The “Hungarian Bauhaus”

Sándor Bortnyik’s Bauhaus-Inspired Budapest School Műhely 1928–1938

Sándor Bortnyik: Business card design with
the address of Műhely, 1930,
Budapest Poster Gallery –

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. As a locally cultivated progressive trend, Műhely put the modernist spirit squarely on the map in Hungary.

Sándor Bortnyik, Page from his album Képarchitektúra (Picture-architecture) 1921, © Lempertz-Archiv.

Sándor Bortnyik, Page from his album Képarchitektúra (Picture-architecture) 1921, © Lempertz-Archiv.

Sándor Bortnyik spent about two and a half years in Weimar (from 1922 to 1924). Even if not formally enrolled at the Bauhaus, he was close to the school through his many personal and professional friendships and involvement in theoretical and artistic debates, thus witnessing firsthand the Bauhaus’ development in the early years of its existence. After his return to Hungary in 1925, he slowly developed a desire to graft its rich curriculum and teaching methods onto the graphic design culture of Budapest, inspired in part by the increasing prominence of advertising as a mode of communication in Hungary—one outcome of the country’s developing a relatively affluent middle class during the second half of the 1920s. In 1928 Bortnyik decided to open a private school of art and design, which he ran until 1938 (although not much was heard from or about it after 1933). Inspired by the Bauhaus, he called his school Műhely, or “Workshop.”

Bortnyik was born in Marosvásárhely, Transylvania (today Târgu Mureș, Romania) and moved to Budapest in 1910 to work as a graphic artist, designing wrapping material for a perfumery. Three years later, he enrolled in a free school of art at which leading artists such as József Rippl-Rónai, Károly Kernstok, and János Vaszary were teaching. Between them they represented many of the leading modernist trends: art nouveau, expressionism, and fauve-like colorism respectively. Fellow students at this progressive school put him in contact with the liberal Galilei Circle and members of the Social Democratic Party. He met avant-garde poet, writer, and editor Lajos Kassák in 1916, collaborating with him on his radically progressive journals, A Tett (Action) and Ma (Today), for about a decade—first in Budapest and then in Vienna. As early as 1918 Bortnyik was already working in a revolutionary communist spirit. He became even more committed to communism during the short-lived Hungarian Commune of March – August 1919. After the defeat of the Commune, Bortnyik was forced to emigrate for fear of retaliation, as were Kassák’s entire circle, as well as a number of other left-leaning Hungarians. He arrived in Vienna in 1920, resuming his collaboration with Kassák, who published his pioneering album of geometric abstract compositions, Képarchitektúra (picture-architecture), in 1921. While Kassák embraced Dada and was open to various forms of anarchism in 1921, Bortnyik remained solidly committed to the Hungarian and the Soviet communist parties’ left-wing politics and concepts of art. This divergence generated tension between them, and in 1922 Bortnyik chose to leave Vienna.

At the suggestion of his friend, the future architect Farkas Molnár, who was currently studying at the Bauhaus, Bortnyik travelled to Berlin and Weimar. By December he had already managed to exhibit his abstract paintings in the Der Sturm Gallery. Settling in Weimar, he participated in many Bauhaus events and debates, witnessing one of the school’s most turbulent periods. The Bauhaus was in the crosshairs of the Weimar conservatives, and Dutch avant-garde artist Theo van Doesburg also targeted it's as-yet conspicuous expressionist spirit in a series of anti-Bauhaus classes; a number of students, wary of these developments, decamped for Italy. The position of Walter Gropius, then head of the school, was visibly weakening. Bortnyik witnessed all of these conflicts, and was also present for Gropius’s stark decision to restore the Bauhaus’s steady work and community, as well as his preparations for the decisive 1923 Bauhaus exhibition and Bauhaus Week. He saw, too, Gropius’s new slogan, “Art and technology: a new unity,” enlisted as the foundation for a renewal of the school’s collective spirit and progressive ethos. Being close to some of the Hungarians at the school—such as Gropius’s colleague, the architect Alfred Forbat, the musician and jack-of-all-trades Andor Weininger, aspiring architect Farkas Molnár, as well as Werner Graeff and Peter Röhl from van Doesburg’s circle—Bortnyik witnessed both the success and the shortcomings of these 1923 events. It was not lost on him that the international and nationwide (if not local) success of the Haus am Horn exhibition stemmed from the program laid out in the 1919 Bauhaus Manifesto, that appeal to artists to return to the workshop. Bortnyik’s paintings from those years reintroduced figurative representation in a rigid, geometricized style informed by the Neue Sachlichkeit movement. In a portrait of his wife painted in 1926, he represented the Dessau Bauhaus building, although he may have known it from photographs alone.

