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Bauhaus Worlds - HOA00029M

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  • Department: History of Art
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Michael White
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22

Module summary

In order to grasp the continued power of the Bauhaus over the public imagination and its seemingly endless transportability across time and space, this module examines it from the perspective of cultural encounter, investigating the architectural, artistic and design discourses of the Bauhaus through their complex interactions with education, industry, popular culture and politics, both in its day and beyond, within and without German borders.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2021-22

Module aims

In October 2020, the President of the European Commission announced the launch of the ‘New European Bauhaus’ as the catalyst for a ‘New European Green Deal.’ This is not the first occasion that the name of the short-lived school formed in Weimar in 1919 has been co-opted to speak of internationalism or cultural renewal through creative design. In order to grasp the continued power of the Bauhaus over the public imagination and its seemingly endless transportability across time and space, this module examines it from the perspective of cultural encounter, investigating the architectural, artistic and design discourses of the Bauhaus through their complex interactions with education, industry, popular culture and politics, both in its day and beyond, within and without German borders.

Rather than confirm the Bauhaus as the point of origin for all things modern in the realm of architecture and design, the module assesses it as a confluence of practices generated by the movement of people and ideas. For example, recent research has demonstrated that the presentation of the first Bauhaus exhibition not in Weimar but in Calcutta, enabled its triangulation with local discourses concerning stylistic abstraction and spirituality, and an Arts & Crafts aesthetic discourse circulating within empire. Likewise, before the ‘International Style’ architecture popularised by the Bauhaus took Tel Aviv by storm in the 1930s, one of its key promoters, Arieh Sharon, had already brought his experience of Kibbutz life to the Bauhaus in the 1920s. Such are the histories we trace through the Bauhaus in its day.

Equally, the dissemination of Bauhaus practices following its closure in 1933 was not unidirectional. The module analyses the interaction of those former staff and students who sought opportunities abroad with their new hosts, while it also examines the circulation of the Bauhaus in printed form. In each case, we often discover multiple stages of translation, whether that be the passage of the Bauhaus to Japan and Hong Kong via the USA, or to Mexico via the Soviet Union. The module also examines the ironic fate of those who did not move at all but still found themselves in a new country, the German Democratic Republic, in which their Bauhaus pasts were not initially advantageous.

The module thus develops students’ knowledge of a key episode in the history of modernism by providing them with an understanding of its dependence on moments of exchange, encounter and exile. It will oblige them to consider architectural and design discourse from outside of national and nationalist paradigms and encourage them to think across different disciplines.  

Module learning outcomes

This module provides students with:

  • knowledge of the multi-facetted history of the Bauhaus as an institution, concept, architectural style and educational programme.
  • an understanding of the complex prehistories and afterlives of the Bauhaus and their effect on its historiography.
  • awareness of the intricate international cultural exchanges that constituted the identity of the Bauhaus during its lifetime and beyond.
  • an understanding of approaches to the interpretation of the Bauhaus through studies of exile and encounter.
  • an ability to critical assess recent appropriations of the legacy of the Bauhaus.

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Coursework
N/A 100

Special assessment rules

None

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Coursework
N/A 100

Module feedback

Feedback on summative assessment within 20 working days.

Indicative reading

  • Regina Bittner, Kathrin Rohmberg, Torsten Blume, Tapati Guha-Thakurta, R. Siva Kumar, The Bauhaus in Calcutta: An Encounter of Cosmopolitan Avant-gardes. Edition Bauhaus no.36 (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2013).
  • Leah Hsiao, and Michael White, "The Bauhaus and China: Present, Past, Future," West 86th vol.22, no. 2 (2015): 176-89.
  • Kathleen James-Chakraborty ed., Bauhaus Culture: From Weimar to the Cold War (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006)
  • Philipp Oswalt, ed., Bauhaus Conflicts, 1919-2009: Controversies and Counterparts (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2009).
  • Robin Schuldenfrei, and Jeffrey Saletnik, Bauhaus Construct: Fashioning Identity, Discourse and Modernism (London and New York: Routledge, 2009).
  • Grant Watson and Marion von Osten, eds., bauhaus imaginista: a school in the world (Thames and Hudson, 2019).
  • Inez Weizman, ed., Dust and Data: Traces of the Bauhaus Across 100 Years (Leipzig: Spector Books, 2019).
  • Frank Whitford, The Bauhaus, 2nd edition (London: Thames and Hudson, 2019)



The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.