Founded in 1919 in Weimar by the architect Walter Gropius and bringing together prominent avant-garde artists throughout Europe, the Bauhaus University has become one of the most influential educational institutions of the XX century in the field of architecture, art and design. The name “Bauhaus” accurately conveys the basic principles that guide the oldest influential educational institution — the desire for knowledge and experiments, openness, creativity, proximity to the industry and, of course, internationality.
In an interview with the Editor-in-Chief of “EBU” magazine, Winfried Spitkamp, the President of the Bauhaus University, shared information about the history of the University, his views on current trends in architecture and design, as well as bilateral cooperation with our country. We bring to the attention of readers the text of this interesting conversation.
– Mr. Speitkamp, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Bauhaus University, the agemate of our publication on its centennial anniversary and wish your institution further development and prosperity.
– Many thanks, of course we wish the same to your magazine. I am glad that today we can discuss common history, challenges our time and enter into a dialogue.
– In your presentation on October 19 in Tashkent, you noted that the Bauhaus University was established in a difficult time after the World War I. Can you tell us what caused it, what contributed to it?
– Germany, in 1919, after the defeat in the World War I and the collapse of the Empire, experienced radical political and social changes. The situation was similar to a civil war, and society was deeply divided. While many bemoaned the old order and tried to restore it, others — including Bauhaus teachers and students saw the future in a radical new beginning that would embrace both art and lifestyle.
– The Bauhaus University in Weimar is among the top German Universities and in 2011 it also became the best German University with the international focus. What is the secret of such a high rating?
– The fact that the University in 1996 included the Bauhaus in its new name is both a chance and a duty at the same time. This name is known all over the world, which greatly contributes to the fact that we have a large number of international students and domestic students from all parts of the Federal Republic of Germany. This allows us to select applicants so that we have good students with an above-average level. In turn having this name it is easier for us to attract good professors. At the same time, this title obliges us to interdisciplinary cooperation, as well as the introduction of innovative forms of teaching and learning.
– Why is the education at the Bauhaus University much more than a simple study of disciplines? What is the difference between teaching at the Bauhaus and teaching at other higher education institutions? Tell us about the training program of your University.
– The relationship between disciplines, as I said, is a central pillar of learning. It involves an excellent disciplinary base and a willingness to work on other issues, methods and working with people. The so-called Bauhaus modules offer co-curricular activities in various curricula and disciplines. This cooperation is encouraged in all subjects due to the fact that our University relies heavily on direct contacts, and the activities on various issues in our small town can take place off-campus. The foreseeable size of our University, however, does not exclude globality. Accordingly, internationalism is another important pillar of our University. Not only do we have many international students and teachers, but also a large number of students who spend one or two academic years or a practical semester at one of our approximately 200 partner universities around the world.
– Who are the graduates of the Bauhaus? What celebrities can you boast of? Can you tell us also about the research and developments in your educational institution?
– We follow internationalism also in science and research: many of our doctoral and post-doctoral students come from all over the world. This is encouraged by scholarships and research projects funded by third parties, as well as programs for alumni. The research groups funded by the German Research Society Special should be noted separately. They also show very clearly the breadth of our research. One group deals with “Evaluation of related numerical partial models in structural engineering”, another with “Identity and heritage”, and another with media anthropology.
– Tell us about your cooperation with Uzbekistan in the field of education.
– We have a long-standing cooperation with Uzbekistan, which dates back to the GDR and which we were able to continue, especially in the field of construction engineering, and for ten years also in the field of monument protection. Since 2010, there have been discussions about the creation of the Uzbek-German center for architecture and construction, which eventually led to the creation of a University consortium consisting of four German and two Uzbek universities. Under the leadership of the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences, and, by the way, with the support of the Cabinet of Ministers, an Uzbek-German master’s course on conservation of buildings and preservation of monuments was held in Tashkent and Germany. Students also attended courses in Weimar, where they, for example, practiced in the survey of buildings and maintenance of construction documentation in the Weimar zeichhaus.
Since 2017, we have been conducting an educational project with some graduates and interested new participants, where students and teachers of the Architectural Institute also took part. In addition to work with monuments of Tashkent, there were excursions, for example, to Samarkand, where our employee Jens Jordan shared his knowledge on the problems of preserving the cultural heritage of traditional mahallas outside the famous historical large buildings.
