Topics that still set off sparks today

© Catrin Schmitt


Annemarie Jaeggi studied art history, classical archaeology and contemporary history in Zurich and Freiburg/Br.; academic assistant and subsequently deputy and visiting professor at a number of universities; Director of the Bauhaus-Archiv / Museum für Gestaltung in Berlin since 2003. She teaches at the TU Berlin and at the Academia di Architettura in Mendrisio/Switzerland.

Mpho Matsipa is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Architecture at Columbia GSAPP and Curator at Studio-X Johannesburg.She is also a researcher at the Wits City Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. After completing her professional degree in Architecture at the University of Cape Town, with a distinction in design, Mpho was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and later, a Carnegie Grant as a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. Mpho has worked as an architect. She has curated several exhibitions, including of the South Africa Pavilion at the 11th International Architecture Exhibition, Venice Biennale (2008), and she curates Studio-X Johannesburg, an experimental public platform on architecture and the city. Her research interests include globalization and urbanism in African cities, spatial justice, and culture, race and representation.

Other guests of this panel were Christian Benimana, Anh-Linh Ngo, Philipp Oswalt and Alice Rawsthorne.

The Bauhaus as a resourse and historical subject (Panel 1)

Annemarie Jaeggi, Bauhaus-Archiv / Museum für Gestaltung, Berlin:

I tend towards a more relaxed approach to dealing with the Bauhaus. This in no way means defusing or even excluding critical engagement. I am much more interested in the power of utopia, which fuelled the Bauhaus under all three directors. Can it still offer a source of inspiration today? How should we view the idea of picking up on Bauhaus ideas and transforming these in the here and now - as akin to mining from a quarry or as continuing construction?

Even in its own day the Bauhaus constituted a huge projection screen and that remains the case today - perhaps more so than ever. This applies both to rejection and to glorification of the Bauhaus. Either you love the Bauhaus or you work through and articulate your rejection of it. Searching for confirmation of what one assumes it contains often leads to disappointment, yet also to euphoria.How is that possible? One explanation (among many) may lie in the Bauhaus’ self-proclaimed utopian character. Evocative texts in manifesto mode with an avant-garde flavour, written by Gropius, Meyer or Mies, are challenges to the future that may be inspiring or even appear threatening. They offer a multitude of identification patterns and reflections, but above all a wide range of fundamental ideas. There are considerable gaps between visionary vision and actual reality.


Mpho Matsipa, Technical University of Munich:
1)The Bauhaus might provide a critical – if somewhat partial - “archive” for contemporary research practices and alternative pedagogies. However, questions of whether the Bauhaus might serve as a model and a resource for alternative imaginaries of the futurehas to be contextualized: Whose future(s) and pasts are being imagined? By whom and to what end?
2) Is there a specific structure of within the Bauhaus that inherently lends itself to undemocratic practices and / or authoritarian practices and regimes?It would be helpful to have a critical analysis of the kinds of the political, geographical (read: northern) and cultural imaginations that informed the Bauhaus - in all its multiplicities - in order to explore its relevance and impact on contemporary design thinking and pedagogy.
3) Does the Bauhaus have an unconscious? For example, one might interrogate the extent to which the philosophical foundations of concepts such as “functionalism,” for example, might also be tied to a grammar that repressed “difference” (be it cultural, sexual, gendered, raced or classed) in ways that are not transformative and future oriented.
4) Could a relational understanding of this movement have the capacityto include subjugated and often over-looked and immanent perspectives on and from elsewhere – and that often escape the official discourses or disciplinary boundaries of architectural history and theory?
5) This begs the question of whether the Bauhaus model of architectural research and design have the capacity to operate as possible sites of invention by designers and thinkers in Africa and the diaspora?
6) What would it mean to re-think and de-center the Bauhaus as an experimental pedagogical project,that challenges the temporal and cultural limitations of the old model? (in which location and locality form important counterpoints to theory-driven generalizations, epistemic closure on the non-west and reversals between in the master-student dialectic.  Would this still be Bauhaus?

© Catrin Schmitt
From left to right: Philipp Oswalt, Mpho Matsipa, Alice Rawsthorne, Moderator Jörg Häntzschel, Annemarie Jaeggi, Christian Benimana und Anh-Linh Ngo (v.l.n.r.)
© Catrin Schmitt
From left to right: Anh-Linh Ngo, Christian Benimana und Mpho Matsipa (v.l.n.r.)


Wolfgang Holler Studied art history, history, philosophy and journalism in Münster/Westphalia, Munich and Florence; 1984 to 1991 curator at the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung (Collection of Drawings and Print Graphics) in Munich; 1991 to 2009 Director, Kupferstich-Kabinett Dresden (Collection of Prints, Drawings and Photographs) and as of 2002 Deputy Director-General of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (Dresden State Art Collections). Since 2009 Director-General, Klassik Stiftung Weimar Museums. Since 2004 Honorary Professor of Art History at the Technical University of Dresden. Member of the Saxon Academy of Arts and the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts.

