Design & Make

Now Haus

by Matt Poitras April 25, 2010
ReadNow Haus

 

In the late 1990s, one of modernism’s great works of architecture was discovered abandoned and in wild disrepair. Known as the “E-1027 House“, Irish architect and furniture designer Eileen Gray had built the stark, rectilinear, Bauhaus-inspired home overlooking the rich Mediterranean azure in Southern France in 1926. Jutting from the craggy cliffside like an eighties drug-den from Miami Vice, the house gave many powerful impressions. Warmth was not one of them. That was until French newspapers began publishing pictures of the house after it had been vandalized and lived in by local street punks.

Flipping through the strangely beautiful photos of cerulean blue Rya rugs littered with shattered beer bottles and cubist murals punctuated with punch holes and French graffiti, one somehow got the impression that the Bauhaus experiment was a style best tempered with chaos, or at least a modicum of humanity – bringing us to the topic at hand.

Bird's eye view of E.1027, by Eileen Gray.

The time has come for us to spotlight the Staatliches Bauhaus. This will be the first of several entries to focus on the 20th century’s most concentrated effort in “functional” design. That being said, the movement was certainly not the last word on radically simplified form, which has endured into the 21st century. So what, specifically, is the contemporary legacy of the Bauhaus School of Design?

Bauhaus designer Marcel Breuer.

From its 1919 inception in Weimar Germany, lead by Walter Gropius, the Bauhaus had always been, at its core, a discussion of craftsmanship vs. mass production, a topic still very much debated today. Also known as the International style, Bauhaus’ influence reached across Europe, America, Israel, and India.

Bauhaus student Marianne Brandt, Self-Portrait, circa 1930.

Sometimes cart-wheeling into a mad “theater of human dolls”, other times careening into dystopian nightmares, notably Le Corbusier’s vision for project housing in America, “vertical living for the poor”, which deeply influenced Robert Moses, not to mention his radical Plan voisin for central Paris.

Walter Gropiusin stands in front of his design for the Chicago Tribune Building.

Despite these wild mood swings, the discussion itself endures and this is where we find the school’s true legacy. The discourse. For all its stoic and hard-edged platitudes, the Bauhaus was often an inadvertent litmus test for all the things about us that are the most human. This will be our center of focus — the slippage, the sweet spots and the subsequent perfecting of the Bauhaus style by future generations, often operating way outside the time, place and spirit of the school’s original foundation.

We invite you to join us in a routine visitation of the Bauhaus legacy in all it’s myriad forms. What aspects of the school do you think warrant a second look? What are some of the more noteworthy objects inspired by the movement that you have personally responded to? We would love to hear your feedback and suggestions for future entries. The discourse endures.

László Moholy-Nagy, 1926. (Image by Lucia Moholy-Nagy)

FURTHER READING:

Ulrike Knöfel. “The Legacy of Modernism: Celebrating 90 years of Bauhaus”, Der Spiegel International. February 27, 2009.

Tom Wolfe. From Bauhaus to Our House. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1981.

Ouno, Update: Eileen Gray’s e-1027 house as of summer 2009.

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