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Before the Bauhaus: The experiment at the Liverpool School of Architecture and Applied Arts

  • Quentin Hughes

The German Bauhaus was as much a social experiment as an artistic outpouring. It was an educational experiment which aimed at unifying all aspects of environmental and aesthetic design in a system that provided a foundation course common to all students followed by interdependence of arts and crafts at all subsequent levels. In this way artists and craftsmen could learn a common language of expression. Mies van der Rohe called it ‘an idea’. However, it was an idea which had its origins in nineteenth-century Britain, still the leading industrial nation in the world, but rent by a cleavage between the aims and achievements of industrialists and the attitude of many artists, and in particular of architects. A strong tradition of hand craftsmanship had been revived with some feeling of revulsion, led by powerful figures like Ruskin and Morris, for the products of industrialization.

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1 Wingler, Hans M., The Bauhaus; Weimar, Dessau, Berlin, Chicago (Cambridge, Mass. and London, 1969), p. vii . The full statement read ‘The Bauhaus was not an institution — it was an idea, and Gropius formulated this idea with great precision …’.

2 Ibid., p. xviii. ‘The Bauhaus is, from the standpoint of cultural history, no isolated phenomen.’

3 Papworth, Wyatt, Art “Education : an address delivered at the opening of the Bingley Technical School, October 2) 1889 (London, 1889), pp. 710.

4 Muthesius, Hermann, Das Englische Haus, (Berlin 1904-05), English translation, edited by Sharp, Dennis (London 1979).

5 Ibid., p. 35. Some of Semper’s ideas on art education and their influence on its development are given by Pevsner, Nikolaus, Academies of art past and present (New York, 1973), pp. 25157.

6 Gropius, Walter, The New Architecture and the Bauhaus, English edition (London, 1935), p. 57.

7 Ibid., p. 35.

8 Herbert, Gilbert, The synthetic vision of Walter Gropius (Johannesburg, 1959), p. 7.

9 Jackson, T. G., Some thoughts on the training of architects: an address delivered by T. G. J. at the inauguration of the School of Architecture and Applied Arts, Liverpool, May 10th 1895 (Liverpool, 1895). p. 7. Slade chairs in fine art were established at Oxford, Cambridge and London from a bequest left by Felix Slade in 1868, but the old universities did not have teaching departments.

10 Martin Conway, Sir W. (1856–1937). His photographic collection of paintings eventually went to the Courtauld Institute, University of London.

11 Willett, John, Art in a City (London, 1967), pp. 5051.

12 Ibid., p. 5.

13 Minutes of the Senate of University College relative to the School of Architecture and Applied Arts. Liverpool University Archives, File S.3228

14 Sir T. G. Jackson (1835–1924).

15 Norman Shaw, R. and Jackson, T. G., Architecture, a profession or an art (London, 1892). Opposition to the closed shop spread to Europe. At the First Congress of Progressive Artists in Dusseldorf in 1921 the Group MA of Vienna rejected the formation of a Union. ‘All our strength’, they wrote ‘and our effort shall be directed towards a collaboration of all creative spirits …’

16 Obituary in the Builder, 14 November 1924.

17 Jackson, T. G., ‘On time and false ideals in the education of an architect’, Architecture, a profession or an art, op. cit., pp. 23032.

18 Jackson, T. G., Some thoughts on the training of architects, op. cit., p. 37.

19 Ibid., p. 31.

20 Cf. the attitude of Adolf Loos, Ornament and Crime.

21 University of Liverpool Archives, File S. 3228. 12 signed forms dated from 29 June 1895 to 10 July 1895.

22 ‘The lectures on Elementary Mechanics in the first year are delivered by the Professor of Physics; those of Graphic Statics and Surveying in the second by the Professor of Engineering; and on the Diseases of Timber by the Professor of Botany’ Calendar for the Session 1897–98, p. 196. Lectures on Artistic Anatomy were given by Professor Paterson, Dean of the Medical Faculty. Calendar 1901–1902, p. 281. All this was a good use of university facilities which would not have been available in art schools.