Bortnyik left Weimar late in 1924, returning to Hungary the following year. The right-wing nationalist Hungarian political regime was in the process of consolidating power—although it offered a general amnesty for the participants and sympathizers of the 1919 Commune only in 1926. The artistic avant-gardes were not banned outright, but were closely monitored and censored, and had fewer adherents than before 1920. Modernism and the visual language of the avant-gardes were rejected both by a right-wing officialdom that supported neo-Catholic Neoclassicism, and by the communists and many on the political left, who championed socialist realism. Several left-leaning modernists made attempts to push these new political boundaries and revive the progressive spirit. There was a rather narrow path open for this task. For example, Kassák, who returned from his Vienna exile in 1926, understood that there was no longer room for the avant-garde in the 1915–1919 sense of the word. For his new journal Munka (Work), he opted to employ the more broadly comprehensible genre of photography, keeping his social critique within strictly circumscribed limits.

What Bortnyik confronted in Hungary is revealed in an article by architecture critic Pál Rihmer, which includes a pithy description of the dominant Hungarian aesthetic proclivities and politics of the era, pointing out the influence of German modernity. Rihmer’s essay refers to architecture, but is relevant to art, design, and the entire social and cultural scene:

"It cannot be denied that in our [post-1919] society that favors neo-baroque social and architectural forms in the spirit of counter-revolution, it was those intellectuals who had contacts with Weimar Germany that imported the principles, forms, and social objectives of the new architecture. This might be the reason why the presently rising lower middle classes, which have [a] narrower outlook and an outspoken counter-revolutionary conservatism, have occupied the positions of the Hungarian middle classes, and respond to the new architecture with such loud antipathy and resentment. This petite bourgeoisie may feel that the new forms and principles are threatening their recently achieved social and economic positions. Therefore, they express their anxiety and subjective suspicion that originate from outside the strictly defined field of architecture in conservative aesthetic judgments coining such terms as “box houses,” “communist style,” and the like. They, along with the entire society, ridicule what they call the bleakness and ugliness of the new forms, and build their houses in baroque style, following the example offered to them by the state."1

This was the context in which Bortnyik decided to open his Bauhaus-inspired school in Budapest in the fall 1928. As has happened several times throughout Hungarian history, the representative genres of grand art—painting and sculpture—were the most closely controlled, while little attention was paid to applied arts. Therefore, it was not surprising that not only did Bortnyik suspend his own activities as a painter, he also organized his school around the applied art of graphic design. Graphic design was seen as a practical profession rather than an art: government censors did not scrutinize its visual language with the same vigilance as applied to the grand arts. Bortnyik envisioned a rich curriculum providing a wide scale of knowledge to prepare students to work efficiently in a modern culture/economy. In a programmatic article entitled “New Ways of Education in the ‘Applied’ Arts,”2 he outlined a pedagogical concept that to a great extent followed Gropius’s original 1919 Bauhaus program in that it focused on designing and producing forward-looking, affordable objects and prototypes for industrial production, in lively dialogue with civil society. Besides painting, print techniques, typography, and advertising, he intended to include in the curriculum various technologies and mediums, such as ceramics, product design, and art—as well as courses on cultural history, film, stagecraft, and architecture.3

Sándor Bortnyik, Page from his album Képarchitektúra (Picture-architecture) 1921, © Lempertz-Archiv.

Sándor Bortnyik, Page from his album Képarchitektúra (Picture-architecture) 1921, © Lempertz-Archiv.

