynamic compositions of formal and scalar contrasts. With these dramatic layouts, the physical experience of reading The Bauhaus—beginning with hauling it to a table large enough for it to lay open— continues with movements of not just the eye but the whole head across the vast expanse of the page spread.

Cooper’s typography, as an interpretation of the Bauhaus legacy, also came in for critique. Writing for The New York Times, art critic Hilton Kramer enthused about the book’s scholarship, but lamented its design: “Unfortunately, her [Cooper’s] efforts are more faithful to the letter (sans serif, of course) than to the spirit of Bauhaus design.”23 Perhaps the best-known and most trenchant critique came, indirectly, from Cooper’s later clients. Three years after the publication of The Bauhaus, in 1972, the MIT Press released Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour’s postmodern manifesto Learning from Las Vegas, its first edition designed by Cooper. In scale and significance, Learning from Las Vegas is the pendant monument to The Bauhaus, and its dialectical counterpart, aimed squarely at discrediting modernist orthodoxy. The authors’ relationship with their designer was tortured, as has been ably documented in recent years, and they despised Cooper’s design for the first edition of their book.24 In the preface to their fully redesigned edition of 1977, now standard in many architecture surveys, the authors pan the first edition’s “latter-day Bauhaus design” and “‘interesting’ modern styling.”25 This despite—or likelier because—Cooper’s landmark design was its own essay in Pop and Postmodernism; that is, the authors felt Cooper had overstepped her bounds as a formgiver, encroaching on the interpretive, meaning-making territory of authorship.

Cooper’s rollicking design for Learning from Las Vegas, which was originally to have a bubble-wrap book jacket with fluorescent dots underneath, “in homage to Las Vegas glitz,” was a complex montage of typewritten text, tables, drawings, photography, and filmstrips—the materials that comprised the original exhibition based on the authors’ 1968 traveling studio at the Yale School of Architecture.26 By contrast, The Bauhaus appears to have been an exercise in restraint. Yet Cooper’s relatively unknown restagings of the book animate it in other ways, transcending the terms of the Learning from Las Vegas debate, and opening out onto new questions entirely.


To promote The Bauhaus on its release in 1969, Cooper created a poster montage of more than 200 photographed page spreads from the book tiled arbitrarily across its surface. The word BAUHAUS appears at the top, vertically offset in nearly primary colors, suggesting a dynamic, prismatic, plural Bauhaus, updated in a psychedelic 1960s vernacular.28 The poster offers a simultaneous overview of the book. A continuous, mosaic-like surface of light and dark grey tones from afar, it can be scrutinized up close to reveal a non-linear Bauhaus history. Existing in more than one version, it would be reproduced on both postcards and fold-out posters as publicity for the book.

Cooper also re-presented The Bauhaus with another series of ten large posters (35 x 21 in). As a kind of “detail view,” each featured a Bauhaus master or object enlarged to heroic scale. These included Gropius, Klee, Moholy, Mies, Breuer’s “Wassily” chair, and a Kandinsky painting. The plates are so large as to dissolve into their halftone grain, announcing both the sampling technology of their mass production and the vast circulation and celebrity—even Pop status—of their subjects.

In the mid-1970s, Cooper restaged The Bauhaus as a film.29 Mounting a 16 mm camera above the book on a copy stand, she shot three frames for every page spread. Proceeding in a linear, rapid-fire sequence, the film animates the book’s content in a linear fashion, across the variable of time, just as the tiled poster had done simultaneously in space. With a running time of about one minute, a remarkable amount can nevertheless be “read”: one gleans the book’s grid structure and the rhythmic extensions of it, its sectional organization, and the dramatis personae and key objects of the school. Blocks of text at the resolution and speed captured in the film read as discrete rectangles, appearing and disappearing, dancing across the page, and rapidly changing in size. The planar movement across the surface of the book/screen recalls the abstract cinema of Bauhaus-contemporary Hans Richter.

By the mid–1970s, when the film was made, Cooper’s title at the Press had come to include “Director of Special Projects.” These special projects included developing experimental production techniques at the Press, early research into computer layout, and acquiring new titles in topics of interest to Cooper, such as visual studies. In 1973, Cooper began, with the photographer / physicist Ronald MacNeil, to teach a course called “Messages and Means” in a space in MIT’s Department of Architecture, where MacNeil had managed to install offset printers and photo enlargers. The course was an introduction to graphic design, experimental printing, and hands-on production that, in the following year, evolved into a program called the “Visible Language Workshop.” The workshop was named with self-conscious reference to the experimental, collaborative, and practice-oriented organizational units of the Bauhaus.

