An interview with prof. Gerd Fleischmann

7 February 2017

Answers

Gerd Fleischmann

Questions

Eugene Yukechev

Photos

Dawin Meckel/OSTKREUZ

here were a few reas­ons to reach out to the Ger­man pro­fess­or of ty­po­graphy, au­thor and edu­cat­or Gerd Fleischmann. It all star­ted back in 2015 in one of Ber­lin’s biggest book­shops, Buch­hand­lung Walth­er König, in the city centre. Its book­shelves were—and still are—packed with an enorm­ous amount of lit­er­at­ure on art and design. One can find brand-new edi­tions from the best pub­lish­ers from around the world, as well as some ex­amples of rare an­tique books. This is ex­actly where I was lucky enough to pull the book bauhaus. druck­sachen, ty­po­grafie, reklame ed­ited by Gerd Fleischmann (Edi­tion Mar­zona, Düs­sel­dorf, 1984) out from one of the shelves in the ty­po­graphy sec­tion. This is a unique and care­fully com­piled re­search work on her­it­age of Bauhaus and a prin­ted eph­em­era that re­flects the evol­u­tion­ of its ty­po­graphy, as well as the mind­set of both the school and the peri­od that star­ted in the Roar­ing Twen­ties. Pro­fess­or Fleischmann has kindly agreed to work with us on a Rus­si­an edi­tion of his book, which will hope­fully lead us in­to long-term col­lab­or­a­tion. — E.Y.

I. Dis­cov­er­ing Bauhaus

Every­one—not only in design, ar­chi­tec­ture, pho­to­graphy, but also in many oth­er fields—feels fa­mil­i­ar with Bauhaus. However, it seems like today “Bauhaus” is rather a syn­onym for an in­ter­na­tion­al design style and a brand with strong fea­tures than a source of know­ledge and ex­per­i­en­ce. What is Bauhaus for you, for your gen­er­a­tion?

Free­dom! For me, it means mostly free­dom. When I be­came aware of Bauhaus back in 1955, it prom­ised free­dom. In many fam­il­ies at that time, the mind­set of the Nazi re­gime was still alive. When I listened to the Amer­ic­an Forces Net­work—I mostly turned it on for jazz—my moth­er called it “nig­ger mu­sic” and didn’t like that her boys were listen­ing to it. The same mor­al­ists, the same people who were in these po­s­i­tions be­fore worked in most of the au­thor­it­ies, courts and gen­er­al ad­min­is­tra­tion. The so-called “de­nazi­fic­a­tion” was taken rather easy, so even the big banks like Deutsche Bank were still in some way gov­erned by the same people who sup­por­ted Hitler. Her­mann Josef Abs was one of them. 

When I saw Bauhaus pho­to­graphs, the feel­ing was “free­dom”. It was even sexu­al free­dom, be­cause boys and girls were to­geth­er there in mixed classes and I went to a boy’s school. There were no girls in our school, and it was the policy of the school to sep­ar­ate the sexes. It was very in­ter­est­ing for us (boys) to look out of the win­dow,

The pho­to­graphs were so lively and so nice—be­sides free­dom, the main mes­sage was that work and life is a unit. I don’t know wheth­er this was the feel­ing of my gen­er­a­tion,—but it’s true for me. 

The Bauhaus Stair­way (1932), Os­kar Sch­lem­mer (1888–1943). This paint­ing is a farewell. All but one of the stu­dents on an or­din­ary day at the Bauhaus are walk­ing away from us, up the stairs, to­wards the huge win­dows—the Bauhaus be­longs in a high­er realm than this one. Only one fig­ure comes to­wards us, not so much walk­ing as dan­cing on tip­toes. Per­haps there is still hope. Sch­lem­mer painted this in the year that the Bauhaus was forced to aban­don its beau­ti­ful mod­ern build­ing in Des­sau. The Guard­i­an. The paint­ing is loc­ated in The Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art, New York•© To­pham Pic­ture­point, 1999. Top­Foto.co.uk

