The furniture produced in the carpentry workshop has added significantly to the prestige the Bauhaus enjoys around the world to this day. Under the direction of Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer and Josef Albers, prototypes were developed that are now seen as design classics, e.g. the tubular steel furniture.

Bauhaus student in the carpentry of the Bauhaus, photo: Edmund Collein, 1928–1929. Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau / © Ursula Kirsten-Collein.
Bauhaus student in the carpentry of the Bauhaus, photo: Edmund Collein, 1928–1929. Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau / © Ursula Kirsten-Collein.

From 1919, Johannes Itten headed the carpentry workshop at the Bauhaus as master of form until it was taken over by Walter Gropius in 1922. The first items of furniture, produced purely using traditional woodworking methods, were still strongly influenced by the expressionism of the early Weimar years. One example of this is Marcel Breuer’s hand-carved African Chair. Johannes Itten‘s teachings also shaped the work in the furniture workshop, and this is seen in the colours and design of Peter Keler’s cradle, composed of a circle, square and triangle.

African Chair, design: Marcel Breuer / textile: Gunta Stölzl, 1921. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016 (Stölz) / unknown (Breuer).
African Chair, design: Marcel Breuer / textile: Gunta Stölzl, 1921. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016 (Stölz) / unknown (Breuer).

The new orientation towards standardised prefabricated parts that were assembled as modular furniture showed up in the carpentry workshop too with the development of Marcel Breuer‘s wooden slatted chair in 1922. This piece was by now being produced in small series in the carpentry workshop. The form and function of all the designs were analysed with the aim of fundamentally reforming the way people live. Walter Gropius’s director’s room in Weimar, which was completed in 1923, serves as an example of this new spatial aesthetic. Here, all the furniture was fitted with the greatest precision, making optimal use of the space.

Wiege, design: Peter Keler, 1921. Klassik Stiftung Weimar / © Jan Keler, Rostock.
Wiege, design: Peter Keler, 1921. Klassik Stiftung Weimar / © Jan Keler, Rostock.

In Dessau, the carpentry workshop was able to expand its contacts with industry. Under Marcel Breuer, the new material of tubular steel was introduced, and the first tubular steel chair in the world was built in 1925–1926. Methods of manufacture geared to mass production had an increasing impact on the form of the furniture. Under the directorship of Hannes Meyer, the Bauhaus strove for a new material simplicity and even worked increasingly with plywood in order to lower purchase prices, following the motto ‘the needs of the people instead of the need for luxury.’