Page 13 - Shared Vision

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In 1919, Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus, a state-
supported school of architecture and design in Weimar,
After the devastation of World War I, Weimar became the
progressive center of Germany, a place where new social,
political, and economic ideas could flourish. Gropius,
who had worked in the office of Peter
Behrens before the war, was deeply
influenced by Behrens’s innovative,
yet practical industrial design and
architecture. Thus, the Weimar
Bauhaus provided workshops where
students could make and sell artifacts,
some of which were intended for
mass production. The emphasis was
on “less is more,” a reaction against
the excesses of decoration.
The Bauhaus students were a lively
group, led by charismatic teachers
who were active artists and designers. From 1923 to 1925,
László Moholy-Nagy was director of the preliminary
course and head of the metal workshop. As the political
climate became less hospitable to the Bauhaus mission,
the school was obliged to close in 1925 and moved to
Dessau, where the municipality paid for a new design
building and the housing for faculty. Together with
Gropius, Moholy began to publish the series of Bauhaus
books. Gropius often called Moholy his “prime minister.”
Gropius and Moholy left the Bauhaus in 1928 to go into
separate practices. The Bauhaus struggled on. Pressure by
the Nazis forced director Mies van der Rohe to move the
school to an abandoned Berlin factory building in 1932.
The school closed a year later.
As the faculty fled Germany, the Bauhaus philosophy
and its teaching methods spread. Moholy-Nagy went to
London, where he and Gropius met British Modernist
architect Serge Chermayeff.
The Bauhaus Comes to Chicago
In 1937, Gropius arrived in the
United States to head the school of
architecture at Harvard. At the same
time, Moholy-Nagy, at the invitation
of Chicago’s Association of Art and
Industry, founded a new design school,
which he named the New Bauhaus.
Financial problems forced the school
to close briefly in 1938. Walter
Paepcke, chairman of the Container
Corporation of America and an early
champion of industrial design in
America, soon offered his personal
support. Moholy-Nagy reopened the
school as the Chicago School of Design in 1939. In 1944,
the school was renamed to Institute of Design.
The Institute of Design (ID), often called “the Chicago
Bauhaus,” was indeed the first American Bauhaus. And,
perhaps as a reflection of the spirit of his new home,
Moholy-Nagy began to envision a broader mission. He
recognized that he could not isolate the emotional and
social growth of his new school or that of his students from
the intellectual and technical growth of the larger society,
as the German Bauhaus had done. He wanted to build a
system of design education whose graduates could
bigger problems, beyond the demands of industry. In
1946, he stated this vision:
The Road fromWeimar to Chicago to Carbondale
ID Director László-Moholy Nagy. Self portrait 1944