Today people see Bauhaus as a style only. This was nev­er its in­ten­tion. Gropi­us wanted to run a pro­cess and did not want to cre­ate the style, that was later called Bauhaus Stil, an in­ter­na­tion­al style of pro­gress­ive ar­chi­tects. Gropi­us said in the fore­word of the first Bauhaus mono­graph that was pub­lished in Ger­many in May 1955: »Das Wesen des Bauhauses be­st­and in einem sich ständig weit­er­en­twick­elnden Prozess, nicht in der Schaf­fung eines neuen ‘Stils’«. (The es­sence of the Bauhaus was an on­go­ing pro­cess, not the cre­ation of a new style.) You can see in the short his­tory of the Bauhaus that in the four­teen years from 1919 to 1933 the paradigm changed dra­mat­ic­ally from Kunst und Handwerk (Fine Art and Crafts, 1919) to Kunst und Tech­nikEine neue Ein­heit (Art and In­dustry—a New Unit, 1923) to co-op (Hannes Mey­er, 1928–1930). 

It is rarely real­ised that the Bauhaus was a pro­cess. Even if you look at the dir­ect­ors, the change from Wal­ter Gropi­us to Hannes Mey­er was a pro­cess it­self, be­cause Hannes Mey­er def­in­itely had dif­fer­ent ideas on how cre­at­iv­ity should be or­gan­ised. Gropi­us was still (which is a fact of his gen­er­a­tion) think­ing of the geni­us, of the in­di­vidu­al, where­as Hannes Mey­er was propagat­ing the col­lect­ive as the place where cre­at­iv­ity comes from. This is real­ised today—that team­work may be more pro­duct­ive than in­di­vidu­al work, but there should be strong in­di­vidu­als in the team who lead it in some way. 

A team gives more in­put and it is pos­sible to change the lead­ing per­son with­in it, but I think that a mix of both paradigms is im­port­ant. There are in­di­vidu­als, which a team needs. You won’t have a pro­duct­ive team if you have only weak in­di­vidu­als, and you won’t have any ser­i­ous dis­cus­sions if the mem­bers of a team don’t have strong opin­ions. Gropi­us said that the Bauhaus should be a pro­cess, like the pro­cess that al­ways takes place in a team (even with­in the group). This one of Gropi­us’s be­liefs is something people don’t real­ise, when they ad­vert­ise, for ex­ample, ar­chi­tec­ture or houses to rent or to buy im Bauhaus Stil (in Bauhaus style). This is a con­tra­dic­tion in it­self. Bauhaus is not a style, though some pieces may have a re­la­tion­ship with Bauhaus.

The edu­ca­tion­al pro­cess of the Bauhaus was based in many ways on ped­ago­gic­al ex­per­i­ments. What was the key point in chan­ging the mind­sets of the Bauhauslers?

Well, this is the Bauhaus Vorkurs (Pre­lim­in­ary course). In the Vorkurs, the stu­dents had to un­learn what they knew from their ex­ist­ing so­ci­ety, ex­ist­ing be­liefs and ex­ist­ing val­ues. They had to re­search all things and phe­nom­ena in the world: ma­ter­i­al, spir­itu­al, so­cial. They had to de­vel­op a new ap­proach to­wards the world. The un­learn­ing of habits that the Bauhaus stu­dents came with was the key. You can­not build a new world if you keep all of the old world.

The Vorkurs tried to get the stu­dents in touch with the po­ten­tial of ma­ter­i­als, be­cause that time was still the time of ma­ter­i­als: iron, wood, stone and the oth­ers. It really was dif­fer­ent from our world, which is be­com­ing more and more im­ma­ter­i­al. But we must con­fess that it is still ma­ter­i­al: we will die and this is the biggest proof of the ma­ter­i­al world. I can­not sur­vive di­git­ally my­self, only what I do may be spread di­git­ally. But, in fact, when I’m dead, it’s fin­ished.

The Vorkurs was giv­en ini­tially by Jo­hannes It­ten. But I think the idea of the Vorkurs was a gen­er­al idea that all the mas­ters dis­cussed and de­cided to im­ple­ment. When Mo­holy-Nagy jouned in 1923, con­struct­iv­ism came in­to the Bauhaus. Be­fore that, they were strongly in­flu­en­ced by ex­pres­sion­ism and some mys­ti­cism—Mazdazn­an, for ex­ample. 

