The Design Philosophies Of The Arts Cultural Studies Essay

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The Arts and Crafts movement began around the 1880s and largely in Britain before spreading across Europe and America. The style itself started as a means of creating a reaction towards the largely growing machine production industry and to search for a more popular design and decoration. The focus on creating a reaction against the machine production caught on and people began to see handmade and personally crafted objects as far more valuable compared to their machine made competition, however this didn't stop machine production as it was a way forward in technology and made mass production and life easier. Machine productions were and often still are chosen for affordability whereas hand crafted items are highly valued, this is because of the notion that if it has been made by hand then a lot of thought, consideration, time, attention and love has been crafted into the item whereas you do not get that from a machine made product.

The Arts and Crafts movement was also born from the poor quality of design and decoration of the time, many artists found the design at the time artificial and vulgar so a group of artists, architects and philosophers started the society of Arts and Crafts and began displaying their craftsmanship and artistry. The founding president Walter Crane wrote at one of the exhibitions "turn our artists into craftsmen and craftsmen into artists." And that is exactly what they did, the movement caught on and many designers/makers moved away to more rural surroundings and used natural materials to create. Many of them were influenced by the Gothic revival focusing mainly on bold forms and strong colours from medieval designs. The Arts and Crafts movement was also largely influenced by socialism, the ideas of John Ruskin and the effects of the dehumanising effects of industrialisation. Work of the Arts and Crafts movement besides following the main principles and philosophies can often be recognised by the use simple forms, stylised flowers, allegories from the Bible and literature, upside down hearts, Celtic motifs and copper and pewter all handmade of course. However work without any of these styles can be considered part of the Arts and Crafts movement as long as it followed the main principles and philosophies, as well as being handmade.

One of the leading members of the Arts and Crafts movement was William Morris, best known for his pattern designs, particularly on fabrics and wallpapers had a vision of merging industry and art by applying the main values of art to industry and commercial design. Morris became internationally renowned which led to the large spread of the movement across Europe and America, however the industrial revolution hadn't quite effected America as much as England and therefore the Arts and Crafts movement didn't quite take off as well as it had overseas, it did however work its way through smaller communities starting with Boston via lectures, classes, social meetings and various other ways of showing and telling. However the move didn't really take off until Frank Lloyd Wright introduced a new way of living by designed environments, bringing together architecture and interior design in the style of Arts and Crafts. This opened up a whole world of opportunities for home makers to furnish their house to the theme of Arts and Crafts.

The Bauhaus movement founded by German architect Walter Gropius in the city of Weimar in 1919 had the main objective of re-shaping the world to be seen as art and to unify all arts in doing so. Gropius' aim was to create a crafts guild combining sculpture, architecture and painting into one and doing so produce designers and artisans capable of creating anything that pleases both aesthetically and functionally. The Bauhaus is German 'house of architecture', from Bau 'building' + Haus 'house' and like a place of education followed a curriculum in which the students would study all kinds of crafts and design from Bauhaus theory studies of materials and colours to more in depth workshops of metalworking and pottery, they were taught to bring unification of the arts through craft, however this was a short lived aim as it became apparent as financially impractical. Therefore Gropius adopted a slightly different goal, in 1923 adamant on keeping craft as the main emphasis and designing for mass production he changed the slogan to "Art into Industry."

Two years later Walter Gropius moved the school from Weimar to Dessau and designed a new building in which to teach, this building contained features that become huge in modernist architecture, for example exposed steel structures and glass curtain walls. However three years later Walter Gropius stepped down as director and handed leadership over to an architect named Hannes Mayer, unfortunately after pressure from the government he also stepped aside only two years later to make way for Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, he redirected the curriculum to be much more architectural based. However due to the political situation in Germany the school was relocated to Berlin operating on a much smaller scale but unfortunately this wasn't enough and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe eventually closed the school in 1933 under pressure from the Nazi regime.

After the Bauhaus was closed down many of the teachers and students emigrated to avoid spending the years during the war in Germany, a lot moved to America to continue teaching, Walter Gropius went to Harvard and László Moholy-Nagy who was studio director of metal working until 1928 went to Chicago to establish the new Bauhaus which eventually became the precursor of the Illinois Institute of Technology's Institute of Design. However as well as the style the Bauhaus lives on, in the form of the Bauhaus foundation located in Dessau, it is a centre for research, teaching and experimental design.

Bauhaus style architecture was the forefront of modernist architecture due to its very open and clean style, they looked to remove any decorative embellishment by reducing something to its most simplest of forms, without losing or impeding functionality this is what separates the Bauhaus style from minimalism which may sacrifice functionality for aesthetics. Bauhaus architecture included many features that are popular now; they included a very clean cubic look with occasional curves, open plan rooms, glass wall curtains and steel frame structures. The main influences behind the Bauhaus were modernism, the English Arts and Crafts movement, and Constructivism.

