Whose Bauhaus Is It Anyway? P1 & 2

Thanks for tuning in as we explored the unique dialogue between fashion and architecture in the German Democratic Republic. You can images and the transcripts for the show here:

Images

Gisela’s fair colleciton, Sibylle, East Berlin (1960 №5) Illustrations based of of the operetta from Leipzig. Image used as a comparison for Kosmos Kino (directly below) Source: Bartlett, Fashion East
Kino Kosmos
Cafe Moskau
“Summer Time” Praktische Mode, Leipzig 1963 no. 6. Image used to compare visual similarities with Kino Kosmos (above)
“Industriestadt Bitterfeld” Sibylle, 4/1964. Source: Sibylle: Zeitschrift fuer Mode und Kulture 1956–1995
“Industriestadt Bitterfeld” Sibylle, 4/1964. Source: Sibylle: Zeitschrift fuer Mode und Kulture 1956–1995
Chemnitz City Hall Source: Haspel, Joerg & Dumitru Rusu, Socialist Modernism in Germany, BACU, 2019
Polyester Gestrick, Sibylle, Roger Melis, ca 1960 Source: GDR Objectified
Image of Plattenbau Source: BPD
The Ratiokusche or Ratio Kitchen, was a scientifically ordered kitchen which was seen as a machine for living in East Germany — Source: Eli Rubin, The Form of Socialism without Ornament: Consumption, Ideology, and the Fall and Rise of Modernist Design in the German Democratic Republic
“Mode im jungen Berlin”, Sibylle, 4/1962, Arno Fischer Source: Sibylle: Zeitschrift fuer Mode und Kulture 1956–1995

Part 2 Transcript

Hello and Welcome back to the East German Fashion History Podcast.

Today, we’ll be exploring the Second Half of our dialogue between fashion and architecture in the German Democratic Republic.

But before we delve into it, I’d like to give a special shout and thank you out to Shane Whaley and Anke Holst, the team of Radio GDR podcast. I highly encourage all of you to check out their podcast which explores the life & times of former East Germany. Definitely have listened as it is the first and only besides this one that’s an English-speaking podcast about the GDR. They bring on fabulous guest interviews and inspire some really fascinating conversations, personal histories and expose some cool microhistories all related to the former East Germany. You can also check them out on facebook at Radio GDR — The Life and Times of East Germany. And like this podcast, Radio GDR has no political inclinations or leanings. So, if you like this podcast I’m sure you’ll Radio GDR which is available through Apple itunes and Spotify.

Also, please make sure to check the episode description on monday where you will find all images for this episode.

So let’s get on with the show,

Here’s a little summary of what we talked about last week…

The SED, Sozialistische EinheitsPartei, or simply the German communist party sought to prove that the GDR was the ‘true’ Germany and this naturally ruled out any cultural embrace of international styles such as the Bauhaus. It was formed without ornament. The party professed that art architecture and design should recall upon german styles in a way that served workers and farmers. The motto was ‘socialist in content, nationalist in form’ and the idea was to imitate styles like Rococo, Baroque, and in a way, giving that cultural heritage back to the workers and farmers.

Even though the Bauhaus originated in Dessau, an east German city, many Bauhaueslers emigrated to the states during world war ii and that aesthetic became widely adopted in American and the West. And it was modernists influenced by the Bauhaus that used that style to build American embassies throughout the world. The Bauhaus quickly became associated with i Western capitalist countries.

Meanwhile SED party leader Walter Ulbricht who helped play a leading role in the establishment of the German Democratic Republic had a strong disdain for the modernist looking boxed homes going up in West German cities like Hamburg, Stuttgart and Frankfurt am Main and saw them as “West Germany’s role as an American Protectorate”. He preferred the historicized styles like — rococo, baroque even Chippendale and wanted to “return” them back to the farmers and workers and people of east germany. This wouldn’t idea couldn’t sustain itself — it was expensive and useless. Mind you this is still post war East Germany that the nation was coming out of a world war, alot of it desecrated and even the most basic existential needs were hard to come by. So the idea of returning to traditional architectural styles to return to the public may have been ambitious plus there’s a widespread housing crisis.