It­ten with his unique ideas of art, rhythm and col­ours (he covered all the ma­ter­i­al and im­ma­ter­i­al as­pects of art) wanted the stu­dents to get rid of all re­li­gions, form­al habits and what they pre­vi­ously learned about art. In the same way as he dis­cussed stud­ies in ma­ter­i­als, he stud­ied his­tor­ic­al art with stu­dents, just to find out how paint­ings from the 15th or 16th cen­tury are com­posed, what col­ours are manly used, which col­ours rep­res­ent the saints, Mary or Je­sus, how they are used, what the col­ours mean. All these the­or­ies were made in or­der to free the stu­dents to think for them­selves. 

It­ten tried to ex­plain this. In Uto­pia, he says that one can’t teach art. It is only pos­sible to un­der­stand, to de­vel­op your cre­at­iv­ity, but nobody can teach oth­er people art or how to be an artist. This is what was dif­fer­ent in oth­er schools at that time. The stu­dents had to draw rep­licas of Greek and Ro­man sculp­tures, do com­pos­i­tion stud­ies, be­lieve in cer­tain col­our schemes, learn paint­ing tech­niques and so on. In the Bauhaus, the main as­pect even for It­ten, who had a strong be­lief on how things should work was to open the mind and at­tain free­dom.

Wal­ter Gropi­us called the Bauhaus a “Cathed­ral of So­cial­ism” in his 1919 Mani­festo. As a school of its time, the Bauhaus was in­ten­ded to de­vel­op so­cial­ist­ic ideas. How does that sound to you? Could one say that the Bauhaus ma­ter­i­al­ised so­cial­ism through the power of stand­ard­is­a­tion? 

I think the so­cial­ism that was laid out in the Arbeit­s­rat für Kunst (Work­ing Com­mit­tee for the Arts, 1918–1921) pa­pers was quickly aban­doned by Gropi­us, be­cause there were no op­por­tun­it­ies to dis­cuss so­cial­ism. The Bauhaus, as a state in­sti­tu­tion, had to be fun­ded by Thuringia. If they pro­claimed so­cial­ism, the bour­geois so­ci­ety that gov­ern­ment of Thuringia in some way was would have stopped the fund­ing. There­fore, so­cial­ist ideas re­ceded in­to the back­ground, while fine art and crafts dom­in­ated, as well as edu­ca­tion in new think­ing, e.g. Theo van Does­burg brought the ideas of De Stijl (The Style) to Wei­mar and El Lis­sitzky brought Rus­si­an con­struct­iv­ism. 

There were many in­flu­en­ces that re­duced the pro­gramme to the arts, cre­at­iv­ity and the means of build­ing a new world through art and the think­ing of artists. But so­cial­ism very quickly dis­ap­peared from the dis­cus­sions. It came back when Hannes Mey­er, who de­clared him­self a com­mun­ist, be­came dir­ect­or in 1928 when Gropi­us left. He saw so­cial­ism as a pro­gramme for the fu­ture, but it can­not be said that the Bauhaus as a whole pro­pag­ated so­cial­ism. The time was full of strife. In a small town like Wei­mar, there was al­ways strong op­pos­i­tion to­wards the Bauhaus, which fi­nally had to leave Wei­mar in 1925. Des­sau, where the new paradigm Kunst und Tech­nik—Eine neue Ein­heit be­came vis­ible in the new build­ing, was an open-minded in­dus­tri­al city. It was gov­erned by a so­cial demo­crat. Many mem­bers of the so­ci­ety sup­por­ted the Bauhaus. For ex­ample, Hugo Junkers, a suc­cess­ful in­dus­tri­al­ist, one of the key per­sons of the Ger­man air­craft in­dustry, also was one of the main spon­sors of the school.

Photo by Se­basti­an Guet­tler, 2009

The pivotal point in the evol­u­tion of the Bauhaus was the re­place­ment of Jo­haness It­ten by László Mo­holy-Nagy in 1923 un­der the pres­sure of the post­war crisis and the in­sist­en­ce of the au­thor­it­ies, along­side oth­er reas­ons. With the ap­pear­ance of Mo­holy-Nagy at the school, the edu­ca­tion­al pro­gramme was ad­jus­ted in a more prac­tic­al dir­ec­tion. What changes can we ob­serve be­fore and after Mo­holy-Nagy in the school in gen­er­al and Bauhaus ty­po­graphy in par­tic­u­lar? 