Cooper showed the Bauhaus film in her classes. It seems to have been a retroactive proof of concept, an analysis of the logic and smoothness of page flow, and a study of how the reader’s eyes move across the page—how they follow the “grey areas,” or images and text blocks. Cooper’s few recorded comments about the film liken it to “a stop-motion movie of the construction of a building over time, or of a seed growing into a blossoming flower.” Presenting the book in this form reflects the thinking of its original design. As Cooper explained: “All of my books explored implicit motion. The Bauhaus was designed both statically and filmically with a mental model of slow motion animation of the page elements.”30 Indeed, Cooper’s cinematic approach to print is visible from her earliest projects as well, and even in her snapshots from Milan. The very subject of both The View from the Road (1964) and Learning from Las Vegas is the automobilized viewer, whose vantage point depends on what Martino Stierli has called the “windshield as movie screen,” and various of Cooper’s books adopted cinematic metaphors.31 The Bauhaus alone, however, is realized as both book as- film and film-as-book.

Cooper’s choice of The Bauhaus for these experimental restagings was overdetermined. Beyond its flagship status at the Press, and the complexity of the assignment, Cooper had a close affinity with the material. Of the film she observed, “This book has a life of its own that I believe is due to an unusually symbiotic relationship of form and content.”32 One aspect of this content that particularly interested her was the work of Bauhaus master László Moholy- Nagy. His notion of “the filmic” (Filmmäßigen), or “the film that proceeds from the potentialities of the camera and the dynamics of motion,” contributed to the graphical film score Dynamic of the Metropolis (Dynamik der Großstadt), published in his 1927 book Painting Photography Film (Malerei Fotografie Film).33 Here, a montage of image and text within a sliding Constructivist frame produces a simultaneous experience of purely visual relationships, responsive, Moholy believed, to the new pace and simultaneous experience of urban life. Cooper was impressed by Moholy’s “visual and verbal means of interrelating the different time frames of sound and moving image in the print medium.”34

Dynamic of the Metropolis exemplifies what has been called “the cinematic imaginary,” or the interwar avant-garde’s affinity for “cinema and its imagined potential beyond the production of films,” abundant in the period’s painting, graphic design, and other media.35 The vague possibilities of a new medium— glimpsed but far from realized, and imagined in other forms—may suggest an analogy to Cooper’s nascent relationship with software at precisely the moment she was immersed in The Bauhaus project.

The Digital Imaginary

In parallel with her work at the MIT Press, Cooper became progressively more involved with computers. In 1967, she took a programming course with MIT computer scientist Nicholas Negroponte. While she did not learn to code, she was immediately aware of the potential of computers as design tools, and tools in need of design, on the way to their becoming a medium in which others could be manipulated. Cooper, with Negroponte’s help, introduced computers at the MIT Press, where graduate students developed an early form of desktop publishing. Programming, with the help of Ron MacNeil, became a primary activity of the Visible Language Workshop. In the late 1970s, Cooper ostensibly shifted her focus from print to digital media based on a frustration with the limits of the former. In 1989, she reflected on her time at the MIT Press as follows:

“The inequitable constraints placed on verbal and visual information by the double page; the early closure demanded by the mass-production cycle; the crush of deadlines that prevented research into new solutions for communication problems all contributed to my growing frustration with the print medium. It was clear that the computer would soon have a profound impact on these limitations.”36

By the early 1980s, Cooper was a founding member of the MIT Media Lab, whose aim was to explore the human-computer interface. As Cooper liked to describe it: “The Media Lab is a pioneering interdisciplinary center that is a response to the information revolution, much as the Bauhaus was a response to the industrial revolution.”37 The analogy is audacious and illuminating: both institutions, with sponsorship from industry, shared a techno-utopian and purportedly humanist vision, and an experimental, interdisciplinary approach to reforming aesthetics in everyday life.

In the Visible Language Workshop, as it was now incorporated within the Media Lab, Cooper researched the conjunction of on-screen typography and graphics (together deemed “typographics”); design tools driven by artificial intelligence; and immersive information spaces, both real and simulated.38 Cooper’s role there was supervisory, in overseeing graduate students at the Media Lab, rather than executing development herself. Her guidance was primarily on a conceptual level, “imagined” in terms of how interactions could be more intuitive or playful, and what new perceptual models and metaphors might apply to the design of information.