Enter GDR’s quest for its own national architectural style aka Functionalism which was defined as t

Due to an acute housing crisis, Ulbricht promised to build 100,000 apartments by 1959 this present design aesthetic was too expensive and the need to build functionalist housing blocks. The new housing program proved wildly successful requiring up toe 750,000 apartments to be built by 1965.These prefabricated homes were made of large concrete slabs commonly referred to as Platbautten

These were supposed to be “machines for living” scientifically calculated with solutions for how much space an avg family would need. What do these homes need? Furniture, Ulbrichts dreams of gaudy historical throwbacks like rococo to return to the people certainly won’t fit into these tight living quarters. It was actually the Bauhaus Lers Selman Selmanagic and Franz Ehrlich that worked and lived in East Germany with Mart Stam that designed space-saving furniture for these living quarters which they made for the state owned factories in Hellerau.

And in a July 1961(a month before the Berlin Wall went up) an issue of Praktische Mode the pattern making magazine which was a staple for many East German households because fashionable clothing and sizes were scarce so women would have to sew on their own, features the article

Mit Modernen Regalen Wohnen

Modern SHelf Spaces

Showing sleek mid century modern shelving units and advising on that the best kind of spaces are wide open, but if you don’t have that, these shelving units allow for this. It talks about price and practicality.

Last week when I reviewed this issue and other issues of Pramo and Sibylle

For todays episode we’ll look at

- Socialist Realism and the quest for a national architectural style

-Fashion photography a platform for celebrating the GDR’s sense of urbanity

- Fashion & architecture a dialogue

Socialist Realism

Now what is socialist modernism? It’s an approach to architecture typical of former socialist countries between 1955–1991 By 1955 “useless stylistic elements” in architecture were abandoned by the Central Committee of the USSR Communist Party. Nikita Kruschueve made this decision a year profit at the Union Conference of Builders Architects and Workers in Construction Materials Industry, Construction Machines Industry Planning and Research. This was really what catapulted Stalinist architecture or realist socialist was to replace the socialst bloc

While West Germany welcomed modern design from the beginning, the GDR started to rehabilitate modernism during the second half of the 1950s , after having followed the soviet line of socialist realism.

Formalism used in the west while functionalism in the east even though they were both the same.

Now what is socialist realism is an approach to architecture typical of many former socialist countries. In 1955 Nikita Krushev declared the useless stylistic elements in architecture were to be abandoned by the Central Committee of the USSR Communist Party.

It was influenced by space, travel, technology. You also had a subset called Brutalism mid-1960s to the late 1980s (Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, USSR, Yugoslavia). It’s concerned with the seeing of materials for what they were: the woodness of the wood; the sandiness of sand.”

So what are the characteristics…

For Residential developments usually bar or tower shaped with a regular structure and small windows facades have a limited amount of stylistic elements and really only defined by shape or the location of balconies which have often vertical or curved elements; full metal or glass balustrades and asymmetrical alternate placements, perforated panels or mosaics.

14 story housing complex that y shaped. This is really where you can see the almost sandykiness of the concrete slabs that have been left exposed, maybe as a decorative element. Its 14 stories of grey and dark brown and sizable windows. But you’ll find mosaics as another central time.

In cultural places, one will find expansive, full walls often decorated with mosaic panels or vertical concrete elements.

Kosmos Kino

It’s known for its smooth facade and the combination of straight and curved surfaces of the utilization of prestressed concrete which at the same time to West Berlin incurred Congress Hall can be compared.

Educational institutions have a different ground floor than the 2nd or 3rd floors. A level made with porticoes and large glazed areas and facades decorated by vertical concrete panels, metal elements, sculptural or music insertions

Transport & telecommunications have diverse volumes and are more varied in shape.

In administrative and transportation buildings. headquarters large in size, inspired by German pre WWII modernism and post war intl architecture. These are massive shapes with glazed surfaces

Haus Des Lehrers

House of the Teacher 1964

Tall glass paneled buildings are very straightforward w/ its design functionalist for sure w/ no elements of ornament or any exceptional balconies etc. but has sizable murals that wrap around the entirety of it.

