Next year will mark the centennial of the founding of Bauhaus, the German center for aesthetic thought founded by Walter Gropius. Known for its functionalist structures and unadorned style, the movement formally ended in 1933, the final year of the Weimar Republic. Still, its influence continues to this day, informing design choices in a wide variety of fields—from architecture to typography, fashion to household items. Fellow Elizabeth Otto, associate professor of art history at the University of Buffalo, is completing a book that challenges conventional understandings of one of Europe’s most influential art institutions. Otto’s work uncovers new areas of inquiry, including the school’s engagement with the irrational, the spiritual, and the pursuit of functional perfection.
In this podcast, Otto maps the aesthetic and intellectual lineage of Bauhaus, paying special attention to the many figures—especially women—who’ve been overshadowed by more celebrated colleagues like Josef Albers and Marcel Breuer, the father of Brutalism. She also addresses origin myths animating the movement, such as the influence of World War I on Bauhaus founders. With attention to questions of gender and sexuality, Otto explores how the legacy of the war complicated ideas of masculinity in Germany during this era, inflecting the idea of the “artist engineer.”