Cooper’s work had turned from designing objects to systems, though this also marked some return to an interest in process at the Press. Responding to the surfeit of information in an electronic media environment, Cooper explained her software research in 1994 by saying: “Our goal is to make information into some form of communication, which information alone is not. Information by itself does not have the level of ‘filtering’ that design brings to it.”39 In this regard, The Bauhaus was also an attractive test case for Cooper based on another feature: its sheer scale, that is, its very quality as data to be sorted, sifted, and surfaced. In 1979, for an exhibition of MIT Press books titled Book 2000, timed to coincide with the publication of their 2000th book, The Bauhaus appeared as two enormous stacks of paper, a restaging of the book’s hypertrophic, archival quality, showing the labor necessary to process it.40

Considered as an aspect of the so-called “digital imaginary,” at least two uncanny impressions haunt the film of The Bauhaus. First, the long columns of text appear to “scroll” down the page, their up-down directionality (like that on computer screen) privileged over the crosswise movement of a book’s turning pages (invisible in the stop motion film). Their breakneck pace is also closer to the perceptual experience of browsing the internet— closer, one might say, to “scanning” than to “reading” as such.41 Second, the film of a finished book in stop-motion, according to Cooper, reveals the construction of The Bauhaus. Yet the book’s movement appears autonomous (again thanks to the stop-motion technique), and if it is being constructed, it occurs without hands. The ambiguity of whether we are watching an existing book being played back, or one being constructed spontaneously before our eyes, resonates with Cooper’s research into artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate the process of layout entirely. These restagings of The Bauhaus can be considered different “views” on the material, in the contemporary language of software. As it happens, while Cooper was designing The Bauhaus, in 1968, the computer scientist Douglas Engelbart premiered the notion of “view control,” now standard in any personal computing interface, in his infamous “Mother of All Demos” at Stanford University. Cooper’s own, later work at the MIT Media Lab would consider different views on information, and alternative reading experiences, escaping static and flat worlds, and exploring dynamic and layered three-dimensional spaces and adaptive typography. Metaphors of the book in general would remain durable in Cooper’s work.42 Yet The Bauhaus, in particular, always held an important place in her imagination. In 1989, she speculated that

“Hypertext and hypermedia principles would extend the editing and authorship of … an archival database so that a reader interested particularly in the political and social influences of the Bauhaus would be able directly to pursue multimedia bibliographic information in depth, rather than referencing footnotes and other sources.”43

These new reading experiences, on-screen, would achieve the dynamism, flexibility, responsiveness, and participation Cooper sought from all media refusing the closure of publication. And it was with The Bauhaus book, and through the model of the Bauhaus itself, that Cooper explored many of these ideas. Yet the Bauhaus analogy to this moment also has its limits: for avant-garde designers like Moholy-Nagy, media might sharpen the senses of the viewer; for neoavant- garde designers like Cooper, the user might also sharpen the “senses” of the medium, by way of artificially intelligent systems. Still, Cooper insisted, “It is not hard to imagine Moholy using a computer.”44

This text was first published in:
Before Publication. Montage in Art, Architecture, and Book Design
Edited by Nanni Baltzer and Martino Stierli
Published by Park Books
 ISBN 978-3-03860-022-0

I would like to thank David Reinfurt, my collaborator on a 2014 exhibition of Cooper’s work, for our many productive conversations. I would also like to thank my professors, Noam Elcott and Felicity Scott, for their insights on this material and for championing the project. I am grateful to Martino Stierli and Nanni Baltzer for the impetus to write this essay. Many thanks to Cooper’s colleagues, Mario Furtado and Wendy Richmond, who read an early draft of this essay, and to Gregor Quack, who read a later one. Thank you to Cooper’s student, David Small, for his recollections of her work and for remaking and generously sharing a version of her Bauhaus film. I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the librarians of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design for their help in making Muriel Cooper’s papers available to me, to Roger Conover for his generosity in sharing the MIT Press documents from Cooper’s era, and to Nicholas Negroponte for his enthusiasm about my research on one of his closest friends.

