Preview: Bauhaus 100

Bauhaus 100

One hundred years ago, an art school opened in Germany that would change the world forever. It was called the Bauhaus. A century later, its radical thinking still shapes our lives today.

Bauhaus 100 recounts the definitive story of the men and women of the Bauhaus who dared to dream how art and design could radically change the modern world. Detailing the story of Walter Gropius, architect and founder of the Bauhaus, and the teachers and students he gathered to form the influential school.

Traumatised by his experiences during the Great War, and determined that technology should never again be used for destruction – but instead to save humanity – Gropius decided to reinvent the way art and design were taught. At the Bauhaus, all the disciplines would come together to create the buildings of the future, and define a new way of living in the modern world.

To assist him in this endeavour, Gropius assembled the finest minds and artistic talents of his time, including famed artists Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee, who attracted swathes of students from all kinds of backgrounds, hungry for the new innovative teaching methods defined by Gropius in the school’s manifesto.

The experiment proved a success of sorts – but while the teaching and products of the Bauhaus paved the way for the future, the lifestyle of the Bauhaus students angered the locals in the sleepy town of Weimar, and when a new government came to power, the Bauhaus was effectively exiled from the city.

Rather than closing down the school, Gropius took the opportunity to move it wholesale to the city of Dessau, where the mayor offered him the opportunity to build a new campus, now considered one of the defining buildings of the 20th century. Here finally, Gropius’s vision came to fruition. But the pressures of running the school, and his own personal ambitions, led to Gropius leaving the Bauhaus.

His two successors also struggled against the climate of the time, with the rise of the Nazi party, which accused the Bauhaus of being Jewish and Bolshevik. After raids by storm troopers, and a brief move to Berlin, the Bauhaus was finally closed forever.

The legacy of the school still continues to this day, however. Many of the teachers and students left Germany and spread the Bauhaus philosophy and teaching methods across the globe. Some stayed behind and collaborated; others were persecuted by the Nazi regime.
The documentary explores how, 100 years on, the story and achievements of the Bauhaus seem more relevant than ever before.

Bauhaus 100 – Wednesday at 9.00pm on BBC Four.