Stadthalle Chemnitz

Chemnitz town hall 1974 (fyi chemnitz is formerly known as Karl Marx City)

And it’s covered with a curvilinear polygonal concrete precast elements put one upon the other, like tessellations

Shops and service areas feature wide open spaces and large glazed surfaces with connecting building complex and wide stairs and passage ways

In many german cities and municipalities in the east today many of these buildings are being demolished or left to decay — oten residential and administrative, restaurants, service facilities.

Fashion Photography & Architecture — a dialogue

In many editorials and fashion imagery throughout the GDR, architecture naturally held a very special spot. Let’s look at a few…

  • Sibylle’s Fall, 1962 editorial photographed by Arno Fischer, Herbstmode in Berlin -fall fashion in berlin
  • w/ the sub caption

“Patterned coats with large pockets, loose belt and dropped sleeves.

The cover image features a model in a herringbone knit oversized goat with generous pockets and a self tie belt w black gloves. Her hair is blowing and she’s walking away from a large industrial structure w/ various scaffoldings. The graphic herringbone pattern compliments the intricate geometric patterns from the industrial structure behind her. The editorial goes on to show pictures of women in standard fall suit skirts and coats within the Berlin streetscape. Getting off street cars, walking in the rain. There’s even a photo of a model shown posing in front of a Prussian eagle crest.

They all evoke images of confidence, independence and ultimately a practical sense of modernity but in real time. There’s nothing striking about the coats and outfits featured, what’s striking is their surroundings. Large industrial complexes, heraldic crests on a rooftop, a streetscape w. Buildings in the background and streetcleaner. It’s almost as if the clothes provide the backdrop to more storied backgrounds.

This editorial comes at a time where they’re a little over a year after the Berlin Wall was erected and an era where the GDR is defining itself.

THe idea of taking fashion to the streets — a concept common to this current era, was quite novel for the early 60s. And it was Arno Fischer the photographer who is credited for this straightforward, photojournalistic style that is always in the moment and was definitely of the moment from the 60s.

IN the editorial Industriestadt Bitterfeld — Bitterfeld Industry City, the series portrayed the everyday workers of the Chemical Plant — which left Bitterfeld as one of the most polluted cities after the wall came down

Showing both color and black and white photographs of models in plaid jackets and coats naturally posing against either large chemical smoke stacks in the background, a top a leveled construction site or more pastoral pics of a plot of grass w. A train humming by and a house in the far corner. And again — classic fall coats in soft browns, plaids and tweeds. The background tells the story. Sure, there’s something quixotic about a pretty blond model in a timeless red tartan red sport coat and tan skirt posing in front of smoke stakers.

And yet in another, the model or mannequin is in a woven coat walking past a train and small brick house in the back. Or two women wearing brown cinched coats atop a mound with level ground and a tractor in the back. The garments featured which are from the latest collections of the peoples-owned garment industry, are universal, transient in all places and at one place at the same time.

So here we have industrial, residential architectural landscapes creating again — a storied feel. It’s the context that makes the clothes, not the clothes themselves.

In the fall 1974 issue of Sibylle Arno Fischer photographed

Mode im Jungen Berlin — fashion in young berlin.

Shows two models w/ curly cropped hair in graphic floral maxi dresses against at night time against the backdrop of Berlin. Here you see all of the latest architectural developments all lit up for what might be a rather bustling evening. And it’s quite a timely editorial b/c East Berlin was envisioned to be an urbane representation that could compete with the west. During the latter half of the sixties there was a massive architectural expansion of the East Berlin city center which was the capital of the GDR. Arno Fischer photographed models on the roof of the city hotel in Berlin in front of the background of the reconstruction of this new urbane city center.

Now the dresses modeled are quite nice, typical of the 70s, long, flowy, simple geometric florals. There’s nothing stately about them, I wouldn’t even say glamorous yet femine and celebratory but informal. It’s hard to even define what city this could be. It just looks like a young metropolis, bustling, towerghin and shimmering architecture. And honestly, nothing particularly that conveys social modernism. It’s too dark to see if there’s any carved murals, there’s no monument brutalist structures in the background or towering residential complexes aka platbauten, ambitious all-concrete sculptural buildings, or curvilinear concrete patterns or forms like the stadthalle chemnitz. There’s none of that. This could be any modern city West of the Berlin wall.