Mo­holy-Nagy was solely con­struct­iv­ist, and he came from the Hun­gari­an group of artists and writers called MA (Today). He brought all the con­struct­iv­ist ideas and the ideas of El Lis­sitzky and Ilya Ehren­burg ex­pressed in the magazine Вещь/Ge­gen­stand/Ob­jet. They main­tained that they didn’t want to cre­ate art, but as­pired to cre­ate “ob­jects”. Art was no longer de­term­in­ed by cre­at­iv­ity, rather all cre­at­ive out­put would be judged on the basis of wheth­er the res­ult could qual­i­fy as an ob­ject. Even a paint­ing or a sculp­ture would be called an ob­ject. If you look at the il­lus­tra­tions in Вещь, the prom­in­ent driv­ing force is not the paint­ing. The idea of con­struct­iv­ism was not to cre­ate sin­gu­lar works of art, but to bring the whole world in­to a cer­tain visu­al rhythm and dir­ect cre­at­iv­ity to­wards the cre­ation of ob­jects. Everything is an ob­ject—noth­ing should be pure art. 

In his first works at the Bauhaus, Mo­holy-Nagy was very rect­an­gu­lar, very strong, like in ar­chi­tec­tur­al con­struc­tion where you have the ver­tic­al ele­ments and the ho­ri­zont­al ele­ments. His wife, Lu­cia Mo­holy, was a gif­ted pho­to­graph­er, doc­u­ment­ar­ist and ed­it­or as well. Lu­cia Mo­holy, who came from Prague, had a de­cent level of lan­guage com­mand and must have proofread all that László pub­lished. The main im­ages of the Bauhaus build­ing are pho­to­graphs by Lu­cia Mo­holy, se­lec­ted and au­thor­ised by Wal­ter Gropi­us. 

Print ma­ter­i­als by László Mo­holy-Nagy (1895–1946). Left — An in­vit­a­tion from the gal­lery Fides, Dresden; red and black, DIN A6. Right — an or­der card; black on post card­board, DIN A6•From the book bauhaus. druck­sachen, ty­po­grap­fie, reklame, Gerd Fleischmann; Edi­tion Mar­zona, Düs­sel­dorf, 1984

I think that both László and Lu­cia in­flu­en­ced each oth­er and László in some way learned pho­to­graphy from Lu­cia. There was no pho­to­graphy de­part­ment in the Bauhaus un­til 1929. But pho­to­graphy was an in­teg­ral part of Mo­holy-Nagy’s work, and a new means of com­mu­nic­a­tion.

Mo­holy-Nagy’s act­iv­ity in­flu­en­ced sev­er­al as­pects of the Bauhaus. The first is form­al de­vel­op­ment—con­struct­iv­ist forms. The second is that he and Gropi­us pub­lished books and magazines, and star­ted to spread their ideas to the world by means of prin­ted ma­ter­i­als. If you look at design schools today, not many have a pub­lish­ing pro­gramme like the Bauhaus. They are lim­ited to edu­ca­tion. The staff may pub­lish something from time to time, but there isn’t a pro­gramme.

II. Bauhaus Ty­po­graphy

Un­til the mid-1920s, the ty­po­graphy of the Bauhaus was ex­tremely wild and had noth­ing in com­mon with how we per­ceive it today. What can we con­sider to be the start­ing point of its ty­po­graphy

At that time, ad­vert­ise­ments, books and posters were either drawn by artists or simply set in the com­pos­ing room. Jan Tschich­old in some way in­ven­ted the pro­fes­sion of the ty­po­graph­ic de­sign­er in the early ’20s. For the first pub­lic­a­tion of the Büch­er­gilde Guten­berg (the book club of the print­ers’ uni­on for which Tschich­old de­signed books), he was re­spons­ible for the Ty­po­graph­is­che An­ord­nung, which means how the type was to be set. This was the first step to­ward es­tab­lish­ing the pro­fes­sion of the ty­po­graph­ic de­sign­er that we know today. 

