Thursday, 26 July 2012

Ise's Infomercial

I gave a lecture on Saturday at the Bauhaus, Dessau as part of the Bauhaus Foundation's Summer School with the intriguing title "The Didactic Home."

Back in the 1920s, the Bauhaus was already "modern" in its marketing - with the Gropius house acting as a "showhome" for parties of interested housewives as well as using the media of the day - exhibitions and magazines. And "new media" in the 1920s meant film: at the weekend we were shown a fascinating film made in 1926: Wie wohnen wir gesund and wirtschaftlich? (How can we live in a healthy and economically sensible way?)

The film is a documentary which promotes an appropriate way of living in the industrial age. Although from a sociological or anthropological point of view the film is far from modern - Ise Gropius gets to demonstrate the walk-in wardrobe while the maid gets to do the washing-up - the nature of the film reminded me of a modern-day infomercial.

The functionality of design is demonstrated, from a mixing-bowl fastener, to a high pressure hose as a precursor to the dishwasher, to a day bed that swiftly converts to a sofa, to living room chairs so light they can be blithely pushed round from one place to another, to the walk-in wardrobe with its solution to the age old problem of how to keep shoes neat and tidy.

It's a hymn to how freeing your home of unnecessary ballast can for make a better life - healthier, more spiritual, more economic.

The Bauhaus in Dessau had a short life - a matter of a few years. There's something shrine-like now about much of it - closed doors and relics behind glass rather than the "Living Machine" of the 1920s. But perhaps the spirit lives on in a certain Swedish Home Furnishings store.

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