Bortnyik certainly found a niche that had not yet been filled in the Hungarian cultural and business milieus of the late 1920s. Although Műhely was not the only private school of its kind in Hungary, it was the most modern in style and concept. As Katalin Bakos has written, the government’s economic stabilization program of 1924 – 1926 stimulated trade and commerce: advertising design was the principal field where the formal language of modernity was accepted.4 Thus, Bortnyik’s emphasis on practical work such as advertising and book design (both of which had obvious commercial applications), meant his school was allowed to proceed with teaching graphic design. However, the other courses in his original curriculum had to be dropped, reduced to occasional talks by visiting lecturers.

Another circumstance to make young people choose a private school like the Műhely was the Numerus Clausus law, which in its first iteration—legislated in 1920—capped the number of minority students (i.e., Jewish) who could enroll in public institutions of higher education. Although this was explicitly implemented in the various Hungarian university faculties of sciences and engineering, this law—amended in 1928 without changing its basic impetus—prompted many young people to bypass the educational system altogether. Many enrolled in the Bauhaus in Dessau, where the Hungarian contingent constituted the largest student sector of any country outside Germany. The Budapest Műhely, often referred to as the “Hungarian Bauhaus” or “Little Bauhaus,” was, being located in Buapest, more accessible than the Bauhaus, and was refreshingly modern, professional, and pragmatic in its approach: a school intended specifically for the training of design professionals. Naturally, Bortnyik did not keep records about the religious or ethnic background of his students, but it is safe to surmise that the Műhely was a welcome addition to the art academies and universities, which required proof of applicants’ religious background, tacitly preferring non-Jewish students.

Sándor Bortnyik, Klári, 1926, oil on canvas, Szépművészeti Múzeum / Museum of Fine Arts, 2018.

Sándor Bortnyik: Typographic design for Iván Hevesy: Primitív művészet (Primitive art), 1929, Budapest: Alfa publisher. Budapest Poster Gallery –

Despite its popularity, from its opening onwards, the Műhely was continually in a precarious political and financial position. Its possibilities were not even close to the Bauhaus, which received support first from the state of Thüringen and then from the city of Dessau. (It is also important to note that before the latter’s closure, Bortnyik relied upon the Bauhaus’s Hungarian contingent to develop further contacts with the school, and otherwise leaned on its international reputation.) Bortnyik was well connected in advertising and publishing circles, but he could never count on government or official support of any kind, nor could he win over private investors. While the International Style (by and large regarded as foreign in Hungary), gained some ground among the Budapest upper middle class, becoming en vogue in that demographic from the late 1920s until the early 1940s—as a number of Bauhaus-style buildings in the city demonstrate—the modernist style resonated positively only within the capital’s small progressive circles. The success of the Műhely, and the many commissions its students received during and after their studies, demonstrate that modernist graphic design became the visual language of business and its preferred means of targeting urban audiences.

As Bortnyik’s main focus was on advertising design, mainly posters, his instruction was predicated on the aesthetics of “less is more,” a design approach recommending that students focus on the main item, reduce the number of motives to the minimum, use catchy color blocks, simple, modern typography, and a minimal, efficient use of language. According to the memory of one of Műhely’s students, the animated filmmaker later known in Britain as John Halas (Halász János, 1912-1995),5 analyses of geometric forms in posters in order to instill awareness of the psychological and visceral effect of forms and colors played a central role in Bortynik’s pedagogy. Lucidity, strong character, clarity of message were all prerequisites for poster aesthetics. The starting point was the square: students had to sub-divide the square, then do exercises in proportion and rhythm where various forms would be inserted into a square. In Halas’s description: “As with the Bauhaus, the primary introduction to all courses was the study of basic geometry and the understanding of relationships between such basic forms as the triangle and circle. Exercises with tetrahedral and octahedral shapes followed, and gradually led to some practice in three-dimensional design and textures which widened the use of color.”6 Bortnyik admitted to have learned this strict geometrical approach from Theo van Doesburg while in Weimar, who thought of geometry as the objective basis for creating a balanced use of forms and colors rather than relying on impressions.

