Bauhaus, 1919-1928

The Bauhaus book at first glance was filled with amazing photos that document the school of the Bauhaus’s work, and its approach to teaching a school of design.  My first impressions of the book were that it was only going to be a showcase of the work done at the Bauhaus during its operational time. I was surprised to find that the book is dedicated to doing a deep dissection and overview of the Bauhaus school, from its advent, to its academic prime.  Other observations of the book at first glance were that its creating minimalist graphics and a literary interface that is really quite simple and elegant. The cover itself is very simple, stating its name and respective timeline that it covers. One might notice that Herbert Bayer, the Author, has developed a crisp,all lowercase sans serif typeface, used in most Bauhaus publications.  The graphic on the front cover is four catenaries put together to create this curvilinear space holder.

The book itself is objectively large, about 12” x 8” when closed.  It’s hardback book that weighed about five pounds and its paper had almost a semi-gloss finish.  Even though the book is almost 100 years old, the pages were only slightly yellowed. The pages were firm, not overused or bent. There were no dog-ears in sight, which is surprising for a book of its age.   

It smelled.. Old.. it honestly smells like my grandmother’s apartment in Florence, dry and dusty.  Even though it was noticeably old, from its yellowed cover and dry smell it emitted, this book was surprisingly kept in incredible condition. No stains, no rips or tears in the pages or cover.  All and all, I was most taken aback by how well this book has been treated for the better part of a century.

Bauhaus, 1919-1928

The Bauhaus 1919-1928 is an extremely important book when talking about precedents for graphic design and typography, not to mention its extremely detailed account and dissection of the Bauhaus school and its dichotomy.  It essentially lays out what the Bauhaus is, stands for, and how it is structured. Not to mention that this was all published and written at a time so close to the actual Bauhaus timeline. These writings were from people heavily involved in the school, including Walter Gropius himself, who edited this entire publication.  

This book is greatly valued for being a raw publication by the Bauhaus, about the Bauhaus.  Much of this book is appreciated for its in-depth look at how the Bauhaus school was structured and run.  This book is full of great text that explains how the curriculum was set up, but as most designers know, it could be much better explained through diagrams.  This was exactly what they did. As shown in the photo above, the school was split into two parts. First through instruction in crafts, such as Stone, Wood, Metal, Clay, Glass, Colors and Textiles.

The second portion of the curriculum is set up to be based on form and form making. This form section of the curriculum was set up in three parts: Observation, Representation, and Composition.  

In terms of how this book fits into history,  it’s so thorough with its images and diagrams, explaining the history and creations that came out of the Bauhaus school.  It’s a historical gem that extensively documents and explains this extremely influential school of thought. To talk about its significance in typography, the book is largely done in all undercase letters that adhere to the typeface specifically designed by and for the Bauhaus school.  The author , Herbert Bayer, was once a student of the Bauhaus for 4 years under the apprenticeship of Masters such as Walter Gropius, Wassily Kadinsky, and Paul Klee. Eventually, Bayer was appointed by Gropius to be the director of printing and advertising. The typeface has a spirit of reductive minimalism, and combines upper and lowercase characters in to a single set of lowercase characters.

Another precedent that this publication makes, is that it is a record of the first school to join all of the design disciplines under one umbrella or roof.  The school contained classes in Architecture, housing, painting, sculpture, photography, cinema, theatre, ballet, industrial design, pottery, metal work, textiles, advertising, typography and, above all, a modern philosophy of design.  The concept that everyone had to learn how to be a Renaissance person made the school’s students into incredible designers who took inspiration from other disciplines and not just their concentration. It’s like a professor of architecture recently said in one of my reviews, and I think he was spot on.  He said that, “ Designers are generalists by heart, and rarely experts”.

Bauhaus, 1919-1928

When talking about the importance of the people who put together this book, there are 3 main creditors to go over. The first being Herbert Bayer, the second being Walter Gropius, and the third being Ise Gropius(lovingly nicknamed, “Mrs. Bauhaus”.  Herbert Bayer is our main author of the book and like was said earlier, appointed as director of printing and advertising for the entire Bauhaus school. Some of Bayer’s largest accomplishments include his proposal for a geometric sans-serif “Proposal for a Universal Typeface”.  He felt that serifs and a set of upper and lowercase for each letter was unnecessary. Part of his rationale was to simplify typesetting and the typewriter keyboard layout. This proposal never came to fruition but set the precedent for all sans-serif typefaces in the future. Later on in life, Bayer would leave the Bauhaus in 1928 to become the art director at Vogue magazine’s Berlin Office.  

Walter Gropius handled most of the editing of this book.  With regards to his accomplishments, and prowess, they can both be summed up in a simple matter. He was a German architect by trade and the founder of the Bauhaus school.  He is widely regarded to be one of the pioneering masters of modernist architecture as well as the international Style. An incredibly important contributor indeed.

Ise Gropius or “Mrs. Bauhaus” was the third and final credited editor of this book.  Ise was an editor, a secretary and another founder of the Bauhaus school. Ise went on to have her hand at architectural and industrial design when she designed the “Masters House” in Dessau.  She even designed every object that would be put in the kitchen. Another major contribution Ise made to the Bauhaus was her modern eye for photography. She happened to influence much of the 35mm photography that came out of the Bauhaus during its operations.

This book is a look into a time period in which the Bauhaus was operational and thriving.  Written, edited and produced by the people who headed and experienced the Bauhaus first hand.  It is a priceless resource.



Bauhaus, 1919-1928 / Edited by Herbert Bayer, Walter Gropius, Ise Gropius. — New York, 1938

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