Brian's History of Communication Design Blog

Weekly exposition on recent learnings.


Bauhaus Thoughts

We reviewed the Bauhaus last week, moving, as we are, in reverse chronological order through the history of design schools.

Although it was not touched upon in class, it was clear how the Bauhaus was the genesis of the streamlined school of design that eventually led to product design such as Braun and Olivetti, and thenceforth to Apple, under the direction of Sir Jonathan Ive.

The other thing that struck me, as we reviewed Bauhaus architecture, was how there were echoes in the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, whose designs both preceded and followed the Bauhaus movement.

One particularly striking moment was when we looked at the work of the De Stijl architect, Rietveld.

The Rietveld Schroedhuis

For me this 1924 work very much prefigures Wright’s Fallingwater house, which was built much later in 1937.


To compare apples to apples, we can look at what Wright did in 1923, the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo:

The Imperial Hotel

This is much more reminiscent of Rennie Mackintosh than Rietveld, so I think that the Bauhaus/De Stijl impact on Wright occurred only after Wright started developing his Mature Organic Style in the late 1920s and early 1930s.


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Post-modernism Fallout

Although I was never a student in any of the post-modern history classes, they were decidedly present in my late 1980s college. Gay history. Feminist history. Black history.

And as a gay man, I made an effort to read books that re-emphasized the role of gay men and women throughout history. Especially on our history. Books that dealt with Stonewall and the gay liberation movement.

But the overall result of this is a fractured history. People need to have a comprehensive view of history that encompasses all of the minority viewpoints. There should be no need for separate hyphenated histories. All of our histories should be told as one.

Yes, that would make textbooks and class content much denser, but it would also make them much richer, and would offer everyone the chance to see themselves reflected within history’s pages without the need to break apart into dedicated courses at the university level.

I know there is some effort to do this, but I also know it is met with resistance. It is hard to change the normative approach.