Founded in 1919 by the pioneering architect Walter Gropius, the Bauhaus—a brief and brilliant bloom in the cultural hothouse of Germany’s Weimar Republic—is typically remembered as the birthplace of modern style. Yet more than a style, the Bauhaus represents a cultural coming-of-age.
Bauhaus modernism was preceded by more than 100 years of style wars, an era that saw Western cultures looking for a cosmic justification of one national style over another. As early as the mid-1700s, Horace Walpole built Strawberry Hill House, in Twickenham, England, as a Gothic rebuke to the prevailing classical architecture and design. If we wanted to get into the weeds, I’d say this new cultural insecurity probably began with greater worldwide commercial trade, which brought distant cultures closer to home. With the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, all sorts of social change pulled the rug out from under traditional culture and its unquestioned ways of doing things.