CreditsDirector: Detten Schliermacher Original music: Hans Posegga
Catalog number # 515
19 minutes Color
Age Range: 14 to Adult
Closed Captions and Interactive Transcript
Filmscape Adobe Flash Required. See more
48hr Streaming Access
Loading the player...
Everywhere the hand has given way to the machine and in the last hundred years the face of our world has undergone a swift and radical transformation. It has become a synthetic world, manufactured by the engineers and the technicians. The new age of technology is practical, interesting and impressive. But all too often it ignores man's basic need for beauty. The 19th century felt that the new technical age was foreign to man and unworthy of him. It was disowned and hidden away in the shadows behind the pomp and circumstance. In the town center there rose in historic splendor the town hall, the opera house, the theatre, the statues, and on the borders of the towns sprawled the ugliness of the factories, the misery of the slums.
Around 1912 artists began to take an interest in the architecture of factories and the shape of manufactured goods. Peter Berens built this turbine hall in Berlin for AEG, and he designed electric teapots, flat irons and street lamps. Buildings began to change. In Arnfeld, Walter Gropius designed this shoe-last factory. The manufactured article was no longer merely decorated. It was given a form that suited its function.
Henry Van de Velde, the great master of the Art Nouveau period, wrote in 1897, "A Man's value can be measured by the number of people to whom his life's work brings benefit and enrichment." In 1902 Van de Velde became head of the Weimar Academy for Applied Art. His thoughts as a theorist were more socialist than his actions could be as an artist. It was only after the First World War that people became more realistic and more socially minded than they had been during the individualistic Art Nouveau period, and in the design of mass products artists recognized that they had a social task.
The Bauhaus, which Gropius founded in 1919 in the building where Van de Velde had once taught, took very seriously its acceptance of the artist's social responsibility. The Bauhaus was the first school for the creators of the technical world, but art was not to become the mere servant of technology. Even in the Bauhaus it retained its independence and its status. Amongst those who taught there were the artists Kandinsky, Klee, Feininger, Moholy-Nagy and Schlemmer. "The design of practical, mass-produced objects is not purely an artistic exercise, but it does need a trained eye and a trained hand, together with a knowledge of the methods and rules of art," and so the Bauhaus created a branch of art education: the Foundation Course. Its creators were the Bauhaus masters, Johannes Itten, Lazslo Moholy-Nagy and Josef Albers.
Walter Gropius, the founder and first head of the Bauhaus was an architect. As its director he designed the new buildings for his school in Dessau, sober, clearly defined architecture, corresponding to the very essence of technology. His successor, Hannes Meyer, was also a brilliant architect and an outstanding teacher. In the competition for the League of Nations Palace in Geneva, his was one of the most interesting plans submitted. His most important work is the State School of the General German Trade Union in Bernau, near Berlin, which was built between 1928 and 1930. Four and a half million trade union members contributed fifty pfennig each to make this project a reality. As Head of the Bauhaus, Hannes Meyer built up the architectural department, bringing Ludwig Hilbersheimer there to teach town planning. He also greatly extended the workshops for production design. In the jointers' shop new types of furniture were created. Marian Brandt devised various forms of lamp. From 1926 onwards Marcel Breuer's tubular steel chairs were put into commercial production.
The last head of the Bauhaus was Mies van der Rohe. In 1919 he designed a skyscraper of steel and glass. Ten years later in 1929 he put into practice the new conception of space in architecture for the German Pavilion at the Barcelona World Fair. The Barcelona chair which he designed at that time is still in production today. In the 1920's and in the Bauhaus especially, there arose an abundance of new forms which themselves were the expression of a new spirit, a new way of thinking and a new attitude towards the technical world. But then came the Nazis. They closed the Bauhaus and put a stop to the free development of the mind and art.
Many modern architects and designers were forced to leave Germany, and so too were most of the Bauhaus teachers. Mies van der Rohe found a new domain in the United States. He was a pioneer of modern architecture in America. In 1947 he built huge steel constructions in Chicago, apartment houses. "I believe that any such sudden profusion of great architects is frequently bound up with the period in which they live." In Chicago Mies van der Rohe also erected the buildings of the Illinois Institute of Technology where he has taught for many years. Van der Rohe says that the functions of a building change so rapidly that to have any genuine value it must possess the maximum of flexibility. Recently Mies van der Rohe was able to construct a new masterpiece in Germany, the National Gallery in Berlin. One of his pupils, Goldsmith says, "He has trained hundreds of people in this school and dozens more in his office and in addition, many hundreds of architects have been influenced by his writings, by publications of his work and by his buildings, these are the people who will carry on Mies's work."
