Modern Furniture: History of the Bauhaus School of Design

In Berlin is a museum that memorializes the great design school Bauhaus. Bauhaus, which existed from 1919-1933, was an intellectual school of architecture, design and art that has had a profound impact on modern design and furniture since its inception. Many of its students went on to become some of the greatest modern furniture designers in the world, especially during the advent of early technology and manufacturing taking place during the early to mid part of the 20th Century. Whether a furniture designer or artist was in France or Italy, or working in the U.S. in New York, a revolution in design was happening. And Bauhaus was at the center of it.

Founded by Walter Gropius who also designed the building the museum is housed in, Bauhaus started in 1919 in Weimar by Gropius, one of the world’s most influential modern furniture designers. It was later overseen by Hannes Meyer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe under whose leadership the school closed due to World War II.

The school was founded on modernism which is defined as a cultural movement that simply meant function and style could meet up with modern manufacturing techniques and not be sacrificing style or comfort in your bedroom or living room furniture.

Influencing the Bauhaus and its innovations and focus on functionality was the government-run Werkbund which wanted to compete on an international playing field with other modern countries. At the time the Bauhaus school was coming of age, so to speak, the desire for the romantic heirs of Baroque influenced 16th, 17th and 18th century furniture designs which were heavily influenced by the church and also by the royalty who led a trend for marquetry. Ornamented design was popular for decades until the 19th century made furniture more slim-lined and modern, almost space age looking as it got close to mid-century modern designs, still influenced by the Bauhaus greats who spread around the world teaching design.

Gropius joined fellow Marcel Breuer, another great modern designer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. Breuer is the designer of two highly popular pieces of modern furniture – the Cantilever chair and the Wassily chair.

Gropius is known as one of the great pioneers of modern design, joining other modern furniture designers such as Le Corbusier and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

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