Bauhaus and the Origin of Design Education in India

Research project major, undertaken at RCA, London, Private Archive of S. Balaram.

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.

The NID was not merely an institute. It was formed with the idea that a design school and research institute were equally necessary to offer assistance to industrial production and facilitate development plans in India’s new democracy, where the Bauhaus concept of design as an instrument of socialism was considered appropriate.

Institutional service - LPG stove design for Indian oil corporation, Private Archive of S. Balaram.

The Beginnings

Just as the Bauhaus was situated first in Weimar, then in Dessau and finally in Berlin, the NID was located first in the capital Delhi before being moved to Ahmedabad to be away from political interference. Notably, the institute was under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce rather than under the Ministry of Education, because design was seen as an essential service to the industrial development of India.

NID commenced afresh on a clean slate by examining the very basics not only of design education but the concept of education itself, with such questions as:

  • Can a person be educated?
  • Can design be taught?
  • How is design relevant to the India of today and the India of tomorrow?
  • How is design different from craft?

These were the building blocks on which NID’s philosophy, ethos, teaching methodology and curriculum were developed. The NID building itself was conceived as an innovative modular brick dome building.

Institutional service - Oxygenator design for Sri Chitra Tirunal Institute of Medical Sciences and Technology, Private Archive of S. Balaram.

In its formation the institute laid down two fundamental rules:

  1. To be quite different from any methods followed by reputed design schools abroad, thus rejecting the transplantation of alien ideas.
  2. To be substantially out of the way of Indian universities, thus rejecting the tendency towards tunnel vision that can exist in universities.

After examining many great design pedagogies around the world, especially that of the Bauhaus, even before courses commenced three methods were evolved and implemented. These constituted a departure from learning methods existing anywhere else:

  • Workshops to be central to education where regular batch production would go on for students to understand the scope and limitations of production.
  • In-house service through the institution undertaking real-life projects where students would have the opportunity to learn as apprentices.
  • Research and documentation of Indian traditions where students assimilate national identity.

Even today no other Indian design school is able to emulate these principles.

Pedagogic Principles

The curriculum was flexible and changes were made continually as the school developed. An important addition was a science and liberal arts program, in order to integrate the humanities into the inculcation of professional design skills, thus forming a strong humanistic basis for design, meaning a system where human interests and the mind of man is paramount. Before the NID, liberal arts had no place in education related to applied sciences such as engineering In India— Rabindranath Tagore's Viswabharati (1919) being the only exception. The NID invited Christopher Cornford, a British humanist and great-grandson of Charles Darwin to help in devising the Science and Liberal Arts (SLA) module for the curriculum.

  • A “seed-farm” concept was adopted by admitting only a small, manageable student body. The teacher-student ratio did not exceed 1:15 to facilitate personal attention to individual student and to avoid impersonal mass production of graduates.
  • Indians have reinterpreted the “learning by doing” principle of the Bauhaus as “learning to know and learning to do” in order to allow learning of the design process, which invariably commences with coming to know and understand the problem a design is meant to solve.
  • While at the Bauhaus teachers were called “masters,” the NID viewed teachers as guides and facilitators, and were called “faculty” rather than lecturers or professors, as in the university system.

Student group project in Industrial Design for Agriculture, Private Archive of S. Balaram.

Research project minor, undertaken at Royal college of Art, London when NID deputed the author on Ford Foundation grant, Private Archive of S. Balaram.

  • A continuous open-book qualitative evaluation system replaced the existing system of examinations and marks. The jury method of evaluation had the added benefit of preparing student for client presentations.
  • Instead of transplanting the academic culture and curriculum of foreign universities, design educators of international repute were invited to the school and young faculty from India were sent to great design institutions abroad, to be exposed to ideas that might be made relevant to the Indian context. The presence of eminent global designers benefitted both the school and Ahmedabad’s municipal management, as well as the city as a whole, through the institute’s hosting public lectures. World-renowned designers, architects and other cultural practitioners—including Charles Eames, Adrian Frutiger, Armin Hoffman, Cartier-Bresson, John Cage, Frei Otto, Louis Kahn and many others—visited and worked at NID.
  • HfG Ulm played a major role in the early growth of NID. Its chief strength, the foundation program, was formulated by Hans Gugelot of Ulm and Kumar Vyas of NID. With his teaching experience in developing countries, Gui Bonsiepe, another Ulm teacher, had many interactions with the school as a consultant, and his influence was of special significance to Indian design education.

