“Less is More”…More or Less!

Walter Gropius, chief visionary behind the Bauhaus Movement between the two World Wars, made the following proclamation:

“The mind is like an umbrella. Its most useful when open.”

One hundred and two years ago, Gropius and other visionary architects/artists put forward a new and unique plan for collaboration by pulling artists and craftsmen together within an academic setting. Gropius believed that the path forward in the first part of the 20th century was through cooperation amongst the creative forces. The world was changing rapidly due to the influence of technology within the larger force of the Industrial Revolution and the Age of the Machine! Gropius and his group felt there was a missing link and they sought to embrace the creative class and bring together artists, architects, designers, craftsmen, etc. within a school that nurtured experimentation and vision!

Gropius, trained as an architect, sought to do away with the so-called distinctions between artists and craftsmen. Gropius secured a healthy amount of state funding and was able to build a facility—the Bauhaus in Dessau—and hire the best artists and craftsmen to guide the next generation of the creative class. The founder of the Bauhaus stated: “Society needs a good image of itself. That is the job of the architect.” Gropius’ emphasis on “a good image” is drawn directly from the devastation that was WWI or the “War to end all Wars” as it became popularly known on 11 November 1918.

What are your thoughts on the Bauhaus’s Utopian vision as conceived by Gropius, and is the Bauhaus aesthetic still valid today, 102 years after its original founding?

Walter Gropius, Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany in 1926.
Bauhaus Logo

Published by: roberttracyphd

Academic professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. I teach theory courses in Art and Architecture History. In addition, I also curate exhibitions on campus as well as in other venues nationally and internationally.

20 Comments

20 thoughts on ““Less is More”…More or Less!”

  1. Bauhaus’s Utopian vision and aesthetic is definitely still valid today. There are thousands and thousands of art schools that exist today that combine the different skill sets of artists, whether it’s graphic design, architecture, painting, sculpting or etc. However, for its time, Bauhaus was truly revolutionary for starting up a school around the start of the 20th century. And for Gropius and the other visionary directors, Bauhaus wasn’t just an art school. It actually bridged the gap between the arts and encouraged heavy collaboration between different artists. So even compared to other standard colleges, the Bauhaus was way ahead of its time. What I found the most interesting, though, is that the Bauhaus opened only a year after the devastation of World War I. It most likely raised the morale of German people because it shows the possibility of careers within the art industry. Not only that, but Bauhaus also survived the destruction of World War II. Granted, it was closed down by Hitler during the start of the war, it still managed to restart everything after the war. That shows deep commitment to its ultimate goal and resilience to environmental conflicts.

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  2. Bauhaus’s Utopian vision as conceived by Gropius is greatly present in how architecture serves such an important aspect as to how we view society today. Currently, we all take pride in being able to develop and experience advanced and beautiful buildings, monuments, paintings, graphics, and the like; we have a great appreciation in developing an environment that reflect the aesthetics of the time. As such, the Bauhaus aesthetic still remains intact in today’s society as a variety of artists from different backgrounds continue to join forces and collaborate to create works that help the arts and culture to continue to thrive no matter the circumstance, offering a future in which artists are able to both express themselves and better their communities.

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  3. The Bauhaus’s Utopian vision was based on the idea of merging artists and craftsmen together to combat the divide as technology grew. I think that Gropius was extremely smart to begin this school, as he foresaw that the industrial revolution could’ve separated art from craftsmen, making it “unreachable” to the public, and possibly putting artists out of business. His open mind made it possible for others to take after him, where the school provided education on thinking creatively while learning useful skills with technology that would be needed later. The Bauhaus aesthetic is still valid today because we still use the same basic principles of combing art and material design, whether it’s in graphic design, product design, or architecture.

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  4. Lizbeth Ramirez | Art 434
    Bauhaus’s Utopian vision as conceived by Gropius is one of great advancement. I think that combining both craftsman and artists just opened up for more progress and ideas. It’s so easy to get caught up in your own mind and circle and way of doing things, but that’s why it’s important to have an open mind. Being open to collaborating with others can create newer and even better things. Not just the Bauhaus aesthetic, but I’ve seen examples of artists and those in the medical field collaborating. Seeing the world through a creative eye is so important, especially in modern times. So yes, I believe that the Bauhaus aesthetic still applies today whether it’s in graphic design or architecture or simply following its open-mindedness.

