The Bauhaus Is One of the Most Influential Design Movements in History

Founded in Germany by Walter Gropius in 1919, the Bauhaus continues to influence architecture, product design, watchmaking and more.


No art movement in history has impacted the world of products quite like the Bauhaus. Founded in 1919 by the architect Walter Gropius in Weimar, Germany, the school’s original manifesto proposed a union of art, architecture and design via a curriculum that would “create a new guild of craftsmen, without the class distinctions that raise an arrogant barrier between craftsman and artist.”

Gropius and his fellow Bauhaus instructors — Paul Klee, Wasily Kandinsky, Oskar Schlemmer, Herbert Bayer and Marcel Breuer — preached a multidisciplinary approach to design that was built upon the tenets of modernism. Its central axiom has become prevalent across myriad disciplines: form follows function.

Thus, the products that emerged from Bauhaus were stripped of nearly all ornamentation and made from common materials that lent themselves to mass production — buildings, chairs, wristwatches and everything in between. Today, the influence of the Bauhaus is evident everywhere you look, from Apple’s iPod to the Porsche 911. Distinctly modern, relentlessly practical and admittedly polarizing, it was a movement that continues to inform multiple creative disciplines, and 100 years after the school’s founding, its popularity shows no signs of waning.

A Brief Illustrated History of Bauhaus Products

1924 — MT8 Table Lamp

by Wilhelm Wagenfeld and Carl Jakob Jucker

An early Bauhaus design, the MT8 lamp was crafted after the central tenets of the school, using simple shapes and, with the inner components mostly exposed, eschewing ornamentation. Though unpopular on its release, the MT8 lamp is still in production today and has since become one of the most recognizable designs to emerge from the school.

1925 — Fagus Shoe Last Factory

by Walter Gropius

Carl Benscheidt, the original owner of the Fagus Factory, was dissatisfied with the building’s exterior and hired Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius to redesign it in 1925. The result, which included liberal use of glass and rapid fluctuations in height and contrast, were revolutionary for the time. In 2011, UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site.

1925-1926 — Model B3 (“Wassily”) Chair

by Marcel Breuer

The so-called “Wassily” chair was created by famed master carpenter Marcel Breuer while he was an instructor at the Bauhaus. Inspired by bicycle design, Breuer used tubular steel to construct the chair’s frame, which was then covered in fabric or leather. The chair, another Bauhaus icon, has been mass-produced since the 1950s.

1926-1927 — Nesting Tables

by Josef Albers

Originally designed for a private apartment and crafted of solid oak and lacquered acrylic glass, Josef Albers’s nesting tables, meant to function “independently and interdependently,” brought the artist’s passion for color to an otherwise simple, utilitarian form. They were considered groundbreaking for their integration of color into furniture design and remain in production today.

1934 — Poli House

by Schlomo Liaskowski

After the Nazis came to power in 1933, Bauhaus-trained architects left Germany and settled throughout the world, including in Tel Aviv (in what was then still Palestine) where roughly 4,000 Bauhaus buildings would eventually be built. The Poli House, constructed at a major intersection, is characterized by its unusual shape and its horizontal ribbon windows. Having housed a printing press and a shoe store, it is now a luxury hotel.

1940 — Wristwatch

by A. Lange & Söhne

This wristwatch by A. Lange & Söhne featured many of the stylistic components now associated with Bauhaus watchmaking: a clean dial with plenty of negative space; a stylized, Arabic font; and a long, thin handset. Other famed watch companies such as Braun and Nomos would later utilize these design elements when crafting their own now-iconic watches.

1944 — Swiss Railway Clock

by Hans Hilfiker

Created in 1944 by engineer and Swiss Federal Railways employee Hans Hilfker in conjunction with clock manufacturer Moser-Baer, the Swiss railway clock has since been recognized as an icon by the Museum of Modern Art. Indeed, watch- and clockmaker Mondaine’s business is built largely upon the brand’s licensing and adoption of this heavily Bauhaus-influenced clock, which has been ongoing since 1986.

1946 — Nelson Platform Bench

by George Nelson

The Nelson Platform Bench has been part of Herman Miller’s furniture collection for decades. Originally crafted in 1946 by noted designer and teacher George Nelson for his office at Fortune magazine, the bench can be used as either a seat or a surface. It has been called “a landmark of modern design” for its clean, flexible-use form.

