original bauhaus übungsbuch

original bauhaus workbook

3 questions for the editors and the designer of the original bauhaus workbook: Nina Wiedemeyer, Friederike Holländer and Sarah Lamparter

How did the original bauhaus workbook come about?

Friederike Holländer: As a Bauhaus agent, I work with schools and in the beginning this led to the simple question: What does it actually mean that the Bauhaus was a school? You start to explore the teaching at the Bauhaus and inevitably end up with the famous preliminary course, which still shapes our art lessons today.

Nina Wiedemeyer: We wanted to know what the tasks in this legendary preliminary course actually were, and we discovered that there was no book on the subject in the extensive library of the Bauhaus-Archiv – or anywhere else! Of course there are countless publications on the preliminary course, but none that present the exercises in detail. Then we started researching and collected very disparate pieces – notes and memories of Bauhauslers on pieces of paper, in diaries, letters and in the corners of drawings. The preliminary course studies themselves, too, of course, but also theoretical approaches to the topic of practice and instruction.

What considerations lie behind the design of the workbook?

Sarah Lamparter: The first premise was that the workbook should not be something representative like an exhibition catalogue, for example, but rather something to use and work with. For example, it should fit on an A3 copying machine so that it can be used as teaching material.

NW: It is also a collection of sources of sorts. We show a wide variety of sources in the original, so that readers can form their own opinion. We had most of it professionally photographed, but even some of the snapshots of archive material I took on my mobile phone ended up in the book! The illustrations are given a lot of space in the workbook.

SL: The pressure of expectation was very high – if you're a designer making a book for the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus, that can't be avoided. What I call the "bureaucracy" became an important criterion for the order of the book: the book consists of tasks, solutions and comments. We wanted to make these different components visible in the typography. For example, the tasks are set in a grotesque, the comments in a serif typeface. The typeface of the table of contents, which represents the administration of the heritage, so to speak, is a sober monospace. We deliberately chose pre-Bauhaus typefaces in order to be free from the Bauhaus as a supermodel for design.

What did you learn by working on the workbook?

FH: It became very clear to us once again – especially due to the lack of coherent records – that the preliminary course was not about results, but about experience! That's why the workbook doesn't say, "That's how it was." Some of the exercises are historically vouched for, others are only remembered or reconstructed from traces.

NW: When we think the Bauhaus, we all too often think about objects – with the workbook, I wanted to deliberately direct the attention, including my own, to the lessons once again. On the one hand, learning in the preliminary course was very free, because it wasn't geared towards specific results. Nevertheless, the preliminary course was anything but an invitation to "do it yourself". The intensive, often week-long occupation with a material challenged the students, as simple as the tasks seem at first. This was also frustrating at times. And so the preliminary course was not popular with everyone. There was even an open letter from students, in which they doubted the sense of the preliminary course.

Nina Wiedemeyer is curator at the Bauhaus-Archiv / Museum für Gestaltung and curated the centenary exhibition original bauhaus.

Friederike Holländer is a Bauhaus agent at the Bauhaus-Archiv / Museum of Design.

Sarah Lamparter is a graphic designer and co-founder of the Otto Sauhaus design office.

original bauhaus worbook, edited by Friederike Holländer and Nina Wiedemeyer for the Bauhaus-Archiv / Museum für Gestaltung, Prestel Verlag, 160 pages, German and English, 29 EUR