Idea and locations

The underlying idea of the Bauhaus, which was formulated by Walter Gropius, was to create a new unity of crafts, art and technology. The intention was to offer the right environment for the realisation of the Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art). To this end, promising artists were to be taught in a school with an interdisciplinary and international orientation. The Bauhaus curriculum therefore offered a unique combination of research, teaching and practice that was unequalled by rival academies and schools of applied art.

The originator of this concept was Walter Gropius, the founder and first director of the Bauhaus. In his founding manifesto of 1919, he responded to the contemporary art scene – whose products he considered to be uninspired “salon” art based on the division of labour – with the conscious “collaboration and interaction of all craftsmen”. The Gropius manifesto is distinguished by an educational rather than a constructional or technical vision and focuses on the young, still malleable artist. “When the young person senses the love for creative activity within himself just as he starts on the path to learning a craft, then the unproductive ’artist‘ will no longer be damned to the imperfect practice of art ...”

The goal of combining art and craftsmanship, which Gropius modelled on the collaboration of the guilds at the masons’ guilds of the medieval cathedrals, was the creation of the Gesamtkunstwerk. Realising works of art created through the collaboration of the fine arts and the dramatic arts, as well as music, was to produce a work that is not limited to its purely aesthetic meaning, but supports and even influences the transformation of social reality and thus shapes a new society. Just as the masons’ guilds made the construction of cathedrals possible in the first place, the Bauhaus was to see itself as an experimental laboratory for the building of the future. The fact that Gropius would invoke a new unity of art and technology four years later was not to change this basic idea.

As different as the art genres, styles and formative personalities were, the historic Bauhaus remained a synergetic project up to its dissolution by the National Socialists. In this sense, the often erroneously cited “Bauhaus style” never existed. The historic Bauhaus from 1919 to 1933 was bound by its programmatic content, where diverse styles ranging from Expressionism to New Objectivity were combined to maximum intensity.