8. Art, Crafts, Technology

»Architects, sculptors, painters, we all must return to the crafts!« Walter Gropius demanded in the Bauhaus Manifesto of 1919. Therefore, the first goal was to have every student learn a craft in one of the workshops. Artistic creation was only possible on the basis of a handicraft, and the artist was a more intensive kind of artisan.

In early 1922, there was a debate about individual or mass production. Walter Gropius noted: »Master Itten recently demanded that we must decide whether to create individual and unique works in complete contrast to economic realities, or whether we need to get closer to industry.« In this debate, Itten himself came down in favour of the individually made unique work, quite in line with the original Bauhaus idea.

Gropius announced a decisive new direction in 1923, with the new slogan »Art and Technology – a New Unity.« This was to be highly significant for the future development of the Bauhaus, and it led to Johannes Itten leaving the Bauhaus. In the catalogue of the large Bauhaus Exhibition of 1923 in Weimar Gropius stated that the Bauhaus was not a school for handicrafts, and that its goal was contacts with industry. The workshops would now focus on standardised procedures, making prototypes and models that were suited to industrial serial production. The first results of this new approach were functional products consisting of just a few parts and often very basic shapes, such as the combination teapot by Theodor Bogler, the »Slatted Chair« by Marcel Breuer, the legendary »Bauhaus Lamp« by Carl Jakob Jucker and Wilhelm Wagenfeld and the Bauhaus chess set by Josef Hartwig. In 1925, Bauhaus Book No. 7 was published, entitled »New Works from the Bauhaus Workshops.« It amounted to a catalogue for orders for Bauhaus products, as Gropius said: »The Bauhaus workshops are primarily laboratories in which models are developed and continually improved for typical products of our time to be produced in series.« The same year the Bauhaus Dessau published the »Catalogue of Patterns,« in which Bauhaus products were advertised and could be ordered. Gropius had suggested that the main principle in the design of these products was »research into their essence.« He said:

»A thing is determined by its essence. To be able to design it to work properly – be it a container, a chair, or a house – it is necessary to first research its essence; it should serve its purpose perfectly, being practical and functional, long-lasting, inexpensive and ‘beautiful.’«

Walter Gropius

The Bauhaus was able to derive income from the sale of goods and to thereby gain some independence from the need for public subsidies. Students also benefited, as they participated in the profits from their designs and the sale of licences, thereby covering part of their living costs. When the Bauhaus moved to the new building in Dessau in 1926, the workshops were equipped with new machines that made it possible to produce prototypes for industry as well as Bauhaus own products in larger numbers. This transformed the workshops into real production facilities, where teaching nonetheless continued.

It was under the charge of Hannes Meyer, who advocated “the needs of the people before the needs of luxury,” that the most successful standard Bauhaus product was made. These were the Bauhaus wallpapers, whose designs were chosen in a student competition.

Curator: Boris Friedewald