Probably to most people (me included) tend to make the following equation: Design = Brand/Label. Nevertheless, I believe that this is wrong since literally everything we see has a design. I tend to look at design as a plan or a concept. In other words: design is something beyond individual taste.

The Math of Nature

Living creatures such as plants, animals and humans have been designed by nature’s evolution. Already in 1202, the Italian mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci released a mathematical model describing the system nature builds leaves, flowers, shells and other things. This sequence is called “Fibonacci numbers”.

The Evolution of Cities

I agree that most cities and even many houses are products of an evolution. Wars and natural disasters destroyed them and people rebuild them “organically”. Modern architects have to plan around these structures. Still, they now have a design. After all it is a planned decision (whatever the reasons) which part of the city or buildings remain “old-style” and which ones have to be replaced by a newly planned addition.

Other cities like Brasilia, Chandigarh (India), Manhattan or Canberra have been planned from scratch by urban designers. The streets are numbered and mostly in a rectangular order.

Plans and Maps

If we think of maps – especially of European ones – “design” or “plan” are not the first notions jumping in our minds. Although the individual roads are planned the entire picture looks very organic. A mountain pass is never rectangular and roads typically run along the topography rather than a ruler.

Genius Is Simplifying Things

Did you ever look at a modern plan of the London Underground or the Métro in Paris or probably any other modern city? I assume you did. Did you notice that they are all designed according to the same system? I take the liberty to assume that subconsciously did but never thought about it.

So did I, until I read of Henry Beck (1902-1974). He worked as a technical designer for the London Transport. While the Tube grew larger and larger Mr Beck noticed that the plans grew more confusing with every station they added to the railway system.

5 Steps to Ingenious Simplicity

Mr Beck was obviously very committed to his job since he searched for remedy to this complication in his spare time.

In 1931 he presented to his bosses a schematic plan with the following changes and features

  1. Instead of drawing the distances between the stations in scale he choose the same distance between each of them
  2. The strokes that marked the lines where either drawn horizontally, vertically or in angles of 45 degrees
  3. He used an individual colour for each line so it was easy to see which line served with station to get the passengers to their destination
  4. Each station appeared as a short stroke on the map
  5. Only the stations with an interchange facility were marked with a diamond shape

The Result Turned Out to Be Contagious

Although a bit reluctant, the management of the London Underground decided to give the new schematic plan a try and printed a small amount to be handed out to passengers.

The echo was overwhelming, people loved the clarity of this plan and it soon took over. Other cities used Beck’s design for their public transport systems.

Harry Beck took care of the update of “his” plan until 1960. If you compare his version from 1931 and the modern London Tube you’ll find little difference concerning the design.

Also the plan for the streetcars and busses in the town of Zurich look the same.

Bottom Line

Not only Beck’s design is ingenious but also it fit the time. Remember, in 1919 the famous Bauhaus where function was “wrapped in design” opened its doors and was very influential until it had to close in 1933. Although Mr Beck says he did not understand much about modern art he had a liking for maps that were as clear as a technical plan.

I’d say he understand that sometimes less is more.



The French Designer Philippe Starck was born in 1949 and is by no means a Bauhaus student or even a follower. I don’t know how he would feel about it but I daresay that he is something like «Bauhaus in the third generation».

Design for Everything and Everyone

What makes me say so? Well, Monsieur brings design and imagination into literally anything and therefore unites function and design. Just like the Bauhaus school he seems to be a Jack-of-all-trades. By the age of twenty he created cloths for the French fashion designer Pierre Cardin. Later he started designing furniture and household goods.

You literally can have a «Starck household» if you wish to do so. Maybe you want to squeeze your lemons with a tool by the name of «Juicy Salif» that can stand on its own feet or swat annoying flies by a designer tool.

My personal favourite is the chair «Louis Ghost» a combination of Baroque and Modernism. The chair has a Baroque shape, is made of plastic and totally transparent.

For the time being this is the last post of the Bauhaus series which ends «beyond Bauhaus» I just think that Philippe Starck is someone you must know.

– The End –




I would not go as far as to say the Alessi was Bauhaus. What I would say on the other hand is that they profit (and so do we) from the Bauhaus school and philosophy.

When the company of Giovanni Alessi was founded in Italy in 1921 the manufacture followed the traditional motto “form follows function”.

A change of Paradigm

This changed dramatically after WW2 when Alessi started using stainless steel and made a point when it comes to design.

Some of their design items are symbols for an entire epoch. Their breadbasket is reduced to the max, it came on the market in the 1950ies and represents the style of that decade. Did I just say that? It is still on the market and did not lose any of its appeal.

In 1985 the famous tea kettle came on the market. For the 30iest anniversary Alessi created a limited edition. On this model the whistle is not an ordinary bird but a T-Rex that inspired me to buy one.



The Swiss designer, painter and architect Max Bill is very much a Bauhaus student with the most famous teachers one can think of: Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee to name only two.

What he definitely learned at the Bauhaus is the oneness of all arts and to use the right material for the right thing. And maybe the painter Piet Mondrian whom he met in 1932 influenced him even more.

24 Hours A Day?

While reading about him I came to the conclusion that this man worked 24 hours a day. He created monuments (the one on the picture is in the centre of Zurich) watches, furniture, painted pictures and wrote papers on art theory.

He was born in Berne (Switzerland), lived in Paris, Zurich, Hamburg and died in Berlin in 1994.



«So subtle and so simple; I like it!» – Achille Castiglioni

Achille Castiglioni was born in Milan, Italy and not a student of the Bauhaus. But his philosophy was – as I put it – «Bauhaus inspired». He designed furniture one can only describe as «reduced to the max».

