Many people in the design world would argue that no architecture, art and design school has been more influential over the past hundred years than the Bauhaus. Founded in Germany by Walter Gropius the school brought a fascinating new world of modernist architecture that delighted in minimalism and completely ignored ornament.
The Bauhaus is interlinked with a desire and need for architects from the 1920s to the 1960s to create housing and buildings that benefited people. It was during this time that in the aftermath of the war people needed to be rehoused and provided with comfortable, cleaning living spaces.
Construction on projects during this time, focused on hygiene, ventilation and the benefits of exposure to greater levels of sunshine. As such, the buildings often had large beautiful windows to let as much sunlight in as possible. At the same time, campaigners were working hard to avoid issues of the past and dodge problems with clutter. Roof gardens were incredibly popular while social structures such as hospitals and schools were renovated and reused as a shared living space.
These changes were not limited to housing. Throughout the 1930s architects were also working to build fantastic new shop designs that were grand and great with massive levels of open space. The exterior of these buildings was kept simple and clean while materials like Vitrolite ensured they glistened in the light of the sun. Despite fantastic levels of curb appeal, these buildings were cheap to construct and design.
So, how did these concepts and ideas shape London and where can we see the Bauhaus influence in the great city today?
The London Bauhaus Influence Origins
During the time of the Bauhaus movement, London architects were rather conservative and still focused on traditional ideas. As such, any modernist ideas and concepts were derived from the work of immigrants.
One in particular, Berthold Lubetkin is still considered the pioneer of the modernist design throughout London. Lubetkin migrated to London during 1931 and would eventually set up the architectural practice Tecton.
Ern? Goldfinger was another immigrant who left his mark on the architecture of the city who created three houses, one of which now belongs to the National Trust.
Examples Of Bauhaus Influence Across London
There are an incredible array of examples of the Bauhaus design throughout the city of London. A pinnacle of this is undoubtedly the Isokon.
The Isokon is both a building and a design firm that was founded by Wells Coates as well as Jack and Molly Pritchard. The first project they ever created was an apartment building. The interior needed to be affordable and provide communal areas perfect for life within the inner city, The concrete block of flats offered 36 living areas and was officially opened in 1934 on a beautiful area of Hampstead.
This was largely seen as an experiment in minimalist urban living. For that time, the flats had quite a unique design. The flats themselves had incredibly small kitchens because each was connected to a communal kitchen by a dumb waiter. Other services included laundry as well as shoe shining and even a large garage. Throughout the years the Isokon experienced a series of renovations. By 1937 the communal kitchen became a world-class restaurant.
Today, the block is Grade I listed status. It is considered to be one of the most significant buildings for architecture in the UK. It was saved more than a decade ago and now houses a public museum where people can learn about the first modernist block ever created in London.
Fascinating Examples Of Modernism
One of the most fascinating examples of Bauhaus influence can still be found in the London Zoo. A Bauhaus-influenced penguin pool was created. The design was remarkable, intertwining two winding slabs of concrete that looked like DNA. It was here that penguins preened and stood for an avid audience. The designer wasn’t simply using this as a structure to house penguins, though he did consult with biology experts to ensure it was suitable. Instead, it showcases an example of how people could adapt and live in new Europe that was rapidly succumbing to modernisation.
Today, the pool is unused after the penguins were moved out in 2004. However, it remains a Grade I architectural site.
Another wonderful example of Bauhaus influence still accessible today is Curzon. If you live in London, you may be familiar with this string of arthouse cinemas that was established by Harold Wingate in 1934. The arthouses were used to import foreign films into the city and the interior of the building in Victoria was designed by the AfroditiKrassa Studio. It was largely based on both Bauhaus and modernist styles mixed with typical cinema iconography.
This space was known as a cultural hub. It wasn’t just a cinema and instead featured everything from cafes to screening rooms and even a library.
Bauhaus Through The Later Years
Later examples of Bauhaus influence in London include the Barbican and Congress House.
Congress House was constructed in the 1950s and its style is very reminiscent of this type of architecture. Many describe it as the perfect example of modernist design mixed with concepts such as perfectionism. Indeed, Bauhaus influence can be seen in everything from the beautiful balconies to the wonderful walls that curve around.
In contrast, the Barbican is now a Grade II listed building and was part of a Utopian vision to transform and renew London after the dark effects left from the war. Architects such as Chamberlin, Bon and Powell all left their mark here and it is often viewed as a tribute to the Bauhaus school. The idea of this building was to bring art and life together in a new and exciting development. Today, the building has hosted the largest ever Bauhaus exhibition in all of the UK.
It’s clear then that the influence of Bauhaus is still as noticeable today as it was in the 1920s, back when immigrants began to bring new concepts of modernism and fresh architectural creations to the UK.
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