The Essential Guide to Bauhaus Design


Before the midcentury modern design of the fifties and the Brutalism of the eighties, a different revolutionary architectural style was all the rage: Bauhaus. A German artistic movement prominent from 1919 to 1933, Bauhaus was all about promoting individuality and accessibility. The goal was to combine industrial production with unique design—two elements previously thought of as mutually exclusive.

Bauhaus design prioritizes functionality and rationality above all else. In the furniture, you’ll see clean lines, geometric shapes, and sharp angles. It’s a far cry from the glitz and glam of Art Deco, the design style that emerged simultaneously. Read on to learn more about the architectural style, where it came from, and how you can bring it home.

What Is Bauhaus Design?

Bauhaus design refers to the art, architecture, furnishings, textile, interior design, and graphic design that came out of the Bauhaus, an influential design school that was founded by Walter Gropius in Germany in 1919.

History of Bauhaus Design

the bauhaus school building in dessau


Inspired by the liberation felt across Europe at the end of World War I, Bauhaus emerged in 1919 and ushered in a new age of cultural experimentation, modernism, and functional applications of artistic pursuits. The importance of the political influences are often debated, with movement’s founder, architect Walter Gropius, stating that Bauhaus was entirely apolitical.

The English designer William Morris was also wildly influential on the movement. After all, he was the one who insisted that there should be no distinction between form and function. The Bauhaus design style is marked by the absence of ornamentation and by harmony between the function of an object or a building and its design.

The Bauhaus school existed in three German cities—Weimar, from 1919 to 1925; Dessau, from 1925 to 1932; and Berlin, from 1932 to 1933—under three different architect-directors: Walter Gropius from 1919 to 1928; Hannes Meyer from 1928 to 1930; and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe from 1930 until 1933. In 1933, the Bauhaus school closed its doors due to rising pressure from the Nazi regime, and many of its leaders moved to the United States.

7 Key Characteristics of Bauhaus Design

  • Geometric shapes
  • Primary colors
  • Clean lines
  • Industrial materials
  • Balanced asymmetry
  • Rational thinking
  • Functionality first

Why Is Bauhaus Design Special?

The Bauhaus movement championed a geometric, abstract style that focused on functionality and artistic merit equally. However, there’s little emotional drive or sentimentality in Bauhaus design and architecture. You won’t find any historical nods either, since Bauhaus is completely one-of-a-kind. Its aesthetic continues to influence architects, designers, and artists.

Famous Examples of Bauhaus Design

Apple founder Steve Jobs cited the Bauhaus school as an influence on its product design. Some of the most iconic chairs and other pieces of furniture emerged from the Bauhaus school. You can also visit some famous examples of Bauhaus architecture in the United States, including Walter Gropius’s own home, Gropius House, in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

Josef Alber’s Nesting Tables

a piano with a lamp on top

Marcel Breuer’s Wassily Chair

sassily chair design within reach

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Chair

barcelona chairs knoll

Gropius House

a house with trees around it

Eric Roth

Wilhelm Wagenfeld’s Lamp WA 24

bauhaus table lamp moma design store

Bauhaus Design FAQs

What Does Bauhaus Mean in German?

Bauhaus in German directly translates to “building house” in English.

Why Was Bauhaus Controversial?

Even before the Nazis came to power, political pressure on the Bauhaus school had increased. The Nazi movement, from nearly the start, denounced the Bauhaus for its “degenerate art” and left-wing political views. The Nazis were also determined to deter all manners of original thinking and put a stop to what it saw as the foreign, probably Jewish, influences of “cosmopolitan modernism.”

What Are the Principles of Bauhaus Design?

The basic elements of Bauhaus are primary colors, geometric shapes, angular lines, and functional forms.


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