1958 — Institute of Design Campus

by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Developed over the course of nearly 20 years, the Institute of Design campus proved to be one of famed architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s most ambitious designs. Named by the American Institute of Architects as one of the 200 most significant works of architecture in the U.S., the plan made liberal use of an orderly grid pattern, steel and glass for a fresh, modern aesthetic that still feels contemporary today.

1960 — Vitsoe 606 Shelving System

by Dieter Rams

Dieter Rams’s 606 Shelving System has been produced by Vitsoe since 1960. A modular design that can be rearranged to suit a customer’s changing needs, the 606 includes numerous shelving and cabinet options for both residential and commercial use. Simple, economical and made to last a lifetime, the system was one of the original “green” furniture designs.

1961 — Junghans Max Bill

by Max Bill

In 1956, prolific Swiss designer Max Bill began a long and fruitful relationship with German watch manufacturer Junghans when he created a wall clock for the brand. A few years later, Bill designed his first wristwatch, a simple, manually wound timepiece that would later serve as the cornerstone to the entire Junghans catalog and which are still popular today.

1963 — Porsche 911

by Ferdinand Alexander “Butzi” Porsche

While attending the Ulm School of Design, Ferdinand Porsche had the opportunity to learn from several Bauhaus-trained instructors, including its principal, Max Bill. Though Porsche was eventually dismissed from the school, the Bauhaus tenets of clean, uncluttered design and form after function made themselves apparent in Porsche’s most famous creation, the 911, which debuted in 1963.

1970 — Braun Cassett Electric Shaver

by Florian Seiffert

The Braun SM31 electric shaver of the early ’60s, available in black only, sold eight million units. In 1970, the Florian Seiffert-designed Cassett shaver — available in bright red, yellow or black — showed that colors could inject some fun into an otherwise utilitarian design.

1980 — Athens Conservatoire

by Ioannis Despotopoulos

In 1959, the Athenian government commissioned Ioannis Despotopoulos, the sole Greek architect to have studied under Walter Gropius at the Bauhaus, to design a large, multiuse cultural complex. Since its completion in 1980, the Athens Conservatoire has been utilized as a cultural hub for artistic performances and events, and stands as a testament to the Bauhaus’s adaptability to different types of spaces and uses.

1992 — Tangente Watch

by Nomos Glashütte

First released in 1992, the Tangente is Nomos Glashütte’s most recognizable design and one that’s built entirely upon the Bauhaus aesthetic. Everything from the linear typography to the long, thin lugs recalls early Bauhaus watchmaking from the 1930s. It has won numerous design awards, including the prestigious Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.

1998 — TT

by Audi

The need for aerodynamic performance in an automobile dovetails with the Bauhaus philosophy of form following function; excess ornamentation will only inhibit performance on a car. German manufacturer Audi put this design philosophy into practice most notably with its TT, a curvaceous two-seat sports car that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the 1940s or ’50s.

2001 — iPod

by Apple

Steve Jobs once said of Apple, “The product design, the advertising, it all comes down to this: Let’s make it simple. Really simple.” The original iPod featured simple geometry, a modern, sans-serif font — and little else. Even the packaging was designed to be as clean as possible. This Bauhaus-like approach now pervades the entire Apple product line.

2013 — Vision AMG Gran Turismo

by Mercedes-Benz

A concept developed for a famed video game franchise, the Vision AMG Gran Turismo may be a supercar, but it’s the incorporation of the Bauhaus design philosophy, with its clean lines and lack of ornamentation, that make for both a beautiful aesthetic and an aerodynamic vehicle.

2014 — Type 1

by Ressence

Ressence’s watches, a marriage of analog and digital technology, may be the stuff of the future, but their design philosophy is decidedly Bauhaus. With an emphasis on legibility and ergonomics (there is no conventional crown to disrupt the case), the Type 1 would have been recognizable to Herbert Bayer, designer of the “Bauhaus typography” in the late 1920s.

2018 Aluminum Chair

by Marc Newson

This chair, made by famed Australian industrial designer Marc Newson, looks like a successor to a design from Ludwig Mies van der Rohe from 1930. Utilizing thoroughly modern materials in a form that completely eschews ornamentation, the Newson Aluminum Chair is a study in modern Bauhaus engineering.

A version of this article originally appeared in Issue Ten of Gear Patrol Magazine with the headline “100 Years of Bauhaus.” Subscribe today.

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