the history of bauhaus
In 1994, after 15 years of working at Knoll, Inc., Ron Welch founded bauhaus, a company that’s been built on Knoll and other leading designs, technology, performance, customers, parallel thinking, and details, details, details.
Oftentimes, people ask us how Ron decided on “bauhaus” as a name. Why isn’t is… Welch Office Furniture or R.R.Welch and Company? To answer this question, let’s travel back in time and review a little history.
In 1919, Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus school with the vision of bridging the gap between art and industry by combining crafts and fine arts. The Bauhaus school formerly launched what is now referred to as the “Bauhaus movement.” Prior to this time period, fine arts such as architecture and design were perceived to hold a higher esteem than craftsmanship (i.e., painting, woodworking, etc.). However, the Bauhaus school taught that all crafts, including art, architecture and geometric design, could be brought together and mass-produced. A founding principal of the Bauhaus school was that architecture and design should reflect the new period in history, and adapt to the era of the machine. The Bauhaus movement is characterized by economic sensibility, simplicity and a focus on mass production.
In 1925, under political pressures, the Bauhaus school was forced out of Weimar and moved to Dessau where a sympathetic socialist mayor approved the continued operation of the school, thus keeping the Bauhaus movement alive. Here Gropius built a new school that’s physical building epitomized the architectural theories taught at the school. This project remains one of Gropius’ finest projects.
In 1929, Mies van der Rohe was selected to design the Weimar Republic’s Pavilion for the Barcelona Industrial Exposition of 1929. Mies included his newly-designed chairs and stools, both of which were conceived specifically for the King and Queen of Spain — the Barcelona Chairs. The Barcelona Pavilion, as it is now called, is recognized as one of the great achievements in modern architecture, as are the Barcelona Chairs an equally significant achievement in modern design.
In 1932, the Cranbrook Academy of Art was founded by Detroit newspaper magnate George G. Booth in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. With the opening of this new academy came the appointment of Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen as the first director. Saarinen was also charged with the design of the campus. Similar to the Bauhaus school, Cranbrook was conceived to be an institution where artists could live, learn, and share in ideas and expertise. Under Saarinen’s direction, the school focused on the importance of craft and art in the age of the machine. Disciplines taught at the school ranged from weaving to metalwork with the goal of creating a more complete sense of material and structure. Cranbrook imbued its students with a sense of experimentation, exploration and collaboration.
Under increasing Nazi pressure, the Bauhaus school was forced to close its doors in 1933. Once the Bauhaus closed, many of those designers emigrated to the United States, bringing modernism with them in all areas of artistry and craftsmanship.
This surge in modernism in the United States inspired Hans G. Knoll to create the The Hans G. Knoll Furniture Company in 1938. The first Knoll location was on East 72nd St. in New York. Knoll hung a sign designating the one-room office space “Factory Nr. 1.”
Fast forward to 1979, when Ron Welch moved from Beaumont, Texas to Chicago to sell office furniture. If only he knew what he was getting himself into! Being from Beaumont, Ron had no idea what design was all about, and he certainly did not understand the commercial real estate industry. Under Knoll’s mentoring, he learned style, design, sales, performance, accountability, financial accounting, and most importantly the higher level thinking skills it takes to satisfy what a customer is looking for.
In 1994, Ron left Knoll to open a furniture dealership, which brings us back to the start of the story. Over a glass of wine, Ron and his wife were brainstorming ideas for the name of his new company. They began flipping through a book of Knoll Designs they had on the coffee table when his lovely wife proposed the name “bauhaus.” Ron contemplated this idea and realized that the joining of the artisans and craftsmen at the Bauhaus school was parallel to that of the design industry.
The customer, architect, manufacturer, and dealership define our industry. At bauhaus, we view ourselves as the craftsmen in the team who gather information, mold solutions, and define the finished result. Our strength is based on this foundation of innovation, flexibility, technology, use of resources and a passion for superior results.
We are proud of the name bauhaus and what it represents to us as a company and in the design industry. The Bauhaus principals are the standard to which we measure the integrity of all our work.