  • 1 The book went into another printing in February 2015.
  • 2 Steven Heller, “Muriel Cooper,” (interview) in: Graphic Design in America: A Visual Language History, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis 1989, p. 97.
  • 3 Letter from Wolf von Eckhardt to Carroll Bowen, 9 October 1963, The MIT Press Acquisition Archive, Roger Conover Collection.
  • 4 Surprisingly few complained about the book’s unwieldy price. Adjusting for inflation, it cost over $ 250 dollars, and is still priced at just over $ 200.
  • 5 F. Lanier Graham, “The Bauhaus, Weimar, Dessau, Berlin, Chicago, by Hans Maria Wingler,” Progressive Architecture 51, 1 June 1 1970, p. 192.
  • 6 Letter from Carroll Bowen to Emil Rasch, 21 May 1964, The MIT Press Acquisition Archive.
  • 7 Reyner Banham, “The Bauhaus” (book review), Art Quarterly 34, no. 1 (1971), p. 110.
  • 8 The editors acknowledge the catalog’s limitations, effectively setting the stage for Wingler’s work by writing: “This book is not complete, even within its field, for some material could not be brought out of Germany. At some time, a definitive work on the Bauhaus should be written, a well-ordered, complete and carefully documented history prepared by a dispassionate authority, but time and other circumstances make this impossible at present.” Herbert Bayer, Walter Gropius, and Ise Gropius (eds.), Bauhaus, 1919–1928, The Museum of Modern Art, New York 1938, p. 7.
  • 9 Gropius has been famously characterized as anti-history. Yet his opposition was to teaching architecture students a history of styles to be copied, as opposed to the intellectual and cultural history that might offer context for any education (none of this, of course, precluded his prolific comments about the Bauhaus in the new world). In its structure and design, Wingler and then Cooper ameliorate some of these concerns about understanding the Bauhaus primarily as a style. See: Winfried Nerdinger, “From Bauhaus to Harvard: Walter Gropius and the Use of History,” in: The History of History in American Schools of Architecture, 1865-1975, ed. Janet Parks and Gwendolyn Wright, Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, New York 1990.
  • 10 This long history began with Bowen’s efforts to secure translation rights for the book before its German release, while he was still working at the University of Chicago Press, and continued with the protracted translation and design process.
  • 11 The MIT Press Acquisition Archive.
  • 12 Banham, “The Bauhaus” (book review), p. 111. And in a letter from the young translator Wolfgang Jabs to Director Carroll Bowen of 22 December 1964, he writes: “I wonder if he (Emil Rasch) is aware of the fact that his intentions of publishing an archive are defeated by the very subjective introductions to some of the documents. (...) The impression then is that Mr. Wingler is still fighting the Bauhaus cause against the rightist extremist opposition (a fight which has long been won) and several personal causes, for instance one against Hannes Meyer (of whom he does not publish much, but whom he judges a great deal).” The MIT Press Acquisition Archive.
  • 13 Cooper received an undergraduate degree in “General Design” in 1948, and after a year freelancing in New York ad agencies, returned to the Massachusetts College of Art for a degree in teaching, which she completed in 1951.
  • 14 Heller, “Muriel Cooper” (interview) p. 97.
  • 15 “Gropius Exhibition,” Institute of Contemporary Art Bulletin 1, no. 1 (February 1952), n.p.
  • 16 I am indebted to David Reinfurt for this observation. See: David Reinfurt, “This Stands as a Sketch for the Future: Muriel Cooper and the Visible Language Workshop,” 2007, n.p., http://www.dextersinister. org/MEDIA/PDF/Thisstandsasasketchforthefuture.pdf.
  • 17 Letter from Herbert Bayer to Carroll Bowen, 20 June 1967. The MIT Press Acquisition Archive.
  • 18 Letter from Carroll Bowen to Tom Wong, 31 August 1994. Special Collections, Morton R. Godine Library at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Muriel Cooper Papers, MassArt, 12–205.
  • 19 Heller, “Muriel Cooper” (interview) p. 97. Cooper explained further: “There were some practical constraints. The color material was in plates from other books. A lot of the important material was in poor shape because it was archival and time had taken its toll.” Muriel Cooper, unpublished, extended draft version of interview with Steven Heller, January 6, 1989. Muriel Cooper Papers, MassArt, 12–242.
  • 20 Paul Shaw, Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story, The MIT Press, Cambridge 2011, p. 18.
  • 21 Cooper explained: “I can’t say why I structured it (the book) the way I did. Its evolution is clearly out of a Swiss grid system, but a relatively rich one.” Muriel Cooper, unpublished, extended draft version of interview with Steven Heller, 6 January 1989. Muriel Cooper Papers, MassArt, 12–242.
