Breaking Bauhaus – Renewing its Principles 100 Years Later
100 years ago, Bauhaus revolutionised our cities and ways of living. Born in the classrooms of an art and design school in Dessau, Germany, the movement strove to combine aesthetics with everyday function. Its architectural and technological innovation, alongside its frugal use of resources and emphasis on community, are foundational principles that still hold much relevance today.
However, our needs as a species and society have inevitably shifted since its time. As we look back at Bauhaus a century later, how can we critically explore which layers of the movement can be further investigated and adapted to the needs of today, and which ones can be replaced by new waves of thinking and collective action?
Due to travel restrictions in the wake of COVID-19, we are starkly reminded of the essential role of community in health and wellbeing. Outside the virtual sphere, art and culture have become more localised. Artists are now relying on local materials and resources, without outsourcing or physical international collaboration. This crisis has introduced uncertainty and existential confusion, but it has also invited new ways of living together and reimagining community support. How can this locality, with a cultural and environmental sensitivity and awareness, become a foundational principle in the efforts to create a Wellbeing City?
Anthropologists, sociologists and doctors know about the importance of diversity for the physical and mental health of communities. And yet, Bauhaus’s design principles prioritised aesthetic sensibilities from the West, while often side-lining or appropriating ideas and design methodologies from Non-Western cultures. In the midst of these precarious times, an important question to ask is: what are the benefits and shortcomings of global socio-political and economical shifts in breaking, redefining, and rebuilding?
Marc Spiegler, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Nicholas Grafia, Roya Sachs, Mikolaj Sekutowicz
Bauhaus Founder Walter Gropius once said, “There is no essential difference between the artist and the craftsman.” The sentiment still rings true today: There is an abundance of wisdom in the work of local artisans and craftspeople, which in the past may have been side-lined as “non-art.” As we begin to reimagine our urban environments, it is crucial that we do not repeat the mistakes of history, and that we build spaces with the epistemologies, cultural specificities, and needs of each region in mind. This is where locality could provide creative and accessible solutions to our issues around inclusivity in design.
Criticality can lead to innovation; and yet, it is also important to acknowledge one crucial thing that we can learn from Bauhaus: how to transform acute needs and requirements quickly and consistently into material forms. Inspired by the concept of gesamtkunstwerk (a work of art that makes use of all or many art forms), as we learn through and away from the Bauhaus aesthetic, we strive to create a new movement that sees the seemingly isolated elements of art, culture, and sustainability as a holistic, composite structure that is constantly shifting and changing to meet the immediate and distant needs of each community.
This talk highlighted the nuances of locality and cross pollinated diverse perspectives from the invited panellists, including artists, architects, activists, scientists, and designers. Starting at St. Agnes’ Church, which has been converted into König Galerie, and other current examples from the city, Berlin-based practices of transforming the rudiments of its local history provided food for thought for the discussion.
1. Why and how are the principles of Bauhaus relevant in understanding our new current reality? 2. How have Bauhaus ideas of innovation and technology helped us shape our community 3. Oskar Schlemmer yearned for a “new man,” a synthesis between Dionysian and Apollonian, between animalism and restriction, between order and chaos, man and machine. How are we striving for the same today? 4. What is the purpose of a city today? 5. Can we imagine an architecture that does not plan monuments, but designs natural free spaces? 6. Can we imagine an architecture that does not define, but creates pervasive, fluid spaces? 7. Bauhaus brought humanism to the city and created spaces for a democratic public sphere. How can we extend this humanism to include plants, stones and animals in our public action in a democratic way, resulting in real public spaces for all? 8. Eco-architecture is typically a fetish of the wealthy. How do we put it on the agenda so that it becomes a humanistic project for all? 9. How should we change our building law, from a passive prohibition rule book, which prescribes not to endanger health, to an active one, which demands the promotion of health and wellbeing?
Mikolaj Sekutowicz, CEO and Curator, Therme Art (Co-moderator) Virgil Abloh, Chief Creative Director and founder of Off-White™️ and Men’s Artistic Director at Louis Vuitton Roya Sachs, Curator and Co-Founder of TRIADIC Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, Serpentine Galleries (Co-moderator) Nicholas Grafia, Artist Sumayya Vally, Architect, Counterspace Kunlé Adeyemi, Architect and Urbanist Marc Spiegler, Global Director, Art Basel (Co-moderator)
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