Back then, the pub­lish­ing houses were pro­du­cing only stand­ard pub­lic­a­tions in a kind of house style and everything else was de­signed ex­tern­ally, mostly by artists. The pro­fes­sion didn’t ex­ist and the need for ty­po­graph­ic design wasn’t real­ised—there was no idea that stu­dents could be trained in this field. The Bauhaus in Wei­mar didn’t have any fa­cil­it­ies to set type, com­pose or print. There was no ty­po­graphy and no graph­ic design, as it was called later. 

In Des­sau, a print­shop was in­stalled in the base­ment of the new build­ing (where the café is found today) headed by Her­bert Bay­er. The stu­dio for graph­ic design was called Reklamew­erkstatt and was also headed by Her­bert Bay­er. The print­shop in Des­sau even worked for people from out­side the school. It could take in or­ders and de­liv­er prin­ted work and gen­er­ate­ing in­come for the school. But the ty­po­graph­ic style was not unique to the Bauhaus. In the book­let, junge menschen kom­mt ans bauhaus! (young men and wo­men at­tend the bauhaus!) by Hannes Mey­er, you can read about the ty­po­graph­ic course, the course in the Reklamew­erkstatt and even about the pho­to­graphy course. When Gropi­us, Bay­er and Mo­holy-Nagy left, the idea of ty­po­graph­ic design, pho­to­graphy, ad­vert­ising and pub­lish­ing was well es­tab­lished. There­fore, nobody dis­cussed wheth­er these were the sub­jects that stu­dents should learn about any more. Former stu­dent Joost Schmidt con­tin­ued to teach­ Schrift (let­ter­ing), ty­po­graphy, Reklame (ad­vert­ising or graph­ic design, as we call it today) and ex­hib­i­tion design.

See­ing as you men­tioned Jan Tschich­old… Nowadays it is some­what over­shad­owed, but his »Ele­ment­are Ty­po­graph­ie« (Ele­ment­ary Ty­po­graphy) was mainly based on the ideas of the Bauhaus in gen­er­al and on Láz­sló Mo­holy-Nagy’s es­say »Die Neue Ty­po­graph­ie« in par­tic­u­lar, isn’t it?

Be­fore pub­lish­ing his fam­ous spe­cial is­sue, Ele­ment­are Ty­po­graph­ie, of the print­ers’ uni­on magazine, Ty­po­graph­is­che Mit­teilun­gen, Tschich­old thought that the Bauhaus was the pre­curs­or of all of these ideas. But when he was col­lect­ing ma­ter­i­al for this pub­lic­a­tion, he real­ised that the Bauhaus was not the only place where this kind of ty­po­graphy was cul­tiv­ated and that Bauhaus had taken the ideas from the out­side, for ex­ample from the Rus­si­ans, the Dutch, the Pol­ish, and the Fu­tur­ists. The Bauhaus can be seen as a kind of melt­ing pot for all these new ideas. There were many people who worked on this new ap­proach to­wards ty­po­graphy. There­fore, Tschich­old aban­doned the title Bauhaus Ty­po­graph­ie, which was his ini­tial idea, and changed it to Ele­ment­are Ty­po­graph­ie.

László Ma­holy-Nagy: The New Ty­po­graphy (Die Neue Ty­po­graph­ie). A pro­gram­mat­ic es­say from the book Staat­liches Bauhaus Wei­mar, 1919–1923 (1923), de­signed by László Ma­holy-Nagy. It is re­mark­able that only two of the four let­ters E’s in the title (see the word “NEUE”) come from one typeface. Moreover, the last “E” is com­piled of four dif­fer­ent parts, which is not sur­pris­ing for hand-set­ com­pos­i­tions of that peri­od•From the book bauhaus. druck­sachen, ty­po­grap­fie, reklame, Gerd Fleischmann, Edi­tion Mar­zona, Düs­sel­dorf, 1984

Ele­ment­ary art was based on the us­age of geo­met­ric ele­ments and shapes. With them, you can build art, dec­or­a­tions or any type of il­lus­tra­tion. These ideas spread all over Europe, and Tschich­old was per­fectly aware of everything that was hap­pen­ing. He cor­res­pond­ed with the lead­ing lights in this field and col­lec­ted whatever he could get. The term “Bauhaus ty­po­graphy” is in­ad­equate in two ways: the Bauhaus nev­er in­ten­ded to cre­ate a style, and the Bauhaus was in­flu­en­ced from out­side. Her­bert Bay­er, however, quickly un­der­stood that he should sys­tem­at­ise and re­duce the forms, de­vel­op­ing a kind of style. He was, I think, for dec­ades the most in­flu­en­tial per­son for the new graph­ic design. Her­bert Bay­er was eager to do graph­ic design, even for the Nazis.