Throughout the existence of the Műhely, Bortnyik claimed to have about 120 students enrolled at any given time. Besides Halas, another artist who later became famous, Victor Vasarely (then called Vásárhelyi Győző [1906–1997]), began his studies there. He met his wife Klára Spinner (later Claire Vasarely, 1909–1991) (Fig.9.) at the school, following advice proffered by the avant-garde photographer József Pécsi (1889–1956) that he enroll. Vasarely had fond memories of the Műhely and made a point of mentioning the school frequently in interviews and in his autobiographical writings. “We particularly liked the studies in abstract forms as we held them [as] art on the highest level. In form, color, and material we had to visualize such qualities as sharp, blunt, soft, smooth… In our discussions we analyzed works by Kandinsky, Le Corbusier, Malevich, Lissitzky, and, perhaps strangely, Chagall. We worshipped them. By the time I left Hungary in 1930 I had understood everything that abstract art had accomplished.”7 He also mentioned Bortnyik’s school in his conversation with Jean-Louis Ferrier, pointing out that Bortnyik had personally known Klee, Kandinsky, and Gropius, as well as Mondrian, but that he wanted his students to accomplish something more pragmatic and constructive “so they can find their place in a society that [will] inevitably [be] dominated by science and technology. … Bortnyik’s teaching was very valuable to me. Upon arriving in Paris I had a solid profession, and impeccable drawing skills. … I could make posters and illustrations … and lived decently instead of being one of the starving artists of Montparnasse.”8

Victor Vasarely, Modiano Poster, 1928, Vasarely Museum, Budapest, Szépművészeti Múzeum / Museum of Fine Arts, 2018 / © VG Bild-Kunst , Bonn 2018.

Kurt Schmidt, Bauhaus exhibition 1923, Weimar, Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin.

Another artist who studied with Bortnyik in the “Budapest Bauhaus” and later became known internationally was the photographer Ata Kandó (Görög Ata, 1913–2017), as well as her husband, the painter Gyula Kandó (1908–1968). Some of the other students who became outstanding in their fields within Hungary were the book designer Tibor Szántó (1912–2001) and the film animator Gyula Macskássy (1912–1971). In fact, Bortnyik, together with his wife B. Klára Zoltán (1902–1971), made animated films after World War II. This interest was already present during Műhely’s existence: as Halas remembered, “His interest expanded over animated films, and, especially in this medium, I was lucky to be able to assist him.”9 Encouraged by such activities in the Műhely, Halas, along with Macskássy and graphic artist Félix Kassowitz (1907–1983) founded the first Hungarian animation studio, Coloriton in 1932, which remained in business until the former’s emigration to England in 1936.

Walter Gropius made a visit to Budapest in 1934,10 organized, to a great extent, by Farkas Molnár. Correspondence before and after Gropius’s visit does not relate to Bortnyik’s school, but the visit stirred up heated debates among design professionals and in the Hungarian press concerning modern architecture, the International Style, and the Bauhaus’s influence. Gropius gave a talk in Budapest on February 5, 1934 in the headquarters of the Association of Hungarian Engineers and Architects,11 later published in Hungary’s leading forum on modern architecture, Tér és Forma (Space and form).12 Following his lecture, a passionate debate for and against modern architecture and modernity in general broke out among the attendees. By this date, the Bauhaus had been closed, Hitler come to power, and Hungary had developed a close political and cultural relations with Mussolini’s Italy. Taking the side of modern architecture and the modern style was, for these reasons, brave, but the issue also reflects a certain ambiguity in authoritarian regimes’ respective attitudes towards an aesthetic modernism that had proved enormously useful economically. The fact that in Hungary both modern architecture and graphic design were connected to a thriving business environment mitigated, to some extent, the original social implications of modernism as a style, and being that there existed a particular style of modernist architecture in fascist Italy as well, the concept of “modernism” tended to appear as a blanket term for all its iterations.13

Attributed to László Moholy-Nagy, 1923, Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin.

Bortnyik, a lifelong communist, was in opposition during the interwar era, and remained loyal to his views during the Hungarian communist regime, when he became a state-supported artist, serving from 1949 to 1956 as rector of the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts.