Academic Culture

The NID curriculum plan emphasized a foundation program of a year and a half duration, followed by four years of project-based learning which culminated in a comprehensive diploma project. As a pluralist nation, India required design training not in different specializations but, rather, of a broad, generalist, multi-disciplinary nature. Considering socio-cultural and developmental factors in India, the following unique innovations in the education system were made by the NID’s early educators:

  • To counter the prevailing “rote-routine-remember” system of Indian education, unlearning at the design institute was considered crucial.
  • As most design students come from urban backgrounds while the majority of the Indian population live in villages, an experiential course called “Rural Exposure” was introduced, which involved students living in villages.
  • India is an agricultural country. Its economy also possesses a vast small-scale craft sector. The NID therefore supported both agriculture and craft production by encouraging students to do related projects.
  • Craft is a living tradition in India practiced by millions of people. But these traditions are threatened by modern mass production. From the very beginning craft documentation and research on indigenous materials and methods was considered important, especially for creating an identity for Indian design.
  • Multi-disciplinary projects where faculty, students and technical staff can rub shoulders and take on different roles were undertaken in order for students to acquire essential team-working abilities.
  • Open elective courses conducted by external professionals who took on experimental themes were introduced for cross disciplinary learning.
  • Constant experimentation was the motto and an exposure to experimental work happening all over the world in the field of art and technology was mandatory.

Institutional service - Small tractor designed for indian conditions for Eicher, Private Archive of S. Balaram.

Pilot Batch Education Program

Early NID Student exercise in Form studies, Private Archive of S. Balaram.

The project examples below illustrate the innovative moorings of Indian design in its search for nationalism:

  • Basic education in aesthetics was based on the modernist principles of abstraction, following the Bauhaus mode. This example reveals exploration of geometric forms in three dimensions.
  • To be relevant to an agricultural country, students were given a group project of designing a seed plantation device where form and function are well integrated.
  • A strong cultural habit of Indian people is to scrape one’s tongue every day. The toothbrush-tongue cleaner was worked out as a design addressing that particularly Indian habit.
  • A personal vehicle for India’s economy and the need of the masses is the bicycle. The design presented here, the end result of a major research project, was suitable for small industry production.
  • There was a world-wide fuel crisis in the seventies and a tremendous need to save fuel. A wick stove had been designed which could save 50 per cent of fuel and yet was still affordable to the common man.
  • Modern India needs mechanization of agriculture, but most farmers possess only small-scale land holdings. A small tractor marketed at an affordable price was designed to aid these farmers. It incorporates the modern design principles of functionality, ergonomics and aesthetics.
  • Until the 1980s India was importing life-saving medical equipment such as the oxygenators used in open-heart surgery. An indigenous design was created suitable to India’s small-scale batch-production. The device was multi-functional, and could be used as a cardiotomy reservoir and paediatric oxygenator. It was a substitute for imports and made the nation self-sufficient in this regard. This product was a first of its kind in the world.
  • Among the urban middle class, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is the most common fuel as it does not produce smoke and provides clean energy. This gas stove design saved 30 per cent on fuel and was also suitable for production by small-scale industries, with the help of government aid.

Development Ahead

The problems of the developing countries/the majority world are totally different and require appropriate solutions. The Indian reality, juxtaposed to Bauhaus is its enormous population where one finds a diversity of languages, cultures, behaviors. What this diverse population has in common is that the majority live in villages which lack infrastructure.

At the NID’s inception, one major question posed was this: why would a poor country with millions of starving people need design? Four decades later the question is still valid. The rich became richer, the poor became poorer and design did not reach villages where it was needed most.

Decades ago, the author suggested India had a need for a “barefoot designer,” taking a cue from the phenomenal success of China’s barefoot doctor movement. The concept involved residents of Indian villages selecting a suitable member of the community who would be sent to a design school in the city, undergoing a short, tailor-made program relevant to the particular needs of the village in question. On return, this person would train a dozen others from adjacent villages, thus causing a multiplier effect. Design competency would be applied to their most urgent needs, which they understand best. Optimistically, this would cause a rural design revolution.

