Women of the Bauhaus

In “The Other Art History: The Forgotten Women of Bauhaus,” an in-depth piece that was published on July 13, 2018 on Artspace by Jillian Billard, we have the opportunity to understand the enormous impact a group of women visionaries had in shaping the Bauhaus.

We learn from Billard that the Bauhaus was dedicated to “interdisciplinary innovation” by combining design and craft through a new model of fostering community as the basis for learning instead of traditional teacher-student interactions. And with this new model as a defining principle, the Bauhaus community was ripe for welcoming and supporting women artists.

As Billard explains, Walter Gropius, who founded the Bauhaus School of Design in Weimar, Germany in 1919, stipulated that the school would be open to “any person of good repute, regardless of age or sex.” So while women were allowed to study at the school, they were directed into practices commonly regarded as “women’s work” –– textiles and weaving — while their male counterparts were encouraged to be architects, sculptors, and painters.

Photo of Alexa von Porewski, Lena Amsel, Rut Landshoff, unknown by Bauhaus photographers Umbo and Paul Citroen), before 1929. Berlinische Galerie, Photographic Collection.

Billard reminds us that the artists most closely associated with the Bauhaus were men, including Josef Albers, Marcel Breuer, Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee. At the same time, history has treated the women in the movement as the counterparts of these great artists. In the past ten years, as many have revisited the Bauhaus participants in a more accurate art historical context, we have had the opportunity to celebrate the incredible women artists and the contributions they made. 

In “The Women of the Bauhaus,” an extensive thesis presented by Corinne Julius in Blueprint on September 3, 2019, we learn of the rise to prominence of Gunta Stölzl, only one of six students certified as a Master weaver. As head of the department from 1929 to 1931, she ushered in the transition from individual pictorial weaving to modern industrial designs, while also implementing the study of mathematics. Her bold artistic experiments include creating the mercerised cotton and Eisengarn fabric for Breuer’s tubular-steel chairs while leading joint projects with the Polytex Textile Company.

Julius describes Marianne Brandt as a brilliant metalwork artist who joined the Bauhaus as a workshop assistant and eventually took over as acting director in 1928 from László Moholy-Nagy. As both artist and administrator, Brandt helped solidify the role of industrial design 

Wera Meyer-Waldeck entered the Bauhaus in 1927, studying with Marcel Breuer in the carpentry workshop making furniture. Over the next several years, she studied in the construction and architecture departments, and went on to establish a distinguished career with a focus on sustainable housing.

And the list goes on. As we shared in Female Weavers and the Bauhaus, virtually every aspect of the Bauhaus and its artistic practices has been informed by a group of women with talent, vision and unapologetic courage. They, along with their male counterparts, continue to inspire the timelessness of Modernist thinking-and-doing. And in every part of our holistic design thinking at Optima, we celebrate their contributions.

Wera Meyer-Waldeck in the carpentry workshop at Bauhaus Dessau in 1930, photographed by Gertrud Arndt. Credit: VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019 / Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin

For further reading on 45 luminary women of the Bauhaus, Bauhaus Women: A Global Perspective, written by Elizabeth Otto and Patrick Rössler and published in 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing, is an excellent resource, along with A Tribute to Pioneering Women Artists (Taschen, 2019), written by Patrick Rössler.

Women in Architecture: Anne Tyng

As part of our ongoing “Women in Architecture” series, we’re spotlighting someone who was at the forefront of architectural experimentation in the mid-twentieth century, Anne Tyng. Tyng pioneered the inclusion of complex geometry as a source for form in architecture and design and became an expert in the field. Learn more about her extraordinary life and work below: 

The Life of Anne Tyng

Anne Griswold Tyng was born in Lushan, Jiangxi province, China, on July 14, 1920. Although her family lived in China at the time, their roots traced back to the Massachusetts Bay colonies, and they frequently visited the United States for family trips. Tyng’s love for design sparked when she was just a child, and she often recalled how she would carve whole cities out of the soft stone surrounding her family’s properties. 

