The impact of Bauhaus: designers tell us how it has influenced them

As we celebrate 100 years of Bauhaus, we ask designers how the school, its teachings and approaches have influenced their design style or career.

Ruth Wassermann, design director,

“I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the influence of the Bauhaus on design as we know it today. The ‘form follows function’ mantra has built the modernist aesthetic we have now and has paved the way for a deep consideration of functionality in the way we live.

The Bauhaus pioneered using industrial materials such as chromed metals in a domestic setting, which was not seen in this environment before, and the resulting aesthetic was minimal and clean with no ornament. The practitioners focused on the function of products to create the desired aesthetic, and used materials for their structural properties. Today we make wide use of metals, laminates and many high-gloss paint finishes, which feel commonplace in the home now, but 100 years ago, marked a brand new look for the domestic environment. has used this aesthetic and the Bauhaus’ functionality principals in our Made Essentials collection. It is a collection of modern design pieces that form a neutral backdrop onto which a customer can stamp their own personality. The pieces are simple, modern design created with small-space urban living in mind, and many are foldaway or multi-function, such as our Rhyss coffee-to-dining table, Kano storage platform bed, and our Besley clip-on bedside table.”

Ab Rogers, creative director, Ab Rogers Design

“The Bauhaus has shown us the importance of wide-spread collaboration in the pursuit of creative excellence – its work illustrating the multi-layered, high-functioning, creative and rigorous solutions that come only when the most brilliant poets, sculptors, painters, architects and craftsmen work as an integrated, united community; when their shared ideas create a rich soup where all the ingredients come together to make something that is more than the sum of its parts.

This multi-disciplinary approach has inspired the work practices of my studio as well as my approach to teaching. In the studio we do not see ourselves as designers or architects but as creatives trying to solve problems in different ways. We try to run the studio without boundaries between disciplines, encouraging knowledge transfer and the sharing of ideas from diverse sources.

This creative freedom helps to generate momentum, excitement and willingness to experiment with function, process, materials, colours and craft, constantly questioning and redefining how we work — all of this comes from Bauhaus. I still think that today, form follows function, only now we have the power to define that function; to ensure the outcome is not just beautifully efficient but emotionally sensitive as well.”

Clotilde Passalacqua, interior design leader, Ikea UK and Ireland. Photo: Courtesy Ikea UK

“I studied for my master’s degree in architecture in Italy and like many young students, I was drawn to the Bauhaus approach. I fell in love with it as a concept and the way it redefined artistic creativity, that went on to influence the next generation of architects.

Funnily enough, I realised it had directly affected me when I joined IKEA towards the end of my degree. I discovered that, despite thoroughly enjoying larger projects and building plans, it was the smaller-scale, artistic projects that engaged me the most.

While we do consider the Bauhaus principles of ‘form follows function’ and ‘less is more’ when we design products at IKEA, we tend to take a broader approach that encompasses five elements we call ‘democratic design’: form, function, quality, sustainability and price. Regardless, I feel there are many similarities between Bauhaus’ teachings and the way we furnish spaces and therefore they have been imperative to my work at IKEA for the past 17 years, particularly in my current role.”

Sebastian Conran, founder, Sebastian Conran Associates. Photo © David Moseley

“After the Edo period ended in 1870, Christopher Dresser was sent by the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum to check out Japanese culture. Highly inspired by this trip, Dresser started designing with a new aesthetic, which we would probably now refer to as ‘Early Modernism’; this influenced his friends Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Joseph Hoffman in Vienna.

Meanwhile another acquaintance, William Lethaby, founded the Central School of Arts and Crafts in 1896, and later invited his friend Walter Gropius over to understand how things were set up. Inspired by this, Gropius then designed and opened the Bauhaus Dessau school, which had more of a cerebral research process to designing, rather than a craft approach.

When I went to the Central School myself in the mid-1970s, the Bauhaus definitely had an influence on teaching, and the core principals and approach to design process and creative thought generated in Dessau have certainly guided me throughout my professional career (much of which, incidentally, has been spent in Japan). The Bauhaus was incredibly influential for early European modernism and everything since, from Dieter Rams to Jonny Ive, and it has produced a plethora of illustrious alumni who studied and taught there. So maybe there is some traditional Japanese DNA in that smartphone or laptop you are reading this on.”

Susanne Graner, head of collection and archive, Vitra Design Museum. Photo: © Florine Leoni

“During my studies, the chance to restore furniture by German-American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who designed the historic Czech Republic building, the Villa Tugendhat, left a long-lasting impression, enabling me to examine the icons of modernism really closely.

This was followed by a master’s degree thesis studying interior design projects completed by German architect Bruno Paul, then conservation projects looking at the work of Richard Riemerschmid and Mart Stam’s tubular steel furniture. And most recently, I examined the Anton Lorenz estate as the curator of a new show, revealing him as the ‘éminence grise’ [powerful decision-maker] behind tubular steel furniture as we know it today. His story will be told through an exhibition at the Vitra Schaudepot [Vitra Design Museum] in Germany.

So essentially it is not the Bauhaus itself that has influenced me, but the enthusiasm its practitioners held about objects that represent, celebrate, and show off the modern ideas of the early 20th century.”

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