Bauhaus: Primacy Of Function?

On our way back from the wedding we had a short stop in Dessau and for the first time I saw the Bauhaus buildings—which I knew well, but only from books–—in reality. This visit made quite an impression on me and I started thinking if the form follows function rule, like it is used today, is still valid.

I don’t know if it is due to my design school education and if there is kind of a habituation effect on form (which I am quite sure of) but what I saw was surely more clarity, beauty and harmony of form than function.

When rain pipes are rectangular, clearly out of formal reasons, which is surely less functional than round ones, but forms a perfect picture together with the house and its clear lines without any curvatures, where is the primacy of function?

In the 1920s the situation of form in general was a different one: When Adolf Loos wrote “Ornament And Crime” some years earlier, the world of architecture was full of senseless decoration. A famous sentence of Berlin craftsmen at the time was “The building is ready, what kind of style should should we put on it?”. The Bauhaus designers and architects founded their philosophy and design on the thought, that art and function should be one, that even the craftsperson and the artist should be one. They wanted beautiful and meaningful things for everyone, not only for kings and queens and so the things had to be simple to be able to be easily produced by machines. But the aesthetic aspect was always at the heart of the philosophy.

The form follows function argument, today is used mostly as an excuse for bad design and has nothing to do with its former meaning. Everytime I heard it in the last time it was because someone didn’t find the time nor the talent or simply was not in the mood to work on a good connection between content/function and form. Or they simply used bad material and tried to justify their decisions.

Let’s think of the form as a well researched and elaborate expression of the function, of how to show the full inner beauty of things, buildings and contents.

Form is there anyway. Things can’t go without it.





11 thoughts on “Bauhaus: Primacy Of Function?

  1. What an interesting stop. I recall hearing of Frank Lloyd Wright when I was in Architectural drafting and seeing a series on him on TV later in life. But it did not really mean much until I was at King Kamehameha Golf Course Clubhouse on Maui. This was a building originally designed as a home for Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe, but never built, until the clubhouse was looking for a signature building. The siting and design were fabulous, but it was the architectural detail and furniture design that impressed me most. I know FLW was thought a bit eccentric, but most genii are.

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  2. Super interesting article! I think that ‘form follows function’ is one of the greatest ideas that came out of modernism but with the coming of post-modernism hyper functionality lost favour in architectural circles.
    My favourite Bauhaus style house is the Vanna Venturi House by Robert Venturi which plays with the idea of hyper functionality by making parts of the house unfunctional (like a staircase that leads to nowhere). It is an amazing funny building!
    Your photos are world class!

    Liked by 1 person

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