The Bauhaus School, founded by Walter Gropius in 1919 in Weimar, Germany, revolutionised the teaching of art, architecture, and design. Its unique curriculum and pedagogy blended theoretical knowledge with practical training, focusing on unity across all arts and crafts. Here’s an overview of a typical lesson at the Bauhaus.
At the core of the Bauhaus curriculum was the “Vorkurs,” or preliminary course. This was a compulsory six-month programme where students would learn the fundamentals of design theory and principles without specialising in any specific discipline (Droste, 2006). A typical lesson in the Vorkurs would be taught by masters like Josef Albers or Johannes Itten, who would guide students to investigate materials, colour theory, and forms. This could include various exercises, such as paper folding to explore three-dimensionality, or studies in contrast and harmony using colour wheels.
After completing the Vorkurs, students would choose a specific workshop, like metalworking, carpentry, pottery, typography, weaving, or mural painting. Each workshop was supervised by two masters: one a craftsman and the other an artist. For instance, in a weaving class taught by Gunta Stölzl, students might start their day examining different threads and materials, understanding their properties and potential applications. They would then practise various weaving techniques, producing their own textile designs (Rössig, 2019).
Alongside the practical workshops, students attended lessons in subjects like architecture, art history, and materials science, to ensure they had a sound theoretical basis for their design work. For example, in an architecture class led by Walter Gropius or later Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, students might analyse building plans, study the principles of modernist architecture, or explore ideas related to form and function.
The Bauhaus also emphasised collaboration and interdisciplinary work. Students from different workshops would work together on larger projects, such as designing and building a prototype of a house (Gropius, 2019). These group projects gave students hands-on experience in translating design concepts into practical applications.
A typical lesson at the Bauhaus was thus an innovative blend of theoretical and practical learning, encouraging students to understand and unite art, craftsmanship, and technology.
Droste, M. (2006). Bauhaus, 1919–1933. Taschen.
Gropius, W. (2019). The New Architecture and The Bauhaus. MIT Press.
Rössig, P. (2019). Weaving at the Bauhaus. Laurence King Publishing.