Photographer Roger Melis’ 1960 Polyester Knits — featuring the latest polyester styles — Sidebar: synthetic fabrics were at the crux of the East German fashion industry and were constantly promoted and won which we’ll discuss next month. Anyway this photo shows two models in pantsuits with wide pockets and wide belts against prefabricated concrete apartment buildings aka Plattenbauten. The wide geometric patch pockets and collar detail fit almost like a puzzle piece into the spacious, bar shaped balconies of the platbauten behind the models.

In Sibylle 6 issue for 1970, photographer Günter Rössler created the editorial Mode Rund um den Alex

Fashion around Alexanderplatz

There are perspectives from the sidewalk and when it comes to symbolic trademarks, the Berlin television tower with its substructure is visible. The architecture and the streets of East Berlin became ever present backdrops for photographers. And in a time where there was a lot of pushback about the quality, availability and modernity of the clothes to shop for in the GDR. These photographs must have conveyed and reinforced a sense of urbanity and intrigue. They told a different story than the growing amount of complaints about the fashion and dress that was often scarce in stores throughout gdr. These backdrops, that was the context, made the clothes happen.

Looking at Fashion / Architecture in Conversation — an exercise .

So we’ve assessed how socialist modernism in East Germany, we’ve looked at the role fashion photography played and how architecture has a symbiotic dialogue with it. And you’d find this not just east bloc countries and especially in western capitalist countries. That relationship I would surmise, is systemic in any politicized economy of a state, nation or country.

So

How Should We Look at Fashion and Architecture?

We can’t ignore international trends in both fields. While SOcialist Realism was an ever present style in architecture in the 60s, Dior’s sack dress ahd become an everyday silhouette for upper and middle class women. In East Germany were women who were gainfully employed and still had connections to the West — of course they were seeing Western fashion trends and how the

GDR fashion industry was redefining theirs.

While researching, I came up with exercise — just for fun — to see if I could find a visual relationship between fashion and architecture.

So I looked at the

Kosmos Kino 1960–1962 as I’d mentioned before it’s a wide rectilinear building flanked with variegated blue, black, yellow and beige bricks through the structure and an all glass entry way. There’s a cylindrical second story.

This builds went up in 1961,

For comparison, if we look at fashion illustrations from an operetta in leipzig about a fashion student and those sketches were featured in Sibylle, they feature

  • 3 models one in a skirt suit with chunky geographic florals with thick lines
  • A sack suit with a pillbox hat

Where are the similarities — -

The shapes are the same — whether it’s the bar shaped building, towering rectangular glass entry way or the cylindrical second story all of these fit into and fit with the sack suit with its spacious, boxy form and pillbox hat.

Ornament is reserve to flat, stylised patterns whether it’s colorful bricks that create a light graphic pattern for thickly outlined florals

Let’s look at another comparison

Cafe Moskau erected in 1961

It’s a 2 floor wide rectangular building uniform in its shape but features a perforated, honeycomb panel and the front entrance accompanied by a highly stylized- mural of round forms.

  • Now if we look at a 1962 issue of Praktische Mode we come across a slew of dresses. One features a graphic floral pattern similar and has a similar busy energy and graphic structure of the rounded lines from Cafe Moskau’s mural.
  • In another fashion photograph, you see a gradient striped dress with horizontal shapes. This echoes a similar linear movement of the honeycomb, perforated slab.

Now I’m sure we could go on, and draw similarities in the 70s and 80s. For an example, there was a renaissance of colorful DIY knitting, dying, pattern design, and sewing in 70s gdr — partly bc it was on trend but also it was the most economic and efficient answer to severe shortages of garments, sizes and unnecessary surpluses in state-owned clothing stores. DIY was a vehicle for personal expression but also survival.