To me he is a fascinating example of how the same philosophy can lead to such different results.

For instance he designed a stool that looks like a bicycle saddle or the chair you see on the image above. I never would have guessed that they have the same creator. Did you?


Achille Castiglioni is one of the most influential Italian designers. He became very famous with the lamps he designed for prestigious companies like Flos or Zanotta .

While Achille died in 2002 his creations are still being produced.



Walter Gropius wanted equality for women and men. Well, even at the Bauhaus equality was a rather theoretical value. Most women did pottery, weaving ore casework.

Not Marianne Brandt (1893 – 1983). Although women were often not welcome in the workshops of “male” professions, Marianne completed an apprenticeship in a metal workshop and soon became a star.

MT 49

On the image you see a tea pot that belongs to an entire set. The name? Sure, you do not expect anything poetic. And you are right. MT 49.

The shape reminds to Art Deco and the materials are boldly combined. The pot itself is made of brass while the handle consists of ebony.

In 1985 the Italian designer Alessi took it up again.

Marianne Brandt also designed ashtrays and other dishes and lamps. After WWII she became a lecturer at a design school in Dresden (Germany) and turned more and more towards fine arts and sculpture.


MT 8 is another design highlight with a dull name. Wilhelm Wagenfeld who created it was a REAL representative of the Bauhaus. And so is this lamp: functional, yet elegant.

Let me be more specific: not only was Wagenfeld a representative of the Bauhaus style but he also was a student of the Bauhaus. Remember, Bauhaus is Bauhaus is design and school at the same time.

The Silver Smith

Wilhelm Wagenfeld who was born in Bremen (Germany) in 1900 received an education as a silver smith at the Bauhaus, later became a professor for design and finally set up his very own lab where he developed models for industrial design.

While nowadays we rather associate the profession of a silver smith with jewellery, picture frames and decoration Wagenfeld used his skills for more “profane” things. He managed to fulfil the Bauhaus requirement to unite form and function.

Made for the Assembly Line

MT 8 is beautiful and very pragmatic. It was designed for the assembly line, thousands have already been created and – as I believe – another few thousands are yet to be fabricated.

Max and Moritz

Most probably they all look familiar to you. Max and Moritz, a very German creation.


Yes, the salt and pepper pots are also designed by Wagenfeld, extremely famous and called after two famous no-hopers.



Walter Gropius was one of a kind. During their honeymoon he and his wife travelled to Paris to visit Le Corbusier and his best men (yes, he had two) were the famous painters Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky. Know what I mean?

The not so humble beginnings

Well, Gropius was born in Berlin in 1883 and studied architecture and already in the first decade of the 20st century he worked in the office of Peter Behrens who is another giant in this scene. As if this was not already enough one of his working colleagues was Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

The Pioneer

Gropius was a pioneer if it comes to industrial standardisation instead of custom-made products. A look at the history of the 20st century makes it obvious why he came up with this idea.

Already after WW1 that ended in 1918 large parts of cities lay in ashes. So it became clear that new buildings, furniture and dishes had to be produced. Fast and at a reasonable price. For this reason Gropius had labs in which he designed and improved entire parts of buildings, stackable furniture and dishes.

A lot of the so called modern classics originate from this creative environment and you will not be surprised to hear that Walter Gropius was the first director of the famous Bauhaus.



I am quite sure that the table on the image above is familiar to you. From what I see it has been copied many times.

E1027 – very poetic, I know – was designed by an Irish lady by the name of Eileen Gray. It came on the market in 1927 then was forgotten for a long time and only had been rediscovered in 1972 when a collector’s legacy was auctioned. Sadly, not only the table was forgotten but also its creator.

Lacquerware and Fame

Eileen Gray who was born Ireland in 1878 studied painting in London and moved to Paris in 1902. She was inspired by the minimalistic Japanese style (which reminds me to Charles Rennie Mackintosh) and she took lessons in the art of lacquerware at a Japanese artist.

Lacquerware and Japanese design should make her famous. Don’t get me wrong, Ms Gray had no intention to copy and paste but used her artisanship to create modern furniture that fit the Western taste and style. Functionality always determines the design of her creations.

Her motto was:

Long before E1027 she became known for exclusive lacquer furniture and folding screens. The side table was also available in lacquer but the classic we know is made of glass and steel.

In 1934 Eileen Gray moved in her home in Southern France. Needless to say that she designed everything herself. As it seems from that day she led a secluded live until her death in 1976. I do not know if she lived happily ever after 1934 but I am sure she lived in style.



The Barcelona chair is probably one of the most famous pieces of furniture ever. It has been designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe who was born in Germany in 1886.

A fact that is less well known is that van der Rohe was inspired by the so called “sella curulis” that was only to be used by noble and powerful men such as magistrates and other influential authorities in the Roman Empire. Of course they did not use steel and leather but rare wood, ivory decoration and silk or velvet upholstery.

In 1929, at the World Exhibition in Barcelona the modern version of the “sella curulis” was officially presented; hence the name “Barcelona chair”. The opening ceremony was held by the Spanish King.

So one could say that the Barcelona chair is a modern throne, fit for a king (or a queen, of course).

When I bought my Barcelona chair I did not know about its Roman past but I will feel much more important when I use it next time.

Just for the record: The chair is only one of many masterpieces he created. Van der Rohe was involved in a lot of important projects at the time. And he was the director of the famous Bauhaus between 1930 and 1933.