Construction of the Fagus Factory began in 1910, when architect Walter Gropius was 27 years old. Gropius was influenced by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who traveled to Japan in 1905. Gropius is also visibly influenced by Japanese ideas in his designs; the more open relationship between interior and exterior space and the lack of ornament often expressed as “Form follows function.” The Fagus Factory reinterprets Japanese shoji screens in steel and glass. The steel framework bears the weight of the building, so factory workers can have natural light and open views. The social implications of the design and the reliance on new building technologies, merging art with industry, are hallmarks of modern design.
Gropius worked with his partner Adolf Meyer to design the Fagus Factory for a shoe manufacturer, with the initial construction taking place between 1911 and 1913.
The ideas in his later work are visible in the Factory’s design, known for its uncluttered modernism. After World War I, Gropius became the founding Director of the Bauhaus, a design school with an enduring worldwide influence, not only in the ideas that were taught, but how they were taught.
With the rise of the Nazis, Gropius left Germany in 1934. He made his way to Britain and then to America, where he taught at Harvard. His house in Massachusetts is another landmark of modern design.
In 1945 he formed The Architects' Collaborative (TAC), which lasted until 1995 and had a global influence.
The Bauhaus radically changed how we see and experience the world. Leaving the 19th century, it built on the aesthetic and political ideas of the Arts and Crafts movement, elevating the beautiful design of useful objects and places, and blurring the line between fine art and craft in the creation of a complete environment. The Bauhaus also embraced the industrial process as a way to make good design and “total art” available to all, regardless of economic status. And, like many art movements that reacted to the horrors of World War I with a belief in change, it developed a collaborative model for industrial growth and a utopian vision for the future through design.
Sadly, the Bauhaus could not survive the conservative forces in 1930’s Germany. When the Nazis took power, the Bauhaus closed. It endures in the global vision and clean lines of contemporary design, in design education, and in the belief that art and industry must be in balance and serve one another.
Bauhaus work was greatly influenced by the artistic vision that came out of the Russian revolution. Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky taught at the Bauhaus, bringing a radical, modernist vision to the school.
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