At the same time, there was a rampant construction of high rise plattenbauten which created a grey landscape but also murals that provided color. Prismatic murals celebrating the socialist spirit and was an essential component to East German architecture and visual culture.

I’m sure it would be fascinating to compare the colorful DIY fashions & dress of East German citizens with these artfully rendered murals. But this would also require photographs from personal collections or photo albums of everyday people in their DIY made garments as well as numerous issues of Pramo from the 70s to be compared with murals. And that is where my research has its limitations.

Or it’d be great to look at the thriving East German punk culture of the 80s and the increase of decrepit, often neglected buildings within the East Berlin cityscape. In light of debts and economic decline in the 80s many buildings became dilapidated and in a way, showed a different aesthetic and reality of the GDR just as the punk scene was showing. It’s interesting to look at those dilapidated buildings in the 80s with the gritty, purposefully destructed punk style. Sidebar in our 5 th episode I’ll be looking at east german punk fashion.

SO take or leave this exercise. I thought it was a fun way to take away all the political and historical contexts and see what you’re left with when it’s j. And I challenge you to do this in your moments of boredom. Maybe you’re escaping a black hole of the infinite social media scroll and this one way to do it. Picture that If you came from another planet never heard or understood any political history, language, culture, design precedent and just looked at buildings in relation to the people in or near those buildings and how they may or may not relate or complement each other visually.

How do they inevitably relate?

What are the escaping

And visually how are the two inescapable from their environment.

So a lot of deep thoughts. Please make sure to check the blog on monday — linke will be in this episode description for images.

And that’s it for tonight.

Thank you so much again Radio GDR for all your support, encouragement and feedback.

ANd thank you to all my listeners. We are at a total of 986 plays. I really had no idea I would get this interest and support and I just want to thank you. I love the demographics we’ve got people in the states, germany naturally but especially viewer from denmark, hungary artengia, singapore , slovakia, philippines, india vietnam, tanzania, albania and venezuela listening — thank you to those individuals.

And as always, please make sure to follow us on C.Nickel on instagram and please leave a note that you’re a listener and I’ll be happy to add you.

Check out my blog, I’m always for feedback, feel free to comment on any episodes or themes you’d be interested in.

And finally Danke and goodnight.

Part 1 Transcript

Hello and welcome back to season 2 of the East German Fashion History podcast. So excited tobring you this new season — bimonthly episodes will be happening every other Friday. And like the format for season 1, there will be an accompanying blog post with for each episode and bonus content posted throught the month which you can find on the instagram account, Scatter My Ashes at Aldi. or you can search for “C Nickel”

For the month of September we’re going to focus on fashion in the German Democratic Republic and its relationship to architecture.

Today we will do a deep dive into architecture — not so much fashion surveying major concepts like:

- the bauhaus in post war germany

- political tensions with contested definitions of modernism in the east and west

- the politicization of interior design and the consumerism

Next Week we’ll look at socialist realist architecture, fashion photography and how they both connect.

I’d like to start off with a quote from the architect Zaha Hadid to help you contextualize today’s episode.

Architecture is how the person places herself in space. Fashion is about how you place the object on the person.

— — —

I’d first like to start off with a quote — something to think about while we’re exploring this relationship between fashion and architecture….

Quote

So we can see both architecture and fashion as ambassadors for representing the strength, success and personality of a country or nation.

— — —

Post War East German Architecture

Now in order to understand the state of architecture in the German Democratic Republic, GDR we’d need to look at its legacy. East Germany which is where the original Bauahus Dessau was founded, the Bauhaus with its ethos of… ** … was a symbol for unparalleled design and that today still carries much of the weight of Germany’s architectural heritage.

In 1950, less than a year of the founding of the German Democratic Republic, the Dutch architect, urban planner, furniture designer (most well known for his cantilevered chair — image will be up on the blog) and lecturer at the Bauhaus who was in the Netherlands during WWII, moved back to East Germany. Stam founded the Institute for Industrial Design at the College of Applied Arts in Berlin-Weissensee, Germany.

SIDE NOTE: If the Berlin-Weissensee School sounds familiar, it’s because this was the school where many of Sibylle, the east german fashion magazine I spoke much of in season 1 and will delve more into, fashion photographers hailed from.