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  5. I believe that Gropius’ vision for an artistic safe haven has still been standing strong and looked up to for inspiration even in the current age. People with artistic views should be joined together and not divided. When artists can work together a collaboration can form meaning even better projects created than those created individually. Combing art and craftsmen is the perfect mix for never before seen architecture. I know the Bauhaus was created to try and make modern designs before these designs were modern! Furniture would be simple, sleek, but totally unique. There would be students that come out of the Bauhaus that try to solve housing issues, such as the cramped living spaces in poorer parts of Japan. There are students that create fashion out of non-traditional materials such as matts and construction tape. Architecture is a form of art that involves designs and practicality. The Bauhaus was definitely a big stepping stone to make this a reality.

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  6. I believe that the Bauhau’s Utopian vision conceived by Gropius is a great idea even to this day! I think it’s great to be able to connect with different types of “art” and creativity and bringing people who are skilled differently and help broaden the creativity for people to come together and share their ideas. Not only does it help broaden things, but open up much more possibilities than only focusing on just one area in the field where some people may feel stuck it. It lets them know more about different opportunities since there’s so many different things you can do that you wouldn’t have thought of before. Just like when it comes to jobs and I am still learning new positions today that I didn’t know was even a thing since it’s usually just the general idea than splitting it down. It helps problem solve so many issues having all different types of people working on the same thing and even amazing things can happen, too. The Bauhaus aesthetic is definitely still valid to this day. Especially during these times we are much more closed to things and not having access to resources or help. It’s important to make so many connections and it’s true, especially in the art world.

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  7. I believe the Bauhaus Utopian vision is definitely apropos today as per Gropius’ vision. If one considers the example of their syllabus from 1923, all the areas of study listed are as pertinent to our current times as they were at the time it was developed. The responsibility of the architect, in my opinion, vastly exceeds the simplicity of four walls and a roof. The notion of creating a space for one to live in and others to enjoy involves the knowledge of their surroundings, the materials needed, and technologies incorporated. The only thing I would add is precedent.

    I do believe precedent is a key ingredient to great architecture, too. Considering in this era when we are in such a position to not damage the earth as we have been in the past, it is wise to learn from our past builders, artists, and architects on what has worked and what has not worked. By building on those methods one can extrapolate the opportunities to create better. Then we can elevate the design process to a higher degree where we can create less waste. Our current situation demands greatness from the problem solver that is the architect. If the artist brings forth the question and the architect is about finding solutions, then when one fully comprehends the materials, technologies, and artistic perceptiveness one can create improvements to the failures. Then, as the architect submerges themselves further into the life-long journey of learning, the vision of Bauhaus Utopia becomes one step closer to reality.

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  8. I think the Bauhaus Utopia is not too off the mark, and that it can certainly still be seen today. The Bauhaus utopia idea is one that I think is a good idea to start with. Society can be reflected from the architecture of the area, though of course this leads to separation as well. An area deemed one for the lower class will be given worse looking housing and buildings overall. A grocery store or fast food market will look much worse in a poor neighborhood than a richer one, and that is reflective of the society there but the buildings were designed to fit the area instead of pushing for change by ignoring this standard and making everywhere nice looking. Architecture also goes hand in hand with the arts, and they all really interlock, so placing everyone together to learn was a wonderful idea. Even within art or writing or architecture each person has a lot to learn from each other, and this idea is amplified even further by adding people from different specialties but ones who also undergo the same though process for their work. This allows for a huge clash of minds and ideas that ultimately brings out the best in each person involved. One single act of proof that the Bauhaus idea is still alive today is that architecture is included within the college of fine arts at UNLV. Some feel it is out of place among dance, art, and music classes, but it is where it belongs, alongside the other creative minds.

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  9. I’m a big fan of the Bauhaus movement. I believe that these artists truly did find a great mix of design that works for visual appeal but also industrial appeal as well. Their designs – whether it be digital art, architecture, or furniture design – were clean, engaging, and functional, which is what I would say makes their aesthetic so timeless. It’s interesting and artistic, but also simple enough to where it retains its visual appeal through a timeless amount of eras.

