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Modernism, of which Bauhaus is a sterling example, was perhaps best characterized by a loss of traditional meaning. This loss of meaning—not merely a loss of political idealism, but a larger and deeper spiritual crisis—is written all over the Bauhaus movement. Modernism also saw huge shifts in traditional class structures. The middle class was growing, but its place in the culture was uneasy. The war had also shifted and destroyed traditions, which had once indicated social status. On top of all of this, the Russian Revolution of 1917 had shown the world the possibility of a different path than that taken by the liberal states of Western Europe and the United States. All of these changes found expression in architecture and nowhere so much as in the Dessau Bauhaus building, which was built in 1926.

Modernists, or people who questioned the prevailing wisdom of the day, often tried to strike back against the mainstream, sometimes in an extreme way. The Dessau Bauhaus building is a n example of this. In an effort to do something new, its creators made a panopticon nightmare, partly inspired by their politics. The building, with its metal grating and block like structure more closely examines the prison described by Jeremy Bentham when he first came up with the idea of a panopticon—or a structure in which there is nowhere to hide. The place is unliveable; it is for people who hate architecture and have little taste. The harsh lines, the glass facades, the super-functionality, the denial of any aesthetic quality, the flatness, all of these things make the building ugly and uninspiring. If anyone were brave enough to live in it they would be living in a nightmare house not a dream house.

Some architecture critics have written of this style of design (which is similar to the Fagus Factory) in the following words:

The animated fluctuation in height, the change between horizontal structure and vertical rhythms, heavy closed volumes and light dissolved fabrics, are indicators of an approach that deliberately utilized contrasts while arriving at a harmony of opposites in a manner best expressed as a pictorial or visual structure created from the perspective of the railroad tracks (Annemarie Jaeggi, 38).

However, these sorts of description abstract the true design of much Bauhaus work. You would not want to live in such a place and would only stay there if indeed you were confined. The absence of aesthetic value is a big turn off.

The modernist era gave birth and cause to dozens of the 20th century’s most celebrated artists. The period was one of drastic change, distortion, and conflict. Many artists were feeling their way through a dark room unsure of what they were doing or what the future held. Many held fast to Ezra Pound’s dictum: “Make it new.” The architects of Bauhaus were like this too, but they went to far. In their zeal to create something new, they made something unliveable. The steel frame, the big spaces, the blockiness of the structures, all of these are things you would look for in a prison rather than in a home.

Code: Sample20

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