– During the 100 years of existence of the University the life of people has changed significantly in many areas. What has changed in the architectural style of the Bauhaus during the century?
– Universities are always a laboratory, they look for social problems and trends and try to find answers to questions arising in this regard. And so the architectural style is subject to constant changes. The Bauhaus of the 1920s was looking for answers to the challenges of the time: new industrial production relations were looking for their expression, because up to this point there was mainly a serial, constantly repeated copying of past stylistic forms. With the return to craft skills, a new language of forms was found in design and architecture. Under the influence of artists such as Lionel Feininger, Johannes Itten, Paul Klee or Wassily Kandinsky, under the influence of pan-European trends of the time, as well as Soviet constructivism, new teaching methods were tried and implemented in the Bauhaus. After the expulsion of the national socialists, the teachers of this school emigrated all over the world, and with them the concepts developed in Weimar. However, as I have shown in my presentation, there have been events that from today’s point of view are no longer justified, such as the idea of the influence of society on the “new man”. Today we are trying to work out solutions to urgent problems facing society.
– Upon my return from Paris to Tashkent, I realized how different the approach in the construction of different eras was. After two weeks of impressions of the architecture of the Belle Epoque, Gothic style and Osman style with all their decorative elements, I returned to the world of nudity and clear outlines of buildings and found that the origins of this style are the Bauhaus University with its “functionalism”. How strong was the influence of the German school of design on the architecture of Tashkent and other cities in the first half of the XX century?
– As mentioned earlier, the Bauhaus brought together outstanding artists from many European countries and brought their ideas and different approaches. The impulses that emerged from this conglomerate and spread around the world make this school, which existed until 1933, one of the most influential and important schools of architecture and design of the 20th century. Many cities today are characterized by buildings of classical modernism, for example, Tel Aviv in Israel, as well as African cities. Similarly, the protagonists of the Bauhaus had a strong influence, for example, on development in the United States. Some of the Bauhaus professors, led by Hannes Mayer, emigrated to the Soviet Union. For example, in the 1930s, the architect and urban planner Ernst May designed the new cities of Magnitogorsk, Nizhny Tagil and Novokuznetsk.
Cultural scientist Astrid Wolpert from Berlin studied the works of more than 30 graduates and teachers of the Bauhaus in the Soviet Union: for example, the design for the Agricultural Institute in Samarkand by the architect Antonin Urban can be found in the archives and wills. During my visit to Uzbekistan, I was able to see some evidence of the 1920s, such as apartment building No. 2 on Mustakillik Avenue, built by Moscow architect Babievsky in 1931, and strikingly reminiscent of the buildings of German architect Bruno Taut, which are part of a large residential complex of Berlin in the 1920s, and today belong to the world heritage.
– What do you think was the reason for rejection of the abundancy of decorations in the architecture in the beginning of the new era?
– As mentioned above, there was a desire to start something new and overcome the outdated. The social function had to take the place of the empty decoration. In this respect, architecture was a mirror of a sense of time that influences far beyond architecture itself.
– You as a specialist probably were interested in visiting the architectural monuments of Tashkent and other cities of Uzbekistan. Can you tell me which places you visited and what you liked the most?
We visited several very interesting sites, in addition to numerous buildings in Bukhara and Samarkand, also a mosque in the new development site Tashkent City, the house of railway workers of 1927, Babievsky residential building and high-rise residential house Jemchug. It was the latter facility that gave me a great idea of the bold idea of construction and design – this impressed me especially.
– As we know there are several Bauhaus museums in the world. Can you tell our readers about them? What exhibits can one see there?
It would have taken us a long way if we had begun to describe and compare all the Bauhaus museums here. These museums are primarily related to the objects, images and faces of the Bauhaus, thus trying to tell a story. What is missing is the connection with the written traditions and texts of the Bauhaus. Images, objects and texts, they form the whole history of the Bauhaus.
– How do the architecture and art influence the formation of society?
Architecture, art, design and society are closely interrelated. It is difficult to determine how they affect each other individually. Only if you relate, connect all levels, you can understand the whole.
– What architectural style do you personally like?
I am interested in all styles and forms of design that are looking for the right for people and for the tasks of their time, and at the same time show respect for what is already available. This implies design approaches that create something new in the consciousness of history — but on the basis of the historical past — that is, those approaches that are serious and sustainable about ideas and materials