Art History Lab

The Bauhaus Movement: Rediscovering Design Principles for Modern Art and Architecture

The Influential Bauhaus Art Movement: Understanding Design Principles and Unifying Solo Artists for Wide-Scale Production

The Bauhaus art movement is one of the most influential art movements of the 20th century that still has a major impact on design today. The movement emerged in Germany in the early 20th century and focused on the unification of mass production with individual artistic styles.

As you dive deeper into understanding this movement, it’s important to grasp the design principles that made it so influential. We will delve into the principles that shaped the movement and explore the key architects and designers who left their mark on the world with their visionary designs.

Bauhaus Architecture and Design Principles

At the heart of the Bauhaus movement is the idea that art should serve a practical purpose. This idea was revolutionary, considering the art movements that came before it favored aesthetics over function.

This principle’s application was especially significant in architecture, where homes and buildings could incorporate both beauty and practicality. Bauhaus architecture sought to eliminate unnecessary ornamentation and focus on minimalist design that revolved around functionality, form, and space.

Walter Gropius, who founded the Bauhaus school, believed in the “unity of art and technology.” This belief meant that designers should use new materials and technologies to create functional, scalable, and aesthetically pleasing designs. The redesign of the Fagus Factory located in Alfeld an der Leine, Germany, completed in 1911, is a quintessential example of the Bauhaus principles in action.

The industrial and modern design of the factory features glass windows, metal framing, and a simple cube shape that maximizes light and space. The Bauhaus Art Movement’s Influence

The Bauhaus school closed its doors in 1933, due to the rise of Nazi Germany.

However, the impact of the school spread far beyond its walls and continues to influence the art and design world to this day. Artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Lyonel Feininger were key figures in the movement, producing work characterized by bold colors, geometric shapes, and clean lines.

Their designs were so innovative that they inspired other art movements throughout history, particularly the Minimalist and Modernist art movements of the mid-20th century. Furthermore, the formation of the Movement of International Style Architecture inspired by the Bauhaus movement, which manifested itself in the US and Canada in the 1930s, led to the creation of some of the world’s most iconic modernist buildings, including the Seagram building in New York City and Lever House in Chicago.

Understanding Bauhaus Facts

The Bauhaus school began in 1919 in Weimar, Germany, under the direction of Walter Gropius. The school moved to Dessau in 1925, where its most famous building, the Bauhaus Building, was constructed, and finally to Berlin before closing its doors.

One of the movement’s primary aims was to unify the arts and crafts, breaking down the boundaries between art and technology and between the fine arts (such as painting) and the applied arts (such as furniture making). The school’s curriculum sought to combine art and science by teaching students color theory, design, and basic principles of engineering, and fabrication, paving the way for modern industrial design education.

The Beginnings of The Bauhaus School

Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus school in Weimar, Germany, to unify art and technology. Gropius would go on to become a prominent architect, designing buildings such as the Fagus Factory and the Bauhaus Building.

His vision for the Bauhaus school was to bring together artists, designers, and craftsmen and to explore the role of art in contemporary society. The Bauhaus school’s establishment reflected the broader social and cultural climate of the time, which sought to reinvent traditional arts and crafts for the modern, industrial age.


The Bauhaus art movement’s enduring impact is undeniable, and its design principles continue to influence artists and designers alike. The movement showed that art and technology could work hand-in-hand and that harmony between form and function could result in beautiful, practical design.

By delving into the design principles and history of the Bauhaus movement, we can all gain a deeper appreciation for the art, architecture, and design we encounter every day. The Bauhaus art movement is credited with changing the way we think about architecture, design, and art.

The principles of the movement were influenced by earlier art movements, and its enduring impact can be seen in buildings and products created today.

Influences on Bauhaus Art Movement

The Bauhaus art movement drew inspiration from several 19th and early 20th-century art movements, including the Arts and Crafts movement and Art Nouveau. The Arts and Crafts movement, which originated in England in the 1860s, put an emphasis on traditional craftsmanship and handiwork, with a view to creating practical and beautiful items.