The Bauhaus, its history, and its broader resonance across Europe was not publicly discussed in Hungary until the late 1960s. At this time, Bortnyik was contacted both by Hungarian scholars and international Bauhaus researchers about his experience as someone who, having once been a guest in Weimar, possessed first-hand knowledge of the period. He was also asked about Műhely, but more as an afterthought than out of genuine interest. As a rule, he was careful in choosing his words while talking about the Bauhaus, which remained a nearly taboo topic in socialist Hungary, being still considered a sort of bourgeois design experiment. In an attempt to appear unbiased rather than in any way a proponent, Bortnyik chose the Marxist argument of placing the Bauhaus within a social and historical perspective, telling Eckhard Neumann, among others, that at the time of the Bauhaus’s opening, “the whole of Europe was in turmoil, and in the Bauhaus one could discern the still not yet solid outlines of the beginnings of a new order in the arts. But a healthy social basis would have been necessary for realizing the Bauhaus idea.”14 He had experienced himself how due to the lack of such a social basis in Hungary, his Műhely had been both underfunded and short-lived. But despite all the limitations he had faced, Bortnyik had managed to create a lively and important professional center of modern graphic design, launching the careers of a number of significant talents, and contributing to significantly raising the standards of progressive graphic design in Hungary.

  • 1 Pál Rihmer: “A magyar népi építészeti mozgalom” (The Hungarian movement of popular architecture) Az Ország útja, pp. 149–155, March 1938, quoted by Mezei, “Gropius’s 1934 visit to Budapest…,” pp.141, Note 27. Author’s translation.
  • 2 Sándor Bortnyik “Az ‘iparművészeti’ oktatás új útjai” (New ways of education in the ‘applied’ arts), Magyar Grafika, pp. 255–258,1928, No. 9–10.
  • 3 See Katalin Bakos: Bortnyik Sándor tervezőgrafikai tevékenysége és pedagógiai munkássága 1914–1938 (Sándor Bortnyik’s graphic design and pedagogic activities 1914–1938), Ph.D. Dissertation, Budapest 1999, p. 101.
  • 4 Ibid., p. 94.
  • 5 John Halas: “No Frontiers,” pp.108–109 in: Studio International, Sept. 1968.
  • 6 Ibid., p. 108.
  • 7 Victor Vasarely to painter Jean Dewasne, quoted in Gaston Diehl: Vasarely, Corvina, Budapest 1973, pp. 12. Author’s translation.
  • 8 Jean-Louis Ferrier: Entretiens avec Victor Vasarely, Editions Pierre Belfond, Paris 1969, pp. 24–25. Author’s translation.
  • 9 Halas, “No Frontiers,” pp. 108. For more details, please see Orosz, Márton: Vissza a szülőföldre! / Back to the Homeland!. 10th Kecskeméti Animáció Film Fesztivál (KAFF) 2011, n.p.: “According to Halász/Halas, Bortnyik asked for his assistance in making animations after regular school hours; in return, he was excused the school tuition of 20 pengős.”
  • 10 For more details, please see Ottó Mezei: “Gropius 1934 es budapesti látogatása és levelezése Molnár Farkassal” (Gropius’s 1934 visit to Budapest and his correspondence with Farkas Molnár), Ars Hungarica, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 133–144.
  • 11 Ibid. p.134.
  • 12 Walter Gropius: Tér és Forma, Hungary 1934, pp. 69–82.
  • 13 This bleeding of modernism across ideological orientations is the subject matter of Farkas Molnár’s article “Fogalomzavar az építészet és politika körül” (Confusion of concepts regarding architecture and politics), Nyugat, 1934, No. 20,, accessed June 25, 2018. Molnár is especially keen to reject the notion that modern architecture has politically left-wing connotations—which, no doubt, it did have—pointing out, among other things, that while Mussolini proffered assistance and commissions to modernist architects, the Soviets rejected them en masse.
  • 14 Neumann: Bauhaus und Bauhäusler, p. 148.
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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

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

●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

●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

●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

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

“All artists interlock!” — How Bauhäuslers created the “New Germany” and promoted the national economy

The Third Reich was in ruins, the surrender not yet signed. An architect painstakingly working his way through the debris to the Schöneberg town hall found a sign on the door of the building authority with his name. Appointed to office by the German Communist Party (KPD), city counselor Hans Scharoun immediately looked around for his people: “I’ve looked everywhere for you, where are you? Here we go!” → more

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

●Artist Work
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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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