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Proto Bauhaus

Posted by Word Camel on February 10, 2004

In Reply to: Sullivan? posted by Bob on February 10, 2004

: : : : As an old and obsolete engineer, a time worn expression comes to mind. We used it to provide a visual picture that people could use to make the mental connection between the design of a thing and what it was used for.
: : : : Years later, in business school, I read Alfred Sloans book on organization at General Motors, and he used a similar concept to describe how the form of an organization would be developed based on the business function to be executed.
: : : : Is there a source for this before Sloan...... I think he wrote in 1963, but I believe I had heard it long before.....?

: : : I have the notion that "Form follows function" was a watchword at the Bauhaus, the German school of architecture and design (Weimar and elsewhere, 1919-1933), but I don't have any sources that can confirm that. Perhaps some other phrase finder can illuminate. SS

: : Yes, it was a Bauhaus principle. The saying is attributed to the architect Louis H. Sullivan, 1896.

: I had trouble getting the connection from Sullivan to the Bauhaus, which flourished decades after him, so I went Googling the phrase. It's attributed to Sullivan, all right, but also to a dozen other people, including Walter Gropius (aha! better time fit), a sculptor I never heard of, and (vaguely) to "the Bauhaus." Anybody have definitive evidence?

Sullivan was a member of the Chicago School, which differs from Bauhaus in that it uses neoclassical design elements. Bauhaus disparaged any use of decoration at all. The photo is one of Sullivan's buildings. Though it is structurally simple, it doesn't quite go as far as Bauhaus did in reducing buildings to their essential elements.

In contrast to Sullivan and others (Frank Lloyd Wright among them), Bauhaus takes the Chicago school a step further. Lugwig Mies Van Der Rohe, an influential modernist and one time director of the Bauhaus declared "Form IS function". He also coined the wonderful phrase, "Less is more".