At 18, Tyng moved permanently to the U.S., where she attended Radcliffe College in Cambridge, MA, to study fine arts. During her final year, however, she discovered the Cambridge School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture — the first institution to provide design training to women only — and began taking classes there. 

After her graduation in 1942, she went on to further her architecture studies at Harvard, studying with renowned architects like Marcel Breuer and Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius. In 1944, Tyng was among the first women to complete their studies at Harvard, and later she became the only woman to enter the architecture licensing exam in 1949. Tyng finished her education nearly 30 years later when she was awarded a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.

Anne Tyng and Louis Kahn, at his architectural practice, 1947.
Photo courtesy of the Anne Griswold Tyng Collection and the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania

In 1945, Tyng moved to Philadelphia and began working for Louis Kahn’s architecture firm, Stonorov and Kahn. Khan and Tyng became close collaborators, and her passion for geometric form influenced many of the firm’s designs of the time. In 1964, she left the firm, where she had been a partner, and began developing more solo projects until the end of her career.

Notable Work and Achievements  

Although she became a successful architect, Tyng was also passionate about mathematics. Thanks to the versatility and flexibility of architecture, this allowed her to conflate her interests  and focus on space frame architecture — creating light-filled spaces using interlocking geometric forms of architecture.

City Tower for Philadelphia
Louis Kahn and Anne Tyng, Model of the proposed City Tower for Philadelphia, 13 x 17 cm, 1953, ” Visionary Architecture, ” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, “The Changing Concept of Proportions”: Architecture, Mathematic and Geometry from Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism to the Techno-Organic Movement. The Journal of Art Theory and Practice. 18. 123-144. 10.15597/17381789201418123. 

Many of Tyng’s earliest works can be traced back to the influences she left in Kahn’s designs, including the Yale University Art Center (1953), Philadelphia City Tower (1957) and the Trenton Bath House (1956), all of which included triangles or cubes in their forms. However, her former residence, the Tyng House, is where her personal style is most celebrated. 

Built in the 1950s, the single-family home features slotted windows, a pyramidal timber-framed ceiling and metal screened openwork staircases. And although the exterior of the house appears ordinary at first, a closer look reveals a mansard roof and large parlor-floor windows. 

In the late 1960s, after falling in love with Maine’s Mount Desert Island, Tyng designed the Four-Poster House. In her design, Tyng took inspiration from the surrounding ecology, and she strived to make the home an organic outgrowth of the wooded area. Using logs, cedar shake and tree trunks, the house was framed similar to a four-poster bed with four central columns.

Alongside her transformative work, Tyng has been a recipient of many architecture awards and achievements, including: 

  • First woman licensed as an architect in the state of Pennsylvania
  • Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, 1975
  • Academician of the National Academy of Design, 1975
  • Selected by the United States to participate in the First International Congress of Women Architects, 1976 

Tyng’s career was devoted to understanding the synthesis of geometrical shape and human consciousness within architecture, and because of her extraordinary contributions, the spatial potential of architecture was pushed further than ever before.

An Inside Look at Architect Lingo, Part IV

Our team is joined together by a love of exceptional design — so naturally, design is our shared language. From property managers to accountants to architects, we’ve all come to know and love the architect lingo that helps us communicate our passions, our creations and our vision. In celebration and as part of our ongoing series, today we’re sharing Part IV of our inside look at architect lingo.


Pronounced with an exaggerated accent on the e at the end, the word poché comes from the French word pocher, which means to sketch roughly. To the untrained eye, poché refers to the portions of an architecture plan that are blacked out, darkened or cross-hatched. To an architect’s eye however, these blacked-out portions of the drawing hold much information.

Poché in a drawing demonstrates to architects the wall thicknesses, floor thicknesses and all other solid areas that intersect the plane of the section cut. Because poché makes it more clear how much space these solid areas take up (i.e. a normal line wouldn’t demonstrate the thickness of a wall, but poché does), it means that architects then have a better understanding of what space is actually available to them around these elements.

Example of architectural sketch using poché
Architectural drawing of Sterling Ridge.