Mathias Illgen, Partner and Managing Director, Berlin brand agency Stan Hema. The trained aircraft mechanic studied business administration with a focus on marketing and business psychology in Dresden and Berlin. After working at Gruner + Jahr and MetaDesign, in 2008 Mathias Illgen founded Stan Hema together with three partners and has since been shaping the development of numerous clients from the fields of culture, education and business. Stan Hema's work always focuses on brands' quality, relevance and attitude.

Other guests of this panel were Thomas FlierlKlaus Siebenhaar and Daniel Tyradellis.

The Bauhaus centenary as a source for inspiration, a means of forging identity and a driving force for brand renewal (Panel 2)

Wolfgang Holler, Klassik Stiftung Weimar:

The Bauhaus would not have been conceivable without Weimar's liberal and ever-threatened democracy. Within the context of 20th-century developments, it is however not only a success story, but also testifies to failure. Retrospective construction of the Bauhaus's groundbreaking contributions to the development of modernism always calls for critical reflection. The historic Bauhaus is inextricably linked to the Weimar Republic. That era's fragile, liberal democracy on the one hand offered enormous opportunities and was virtually the framework enabling the Bauhaus' existence, yet on the other hand also unleashed the fiercest resistance. This political connotation is of the utmost importance for Weimar, where the Bauhaus becomes tangible and comprehensible both as a success story and as a document of failure. The Bauhaus as the subject of a multi-perspective debate on modernity is manifested on the spot in the concept of a "modernist district" that has been developed by several partners: the Klassik Stiftung, the Buchenwald and Mittelbau Dora Memorials Foundation, the Bauhaus University, the Verein Weimarer Republik and the City of Weimar. The concept includes interweaving this era with earlier chapters of history during the German Empire and the subsequent Third Reich - with Henry van de Velde's work, efforts to establish a "New Weimar" with Count Harry Kessler, Nietzsche's views on life worlds or the Nazi forced labor system, which was controlled from Weimar. Here, modernity proves thoroughly ambivalent and is by no means per se set up in contrast to National Socialism. Questions about the Bauhaus' current relevance can also be formulated more acutely in Weimar, in a sense as if through a magnifying glass.

The Bauhaus anniversary in Weimar combines a great opportunity to anchor the Bauhaus' outstanding importance more firmly in public consciousness, while opening up new educational vistas, developing prospects for tourism and thus also increasing local indirect profitability, ever coupled with an awareness that critical reflection is always required in retrospective construction of the Bauhaus' achievements as paving the way for the development of modernism.


Mathias Illgen, Agency Stan Hema:

The icon Bauhaus and the brand as an economic category: What do these phenomena have to do with each other - apart from the fact that both are highly mystified? They have far more in common than is apparent at first glance. This is because we are currently experiencing a fundamental paradigm shift in how brands are understood. The decisive parameters today are brands' social relevance, their content, their capacity for experimentation. Those are also categories strongly associated with the Bauhaus. In this respect, the interesting point is not so much what brands can contribute to renewal of the Bauhaus, but instead what the Bauhaus can contribute to renewing our understanding of brands. 

In an increasingly complex world, undertakings, projects and, of course, anniversaries such as 100 years of bauhaus are confronted not only with fierce competition for attention, but above all with dramatic shifts in media and social demands. This automatically brings the concept of the brand to the fore. That is because strong brands create a sense of direction and trust, to a much greater extent than ever before - both internally and externally. We are however experiencing a fundamental paradigm shift in the way that brands are understood. Nowadays we pursue a socio-cultural approach to brands that places values at center stage rather than a product-oriented (focus on goods) or psychological (focus on desires) approach. The brand is understood as a social phenomenon; its value lies in its social relevance. Terms such as authenticity, behaviour, participation, content, etc. tie into this.

People are no longer simply the recipients of messages but are actively involved in shaping brands. They are producers, multipliers, advocates, ambassadors - in the best-case scenario, critical friends. They determine their relationship to the brand themselves. Instead of messages, the relationship, the dialogue, the interaction between person and brand take center-stage, with brand communication becoming "lived relationship work." The catch is that there is an urgent need for a clear stance and a strong idea. That is the only way that a brand can gain a clear profile. Actually taking one of the Bauhaus' "ten commandments" really seriously, namely "Be rooted in your own time," allows us to discover an ideal environment for renewal of the Bauhaus brand.

What actually interests us as designers about the Bauhaus today? It is the idea, the interdisciplinary work, diversity, open(-ended) processes, the call to experimentation and failure. Our focus should therefore not be on pre-conceiving or stipulating a substantive redefinition of the brand. We must instead succeed in understanding the Bauhaus as a space of possibilities, expressing an invitation to participate, encompassing acceptance of diversity and uncontrollability. We don't need something closed but instead something open. In addition, we should understand branding as a learning process, not as a control process. If we succeed on that front, the Bauhaus centenary could become a role model in understanding branding. This would breathe new life into the Bauhaus, giving it genuine relevance beyond the museum context.