    I also think that the work that they created – specifically for design – was also very revolutionary for the field. As mentioned, the Bauhaus aesthetic is still well-known and well-used today, even 102 years after it was founded. Almost anywhere you look in design, you can always find a hint of Bauhaus influence in the use of shapes, compositions of type and shape, and abstractions.They set quite a lot of foundations for the world of typography, making it what it is today. Just like their architecture and furniture, Bauhaus graphic design did so well at creating the perfect balance of visual appeal and functionality. A lot of times in the design field you hear the term, “form follows function” and the Bauhaus artists found the perfect balance between the two.

    I also like the Bauhaus movement so much because I’m just a big fan of anything that promotes the collaboration between various fields of art. I think that nothing can ever go wrong if you bring the arts together to make one collective piece, and the Bauhaus movement is a great example of that. I think that their aesthetic worked – and continues to work – so well because the team was comprised of artists who knew the intricacies of design from various aspects/viewpoints, so each element of design was able to be carefully chosen and executed according to the expertise of artists most-apt to make those types of design decisions.

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  10. Although it is true that his vision of architecture, art, crafts, and that common work was utopian, I think it can be said that it showed that it could be carried out in reality and it worked in fact.
    Although the movement ended decades ago, its consequences are still being felt today. Even today many people confuse contemporary art (or architecture) with modernism, it is easy to hear, “this is very modern”, when they refer to something contemporary, what an incredible influence to bring into the consciousness of society, that its movement, 100 years later is what is most trending, even today, a Mies van der Rohe piece of furniture is considered the coolest thing.
    I think that this utopia of collaboratively working different creative parts, today has transcended and has influenced ways of working of all creative aspects, for example, the so-called brainstorming, I see it a direct consequence
    Lastly, I can’t think of a better way to respond and rebuild to the devastation of a war than unity, through teamwork and art creation, or simply put, the creation.

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  11. I believe that Bauhaus’s Utopian vision by Gropius is definitely something important and relevant back then and today. People tend to separate different professions and groups without realizing how they interrelate with one another and/or build off one another. Especially with the importance of group dynamics in art, design, architecture, etc., it is always important to bring people together and promote connectivity and cooperation. There definitely was a necessity and urgency for depicting society with a “good image”, especially after World War I, which was deemed as the “War to end all Wars”. As relevant as it was back then, the Bauhaus aesthetic is relevant today and something that should be promoted and taught as soon as possible for future collaborations, projects, and advancements.

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    1. I think Bauhaus’ vision of a collective education amongst other creatives to be what is lacking in arts education today. I have often complained to my peers about how there is such a separation between fine arts and performing arts, architecture, music, writing. All of these disciplines exist in the same creative place within us, and the division of the departments makes it so interacting with others that could potentially influence my practice is unlikely. In the Bauhaus the division was non-existent and allowed for those who were specialized in one field to help assist those in another who have an idea but need help to craft the item. In graduate school I have had a couple opportunities to be in classes with some other grads from the writing department and I have found this to be so enriching, as we are talking about similar issues but arriving at solutions differently. We all have so much to learn from each other.

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  12. Bauhaus’ Utopian vision conceived by Gropius still holds much value today. Whereas modern art school trains you for your specific field of art, the Bauhaus encourages you to explore how art can be applied practically as well by including craftsmen workshops. It also allows for better collaboration between artists and craftsmen, and helps form more dynamic relationships with peers. It’s hard to experiment in a college setting, but Bauhaus seems to understand that experimenting with new techniques can lead to better developed artists and craftsmen.

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  13. Well, Bauhaus’s Utopian vision is something that may not be exactly as planned, but many schools apply it somehow. I mean, either it is someone’s career graphic design, this person still takes courses of traditional art, in which there are people of other branches of art. In one of my classes, I had an architect student, and his perspective of art (the stuff he made) was an interesting approach to the assignments we had. Like I said, it may be different than what the vision was, but it is pretty similar, which is understandable for the “utopian” part of the term. Indeed, It actually bridged the gap between the arts and encouraged heavy collaboration between different artists. The fact that the school emerged after WWI and survived WWII says a lot about the commitment to the arts.

