Bauhaus spirit lives on

Updated 2018-05-01 11:13:09

The newly opened China Design Museum in Hangzhou, designed by Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza, is dedicated to modern design.

The new China Design Museum lifts the curtain on a global celebration of influential German art movement.

The Bauhaus movement was short-lived. The iconic German school of design, craft and fine arts was founded in Weimar in 1919, relocated to Dessau in 1925 and closed in Berlin in 1933. However, its spirit has lived on for generations.

With the centennial celebration of the movement approaching in 2019, a newly opened exhibition in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province, pays homage to the rich legacies of the German school and has raised the curtain for a global celebration.

The China Design Museum in Hangzhou was inaugurated on the Xiangshan Campus of the China Academy of Art in early April. Bauhaus Imaginista: Moving Away has the privilege of being its major inaugural exhibition.

The museum is designed by Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza, a winner of the Pritzker Prize, the world's top architecture award.

It is described by Hang Jian, deputy director of the CAA, as "China's first museum with a systematic collection of original Western modern design works" and "a rare example in the world of a newly built museum that is specifically dedicated to modern design".

The museum's opening marked the climax of a series of events honoring the 90th birthday of CAA, one of the major cradles of Chinese artists.

"Imaginista" in the exhibition's title, a word newly coined by curators of the exhibition, mimics the Latin language to describe the imagination and illumination created by the bold academic experiments of Bauhaus.

Nevertheless, the rare display of original artifacts from not only Bauhaus but also the rest of the world tells people the exhibition is not just about playing with words. Instead, it unrolls a giant picture of how Bauhaus greatly influenced the world's education, industry design, social aesthetics and urban planning in the long term.

There are a few exhibits reflecting such experiments in Bauhaus and its development, as recommended by Grant Watson, a curator for the exhibition. For example, the 1920s Bauhaus chairs with avantgarde designs were inspired by folk art in Africa and Asia and gradually developed into futuristic styles using modern materials. Maverick woven fabrics combining machine manufacture and traditional craftsmanship are another highlight.

"It made history for textiles," Watson says. "The experienced weavers, who were almost exclusively women, began to write about and theorize textiles, which had never happened before."

He emphasized the great contribution of Bauhaus in forming a systematic theory and methodology.

Another curator, Marion von Osten, picks some magazines, old films and advertisements for the exhibition to show people how Bauhaus ideas became recognized worldwide.

Frankfurter Kitchen, designed by the Austrian designer Margarete Schutte-Lihotzky in 1926, is the prototype of the integrated kitchen of modern time.

The publicity worked, even after a crackdown on Bauhaus by the Nazis, and its international reach is illustrated throughout the exhibit, from design education in India to urban design in the former Soviet Union, and China as well.

Some lesser-known blueprints in China with typical Bauhaus characteristics are also on display, including the 1940s urban design plan of Shanghai and the Central Railway Station of Nanjing, today's capital of Jiangsu province and once the national capital.

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