Like many left wing artists and designers Mart Stam saw the GDR as the hope for a new utopia they would soon become disillusioned by the Stalinist reality. His concept of functional modernism ultimately would shape the minds and modes of his students for the rest of their professional career.

Many of the former Bau Haeuslers even trickled back into the GDR including Marianne Brandt, head of the metal workshop, Franz Ehrlich, El Lizzisiky and helped plan the reconstruction of the city.

The Bauhaus & East Germany could be seen as a covalent bonded — sharing an atom and that atom being a common history and culture. Although this was to be contested as we will soon see.

In addition to Mart Stam’s school of Industrial Design at the Berlin-Weissensee you also had the College for Art & Design in the Burg-Giebichenstein in Halle which would become the focal point for design in the GDR and Horst Michel’s Institute for Interior Design in Weimar.

Unfortunately, when it came to power or agency in their industry, these designers were without any. The VERB Volkseigene Betriebe — People’s Own Factory Were rarely ever employed product designers, rather workers or engineers who were concerned with the technical solutions not necessarily aesthetics.

Mart Stam & The Bauhaus

Mart Stam’s legacy would be his students like Martin Kelm, Guenther Reissman & Albert Krause schooled in functionalism, they would use his cool modern style for mass produced pieces for the GDR.

Political Pretense

Now in 1953, the SED, the Sozialistiche Einheists Partei — the East German communist party, launches a smear campaign against all things West Germany and associates the Bauhaus with it.

Part of this was to prove that the GDR was the ‘true’ Germany and this naturally ruled out any cultural embrace of international styles such as the Bauhaus. It was formed without ornament. The party professed that art architecture and design should recall upon german styles in a way that served workers and farmers. The motto was ‘socialist in content, nationalist in form’ and the idea was to imitate styles like Rococo, Baroque, and in a way, giving that cultural heritage back to the workers and farmers.

Since many Bauhaueslers emigrated to the states during world war ii and that aesthetic became widely adopted in American and West Germany, SED politicians pointed out that the Bauhaus had become too tied to West Germany and America.

Even the way it was referred to was politicized — while ‘modernism’ also known as ‘formalism’ and ‘Bauhaus’ were frequently used terms in the West, they were not referred to openly in the gdr. Here, they the preferred style was described to as functionalism and in constantly referring to it as ‘the basis of an object’s beauty is its practical function,’

There was even a ban placed on all things “formalism”

And judging by how the United States may have symbolically infused modernism as a democracy and “the” style of the west, it makes sense — in way. Let’s look at the art of this period to give us a better context for understanding the politicized pretense of architecture. In Post War America you have abstract expressionism — which was all about the individual. At the same time many American embassies being built were designed by modernists.

In Greg Castillo’s Domesticating the Cold War he cites that during the 1950s, the US sought to further propagate the American model of mass consumption in Europe by organising a series of exhibitions in West Germany and other Marshall Plan countries. And this was to demonstrate the technical achievements and ‘international modernism’ of the Western home.”

In West Germany, designers were supported to interpret American design symbolic of the west meanwhile in the GDR, designers were challenged with inventing new interpretations that epitomized German design.

Midcentury modernism can be seen as imperialist — with its lines, curves and organic forms it symbolized the West and capitalism. All of this wouldn’t have been possible without the Bauhaus which grew from it.

So next time you take a look at That mid century modern West Elm coffee table to pair with that Crate & Barrel couch you’ve been eyeing — it’s riddled with a politicized architectural history. The very warp and weft that wove Cold War tension.

— — -

That’s not to say the same wasn’t going in the East, in fact, in the post Stalin/Khrushchev era, Khrushchev he became obsessed with domesticity. But it’s important to note that, the that America had symbolically loaded Modernism as , didn’t trestrain Russia from using the same aesthetics for the purpose of giving a new shape to post-Stalin society.

Whether in Western Europe, America or the East Bloc countries, the home and its interior furnishings became a highly politicized platform down to a skeletal level of the aesthetics. For example,

Now where does this leave East Germany?

