Bauhaus and can be seen, for example, in the work of
German architect Bruno Taut (1880-1938). In 1914
Taut completed ‘The Glass Pavilion’ for the Deutscher
Werkbund Exhibition in Cologne in conjunction with
the German glass manufacturing industry. Glass was
integral to the structure’s design, which featured a large
pineapple-shaped glass dome, glass steps and one of the
earliest uses of glass bricks – innovations made possible
by technological advances in glass manufacturing.
The design also incorporated coloured light projections
and a frieze of poetry from anarcho-socialist writer
and poet Paul Scheerbart. He reflected that the glass
dome and transparent architecture had the potential to
bring the light of the moon and stars into the building,
expressive of a new, open and positive culture.
Bauhaus luminaries with a particular interest in light
included Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack (the only Bauhaus
member to end up in Australia) and the painter Josef
Albers, both of whom experimented with colour theory
and perception. Hirschfeld-Mack used a coloured
spinning top to demonstrate the way coloured light
mixed to form white light, while Albers’ paintings
reveal the way the perception of colour changes
according to context.
Albers also used shadow and light to ‘sculpt’ space
and held teaching workshops to explore the concept.
One session famously used flat sheets of paper as a
material to create space and form, producing a dome,
for example, by cutting slots in a sheet of paper. It is
tempting to think that this exercise influenced Norman
Foster’s design of the dome of the German parliament
Reichstag building (1999).
The glass dome of the Reichstag incorporates a spiral
walkway, allowing people to move around inside the
dome and enjoy views into the parliament and over
the Tiergarten park in Berlin. At the same time they
can be seen from outside the building, figures moving
around the dome space in a constant flow. The dome’s
transparency can be regarded as a fine application of
the Bauhaus ideal of openness; symbolising the idea of
an open democracy, while at a practical level allowing
daylight to flood into the building, disseminated
through the internal spaces via a central mirrored core.
Of all the Bauhaus protagonists, the one most associated
with theories of light and its use as a design medium
was, arguably, László Moholy-Nagy. The painter,
Electric lighting in a typical Bauhaus building reveals the functions of
the structure to those outside