While the word charette might be unfamiliar to many, likely the meaning behind it will sound all too familiar. Charette refers to the intense final effort made by architectural students to complete their solutions to a given architectural problem in an allotted time or the period in which such an effort is made. It’s the home stretch of a project, if you will.

The word charette is derived from the word “cart,” and its origins date back to the École des Beaux Arts in Paris during the 19th century. During that time, proctors circulated a cart, or “Charrette”, to collect final drawings while students frantically put finishing touches on their work. Nowadays, the meaning of charette has evolved to refer to a period of several consecutive days, during which time all stakeholders involved in a project are consulted during an open, collaborative process to gather feedback and make refinements to a given plan.


If you’re familiar with Modernist architecture (or if you’ve been an avid reader of our blog), this homological word explains itself. Used as either an adjective or a noun, Miesian as an adjective describes that relating to or characteristic of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe or his work and Miesian as a noun describes an admirer or student Ludwig Mies van der Rohe or his work.

In the Modernist discipline, this basically sums up all of us and everything we create. Mies’ “skin and bones” design style and philosophy of “less is more” is largely influential to the formulation of the discipline as we know it today.


Stay tuned for future features on the world of architecture lingo at Optima.


Unbuilt Project by Mies van der Rohe Comes to Life

When you picture the work of architecture titan Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, you probably don’t picture a fraternity house. But back in 1952, the German-American architect created a design for Indiana University’s Alpha Theta chapter of Pi Lambda Phi fraternity. However, the design was never constructed and forgotten about until 2013, when an alumni and former fraternity member dug up the news. Indiana University then located the documents through the Art Institute of Chicago and New York’s Museum of Modern Art so the project could become a reality.

Instead of a fraternity house, the building will be home to the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design. Extensive research helped update the building to modern features while keeping the integrity of the Modernist design. The plans for bedrooms were simply swapped out for offices. 70 years later, this incredible design will finally come to life and inspire students and creatives for generations to come.

For the full story, check out Architectural Record’s recent feature on the project.

The Work of László Moholy-Nagy

Many prominent and influential figures emerged from the Bauhaus. One of these figures was László Moholy-Nagy, a Hungarian painter and photographer, and a professor at the Bauhaus. Today, we take a closer look at his life, work and impact on the world of Modernist design.

Self Portrait (1918), László Moholy-Nagy
Self Portrait (1918), László Moholy-Nagy. Credit: Public Domain

The Life of László Moholy-Nagy

Originally born in 1895 as László Weisz, Moholy-Nagy grew up in Hungary. He always tended to be artistic, even in boyhood. His first dream was to become a writer or poet and he had poems published in the local paper at the young age of 16. After studying law for just two years, Moholy-Nagy enlisted in the Austro-Hungarian army in 1915 and in the field, his artistic pursuits persisted. He documented his experience through writing, crayon sketches and watercolors until he was discharged just three years later. 

After all these experiences, Moholy-Nagy abandoned his law studies to attend a private art school in 1918. He had his first art exhibition just a year later. The years that followed would prove formative for his personal and artistic life: in 1920, he moved to Berlin, where he met his first wife, Lucia Schulz — and they were married just a year later — and then in 1922, Moholy-Nagy met none other than Walter Gropius, Founder of the Bauhaus.

Work on acrylic with incisions on perspex by László Moholy-Nagy. Credit: Wikimedia Public Domain

The Work of László Moholy-Nagy

In 1923, Gropius invited Moholy-Nagy to teach at the Bauhaus. There, he co-taught a foundational course alongside Bauhaus legend Josef Albers, and replaced the famous Paul Klee as Head of the Metal Workshop. He continued to teach at the Bauhaus for a period of five years, a time which heavily influenced his own artistic philosophy.

Moholy-Nagy’s own work spanned across a variety of mediums, including photography, typography, sculpture, painting, printmaking, film-making, and industrial design. The artist is also cited as the first to incorporate scientific equipment, like the telescope, microscope, and radiography, into his own art practice. This practice highlights Moholy-Nagy’s own open-mindedness. He was always interested in experimentation and the play between life, art and technology — particularly, how the three intersected and paved the way for social transformation and the betterment of humanity. 