Enter East German Functionalism.

East German Functionalism

While SED Walter Ulbricht believed that the that the boxed homes going up in West German cities like Hamburg, Stuttgart, Frankfurt am Main were based of off American models and saw them as “West Germany’s role as an American Protectorate” and he preferred the historicized style we spoke of — -return rococo, baroque even Chippendale back to the farmers and workers and people of east germany, this wouldn’t last — it was expensive and useless. Mind you this is still post war East Germany that the nation was coming out of, basic existential needs were hard to come by in cities across the GDR that were desecrated by the war. So the idea of returning to traditional architectural styles to return to the public may have been ambitious but not realistic to enter a housing crisis.

  1. Due to an acute housing crisis, Ulbricht promised to build 100,000 apartments by 1959 this present design aesthetic was too expensive and the need to build functionalist housing blocks. The new housing program proved wildly successful requiring up to 750,000 apartments to be built by 1965.These prefabricated homes were made of large concrete slabs commonly referred to as Platbautten.
  2. And because of this and other concerns, 1956 the ban on formalism was eventually lifted by way of Nikita Krusheve in power in the USSR because they had to find better faster ways to build.

The Increase consumer goods and apartments created a demand for furniture that fit these living spaces and imitative baroque, rococo or some other historicized style like chippendale just wasn’t practical to these “machines for living” that were scientifically calculated with solutions for how much space an avg family would need. The Bauhaus Lee Selman Selmangic and Franz Ehrlich provided space saving furniture for these living quarters which was made fo the VEB Deutsche Werkstätten in Hellerau ironically these were originally announced as cubist and therefore degenerate but it was this Hellerau furniture that exploded in the 1960s and could produce better, faster, cheaper sets appeasing to Kruschev’s dictates. One popular style was the sleeper sofas and shelf wall units called Shrankwende much of this was made by pressed wood laminated by polyester and resin.

In 1956, two design-related journals were established in the gdr: one explicitly aiming at people who were (professionally) interested in design, Form und Zweck (form and intent), and a popular home-decorating journal, Kultur im Heim (culture in the home). Zweck’s first issue clearly shows the direction in which East German form and design would develop. Its pleas for a ‘simple, space-saving (…) parsimoniousness,’ and ultimately a fight against kitsch and ‘capitalist mass production’s’

But I think the following quote from Kultur im Heim really encapsulates the GDR’s stance on how capitalism lacked good design because its intent was largely superficial. And consciousness. Unlike what East German designers were doing.

So in the end, it was those formalists from Mart Stam’s school like Kelm, Reissman and the like now had a considerable degree of clout in their industry. Their interiors became popular in the 60,ss 70sa and 80s.

Now when we look at fashion magazines at the time this is what we see being played out quite literally.

A july 1961 issue of Praktische Mode (a month before the wall went up) and pattern making magazine which was a staple for many East German households because fashionable clothing and sizes were scarce so women would have to sew on their own, features

Mit Modernen Regalen Wohnen

Modern SHelf Spaces

Featring

Showing sleek mid century modern shelving spades and advising on the best kind of spaces is a wide open sape but if you don’t have that, these shelving units allow for this. It talks about price and practicality.

The same fissure features a fashion convention where POland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and China are present in showing their collections.

One sees a slew of shirt dresses in clean graphic prints and gingham but the shots are set against a gothic church where you can see a stained glass windows and carved arches.

It’s as if there’s one foot in the past and one in the future but it’s the garments that ultimately drive it forward.

In an October issue of the same magazine you have

The article our new shoes schol shows an illustration of children decked in blue jumpers dresses and gingham shirts with a photograph o a newly built school. This functionalist building with giant windows features a mural of workers and children.

Lovely little wool dresses show women in various wool dresses and skirt suits pressing at a public park, but also one near a traditional wooden cart almost like a food truck but not motorized and then one by a newly built municipal building.

A December 1961 issue of Praktische Mode — features women at a holiday party wearing jacquard tea dresses and suit skirts in a floral jacquard that practically matches the curtain. The furnishings aren’t modernist, more historcicized.

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