In 1954 the Hochschule fur Gestalung, or College of Design, was opened in Ulm. Walter Gropius came to Ulm for the ceremony. The first Rector of the College was Max Bill who designed the buildings. Max Bill was a pupil of the Bauhaus and to give lessons in design he invited Josef Albers to Ulm. The second Rector was Urkel Eicher, a well-known graphic artist, responsible for the public image of many firms and enterprises, Lufthansa being one of them. Thomas Maldonado was engaged by Max Bill as Head of the Department of Production Design. Models were devised which were taken over by industry and have set a standard for the design of all industrial products. Maldonado was also head of the College for several years. Herbert Uhl was in charge of the Department for Industrial Building. The Hochschule fur Gestaltung in Ulm, which is also known as the new Bauhaus, has put into practice the principles of the Bauhaus, to use technical and other related sciences as the object and the foundation of its work in designing the complete environment of man. To this end the teachers work together with the students from many different countries. With Uhl they developed architectural units capable of any number being prefabricated.
The training of a designer depends on close co-operation between teacher and pupil. Josef Albers says he does not differentiate between teaching and learning. He wants the solution of any given problem to be the joint discovery of teacher and pupil. Albers was a student at the Bauhaus in Weimar. Later in Dessau he took charge of the so called Foundation Course. This is the ABC of design, an elementary course in form and color which is used nowadays after the example of the Bauhaus as the first stage in most art schools. Every Bauhaus student had to complete this course and in the United States Albers developed it still further. Concerning his educational principles he says, "It is a matter not of reacting as people on different levels, but of working together as equals undivided by generation."
The elementary teaching of the Bauhaus has had great influence on art education throughout the world. Even in Japan young people are introduced to designing by the methods of Itten and Albers.
Professor Yamawaki is a former Bauhaus student and a friend of Albers. He is also head of the Academy of Fine Arts in Tokyo. The designer, Shiro Yanagi, has a design studio in Tokyo which is commissioned by different firms to design their industrial products. He and his colleagues reject American styling as mere stylization. They take as their model the old forms of Japanese handicraft, basing their designs on the demands and conditions of custom and usage, of material and manufacturing processes. Yanagi says that they follow the Bauhaus method although at present there are not enough good workshops or machines. Japan's most famous architect, Kenso Tange, says that the Bauhaus never created a style anywhere, but it marked a turning point in ways of thinking and mapped out the route from the handmade architecture of the artists to the industrialized architecture of modern society. He is a brilliant individualistic architect who is also outstanding in the field of town planning. The largest and boldest project in designing a complete environment to meet all modern requirements in Brasilia.
Whether one is a designer of household utensils, technical apparatus and machinery or an architect, planning houses and even whole cities, the fundamental task is the same, to create an environment that will fulfill all the demands of life in the modern world of technology, and will at the same time uphold the dignity of man. The close affinity between designing and architecture can be seen in the work of Marcel Breuer. In 1925 he constructed the first tubular steel chairs. Now he is at the head of a large architectural concern in New York which employs young people from all parts of the world. The IBM Research Centre in Nice, a self-supporting concrete construction, prefabricated on the spot.
Today, Walter Gropius lives in the United States. There he is the head of a team of architects. Through the joint planning and accomplishments of like-minded people he hopes to create what he calls "the preconditions for cultural growth." Of the location and function of the designer he says, "Refining always takes time. The good craftsman has not disappeared as many people believe. He has merely been absorbed into industry." Like Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius has found a new domain in the United States as Head of the Department of Architecture at Harvard University. Together with younger architects he has formed a study group with which he has realized an ideal that he has striven for since his Bauhaus days. "What I see in the future and what is still largely lacking in the present is a genuine production team, with the engineer, the technician, the sales staff all working together, and the designer taking his due place, co-operating on an equal footing with the other members of the team. Then once again we shall have a product that meets the demand of all sections of the community, in form, in economy, and in market values."
Architect, designer, their task is devoted to the same end, to give the work of the engineer or to the product of the manufacturer a form that will fulfill not only the practical requirements but also those of the mind and intellect. They are working to humanize the modern technical world.
Fully interactive transcript included with film purchase.
Remember to explore
included with your purchase.
Click image to activate Filmscape