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  14. The Bauhaus Movement established by Walter Gropius continues to transcend and is valid today. The school embraced connections and greater alternatives that abandoned the pre-existing notions between architects, artist, designers and craftsman. Creativity is only further engaged when there is a motivation to learn, and to experiment. As an architecture student, we have always been encouraged to embrace iteration. Iteration in process, form finding or program layout allows for new concepts/ideas to develop. Bauhaus truly envisioned and captured a brief moment of collaboration between the creatives. The aesthetics of Bauhaus carries on today, influencing curriculum, styles and design. There is a great attraction to a minimal approach, forged through Bauhaus principles. Of these principles, four that are well applied today are 1) Form follows function, 2)Minimalism, 3) Simplicity and Effectiveness and 4) Constant Development. Removal of the unnecessary ornamentation, form and clean simple geometric shapes are some of the gestures applied in furniture and building design. Though established or a brief period of time, The Bauhaus has set defining principles that will be continue to be used.

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  15. I think that the Bauhaus’s Utopian vision that was created by Walter Gropius was a great advancement for the world of art. It is an incredibly great idea to be able to gather people of all different practices and professions together to broaden their creativity and skills for the public. Groups of people that would probably never have interacted with one another, are now working together, and are meshing with one another, being able to cover for each other’s weaknesses. The possibilities that were not able to be done before are now able to be achieved and the gathering of professionals only allowed for greater things to be accomplished. Whether it was graphic design, typography, architecture, or furniture, Bauhaus was able to accomplish in creating things that provided both form and function with their ideas. It definitely would be a different world today if it were not for the Bauhaus movement.

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  16. Gropius’s philosophy of erasing the distinction between art and craft is an interesting ambition; I think I feel where he is coming from by wanting the creativity of artists to influence design, and the dependability of producing functional objects as a source of income to help bolster an artist’s otherwise impoverished existence in society. I don’t really think that the two can ever be entirely combined, as they serve different purposes in the way that humans interact with them. Design and architecture needs to be functional, otherwise the interactions that humans have with buildings or objects leads to frustration and oppression. If one can’t find an exit in an elaborately complex interior space, it inspires fear and anger rather than imagination and contemplation. Similarly, if a work of art is too functional, it ceases to perform as a catalyst for critical thought (the very nature of an art object’s DYS-functionality opens the door to the viewer questioning why it exists, and this can lead to other metaphorical connections to be made between the poetry of the art object and the viewer’s experiential knowledge of interacting with other things that they bring with them into that moment of interaction). In my opinion, when a building is too artistically designed, it can cease to function in an efficient manner. Also, when a work of art is too functional, it becomes decoration or furniture, and the power of the object to inspire imagination and critical thought becomes lessened as it eventually blends into its environment and disappears. The Wassily chair is cool to look at, especially when the design of this object is compared to other chairs from that time, but when you live with an object like a cool chair, it eventually just becomes a chair. Looking at a Kandinsky painting is a totally different experience, as the whole function or purpose of the artist’s abstract style is to inspire imagination and to try to bring the energy of music into a visual representation of the same feeling.

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  17. My thoughts on Bauhaus’s Utopian vision thought of by Gropius, and Bauhaus was above their time. His vision was that this work could bring together artists, craftsmen, and architects closer than before. There are times where artists will have a dream building or project they want to be built but the architect struggles to make. A quote I once heard is “an artist’s dream is an architect’s worst nightmare”. When artists are designing for buildings or larger projects that include architects and craftsmen sometimes the thought of the realistic architectural features is forgotten. In a building, for example, an artist could plan for this elaborate shape but forget the struggles of adding plumbing, electrical wires, and so on. Bauhaus’s vision tackles this problem by working on a project that brings together all three positions to create the final piece while creating it together. His aesthetic is still valid today, after its original founding as it is necessary to represent to things.

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  18. Bauhaus’s Utopia by Gropius and Bauhaus was completely ahead of its time because now we see tons of buildings that are much like Bauhaus. I think it is great how Gropius of thought of the idea to bring multiple artists and architects to build this amazing building, it just shows the unique creativity even it was 102 years ago. I believe that it’s hard to have both artists and architects come together and build a building because of course there will be a general idea thought from the artists, but in reality, can it be done by the architects. However, Gropius here proves us wrong by doing so because I have always felt that putting both artists and architects together would get a little complicated at times, but seeing how this turned out is a game-changer and should happen more.

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  19. Combining the efforts of architects and artists was of course a great idea. It opens up lots of possibilities. I do think that they have to be careful when working together but they have the potential to create something really good. The Bauhaus aesthetic is still valid today because people are still using the same idea of combing art and material design. Functionality is the most important aspect I think when combining the two, but yes combining architects and artists does encourage more experimentation and vision but functionality and safety are important.

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