We are in a Bauhaus moment. The centenary of its opening has produced a raft of exhibitions, books, articles (add this one to the pile), and even a new building—a museum commemorating the institution’s original home in Weimar, Germany. What is remarkable is the manner in which what was no more and no less than a school of design, albeit a rather innovative and unusual one, has become a concept at best and a style at worst. Not too long ago, I attended a conference in Beijing in which our Chinese hosts referred to the renovated factory buildings in which we were meeting as evidencing “Bauhaus design.” When I pointed out that they were, in fact, constructed according to East German models based on the work of American architect Albert Kahn, I received a rather chilly reception.
I am familiar with such a confusion between what a school is and its reputation because I run the continuation of the apprenticeship program Frank Lloyd Wright and his third wife, Olgivanna, started in 1932. Whatever the Wrights thought they were teaching here has very little to do with the imitation of late Frank Lloyd Wright–designed buildings that many—including even some alumni of our school or the apprenticeship—associate with the program.