Bauhaus, Before, and Beyond: German Design from Gründerzeit to Ulm School

Decades before the opening of the Bauhaus School in 1919, German design asserted its remarkable power and presence, endowing everyday things with a unique agency within the social, cultural, and political landscape of modern Germany. This course surveys the development of German design, domestic architecture, and interiors from the Gründerzeit, or “Founders’ Time” after Germany’s 1871 unification, through the closing of the Ulm School of Design in 1968. It emphasizes the active role that design played during this tumultuous and transformative period in German cultural politics, focusing particularly on the critical discourse and pedagogical theory that developed around objects and environments of everyday use. While the course positions the Bauhaus as a pivotal point in the history of design, it encourages students to expand their vision of German design and its theory by looking “before” to institutions such as the Debschitz School in Munich, and “beyond” to the Ulm School of Design. Moving from Jugendstil, to the German Werkbund, to Weimar culture, to Postwar design in capitalist West and communist East Germany, we will consider how visions of regionalism, nationalism, and a collective “past” informed the development of modern German design, and, finally, how the pivotal German concept of Sachlichkeit— objectivity, matter-of-factness, or “thingliness”—inflected each new incarnation of German modernism. 3 credits.