What did Bauhaus do for Architecture?

If I were to say the word ‘Bauhaus’ to you, what would be the first thing that popped into your mind? In all likelihood, the first thing you would think of is one of the Bauhaus inspired homes featured on Grand Designs.

That show is where most people first heard the name Bauhaus. As a result, the majority of people in the UK, believe that Bauhaus was a German architect. That is completely understandable, given the context in which most people first heard the name. Interestingly though, Bauhaus is not the name of a person, but the name of a movement – specifically an art movement.


A potted history of Bauhaus

The movement started with the founding of an art school in Germany. It opened in 1919, and closed in 1933.

The man that founded the school was an architect called Walter Gropius. Yet, despite this, for the first few years, there was no architecture department. This changed later, but it is a fact that surprises many.

Those that attended the school were drawn from all artistic and design disciplines. Bauhaus attendees were tasked with working collaboratively to come up with designs that were simple, clean, functional and easy to mass-produce.

The team worked on everything from furniture and bicycles, to buildings. For example, we have this art movement to thank for practical items like nesting tables

The students of the school wanted to produce good-looking products that worked, but were not prohibitively expensive. When possible, they used low-cost materials, and avoided excessive adornment, but still managed to produce aesthetically pleasing designs.

Over time, they developed an ethos, and set of principles that influenced everything they produced. As a result, during the time the school was open, a distinctive look and style emerged.

Unfortunately, the school was forced to close by the Nazi regime, which viewed their aim of producing ‘good objects for the people’ as a socialist ideal. However, not all was lost. The products that the school had already produced continued to be used.

These objects, and buildings, became a part of the legacy that ensured that the principles of Bauhaus design were passed on down through the generations. Design ideals that are still being used across the world to produce stunning but comfortable homes and buildings.

German flag

Why do modern architects still use Bauhaus design principles?

Of course, not every architect designs 100% using Bauhaus principles. However, most are heavily influenced by this art movement. The history of this movement and its principles are covered in most architectural courses, so most modern architects are very familiar with the style. As a result, it is part of the psyche of most modern architects.

However, that is not the only reason modern architects still incorporate these principles into their work. They mainly do so because those design principles work so well. Following them produces buildings that are pleasing to look at, well built, great to live in, affordable and sustainable.

Here are two examples of Bauhaus principles that many architects still use today:

Colour harmony

One of the leaders of the movement, Johannes Itten, was a painter and designer. He believed that it was possible to create harmony by choosing the correct colour palette. Itten was one of the first people to realise that colours played an important role in how people thought and felt. It was Itten that created the 12-hue colour wheel that many architects and designers use to help them to determine which colours work best in particular settings.


Geometric principles

Members of the original movement realised that understanding the geometry of an object or building was important. They took everyday objects and broke them down into their basic geometrical shapes. Doing so allowed them to see the bare bones of the object, and understand exactly how each component fitted together.


This gave the designers a fresh perspective, which allowed them to identify what really mattered. The Wassily Chair is an example of a practical object that was designed using these principles.

Out of this practice emerged the clean, abstract, pared down look that you see reflected in so many Bauhaus-inspired buildings. It’s a look that is particularly pleasing on the eye because the dimensions and angles used are in balance.

The longevity of Bauhaus

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Bauhaus movement is just how long it has remained at the crux of architecture. Nearly a hundred years after the founding of this art movement, the work of designers and architects is still being heavily influenced by Bauhaus.



The famous International style emerged directly from the Bauhaus movement. Many of today’s iconic buildings were inspired by this style, including the Sears/Willis Tower in Chicago and the IBM Building in New York.

Many of the architects that design private homes do so by closely following Bauhaus principles. Modern consumers appreciate the clean lines and simplicity of these buildings, and demand is growing as more people appreciate the beauty of this design style.

Securing the legacy of Bauhaus for the future

As you can see, the Bauhaus movement is an important one. This has been recognised, and there are now people across the world working to preserve the work of artists and architects from the movement.

For example, in Tel Aviv, Israel, a development of Bauhaus-inspired buildings is in the process of being restored and rebuilt. In the 1930s, around 4,000 buildings were built following Bauhaus principles. This area of Tel Aviv is known globally as White City.

Naturally, over the decades, many of these homes have fallen into disrepair, and been demolished. However, there are still around 1,500 left. Funds are gradually being raised to preserve these important buildings. A small museum has also been opened in the city, and Tel Aviv is home to the Bauhaus Centre, which houses a permanent exhibition of the art movement’s work and history.

In addition, some of the work of Gropius, who founded the Bauhaus school in 1919, is also being preserved. For example, the art school’s building and the nearby Masters’ Houses were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1996. The Fagus-Werk Factory in Alfeld, Germany, which was designed by Adolf Meyer and Gropius in 1911, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011.

There is no doubt that the Bauhaus movement has had a big influence on architecture, and is likely to continue to do so for decades to come.


Posted by Mark
August 8, 2016

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