His work, which often falls under the category of abstract and avant garde, was also influenced by the Constructivism movement of the early 20th century as well as the Dada artists he encountered upon moving to Germany. Thanks to his creative fluidity and pioneering methods, his work across disciplines and styles has been called “relentless experimental.”

Perhaps his most iconic work was Light Prop for an Electric Stage, completed in 1930. Referred to as a “kinetic light display,” the piece’s rotating construction included reflective surfaces from which a beam of light bounced, casting both moving light and shadow onto nearby surfaces. It’s considered a pivotal fixture in the history of Modern sculpture and perhaps best exemplifies Moholy-Nagy’s own artistic philosophy.

Meanwhile, Gropius continued to impact Moholy-Nagy’s career trajectory when in 1937, he recommended the experimental artist as the head of the New Bauhaus in Chicago (which would eventually become incorporated to the Illinois Institute of Technology as we know it today). In Chicago, he continued to pioneer new methods and experiment until his early death from leukemia at just fifty-one years old. 

His life, work and legacy live on in the, earning him the title of the “genius of all media” and an eternal place in the history of Modernist art and design.

The Subsects of Modernist Architecture, Part I

As a pioneering approach to architecture, the Modernist discipline took the creative world by storm. It’s only natural that the discipline has since evolved and morphed to mean many different things to many different people around the world, from Japanese Modernists to the Bauhaus School in Germany and beyond. In celebration of this, we’re taking a closer look at just a few of the many nuanced subsects of Modernist architecture. 

Bauhaus School of Design. Credit: Lannguyen138 on Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license


The Bauhaus Modernist architectural style emerged from the Bauhaus School, founded by Walter Gropius, in Germany over a century ago. The school operated from 1919-1933. Gropius formed the Bauhaus in response to the rise of industrialism, emphasizing the importance of craftsmanship and human-centric design. The school united fine arts and craftsmanship to create one strong point of view, a style marked by its eschewment of the ornamental in favor of a sharp focus on geometric and abstract form, function and aesthetic. The simple schema of Bauhaus architecture was intended to be easily mass produced — and indeed, the style was packaged and spread globally, inspiring Modernist architecture as we know it today.

De Stijl

Emerging at the same time period as the Bauhuas, De Stijl (Dutch for “The Style) originated in the Netherlands in 1917 and is said to have peaked between its inception and 1933. The style emerged post World War I as a utopian means of social and spiritual redemption that took advantage of art and its transformative impact. De Stijl applied to both painting and architecture, proposing ultimate simplicity and abstraction through the use of stark and straight horizontal and vertical lines and rectangular forms. Though considered more prominent in architecture than painting, the movement is considered to be led by Piet Mondrian. Pioneers in the movement considered it the perfect fusion of form and function, yielding what they considered the ultimate style.


While the Bauhaus style and De Stijl were emerging in Eastern Europe, Constructivism entered the scene in the Soviet Union in the 1920s. Constructivism was in part inspired by the Bauhaus, as well as by Russian Futurism. The style is characterized by its blend of modern technology and engineering methods, and marked deeply by the socio-political ethos of Communism. Constructivism combined existing Modernist principles like minimal and geometric design with a more experimental lens. This sense of experimental play, combined with its Futurism influences, resulted in intriguing and abstract structures. Though the style fell out of favor only a decade later, its influence can be seen in later movements such as Brutalism — but more on that later.

Stay tuned for more features on the numerous subsects of Modernist architecture.

Female Weavers and the Bauhaus

The Bauhaus is a renowned institution in the history of Modernist architecture — and art in general. But what may come as a surprise to many: the most commercially successful department of the school was actually the Bauhaus weaving workshop. And even more notable, this workshop was run by a slew of highly innovative, influential female designers.

