In Milan this year the Bauhaus was back, playing an influential role in furniture design at Kartell and Vitra, and begging the question: Why is one of the world's shortest art and design movements of the 20th century also one of the strongest?

As artist Olaf Nicolai and designers Jerszy Seymour, Adrian Sauer and Joni Steiner comment in Vitra magazine, with its brief existence of just fourteen years (1919–33), why did the influential Bauhaus school of art and design succeed in setting standards for avant-garde art, architecture and design, and play such a leading role in societal transformation. 

Few other historical movements and groups have had such an all-encompassing and enduring influence on the work of design practitioners over the past century. As such, the Bauhaus keeps resurfacing as a reference point across many seminal works that have been produced over the 20th and beginning 21st century. For instance the controversial book “Design for the Real World” by Vienna-born designer and educator Victor Papanek, published in the early 1970s, picked up the familiar Bauhaus mantra that design could contribute to solving complex social problems. Like the Bauhaus figureheads, he too suggested that the possibilities of intelligent design are greater than ever in times when the world is facing the need to reassess and renew its systems. This statement was true at Bauhaus times, it applied to the turbulent post-WWII decades and it has lost none of its validity today. 

Read the full article in Vitra magazine.

The essay accompanies the major Bauhaus retrospective – Bauhaus #itsalldesign – on now at the Vitra Design Museum until 28 February 2016.