Could Tschich­old have also taken his ini­tial ideas from the mani­festo of the journ­al Вещь/Ge­gen­stand/Ob­jet without men­tion­ing the source?

I think this was a habit of the time, dif­fer­ent from ours, when we’re al­ways ex­pec­ted to re­veal our sources. Artists and de­sign­ers are es­pe­cially afraid of hav­ing pre­de­cessors. They all want to be the first one. When Tschich­old pub­lished Die neue Ty­po­graph­ie 1928, he did not men­tion that Mo­holy-Nagy had coined this title in 1923. 

It was still the time of in­di­vidu­als, of the geni­us; every­one wanted to be unique. Joost Schmidt prob­ably nev­er made the claim of be­ing unique. There was no part­ner to co­op­er­ate with him. The same was true of Her­bert Bay­er and László Mo­holy-Nagy, to men­tion only three “ty­po­graph­ers” at the Bauhaus. Gropi­us took cred­it for his ar­chi­tec­ture, though his of­fice did a large part of the work. Even the design of the Bauhaus build­ing in Des­sau is not en­tirely his own work. Ad­olf Mey­er was part of the Gropi­us of­fice at that time and made im­port­ant con­tri­bu­tions to the ar­chi­tec­ture of the build­ing. 

The pub­lic wants the in­di­vidu­al to be cel­eb­rated; the pub­lic doesn’t want to have a team. Even today if you look at the big shots in any busi­ness, es­pe­cially in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dustry, it’s al­ways one per­son, nev­er a team. I think it is ba­sic­ally hu­man that we fo­cus on the in­di­vidu­al. Bauhaus con­sis­ted of in­di­vidu­als, even the stu­dents were in­di­vidu­als. Al­though some of them tried to set up teams, you mostly see in­di­vidu­als. I nev­er heard of or read any­thing about team-based teach­ing in the Bauhaus. Every teach­er taught on his own.

How did you come up with the idea for your book »bauhaus. druck­sachen, ty­po­grafie, reklame«? When did you start re­search­ing Bauhaus ty­po­graphy?

When I made the book, I had been work­ing for years on ty­po­graph­ic pro­jects, but I had no real idea what Bauhaus ty­po­graphy was. When I got a box full of ma­ter­i­al, I real­ised there were so many dif­fer­ent things that I had to cre­ate the threefold title bauhaus: prin­ted mat­ter, ty­po­graphy, ad­vert­ising. I could clearly see that all the prin­ted work in Wei­mar did not have a con­sist­ent style of ty­po­graphy. It was pro­duced ex­tern­ally and only in de­tails in­flu­en­ced by the Bauhaus. 

The tit­ile page of the book that ac­com­pan­ied the Bauhaus ex­hib­i­tion in 1923 was de­signed by Her­bert Bay­er. It is very strange and in some ways does not make sense: nobody can really un­der­stand how the col­our was as­signed to the let­ters. The col­our­ing does not as­sist read­ing. It’s a play­ful dec­or­a­tion which people liked—and still like. In the book de­signed by Mo­holy-Nagy, he could only con­trol the title pages, the run­ning heads and the fo­li­os (page num­bers), but the type­set­ting and page lay­out were pro­duced else­where in a print­shop ac­cord­ing to own rules. 

The eph­em­era that was prin­ted to ac­com­pany the ex­hib­i­tion was tra­di­tion­al, some was partly mod­ern­ist when Os­kar Sch­lem­mer de­signed it, or con­struct­iv­ist if Mo­holy-Nagy stood be­hind it. The poster for the ex­hib­i­tion by Joost Schmidt (a stu­dent at that time) had a totally dif­fer­ent look from everything that I have men­tioned. It was done in free­hand litho­graphy, without any ty­po­graph­ic style.