Anni Albers, Originally produced by the Bauhaus Workshop. Black-White-Red, 1926–27 (produced 1965). © The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Anni Albers, Originally produced by the Bauhaus Workshop. Black-White-Red, 1926–27 (produced 1965). © The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Defying Expectations

When the Bauhaus opened in 1919, the progressive school was heralded as an equitable place. In fact, its founder Walter Gropius even wrote in the Bauhaus bylaws: “Every eligible person whose talent and training are considered adequate will be accepted without regard to age and sex.” Gropius’s philosophy was stronger in theory than in action. He later became known for believing men thought in three dimensions, while women only thought in two.

Because of this gender bias, when women applied to the school, they were directed away from heavy craft areas, such as carpentry and metalwork, to a workshop considered more appropriate for women. This was the weaving workshop, which Gropius even referred to as “the women’s section” of the school.

Like many other women in architecture, the female weavers at the Bauhaus wouldn’t be put down by others’ limited perspectives. Designers such as Anni Albers, Gunta Stölzl and Otti Berger took the two-dimensional textile craft and breathed new life into it. In addition to creating patterns that were both commercially marketable and had deep influence on the fine arts world of the time, these female weavers also played with form and function. They took weaving beyond the two dimensional — inadvertently, defying Gropius’s backwards beliefs.

Claire Zeisler, Free Standing Yellow, 1968, shown at Weaving Beyond the Bauhaus. Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Claire Zeisler, Free Standing Yellow, 1968, shown at Weaving Beyond the Bauhaus. Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.

A Collaborative Cohort

While the other workshops of the Bauhaus dealt in the highly theoretical and abstract, and often struggled to succeed commercially, the success of the weaving workshop stood in stark contrast. Besides its practical success, the workshop was also notable in the way that its female members taught to and learned from one another in a deeply collaborative process. Because Bauhaus members like Albers went on to teach their learnings globally, the impact of this collaboration is still seen in the weaving world today on figures like Sheila Hicks, Claire Zeisler and others. 

Most recently, the Art Institute of Chicago hosted an exhibit titled Weaving Beyond the Bauhaus, which ran from 2019-2020. The exhibit explored the influence of the Bauhaus weaving workshop across the Atlantic and across the decades. In lieu of traditional placards for each work, viewers navigated the exhibit by reading quote cards from various women in the field, all of whom were in conversation with one another, and with one another’s work. 

The women weavers from the Bauhaus exemplify an ongoing trend in the world of architecture and design: despite the odds or expectations, female designers are always ready and willing to rise to the challenge.

The Legacy of Walter Gropius

The legacy of the Bauhaus is an essential thread in Modernism, past and present. But the Bauhaus — both the movement and the school — never would have been possible without the man behind it all: Walter Gropius. Today, we’re paying our respects and exploring the legacy of the Bauhaus founder, also known as one of the the pioneering masters of Modernism. 

Fagus Factory (Faguswerk), designed by Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer in Alfeld, Germany. Photo: Matthias Süßen on Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

A Promising Start

Born Walter Adolph Georg Gropius in May of 1883, the German architect was destined for great things from the start of his earlier career just 25 years later. In 1908, after studying architecture in Berlin and Munich, Gropius began working with renowned architect and industrial designer Peter Behrens, alongside other powerhouses: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. From that point onward, Gropius’s career accelerated at an upward trajectory, with accomplishments such as Faguswerk, the Fagus Factory that truly put his name on the map in 1913. 

The Bauhaus building in Dessau, Germany, designed by Walter Gropius.

The Bauhaus

In 1919, Gropius succeeded the previous master of the Grand-Ducal Saxon School of Arts and Crafts in Weimar — and Gropius then transformed this academy into the Bauhaus. Gropius’s founding philosophy behind the Bauhaus was revolutionary. On a flyer from that time, he stated: “Art and the people must form an entity. Art shall no longer be a luxury of the few but should be enjoyed and experienced by the broad masses. The aim is an alliance of the arts under the wing of great architecture.” The Bauhaus’s legacy became the extension of beauty and quality to every home, through well-designed, industrially-produced products. Though Gropius left the Bauhaus in 1928, the impact of the school remains prevalent across Modernist design today. 