23 Simpson, F. M., The scheme of Architectural Education started at University College, Liverpool, in connection with the City of Liverpool School of Architecture and Applied Arts (Liverpool, 1895), pp. 32.

24 Arthur James Stratton (1872–1955). Obituary in Journal of RIBA, August 1955.

25 Sphinx, vi no. 6., March 1899., p. 200.

26 Wingler, op. cit., p. 4.

27 Charles J. Allen (1863-?) was born at Greenford in Middlesex. In 1887 he entered the Royal Academy Schools and was appointed to Liverpool at the age of 31. Sphinx, ix no. 6., April 1902, p. 198.

28 Sphinx, in, March 1896, p. 144. The Della Robbia factory was at Birkenhead on the other shore of the Mersey.

29 Howarth, Thomas, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Modern Movement, 2nd ed. (London, 1977). p. 20.

30 Ibid., pp. 24–25.

31 Bisson, R. F., The Sandon Studios Society and the Arts, Liverpool, 1955. p. 8.

32 Ibid., p. 13.

33 Ibid., p. 23.

34 Liverpool University Archives, File S. 3228. Report by F. M. Simpson, Director for Session 1898–9.

35 Simpson, Fred, ‘Architectural Education: a School of Architecture: a paper read before the Birmingham Architectural Association on Friday, 21st February 1896’. The Builder’s Journal, 3 March 1896, p. 51.

36 Liverpool University Archives, File S. 3228. Minutes of the Senate of University College relative to the School of Architecture and Applied Art, 20 January 1892.

37 Moore, Richard Pickering, Innovations and developments in heavy prefabrication, (Ph.D. thesis, typescript). University of Liverpool, 1969.

38 University College Liverpool, Calendar for the Session 189/-98, p. 195.

39 Muthesius, op. cit., p. 51.

40 Wingler, op. cit., p. 51.

41 Moholy-Nagy, Documentary monographs in Modern Art, edited by Richard Kostelanetz (London, 1971), p. xiii.

42 Liverpool University Archives, File S. 3228. A letter from Professor Simpson and the staff to the Chairman and Committee of the School of Architecture and Applied Arts.

43 Ibid.

44 Reilly, C. H., The Training of Architects. London, n.d., reprinted from University Review, July 1905, pp. 24156 . Professor Simpson had previously attacked the idea of Institute examinations. ‘Some years before the end of the century it was publicly stated that there was no architectural education in England, and that in order to meet this deficiency the Institute had started a scheme of examination. This is probably the most glaring instance on record of putting the cart before the horse. It could only be equalled by a nation declaring war in order to teach its generals tactics and its soldiers how to shoot.’ Simpson, F. M., A retrospection: opening address delivered to the members of the Liverpool Architectural Society on Monday, October 15, 1900 (University Press Liverpool, 1901), p. 15.

45 Aitchison, G., ‘The Advancement of Architecture’, Builder, 2 February 1895, p. 79.

46 ‘Liverpool Cathedral: A protest and petition’, Architectural Review, x, July-December 1901, pp. 163–77.

47 Unfortunately all the private correspondence from the vice-chancellor written in those years has now been destroyed and all the persons closely involved are dead. If I remember rightly, the story circulated in 1938. It could have referred to an event in 1932, when Gropius was still in Germany but feeling the threat of the Nazis. In March 1933 the committee on the Roscoe Chair of Architecture reported that ‘there is no possible candidate for the Chair to compare with Associate Professor Budden, senior lecturer in the School’. Budden was appointed and held the chair in 1937 when Gropius went to the States. It seems unlikely that he would have stood down in favour of Gropius, nor is there any documentation to suggest that the University had in mind the creation of an additional chair in architecture.

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Architectural History
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  • EISSN: 2059-5670
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