Experiments were undertaken in this direction by a few Indian designers: for instance, the Rural University project in Jawaja, where the NID adopted a village. However, such cases are rare because for designers to stay in a village without pay is a sacrifice. Online learning is not possible in villages due to lack of electricity, literacy and internet connectivity.

Equality by design is a democratic necessity whose scale is proportional to population density. India thus tops the list, having the largest number of physically, mentally and socio-economically challenged people. Universality is not uniformity and the universal design principles of America cannot be applied in India because of the differences in socio-cultural contexts. A wheelchair, for example, is of no use in India’s rural areas due to a basic cultural/physical non-compatibility. In 2011, an Indian design group developed Universal Design India Principles. Yet, in almost all of the design schools in India, universal design has not entered the curriculum.

Bauhaus principles continue to guide Indian design education in spirit, with the proviso that its application ought to be appropriate to the social, economic, cultural and political realities of the nation.

Institutional service – Wickstove design for Government of India, Private Archive of S. Balaram.

●Latest Articles
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

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

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

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

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

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

On Behalf of Progressive Design — Two Modern Campuses in Transcultural Dialogue

“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.   → more

Design for Need — Der Milchkiosk von Sudhakar Nadkarni

Während der Designstudent Sudhakar Nadkarni 1965 an der HfG Ulm an seiner Diplomarbeit zur Gestaltung eines Milchkiosks für seine Heimatstadt Bombay arbeitete, reiste der deutsche Architekt und Designer Hans Gugelot an das 1961 gegründete NID in Ahmedabad. An beiden Schulen war man überzeugt, dass nur ein rational begründetes Design, das sich mit den grundlegenden Systemen der Gesellschaft, der Infrastruktur, der Gesundheits- und Nahrungsmittelversorgung befasst, die unmittelbaren Bedürfnisse der Menschen ernst nehmen kann. Der Milchkiosk-Entwurf ist ein herausragendes Dokument einer Gestaltungshaltung, die Design als ein Mittel zur Verbesserung des Alltags begreift. → 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

Habib Rahman — A Bauhaus Legacy in India

Habib Rahman, born 1915 in Calcutta, studied architecture at MIT under Lawrence Anderson, William Wurster and Walter Gropius, who taught next door at Harvard University. Gropius got Rahman his first job after graduation in his firm where Rahman worked until he returned to India in 1946. Ram Rahman’s account of his father’s legacy and his contribution to modernist Indian architecture. → more

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

Der CIAM-Protest — Von Moskau zur Patris II (1932)

Entgegen allen internationalen Erwartungen – schließlich waren Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, Erich Mendelsohn und andere eingeladen – befand sich am 29. Februar 1932 kein moderner Architekt unter den Hauptpreisträgern der ersten Wettbewerbsrunde für den Palast der Sowjets in Moskau. → more

A Migratory Life—from Dessau to Moscow to Mexico — Hannes Meyer and Lena Bergner and the Arts

In this article Marion von Osten focusses on the curatorial research involved in two of the project’s four chapters: Moving Away and Learning From. She rethinks the importance of the migratory life of the Swiss architect Hannes Meyer and Bauhaus weaver Lena Bergner, starting with Meyer’s two-year directorship of the Bauhaus Dessau, the couple’s time working in the USSR (1931–1936), and, finally, their decade-long period as exiles in Mexico, which lasted from 1939 to 1949, the year they returned to Switzerland. → more

Die Sozialisierung des Wissens und das Streben nach Deutungsmacht — Lena Bergners Transfer der Isotype nach Mexiko

Lena Bergner wird normalerweise als am Bauhaus ausgebildete Textilgestalterin charakterisiert. In ihrem zehnjährigen Exil in Mexiko widmete sie sich allerdings der grafischen Gestaltung, fast ausschließlich für antifaschistische Projekte. Eine Ausnahme sind ihre weitestgehend unbekannten Leistungen im Bereich der visuellen Kommunikation für das mexikanische Schulbaukomitee. Hier verwendete sie Otto Neuraths „Wiener Methode der Bildstatistik“ (Isotype). Dieser Text erörtert den Transfer der Isotype von Europa nach Mexiko am Beispiel von Bergner und ihren möglichen Berührungspunkten mit Neuraths bildpädagogischen Methode und untersucht, wie sich die Isotype von propagandistischen visuellen Kommunikationsformen abgrenzt. → more

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

In this 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+ Add this text to your collection!