7. Experiment

From the moment it was founded, the Bauhaus was criticized for its focus on mere experiment, for both masters and students – especially by conservatives in government and society. The whole Bauhaus was just one big experiment, they said.

While these critics wished to discredit the Bauhaus, experimentation was in fact a very deliberate and significant principle at the Bauhaus, where it went far beyond teaching and theory. Bauhaus people were very sure that the new approaches that they were keenly looking for after the world war could only be explored in a spirit of experimentation. This was not meant as scientific experiment, but as a free and playful testing of ideas, as all the students in the Foundation Course were to discover. But because experimentation frequently led to very practical problems in the teaching of specific skills in the workshops, in late 1921 Gropius planned a specific space dedicated to experimenting, »since it is practically very difficult to unite both purely experimental work and the implementation of real works in one and the same workshop.«

At the large Bauhaus Exhibition in 1923, the institution presented its experiments in a very diverse overview, including a built »experimental house« that was a technological, ecological and living experiment all at the same time, and the »Reflectory Light Games« by the students Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack and Kurt Schwerdtfeger.

When the Bauhaus moved to Dessau in 1925, the workshops were renamed »laboratory workshops,« and the use of lower case in all letters, brochures and the Bauhaus’s own magazine was introduced – a decision which was heavily criticised in bourgeois circles. This then gave Gropius good reason to again note the principally experimental character of the Bauhaus: »the bauhaus is primarily an experimental institute for the whole country, in all fields of design. it is also not only our right but certainly our duty to continue to test things that have not yet been tested.«

In Dessau Marcel Breuer experimented with furniture made of curved steel piping, while Oskar Schlemmer finally had a dedicated »experimental theater« in the Bauhaus building. Then there was photography – in no other field was there so much experimentation outside of class than with the camera and film developing techniques, particularly thanks to the use of the compact camera.

Curator: Boris Friedewald