This influence can be seen in the Bauhaus movements focus on unifying art and craft. Art Nouveau, which developed at around the turn of the 20th century, emphasized natural forms and the flowing forms of plants and flowers.

This influence can be seen in the sweeping curves and natural lines of Bauhaus furniture and design.

Unification of Fine Art and Hands-On Art

The Bauhaus art movement was founded with a clear goal in mind: to unify fine art and hands-on art. This unification resulted in the marriage of creativity and mass production.

The movement aimed to create designs that were both beautiful and functional. The Bauhaus artists believed that art should be for everyone, not just the wealthy.

They sought to create accessible and affordable designs without sacrificing quality. This philosophy evolved into the idea of “form follows function,” where the design should be guided by its purpose.

The Bauhaus artists believed that the beauty of an object was not just in its appearance but also in the materials used and the manufacturing process. They perceived the process of making an object as art, which led to the movement’s emphasis on the examination of materials, fabrication methods, and production processes.

Characteristics of Bauhaus Architecture

Bauhaus architecture had unique characteristics that set it apart from previous architectural styles. The architects of the movement emphasized the importance of function and form, with little to no decoration.

Functional shapes were used to optimize space and promote practicality. Materials such as glass, concrete, and steel were favored for their durability and versatility.

The use of these materials removed the need for elaborate decoration, creating a clean, minimalist appearance. The Bauhaus school’s buildings, such as the Dessau campus and the Bauhaus building in Berlin, reflect these principles, with simple, geometric forms and unadorned concrete and glass surfaces that exude an industrial aesthetic.

Characteristics of Bauhaus Design

Bauhaus design characteristics can be boiled down to five basic color arrangements: industrial, primary, geometric, minimal, and transparent. Industrial colors refer to plain, muted colors such as gray, black, and white, designed to evoke the modern aesthetic of industrial machinery.

Primary colors, which include red, yellow, and blue, were favored for their purity and simplicity. Geometric patterns and shapes were used to create clean and bold designs.

Minimalism was a core principle in Bauhaus design, where the emphasis was on using as few elements as possible to create a cohesive and aesthetically pleasing design. Glass was also a favored material due to its transparency and versatility.

The use of glass allowed for natural light to be let into buildings, creating a sense of spaciousness and simplicity. Informal balance, where the objects in a design appear to be in a state of motion, is another characteristic of Bauhaus design.

This creates an impression of organic unity, which is another important principle in Bauhaus design. Lastly, uniqueness in repetition was favored in the Bauhaus movement.

Designs were often produced in multiples, but each object was slightly different, showcasing the human hand’s influence in the production process.


The Bauhaus art movement’s influence on modern art, architecture, and design cannot be understated. The unification of art and technology, where the beauty of an object is in its practicality, has inspired countless designers, artists, and architects.

The principles of the movement, influenced by earlier art movements, have left us with a legacy of minimalist, functional design, and architecture that continues to be relevant today. From buildings to furniture to graphic design, the Bauhaus art movement’s impact is felt across a wide range of disciplines.

The Bauhaus art movement produced some of the most influential architects of the 20th century. The movement’s principles had a profound impact on modern architecture, design, and education, leaving an extraordinary legacy that still inspires architects and designers today.

Influence of Bauhaus Architecture

The influence of the Bauhaus art movement on modern architecture cannot be overstated. The movement’s philosophy of form following function, emphasis on minimalism, and unification of art and craft have greatly impacted modern design.

Bauhaus architecture popularized the use of industrial materials like steel, concrete, and glass, leading to new architectural forms. This use of materials influenced the modernist movement and led to the simplification of shapes, elimination of excessive ornamentation, and the emphasis on clean lines that characterize modern architecture.