Though they may seem completely different when you look at the work produced by each movement the Arts and Crafts movement and the Bauhaus movement do share some similarities. The Arts and Crafts movement looked to create a society where all artists, craftsmen, architects, writers and just about any hand crafted profession could come together and combine, share and learn new skills to attain a higher quality of product. It also aimed to put man back into design and the manufacturing process as well as making craft skills and design key to manufacture again.

The Bauhaus also had a similar philosophy; Walter Gropius wanted bring together the various arts of painting, architecture, theatre, photography, weaving, typography, etc., into a modern style that blurs the lines between what is "fine" and "applied" arts, however he did this by creating a school like atmosphere where all these techniques would be taught and learnt.

The Arts and Crafts movement also had similarities with the Bauhaus movement as they both wanted to stop the loss of design and beauty from things made by a manufacturing process. The Arts and Crafts movement wanted to inspire artisans and craftsmen alike to continue with their profession and cause a reaction against the machine manufacturing process, and this paid off if. Even now people find hand crafted objects to be a much more valuable to them compared to something made by a machine, it has also inspired people to try their own hand and Arts and Crafts to which people still do to this day.

The Bauhaus movement looked to stop the loss of design and beauty from things made by a manufacturing process also, they looked to create good design from scratch, and however they weren't trying to fight off the machine manufacturing process altogether, more create beauty and design within it.

The Bauhaus philosophy also believed that the design should be relevant to the needs of society and they did just that, by following their main philosophy "form follows function" they created products that were stripped down to the bare minimum this meant completely showing how a product was made and what materials were used to create it, this also partly shows in the Arts and Crafts movement. Their philosophy to show off the handiwork and skill of the artisans and craftsmen often meant leaving joints and materials exposed for people to admire the workmanship and detail of such products.

The Bauhaus also shares similarities in their philosophy as the Arts and Crafts movement as one of the main influences of the Bauhaus was the Arts and Crafts movement. This can be seen in the way Walter Gropius brought all aspects of artistic fields together and by those fields that he brought together, for example pottery, weaving, stained glass and book making. Such subjects that for a forward future thinking movement seem out of place, however they students were taught just about every trade and style past and present to give them a better knowledge and understanding. Just like in the Arts and Crafts movement however they shared techniques and knowledge to better competition between artisans and craftsmen.

That however is where the similarities end, where both the Arts and Crafts movement looked to bring different people and crafts together they ultimately had a different end goal. The Arts and Crafts movement looked to better individual artisans and craftsmen so that they can individually create better products, whereas the Bauhaus aimed to bring all trades together to create functional mass-produced designs.

Despite both the Arts and Crafts and Bauhaus movements wanting to oppose the loss of design and beauty from machine manufactured products they once again did so for different reasons. The Arts and Crafts movement looked to put the workforce that had lost their jobs to machines back into business as well as promote the use of hand made products, as if they were trying to compete and offer another option to those who didn't like machine manufactured products. This worked however mass produced objects were and still are cheaper but hand crafted products made by skilled professionals were hugely more valuable as they were delicately made and beautifully designed compared to their mass produced counter-parts. Bauhaus on the other hand looked to change the ugly face of mass production by creating and designing products with machine mass production in mind so that everyone can have affordable yet well designed products in their home.

Both the Arts and Crafts and the Bauhaus movement looked to create products that were both functional and well designed, however whilst the Arts and Crafts movement looked to make their designs and products functional they also went with very intricate designs which were very elegant and beautifully designed using painted flowers, stories or images from the Bible and Celtic motifs. They also used expensive and sometimes hard to get hold of materials all from nature. Bauhaus on the other hand looked to strip away all unnecessary design from an object, by taking away aspects of the design until all that is left is the form and the basic design, this meant that the basic design had to be painstakingly thought out to make it good on a basic level, the Bauhaus also used very cheap and attainable materials to create. For example the Wassily chair designed by Marcel Breuer it used a very cheap steel tube inspired by a bicycle to create a cantilevered chair frame, at this point no one had thought of using such a material for a chair.

To overcome a time of poor design and poor art the Arts and Crafts movement looked to the past for a successful style to use and influence their work, the main theme they followed was that of the gothic revival and medieval style bold forms which they then used throughout. Bauhaus on the other hand aimed to always be looking forward and designing for the future, by this point it was fairly obvious that machine mass production was and will be a huge unavoidable future so they used this to their advantage using industrial materials and designing products for form, it's only because of this and the methods used that some of the designs are timeless and still appear stylish and fresh over 90 years on. Walter Gropius himself said;

"The Bauhaus was not concerned with the formulation of time bound, stylistic concepts, and its technical methods were not ends in themselves. It was created to show how a multitude of individuals, willing to work concertedly but without losing their identity, could evolve a kinship of expression in their response to the challenges of the day. Its aim was to give a basic demonstration of how to maintain unity in diversity, and it did this with the materials, techniques, and form concepts germane to its time. It was this method of approach that was revolutionary…"

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