Ty­po­graphy as a sub­ject for study, as well the aware­ness of type and prin­ted mat­ter, be­came rel­ev­ant when Mo­holy-Nagy joined the Bauhaus in 1923. It be­came more and more vis­ible un­der Her­bert Bay­er. When Her­bert Bay­er was ap­poin­ted mas­ter and ran the print­shop, his ty­po­graph­ic style dom­in­ated. He de­signed the quarterly the journ­al bauhaus, in­vit­a­tion cards for Bauhaus parties, ads, etc., i.e. the gen­er­al look of the Bauhaus.

Fu­tura was mar­keted as the “Type of our time”. There is no doubt that it rep­res­en­ted the zeit­geist, but it had noth­ing to do with the Bauhaus. If we were try­ing to rep­lic­ate that peri­od, we would prob­ably choose oth­er rel­ev­ant typeface, e.g. Venus, Breite-Grotesk or Ideal-Grotesk, but they all look so old-fash­ioned and fail to rep­res­ent the bold spir­it of the school. Is that why you chose Fu­tura to set your book? 

If you pub­lish his­tor­ic­al texts, should you use a typeface of the time or can you use a typeface of our time? Giv­en a book on baroque paint­ings, must it be in Bodoni or Gara­mond? Or can you use Fu­tura, Meta or Hel­vet­ica? I think it de­pends on what you want to say. The use of Fu­tura in the book had two reas­ons: the print­er, Klaus Richter from Druckerei Hein­rich Win­ter­scheidt, Düs­sel­dorf, likes Fu­tura, and Fu­tura, as you have said, is part of the zeit­geist. Paul Ren­ner’s typeface ful­fils that Bauhaus teach­ers and stu­dents wanted from type. 

If you make a book on the Bauhaus today, it is your right to de­cide what to say through your choice of typeface. Look on the web­site of the Bauhaus 100 or Bauhaus Archive—they use typefaces that look quite mod­ern and pro­gress­iv to us. If you are pub­lish­ing something on baroque paint­ings and want to show not only your ad­mir­a­tion for them, but also the aw­ful smell in the streets that were home to the people of the time, you can make a kind of con­trast and set it in DIN, for ex­ample. Why not?

III. Bauhaus Her­it­age Today 

You have men­tioned the Cen­ten­ary of the Bauhaus that will be cel­eb­rated in 2019 and which the world is pre­par­ing for. There seems to be something of a Bauhaus tri­umph­al march throughout the plan­et. What do you ex­pect from this event? 

Well, as an ex­ample: when people come to the Bauhaus Des­sau today, they don’t ex­per­i­en­ce the Bauhaus as they should. They don’t ex­per­i­en­ce the ap­proach or the philo­sophy. They go in, see an ex­hib­i­tion, then—after a re­l­at­ively short vis­it—go to the shop, get souven­irs, go to the cafe, make their selfies with the sig­nage and that’s it. There is nobody work­ing in design in this place, and I think that’s the work that people should ex­per­i­en­ce when cel­eb­rat­ing the cen­ten­ary.

I sup­pose that the brand Bauhaus will be more ef­fect­ive and they will sell more Bauhaus rep­licas. If you look at the Bauhaus Des­sau or at the Bauhaus Archive Ber­lin, their souven­ir shops are full. When I watched the Des­sau shop for a while, I saw tre­mend­ous sales: people buy, buy and buy, not think­ing about what they are do­ing—they are buy­ing style. 

I would sug­gest that if there is to be any com­mem­or­a­tion for 100 years of Bauhaus, it should be a series of work­shops where people try to solve cer­tain prob­lems in the spir­it of the Bauhaus, as they un­der­stand it. There­fore, in my pro­pos­als for the cen­ten­ary, work­shops are the main as­pect. The pub­lic wants to ad­mire his­tor­ic­al things, but a walk through IKEA would be just as re­veal­ing as look­ing at the old Bauhaus busi­ness, be­cause you can see the Frosta stool there, for in­stance, which is a won­der­ful ex­ample of the Bauhaus idea. You can see a lot of bowls and glasses in the kit­chen de­part­ment of the shop that look like con­struct­iv­ist ob­jects, ac­cord­ing to the idea of ele­ment­al design. 