Bauhaus principles also had a significant impact on Scandinavian design. Architects like Alvar Aalto and Arne Jacobsen incorporated the Bauhaus principles of minimalism, functionality, and industrial materials in their work, creating a distinctive Scandinavian style.

Influence on Syllabus Design in Schools of Architecture and Design

The Bauhaus movement’s educational model had a significant influence on the design of modern architecture and design schools worldwide. The Bauhaus curriculum emphasized hands-on education, practical experience, and technical innovation.

The primary design principles of the movement were introduced in the basic courses, including color theory, form, and design. The curriculum also included advanced technical courses in materials, fabrication methods, and mass production techniques.

These principles, combined with the flexibility of the curriculum and collaborative project work, have transformed architectural and design education, emphasizing a holistic approach where art and technology work hand-in-hand. Walter Gropius, Bauhaus Founder

Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus school in 1919 and designed many buildings throughout his career.

The most famous of these buildings is the Fagus Factory, built in 1911, which served as a prototype for Bauhaus architecture. Gropius utilized simple geometrical shapes, unadorned surfaces, and large windows that allowed ample natural light to enter the building.

Some of his other famous works include the Sommerfeld House, designed in 1921, characterized by its clean lines, asymmetrical shapes, and emphasis on natural light.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe became the last director of Bauhaus in 1930, a testament to his influence in the movement. After migrating to the US, he continued practicing and propagated the tenets of Bauhaus and modern architecture.

Mies was known for his remarkable use of steel and glass, utilizing these materials to create light and sleek buildings. The Edith Farnsworth House and S.R. Crown Hall are considered his most famous buildings, with both featuring his signature style of simplicity and clarity in detail.

Hannes Meyer

Hannes Meyer was the second director of the Bauhaus school, who tried to make the architecture curriculum more relevant, informative, and sensitive to the social needs of society.

Meyer designed Laubenganghuser (Houses with Balcony Access) in 1928, a housing project that featured communal spaces like kitchens amongst other community facilities, to address the social needs of underprivileged communities.

A culmination of this philosophy is the Bundesschule des Allgemeinen Deutschen Gewerkhaftsbundes (ADGB Trade Union School), designed in 1929 that focused on training workers in skills and literacy.

Marcel Breuer

Marcel Breuer was one of the most prominent and influential Bauhaus architects, best known for inventing the tubular metal chair. His architectural work exemplifies the Bauhaus style, with an emphasis on functionality and simplicity.

Breuer designed the Hagerty House in Massachusetts, which features a prefabricated design and simple geometries. The Alan I.W. Frank House is another famous Breuer design, characterized by its use of industrial materials, particularly concrete, glass, and steel.


The legacy of the Bauhaus art movement is one of the most enduring in 20th-century architecture and design. The movement’s principles have inspired countless architects and designers, propagated a philosophy of a unified art and craft, and influenced the curriculum of modern architecture and design schools.

The work of Bauhaus architects Walter Gropius,

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe,

Hannes Meyer, and

Marcel Breuer exemplifies the movement’s philosophy of minimalism, functionality, and simplicity and exhibits the variety and scope of Bauhaus architecture and architecture in general. The Bauhaus art movement transformed the world of architecture and design, leaving an indelible mark on the modern aesthetic.

The movement’s principles, influenced by earlier art movements such as the Arts and Crafts movement and Art Nouveau, focused on unifying art and technology, promoting minimalism, and emphasizing functionality. Bauhaus architecture popularized industrial materials and inspired Scandinavian design.

The Bauhaus educational model revolutionized architectural and design education, emphasizing practical experience and technical innovation. Architects such as Walter Gropius,

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe,

Hannes Meyer, and

Marcel Breuer exemplified the movement’s principles through their groundbreaking designs.

The impact of the Bauhaus art movement can still be felt today, reminding us of the importance of blending art and craft, simplicity, and form following function in creating innovative and timeless designs.

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