© Catrin Schmitt
From left to right: Klaus Siebenhaar, Wolfgang Holler, Moderator Kolja Reichert, Thomas Flierl und Mathias Illgen (v.l.n.r.)
© Catrin Schmitt
From left to right: Klaus Siebenhaar, Wolfgang Holler, Andrea Bärnreuther, Moderator Kolja Reichert, Thomas Flierl und Mathias Illgen


Nikolaus Bernau is art historian, architecture critic, journalist and non-fiction author. Since 2000 Nikolaus Bernau has worked as a freelance editor for Berliner Zeitung, focusing on architecture, urban planning, museum and cultural policy as well as history. From 2003 to 2014 he was a member of the Berlin Council for the Preservation of Historic Buildings and Monuments. His teaching assignments include teaching architectural and museum history at BTU Cottbus, FHTW in Berlin and TU Berlin. He publishes scholarly work on the history of architecture, urban planning and museums in the 19th and 20th centuries and is second chairman of the Richard-Schöne-Gesellschaft

Claudia Perren holds a doctorate in architecture and has been Director of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation since 2014. Prior to that, she taught architecture, design and urban planning at the University of Sydney. She is interested in hybrids that move between disciplines, questioning and redefining space. The fruits of her research, teaching and curatorial activities have been disseminated internationally in numerous publications and exhibitions.

Other guests of this panel were Markus BaderMarion von Osten and Deniz Ova.

The centenary as a driving force, setting the pace for an enduring development (Panel 3)

Nikolaus Bernau, Freelance Editor:

"The Bauhaus" did not exist, "modernity" was not the Bauhaus, "the Bauhaus" was not the cutting edge of social progress and enlightenment. Museums are educational institutions if they identify as more than just magnets for commercial mass tourism, seeking instead to assume a broader socio-political function. In the best-case scenario, museums heighten visitors' critical consciousness, give them an opportunity to experience historical distance and to recognize actualization as today's view of the past.

In the "Bauhaus case", however, this becomes increasingly complicated, in the first instance due to Walter Gropius's dominant role in perception of the Bauhaus to this day, his promotion of the school as the center of modernity par excellence, and, building on this, today's commercial instrumentalization of the term for tourism, architecture, housing construction or design marketing. This blurs the historical distinctions, the real—i.e. statistically measurable—social, architectural (policy) and cultural significance of the Bauhaus and other avant-garde groups and schools from that  era, the subjugation of a significant number of Bauhaus members to Stalin and Hitler, nationalism, at least in the early phase of the Bauhaus, the ongoing discrimination against women, and probably also against minorities (is there a critical LGBTQ*history of the Bauhaus, one addressing racism, the appropriation of "primitive" forms and so on and so forth ...?) What role does the assertion of the Bauhaus heritage in Tel Aviv's marketing play within the Palestinian conflict etc.?

If the Bauhaus anniversary could dismantle even some of the myths surrounding the Bauhaus, it would have achieved a great deal.  In seeking to render the Bauhaus' ideas fruitful in the long run, we must not content ourselves with a cautious didactic stance and a celebration of the school's undoubted successes. It is crucial to tear asunder the painful historical areas, those that are not easily marketable. And the difference between history and the way in which we turn our gaze on history must at last become clear.


Claudia Perren, Bauhaus Dessau Foundation:

Our contemporary setting nowadays is global, as was the case for the Bauhaus. Exchanges and encounters form its life-blood, along with confusions and upheavals. The Bauhaus Dessau Foundation does not see its institutional task as maintaining a certain image of the Bauhaus. As an artistic-academic foundation, it is not a moral authority nor does it have sole authority to interpret the Bauhaus. It is open to all research topics, approaches and debates around the Bauhaus. It regards the Bauhaus as part of modernity, which drew its impulses from regional and international exchanges. 

The Bauhaus Museum Dessau opens on 8th September 2019. Rather than presenting design icons, the "Versuchsstätte Bauhaus" ("The Bauhaus: A Locus of Experimentation")exhibition focuses more on conveying information about the pedagogical, conceptual and creative strategies, manufacturing methods, design processes and practices materialized in the objects.

The Bauhaus Museum becomes a new Bauhaus site in the midst of the historic Bauhaus architecture scattered throughout Dessau's cityscape, ranging from the Kornhaus on the Elbe to the Bauhaus building and the Masters’ Houses, not to mention the employment office and the Dessau Törten housing estate with its gallery-access homes. These Bauhaus buildings are also exhibits. However, over and above being on a very different scale from most museum exhibits, they are also in everyday use: as homes, as a destination restaurant, a city office or a temporary residence for an artist. At the same time, they give context to the objects produced in the Bauhaus workshops and collected over almost 50 years. This allows a stronger contextualization of the Bauhaus’ impact. As a result, the hallmark of the Dessau Bauhaus collection is precisely the way in which it visualizes the Bauhaus School as a design protagonist in a situation riddled with cultural, social and also economic conflicts.

© Catrin Schmitt
From left to right: Nikolaus Bernau, Markus Bader, Deniz Ova, Claudia Perren, Nina Wiedemeyer
© Catrin Schmitt
From left to right: Markus Bader, Marion von Osten, Nikolaus Bernau, Annemarie Jaeggi, Claudia Perren, Friederike Zobel, Andrea Bärnreuther, Jörg Häntzschel, Deniz Ova, Kolja Reichert, Nina Wiedermeyer