The "New Bauhaus" of Ulm


ONE of the most encouraging aspects of Germany’s rebirth since the war is the way in which German artists, in spite of great difficulties, are embracing the opportunity to lead their country back into the main line of European cultural development, and for observers of the cultural scene perhaps the most reassuring single instance of this resurgence has been the establishment of the new School of Design at Ulm. Why? Precisely because the new school is an explicit return to the artistic precepts which, in the era before 1933, gave Germany a pre-eminent place in the realms of architecture and the plastic arts.

The Bauhaus was, of course, Germany’s great contribution to contemporary modes of feeling in the area of design. Founded in Weimar in 1919 by Walter Gropius, it moved later to Dessau and finally to Berlin. It was a school in the real sense of the word, not merely a training institution, but a band of like-minded artists and students who lived and worked together in a mutual dedication to the principles of their art. The group included such men as Gropius himself, Herbert Bayer, Moholy-Nagy, Klee, Feininger, Marcel Breuer, and others. When the school was suppressed by the Nazis in 1933, they went into exile and carried on the spirit of the Bauhaus until the word itself became virtually a synonym for the best in modern architecture and design.

The “New Bauhaus” af Ulm was founded expressly to bring back to Germany the creative integrity which was destroyed when the old Bauhaus went out of existence. It was established in 1950 under the auspices of the Scholl Foundation, which had been organized in memory of two young students, Hans and Sophie Scholl, who were put to death in 1943 for distributing anti-Nazi pamphlets in Munich. Contributions for the new school came from many sources — including the people of Ulm, German industry, the Norwegian Aid for Europe, and, nearly one half from the United States government.

Today the School of Design is in full swing. Its student body comprises 180 selected young people, who come from a number of foreign countries as well as Germany, and its program encom passes four main departments: Architecture and Town Planning, Industrial Design, Visual Communication, and Information. All students are thoroughly grounded in the social and philosophical implications of their work, and emphasis is placed on the pure values of art and the integrity of the experimental approach to new problems.

But the soul of an institution is its men, and the school has been at pains to bring to Ulm artists who can maintain the great tradition. Max Bill, the noted Swiss architect, designed the new campus [see photograph, Plate 45) and serves on the governing board. Other teachers include the Argentine painter Tomás Maldonado, Otl Aicher, Max Bense, Hans Gugelot, Walter Zeischgg. From America have come visiting lecturers, including Norbert Wiener and Josef Albers. These men and their students have brought the Bauhaus to Germany again.