  • 22 For more on the roots of the so-called Swiss style at MIT, and the work of Jacqueline Casey, Ralph Coburn, and Therese Moll, see the forthcoming essay by the author and Elizabeth Resnick in Aspects of Modernist Typography, ed. Paul Shaw, The MIT Press, 2016.
  • 23 Hilton Kramer, “The Bauhaus: Weimar, Dessau, Berlin, Chicago,” (book review) New York Times, 28 September 1969. Kramer continued: “The book is extremely handsome to look at, but its physical size and weight make it quite unwieldy, and the hundreds of pages of sans serif text are simply dizzying. This is, I think, entirely indefensible in a book clearly intended for scholarly use. It is also an ironic commentary on the innovation in typographic design, which the Bauhaus itself initiated. It reminds us (as if we needed reminding!) that these innovations are now, in many hands, simply mindless conventions. One can only hope that The Bauhaus will very soon be reissued, preferable in two or more volumes, in a more convenient and readable paperback form. For this book is itself one of the essential documents for understanding the modern era.” Kramer echoes others in his concern about the book’s heft while perpetuating the notion that Bauhaus design was primarily about function.
  • 24 See: Aron Vinegar and Michael J. Golec (eds.), Relearning from Las Vegas, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis 2009. Aron Vinegar, I Am a Monument: On Learning from Las Vegas, The MIT Press, Cambridge 2008.
  • 25 Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form, The MIT Press, Cambridge 1977. Scott Brown would later diagnose—more accurately, though never more favorably—Cooper’s design as “Swiss.”
  • 26 Aron Vinegar, I Am a Monument: On Learning from Las Vegas, The MIT Press, Cambridge 2008, p. 120.
  • 27 “Transcoding” refers to the translation of media from one format to another. See: Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media, The MIT Press, Cambridge 2002) and Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, “On Software, or the Persistence of Visual Knowledge,” Grey Room, no. 18 (December 1, 2004), 26–51.
  • 28 This colorful treatment would inspire Wendy Richmond’s cover design for the smaller, softcover edition of The Bauhaus of 1978.
  • 29 The exact date is uncertain, but the approximate year was recalled by Mario Furtado, who assisted with the making of the film, and Wendy Richmond, who watched it as a student of Cooper. Mario Furtado, interview by author, August 23, 2013. Wendy Richmond, interview by author, September 20, 2012. The original film does not survive, but was painstakingly reconstructed by Cooper’s student, David Small, and graciously shared with the author.
  • 30 Heller, “Muriel Cooper Interview,” p. 97.
  • 31 Martino Stierli, Las Vegas in the Rearview Mirror: The City in Theory, Photography, and Film (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2013), 174.
  • 32 Heller, “Muriel Cooper” (interview), p. 98.
  • 33 László Moholy-Nagy, Painting, Photography, Film, MIT Press, Cambridge 1969, p. 122. The MIT Press published this English facsimile in the same year as The Bauhaus. Cooper would later use it regularly in her teaching.
  • 34 Muriel Cooper, “Computers and Design,” Design Quarterly, no. 142 (1989), p. 14.
  • 35 Noam M. Elcott, “Into the Dark Chamber: Avant-Garde Photograms and the Cinematic Imaginary,” PhD diss., Princeton University, 2009, p. 6.
  • 36 Lev Manovich, Software Takes Command, Bloomsbury, New York 2013, p. 64.
  • 37 Cooper, “Computers and Design,” p. 18.
  • 38 These include the project Books without Pages (1978), which took the analog book as its metaphor, and Information Landscapes (1994), which created a deep, perspectival information space through which the user could navigate.
  • 39 Heller, “Muriel Cooper” (interview), p. 99.
  • 40 While several installation photos of this inventive exhibition survive, its details are unclear. The design for it appears to have been by Tom Wong, Cooper’s friend and an exhibition designer at Boston’s Museum of Fine Art.
  • 41 This rapid mode of perception pertains to Moholy-Nagy’s work. See: Pepper Stetler, “‘The New Visual Literature’: László Moholy-Nagy’s Painting, Photography, Film,” Grey Room, no. 32 (July 1, 2008), p. 108.
  • 42 In the 1978 project “Books without Pages” proposed to the National Science Foundation by Negroponte, Richard Bolt, and Cooper, the authors describe the printed book as “the best random access tool yet available,” a phrase Cooper also uses elsewhere. Their striking proposal for an immersive “media room” and videodisc storage and display nevertheless depended on metaphors like the book’s page, with its useful “syntactic chunks,” and even animations of turning pages. Nicholas Negroponte, Richard Bolt, Muriel Cooper, “Books without Pages,” Proposal to Office of Information, Science and Technology, NSF, 1978. Muriel Cooper Papers, MassArt, 12–284.
  • 43 Heller, “Muriel Cooper” (interview), p. 99.
  • 44 Cooper, “Computers and Design,” p. 14.
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