Germany has a long and illustrious history of craftsmanship and design. It is known for its reliable, minimal, sturdy and functional design, be it for cars, buildings, interiors or household appliances. It’s all about reducing the bling. Back in 1907, the state-sponsored Deutscher Werkbund was formed. It was the first German design association to bring artists, architects, designers and manufacturers together. The idea was to integrate traditional crafts and industrial mass-production techniques. And then came the Bauhaus in 1919, which revolutionised the face of design forever!
Modern design owes a lot to the Bauhaus. The masters and students of this German school of design married the aesthetic element with practical functionality. For them, design was meant to solve a problem and the resulting products were to be produced en masse. Thanks to the Bauhaus, we have modern items like tubular chairs, modular kitchens, stackable teapots, practical lamps, sleek desks and so much more in our homes and offices. What’s Up, Germany? presents a pictorial portrayal of Bauhaus classics. Enjoy these iconic creations that have shaped today’s design world!
1. Michael Thonet’s Vienna Coffee House Chair (1859)
With this piece of bentwood furniture, also known as chair No14, Thonet’s name was immortalised in modern design history. Made with six pieces of wood, ten screws and two nuts, this functional and durable example of German industrial design became the first piece of furniture to be produced over a million times. By 1930, some 50 million No14s had been sold! This chair is still being made today!
2. Peter Behrens’ AEG Logo (1907)
When the electricity company AEG employed Peter Behrens as its artistic advisor in 1907, it definitely got the right man for the job! Considered to be the first industrial designer, Behrens developed AEG’s complete corporate identity, including its logo, publicity materials and electrical appliances—and its factory building. Now that’s “Perfekt in Form und Funktion”!
3. Walter Gropius’ Bauhaus Door Handle (1923)
This door handle designed by Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus school, is a classic. Its geometric shape and industrial elements like exposed screws are true to the Bauhaus principles. Certain aspects of this door handle can be found in Apple’s iPhone 4S! Actually, quite a few Apple products have been based on the clean and functional approach of the Bauhaus, from the early Mac OS logo to the more recent iPads. As Steve Jobs said, “… the product design, the advertising, it all comes down to this: Let’s make it simple.”
4. Wilhelm Wagenfeld’s Bauhaus Lamp (1924)
The W24 table lamp, popularly known as the Bauhaus lamp, was designed by Wagenfeld as an assignment given by the Bauhaus teacher László Moholy-Nagy. Made of an opaline glass globe and a nickel-plated steel pipe, this lamp is a design icon. It is still in production today, which goes to show how eternal great design is!
Marianne Brandt, the only woman in the Bauhaus metal workshop, came up with this ornament-free modern teapot. Also known as Model MT49, it demonstrates how basic forms can be used to produce simple and stylish everyday items. It has a built-in strainer, non-drip spout and heat-resistant handle made of ebony. The D-shaped handle provides a strong vertical contrast.
6. Marcel Breuer’s Wassily Chair (1925)
Also known as Model B3, this sleek chair by Marcel Breuer, with its hollow steel tubing, was inspired by bicycle handlebars! Within a year, other designers began experimenting with tubular steel, steering furniture design in a completely new direction. The use of innovative materials was typical of the Bauhaus. You’ll find this classic chair in homes even today!
7. Josef Albers’ Nesting Tables (1926/27)
Known for his passion for colour and geometric paintings, Josef Albers was the artistic director of the Bauhaus furniture workshop. He designed this set of four accent tables using solid oak, lacquered acrylic glass and typical Bauhaus colours. Elegant and simple, these nesting tables can be used individually and they save on space, since they can be stacked on top of each other. What a modern concept way ahead of its time!
8. Mart Stam’s Cantilever Chair (1927)
When the S33 chair made of lead pipes was first shown at an exhibition in Stuttgart, it created quite a stir. It didn’t have any rear legs! Minimal and cubic in form, it was the first cantilevered chair in the history of furniture. Now that’s economy of design true Bauhaus style: Why give it four legs, when it can stand on two?!
9. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe & Lilly Reich’s Barcelona Chair (1929)
Designed by the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and his partner, interior designer Lilly Reich, the Barcelona chair was created for the German pavilion at the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition. Made of padded leather and curved steel, this chair is one of the most celebrated pieces of modern furniture. Mies’ maxim “less is more ” finds beautiful expression in the simple elegance of this chair.
10. Dieter Rams’ Transistor Radio (1958)
Industrial designer Rams was strongly influenced by the Bauhaus movement, which brought art and industry together. He believed good design should be “Weniger, aber besser” (“Less, but better”). As the head of design at the consumer products company Braun, he created everyday items that were both user-friendly and aesthetic. His T3 transistor radio, with its minimalist design, is said to be the inspiration behind Apple’s iPod!
Images from Wikimedia Commons (in chronological order): Holger.Ellgaard; Prophet; Joanbanjo; Sailko; Sailko; Borowski; Dibe; CC BY-SA 3.0; Braun/Apple (Forbes.com)
Image 7. http://www.moma.org