The Bauhaus Ideal Then and Now is a book captivating readers with a visual guide on the Bauhaus movement or what the writer, William Smock, calls the Bauhaus ideal. The book engages with all of the facets of the movement, including those who started it, what the beliefs were, and what influence they had. Moreover, the book exhibits key historical dates, making the reader aware of the significance they hold. The introduction to multiple theories helps indicate the depth of modernism. In architecture school, it is important for students to be aware of the Bauhaus movement. It was a significant transition and acted as the key stepping stone towards designs we associate with our surroundings. The author makes a conscious effort to make the book engaging and the contents more memorable. Sketches are drawn to accommodate the texts, making a link between art and theory.

Book in Focus: The‌ ‌Bauhaus‌ ‌Ideal‌ ‌Then‌ ‌and‌ ‌Now by William‌ ‌Schmock‌ ‌ - Sheet1
The Bauhaus in Dessau_©Bauhaus


The Bauhaus Ideal Then and Now follows a similar format as a fictional book where characters are the first ones introduced. The teachers who made up the creative programme the school taught are a key part of the Bauhaus. Similar to any subject, teaching is key to making the greatest impact, as the ideas will have to live on through someone else. The Bauhaus is a crucial architectural style that saw the combination of fine arts and crafts for designs. The founder, Walter Gropius, wanted to give equal weight to the two design categories. Rather than undermining one or the other, Gropius aimed to remove the division between the two art styles. Furthermore, the diversity of the teaching within the school displayed a new multidisciplinary approach towards architecture. Although the notion of connecting art and architecture was not new, making the connection through education as well as the design process elevates the two forms of design. The refining of the design process from rigid to fluid made the Bauhaus distinct. 

An advantage to making the education system multidisciplinary is that the students develop problem-solving skills where solutions can be developed from multiple angles. Since there were multiple ways to engage with a problem, students could work with a variety of mediums while keeping true to the school’s philosophy. The most famous philosophy established was ‘form follows function’. Previously, the form was established by the architect and reasoning did not necessarily need to apply. With the movement, forms were forced to become more objective rather than subjective. Consequently, architects had to take responsibility for their designs and justify them fully. The architectural profession was no longer being limited to buildings or rooms. Sculptures and paintings became a new form of architectural expression.

Book in Focus: The‌ ‌Bauhaus‌ ‌Ideal‌ ‌Then‌ ‌and‌ ‌Now by William‌ ‌Schmock‌ ‌ - Sheet2
A painting by Kandinsky, a teacher at the Bauhaus_©Wassily Kandinsky


The book covers all ideas presented by the Bauhaus as well as modernism as a whole. A crucial figure was Mies van der Rohe, who brought forward the notion of less is more and viewed buildings similar to manufactured goods. Buildings had to be cost-effective and transparency of the construction process was key. Smock notes that previous decades engaged with symbols where architectural features from one country and culture were applied to buildings from another. This has now been lost. Within modernism, symbols are taken through an abstract lens from any subject including those from outside architecture. Inspiration for designs was no longer limited to the architectural profession.

One objective the school established was that the materials used for a building had to ‘bring out the beauty in the thing itself ‘. (Smock, 2009) The book continues explaining the reasoning behind these thoughts and why they were critical. The book acts as an appendix where all necessary information is gathered for the student to refer back to. Smock makes links between different historical theories evident, allowing the reader to receive a better understanding of how modernist theories were established. Greek temples were seen by modernist architects as a pure form of functionality, correct for its time. They argued that the temples were functional for their time and now modernism was returning to this pure functional architecture applied within a modern time.

Book in Focus: The‌ ‌Bauhaus‌ ‌Ideal‌ ‌Then‌ ‌and‌ ‌Now by William‌ ‌Schmock‌ ‌ - Sheet3
Mies van der Rohe pioneered modern architecture_©


While Smock thoroughly explains the significance as well as the beauty of modernism, he admits to their failures. Buildings constructed with the ideals discussed previously, no longer fit our definition of modern. Over time, building designs changed according to technological advancements. Modernist architecture has seen two fates in the last decade, being made obsolete or having to be retrofitted to fit our changing times. Nevertheless, modernism has made a great impact and provided the foundation for successive architectural styles.  

William Smock also introduces the reader to movements that became prominent after the modernist movement and the Bauhaus were abandoned. The movements included deconstructivism and postmodernism. Smock makes the distinction that rather than inventing a new style, new movements became iterations of modernism. Designing rationally is a theme that runs throughout and is unlikely to ever be removed. Theories of modernism continue to be taught to students at university and are a natural part of the design process now.

A drawing following deconstructivism by Daniel Libeskind_©Studio Libeskind

Without understanding the Bauhaus ideal, it is hard to grasp why architecture has taken such a drastic turn. Being aware of the roots of a movement helps highlight how a design may engage with it. Designing for the future can only be executed when awareness of the past is established. Similar to the book, a critical eye will develop where conclusions can be drawn on the successes of a design. The book is both informative and accessible for any audience.


Smock, W., 2009. The Bauhaus ideal, then & now. Chicago, Ill.: Academy Chicago Publishers, p.22.


Halima Mohammed is an architecture student whose passions lie in investigating what makes design connect with us emotionally. She believes that architecture is always worth questioning and discussing, trusting that architecture can be analysed like a piece of literature.