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IKEA or Bauhaus – what came first?

You like IKEA designs? But where have all those brilliantly practical ideas come from?

Possibly from ‘Bauhaus‘ (work house), the ingenious German School of Architecture, Art and Design, established 1919 in Weimar.

Proficiency of Craft is essential to every artist” (taken from the Bauhaus manifesto 1919)

Fortschritt durch Technik – Advancement through technology”
(advertising slogan from Audi 2012, representing German quality, efficiency, advancement and Technology – this is Bauhaus thinking)

Peter Keler's cradle

Peter Keler’s cradle

Bauhaus combined medieval guild skills, as seen in Gothic Cathedrals, with modern designs. Today we are widely surrounded by Bauhaus designs, like furniture, architecture, typography, which have taken their shape from the inspired ideas championed by design icons like Walter Gropius, Wassiliy Kandinsky, Peter Keler (cradle), Paul Klee, Lyonel Feininger.

Bauhaus was a movement combining sleek design and functionality, bringing beautiful items into the sphere of the possibility of ownership by the ordinary person: fantastically comfortable chairs made of bent steel and leather, household items, fonts and prints.

Marianne Brandt, teapot

Marianne Brandt, teapot

Walter Gropius, architect, founded the school in Weimar, one year after the end of the First World War, integrating creativity into modern industrial and architectural designs.

The school furthered the understanding of the physical nature of materials and functional elegance and accomplished craftsmanship. Many objects were made of natural materials and feature geometric shapes and primary colours, always striving to balance perfect design and functionality.

The origin of crafts in Germany goes back to the ancient guild system, masterful craftsmen belonging to elitist societies, where guild masters trained apprentices to highest standards. To become a ‘Meister’ three pieces of the finest had to be submitted. Clockmakers like Peter Henlein, the inventor of the Taschenuhr (pocket watch) from Nürnberg, silver and goldsmiths (W. Jamnitzer German Silver Pitcher) from Nürnberg, makers of instruments (the astronomical Compendium by Anton Linden), woodworkers (‘der Englische Gruß’ by Veit Stoß), printers and engravers like Albrecht Dürer (the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse) from Nürnberg, are in the same mold.

The German car industry is another example of the appliance of the Bauhaus principles: Audi and Volkswagen, cars produced by the masters of metal and reliably high technology, are all part of VW_620387the economic miracle “das Wirtschaftswunder” and Bauhaus ideology.

IKEA, the furniture giant, famous for innovation, affordability and modern design, is nowadays the most popular beneficiary from the ‘spirit of Bauhaus’ since they have, like no-one else, made it possible for everyone to own smart, affordable and well-designed household items.

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