Frosta Stool. The stool can be stacked, so you can keep sev­er­al on hand and store them in the same space that one oc­cu­pies. © IKEA •De­sign­er: Gil­lis Lun­d­gren

If I were to hold a work­shop on design­ing a chair, I would take the group through an IKEA show­room and dis­cuss what’s Bauhaus or what could be Bauhaus there. Even the car­pets in IKEA are won­der­ful pieces that could have come from the Bauhaus tex­tile work­shop. I won­der wheth­er this link has crossed the mind of the cus­tom­ers and IKEA de­sign­ers. There was some cri­ti­cism—some left­ist cri­ti­cism—in Bauhaus times, say­ing that what the Bauhaus de­signed and pro­duced was for the bour­geois­ie who have money, and there was noth­ing for the work­ing class. 

When Hannes Mey­er was the dir­ect­or of the Bauhaus, he wanted to change this, but he did not suc­ceed with­in his two years. This is prob­ably an idea the of­fi­cial com­mit­tee wouldn’t en­joy, though IKEA some­times spon­sors Stif­tung Bauhaus events. If something for this 100th birth­day or cen­ten­ary is ever or­gan­ised, the loc­al IKEA should be in­volved; there are so many things there that shout “Bauhaus”.

If you were asked about the most in­flu­en­tial suc­cessors of Bauhaus ideas today, whom would you name?

Apple could be one, but this would already be a change from ma­ter­i­al­ity to im­ma­ter­i­al­ity. For me, Apple is fam­ous for their com­puters at the be­gin­ning of the change in the graph­ic in­dustry, which oc­curred due to the user-friendly Ma­cin­tosh. 

I won­der what the Bauhaus people would say if you men­tion Green­peace or Am­nesty In­ter­na­tion­al. I won­der if these are con­cepts that are com­pat­ible with Bauhaus ideas. The prob­lems that are re­lated to Green­peace or Am­nesty In­ter­na­tion­al didn’t ex­ist at that time. Well, en­vir­on­ment­al prob­lems did ex­ist, but people were not as aware of them as we are today. It would be a nice idea to think about Green­peace and Bauhaus be­cause Bauhaus wanted a new world and Green­peace wants to change the world too, or the at­ti­tudes to­wards how we deal with the world. 

Mean­while, Bauhaus ideas have spread world­wide and are in some way com­mon to our un­der­stand­ing of edu­ca­tion. I learned this from an ex-stu­dent, whose daugh­ter goes to school in Ham­burg, where they have a cur­riculum with a min­im­um of “musts” and folders with a lot of new things that they are re­com­men­ded to learn and study. The stu­dents or­gan­ise their learn­ing them­selves. If their own learn­ing seems more im­port­ant to them tnah the of­fi­cial les­sons that are offered, they are al­lowed not to at­tend class and con­tin­ue their own learn­ing. This re­minds me a bit of the Bauhaus learn­ing with many ad­di­tion­al act­iv­it­ies: Bauhaus­feste, sports, theatre, mu­sic, pho­to­graphy, etc. 

Cos­tumes by Os­kar Sch­lem­mer for Bal­let Tradique at the Met­ro­pol Theatre in Ber­lin. Photo by Ernst Schneider, 1926•Photo © PVDE / Bridge­man Im­ages

In total there were only 150 stu­dents every semester at the Bauhaus. Each stu­dent knew every­one else. I think they felt like a fam­ily on an is­land with­in so­ci­ety, and they aimed to es­tab­lish a new world.

Her­mann Josef Abs (1901–1994) was a Ger­man banker. He was a mem­ber of the board of dir­ect­ors of Deutsche Bank from 1938 to 1945. After World War II he was chair­man of Deutsche Bank, and con­trib­uted to the re­con­struc­tion of the Ger­man eco­nomy. Wiki­pe­dia

Mazdazn­an is a neo-Zoroastri­an re­li­gion which held that the Earth should be re­stored to a garden where hu­man­ity can co­op­er­ate and con­verse with God. Foun­ded at the end of the 19th cen­tury by Oto­man Zar-Adusht Ha’nish, the re­li­gion was a re­viv­al of 6th cen­tury Mazdakism. Ad­her­ents main­tained ve­get­ari­an di­ets and prac­ticed breath­ing ex­er­cises. — Wiki­pe­dia

History
Typography
Bauhaus
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