Annual Theme 2018

In 2018 the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation continues the series of Annual Themes – Collective (2015), Movement (2016) and Substance (2017) – with a focus on Standards.

A standard is a specification for something’s manufacture, realisation or application. It relies on simplification and repetition. These standards influence our daily lives above and beyond industrial production, from the sciences to fundamental social contracts such as the human rights.

After the initial years in Weimar, the Bauhaus Dessau was regarded as the one contributing to standardisation. But which standards did the school implement as regards culture, society, technology, architecture, artistic production and education? Which are still valid today? Which standards defined the Bauhaus in respect of hygiene, interior design and aesthetics? What form did experimentation with standards take, and which patents were registered?

The second Bauhaus director Hannes Meyer set new standards for social housing guided by the principle ‘Volksbedarf statt Luxusbedarf’ (From the need for luxury to the needs of the people) – in a collective with the students. And today? Now especially, these standards are highly topical once more. Consequently, the Houses with Balcony Access in Dessau were added to the list of UNESCO Bauhaus World Heritage Sites in July 2017.

Models, standardisation, DIN – a standard invariably also has two sides. It enables comparison, but also establishes uniformity. It was precisely these standards – from the cube to the flat roof – that held promise for some, but were regarded as an aesthetic encumbrance by others. Whenever standards are being set, it means that the issues at hand must be addressed. This was done at the Bauhaus, for how else can measurability, rules and norms be determined?

In 2018 the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation will be committed to the question of standards. In doing so we aim to move beyond the historic standards developed at the Bauhaus to take up contemporary debates concerning, for instance, the man-made environment. Behind the scenes, this is about something as fundamental as the idea we have of ourselves: For whom or what are our standards meant? How do we discuss this? Does the term ‘standard’ need to be redefined?