Story Hall at Harvard University, part of the “Gropius dorms” designed by The Architects’ Collaborative.
Story Hall at Harvard University, part of the “Gropius dorms” designed by The Architects’ Collaborative. Photo: John Phelan on Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

American Footprint

Facing threats under the Nazi regime, Gropius first landed in England and then made his way to the U.S. in 1937. There he became a professor at Harvard and eventually, the Director of the Department of Architecture. In 1946, he founded The Architects’ Collaborative (TAC), another manifestation of his belief in collaboration and teamwork. Alongside the likes of other young architects in Cambridge, the group rose to prominence (with their most well-known work being the Graduate Center at Harvard) and they quickly became one of the most well-known and respected architectural firms in the world.

Today, the legacy of Walter Gropius remains in each structure he created during his lifetime, as well as in the profound impact he had on the architectural world. 

A Brief History of the Wassily Chair

When we set out to build intentional spaces, we extend our design sensibilities into every finish and furnishing. And with most of our selections, each piece has a story behind it. Today, we explore the history of the distinct and iconic Wassily Chair.

The chair itself started with Marcel Breuer, the Hungarian architect and designer. Breuer studied at the Bauhaus under Walter Gropius, quickly becoming his protégé with his outstanding sense of design and ingenuity. By the early 1920s, he was considered a master carpenter at the school. The legend goes that Breuer purchased his first bicycle and was so inspired by the lightness of its frame, he wanted to experiment with something similar in furniture design, using curves and tubing in construction. Thus, the Wassily chair was born.

Fabricated using the techniques of local plumbers, the tubular-steel structure would become Breuer’s signature touch on furniture. At the time, the design was only technologically feasible because German manufacturers had perfected the process for seamless steel tubing. Without a welding seam, the tubing could be bent without collapsing. The structure was finished by straps of fabric, pulled tightly to create a sturdy but comfortable place to sit. Like many other designs in the Modernism movement, the Wassily Chair has been mass-produced since the 1920s, its allure is still impactful today. At present, the trademark name rights to the design are owned by Knoll, who integrated the Wassily Chair into their catalog in the 1960s. 

Whether it welcomes residents as they enter the lobby or invites conversation in an amenity space, the Wassily Chair plays perfectly with the design aesthetic and sensibility of our spaces at Optima. 

The Work of Paul Klee

Art plays a large role in our lives — from influencing our approach to Modernist design to transforming the spaces that we create. The repertoire of artists whose work hangs in Optima buildings is expansive, from Pablo Picasso to Joan Miro, and today, we’re spotlighting another one of our great featured artists: Paul Klee.

The Life of Paul Klee

Paul Klee was born in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland in 1879 to a German father, inheriting his father’s German citizenship at birth. Klee’s father was a talented music teacher who passed on his knowledge to Klee. By age eleven, Klee’s proficiency at violin was so impressive that he was invited to join the Bern Music Association.

Klee’s creative proficiency extended to the visual arts. And while he pursued music per his parents’ wishes, by his teenage years, a desire to rebel and to seek his true passion led him to studying art.

The Work of Paul Klee

Though Klee kept diaries in his early years that included many caricature drawings, he began art school struggling with color theory and painting. As he continued evolving his style, Klee’s humor heavily influenced his work, which began leaning towards the absurd and sarcastic. 

Over the years, Klee’s work has been categorized as Expressionism, Cubism, Futurism, Surrealism and Absurdism. But his unique point of view, which incorporates geometric forms and a raw, childlike quality, set him apart from his peers. Klee taught at the Bauhaus school from 1921-1931, and the termination of his teaching role segued him into his most vivacious period of creation, where he created upwards of 500 works in one year.

Paul Klee’s Garden View at Optima Signature
Paul Klee’s Garden View at Optima Signature

From his extensive exploration of color theory to his pioneering and childlike style, Paul Klee is an influential artist whose influence spans far beyond his lifestyle.

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