German "Werkbund": concepts and application


The German "Werkbund" is an association linking art and industry, established in Germany in 1907. This union was joined by artists, architects, entrepreneurs, and sociologists. The primary goal of this association was to bridge the existing gap between the creations of artists and the products of industrial manufacture. The decline in architecture and decorative arts in the mid-19th century transformed into a comprehensive crisis of the entire artistic production sphere by the 90s.

Germany becomes the epicenter of the revival of craftsmanship, architecture, and industry, thanks to its rapid technical progress. Unlike William Morris, the "Werkbund" not only didn't exclude technology from the realm of art but saw its mission in uniting creators and industrialists, believing this to be the only way to combat low-quality mass production. Artists and architects, as well as the broader public, eagerly anticipated the transition to innovative forms fitting the spirit of the time.

On October 7, 1907, a meeting in Munich declared the formation of the German "Werkbund" (Deutscher Werkbund). The union was established by a committee consisting of twelve artists (architects and specialists in decorative and applied arts) and twelve enterprises producing artistic goods. The main task of this union was to improve the artistic-aesthetic level of industrial products, facilitate effective collaboration between art, craftsmanship, and industry, and enhance the quality of goods. Industrial products ceased to be duplicates of handcrafted items - industrial production became recognized.

The "Werkbund" organized an exhibition in Cologne in 1914. It was located outside the city and covered a vast area. Visitors were presented with various pavilions, serving both as places for displaying exhibits and as exhibits themselves, as well as architectural ensembles. This show was a triumph of the "Werkbund" and the last significant event of the "Werkbund" before the onset of the First World War.

After the conflict, defeated Germany found itself in a critical economic situation. This inevitably impacted the status of the "Werkbund." In 1919, Walter Gropius merged the Grand Ducal School of Fine Arts in Weimar and the Grand Ducal School of Arts and Crafts into the Unified State Bauhaus School - an institute of architecture, visual, and decorative arts. This institute had a profound impact on the subsequent development of art in Europe.

The "Werkbund" had a significant influence on all subsequent progress in architecture. In 1933, the "Werkbund" was disbanded by the National Socialists.