With the photo campaign ‘The world sees Bauhaus’, bauhaus100 invites you to capture and share your personal views and unusual perspectives of the Bauhaus. Here we present our image of the week.
19 May 2017 – Jasper Morrison. Thingness: The Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin is showing a retrospective of the renowned designer’s work until 23 October 2017. Our “Pic of the Week” was personally chosen by the creator of design icons such as the HAL chair series or the Glo-Ball lights, who also spoke to us about the drawing power of strange Breuer furniture, Wagenfeld’s everyday factor and the Bauhaus instinct.
Mr. Morrison, do you remember your first encounter with the Bauhaus?
I probably noticed Marcel Breuer's Wassily Chair before I knew anything about the Bauhaus. One of my uncles had one and it was such a strange object, I couldn’t help being attracted to it. As a student, I was certainly very aware of the Bauhaus and I’m sure its influence remains in the work I do these days, though it’s mixed in with so many other influences it’s hard to identify it clearly. I always felt closest to understanding Marcel Breuer’s work. But I’m also a big fan of Wilhelm Wagenfeld, though I discovered his work later. What I like most about Wagenfeld’s work is the ‘everyday’ factor. Most of what he designed was simply created to provide useful and discreetly beautiful objects to improve the quality of everyday life. I greatly admire the diversity of his and Breuer’s output.
Your output is also diverse: from cutlery sets, chairs and lamps to kitchens and even a tram. Do you see a connection between these different objects?
In general I would say that designing a wide and diverse range of things is creatively very healthy; changing scales, functions, materials and production techniques leads to new ideas and keeps the work fresh.
The HAL Cantilever Chair or the Basel Chair are examples of how you give existing designs a new twist. What does it take to create the ultimate design?
The origin of the Basel Chair is the Frankfurt Chair, which has its roots in some Thonet models. I enjoy this evolutionary aspect of design very much. But there are very few ultimate ‘end game’ designs. One I can think of is Dieter Rams’ 606 Universal Shelving System. Most objects leave room for improvement!
With the Bauhaus, craft became modern under industrialization. What does craft mean to you now, in the digital age?
Craft these days can still mean craft in the old sense of making an object by hand, but design increasingly relies on 3D computer software and digital modelling, that is, it happens at a desk in the design studio with product engineers, rather than in the workshop. But visual decisions are as much a part of the craftsman’s process as they are of the designer’s: at each stage of the development of a 3D computer drawing, the designer makes decisions based on similar criteria to the craftsman who is shaping a piece of wood or turning a ceramic pot. This may sound outrageous to some craftsmen, but I think the process of virtual design is very similar to traditional craft. If I was to make a sculpture in stone I would probably rather do it by hand, but I would use a computer to design a machine-made product.
You collaborate with industry and frequently produce only limited editions. Why?
I think the production of limited editions is a valid option for designers as long as it leads to new thoughts and avenues to a more democratic form of design, which should be useful and affordable for all. But sometimes it might be justified to experiment outside the usual parameters of cost and function in order to develop a new visual language.
In 2019, the Bauhaus will celebrate its centenary. In your opinion, what makes the Bauhaus still relevant for designers in the 21st century?
These days we may be slightly less rational in our approach to designing things but the instincts which informed the Bauhaus methods are still an important part of the design process. Whether today’s design students are aware of this or not, I’m sure that this instinctive approach of the Bauhaus is still passed on through the current teaching methods.
Interview by Marte Kräher