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"The number of promising ideas is grandiose." Interview with beyond bauhaus jury member Oliver Jahn

We spoke with Oliver Jahn, member of the international jury of the competition „beyond bauhaus - prototyping the future”, about the significance of the bauhaus concept for the present and future, the international competition and the prizewinners. More

„Combining Realism and Megalomania”: Interview with „beyond bauhaus” jury member Wolfram Putz

The international jury of the competition „beyond bauhaus - prototyping the future” consists of experts from a wide range of design disciplines. Architect Wolfram Putz is one of them and he told us what he associates with the Bauhaus and what he expects of the entries in the competition „beyond bauhaus - prototyping the future“. More.

„The Bauhaus as a kickstarter”: Interview with „beyond bauhaus" jury member Christian Benimana

Christian Benimana talked to us about what the Bauhaus idea can still offer students today and about his hope of using the competition to select projects that inspire global solutions. More.

„Everyone has a right to good design”: Interview with "beyond bauhaus" jury member Lisa Lang

Lisa Lang, member of the jury of the competition „beyond bauhaus - prototyping the future”, told us how the Bauhaus has influenced her and what design can do for society. More.

„The Bauhaus School influenced the way we live today and tomorrow”: Interview with jury member Eyal Gever

Eyal Gever, member of the international jury of the competition „beyond bauhaus - prototyping the future”, told us about the importance of the Bauhaus in Israel and how Bauhaus ideas still influence us today. More.

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"The number of promising ideas is grandiose." Interview with beyond bauhaus jury member Oliver Jahn

They have been chosen: The 20 winners of the competition beyond bauhaus - prototyping the future. The award winners were selected by an international jury. Oliver Jahn is a member.

Since 2011, Oliver Jahn has been the editor-in-chief of AD Architectural Digest Germany. The AD brand is tailor-made for him: The bibliomaniac—owner of more than 15,000 books—studied linguistics, literature and philosophy in Kiel. Before joining AD, in 2006, he worked for Suhrkamp Verlag in Frankfurt and the art magazine Monopol.

We spoke with Oliver Jahn about the significance of the bauhaus concept for the present and future, the international competition and the prizewinners.

1. Given its one-hundredth anniversary, the Bauhaus is currently on everyone's lips. What makes the Bauhaus so popular today?

The Bauhaus as a historical phenomenon has long been the stuff of myth: think tank, creative playground, equal treatment of men and women, legendary celebrations, potential craziness (suspected Bolshevism!), a place for free spirits, carried on by the unrestrained desire for a brighter, cleaner, better-designed life for everyone—a utopia dreamt of, not by happenstance, on the heals of an atrocious war. It is, of course, easy to strip things of their enchantment when you see them in precisely historical terms: most of their products never made it beyond the status of a prototype; founding director Gropius was more a marketing genius than a design luminary. BUT: the fascination remains, and you can see and feel the sparkling desire for creativity, experiment, discovery, the will to break new ground, the joy of play, the belief in a better world that comes from the spirit of good design—all of this we need today more than ever. I think the Bauhaus is a perfect blueprint for this, less perhaps with a dry list of its actual successes than with its rapacious and joyful mindset.

2. Many creative people worldwide have participated in the competition. How do you explain this enormous response?

First of all, because of the unbelievable fascination of the Bauhaus. There were many avant-garde movements in Europe throughout the early twentieth century, but hardly any of them triggered such a worldwide impulse to want to belong to them. Our world today has become almost unbearably complex—and unlike the deadlock we see in politics, there is so much creative power, so many highly creative people around the world who want to solve the multitude of problems confronting the environment, hunger, overflowing cities, distribution of wealth, mobility. The number of promising ideas—stemming from the spirit of the old Bauhaus—is grandiose.

3. What potential do you see in the award-winning projects?

Great potential. Some projects are more abstract, some are very concrete. All in all, however, there are many ideas that will be worth serious pursuit. In the near future, we will need powerful and resourceful interdisciplinary networks of think tanks and designers, because no country and no single office can solve even one of the great topics of humanity and society alone. These ideas and forces are bundled in networks. It is more important than ever that such concepts not only remain thought games, but that the most promising ones are evaluated and then implemented.

4. Does the Bauhaus still have an influence on designers today?

As an idea, in the sense mentioned above. In its concrete manifestations, in the designs actually created across all disciplines, I believe the Bauhaus has more of an appeal for collectors, design historians, and aficionados. But it's also an inexhaustible treasure trove: those who want to search and dig will find an infinite amount. Everyone wants Bauhaus ceramics or a Mies armchair, etc. These are also fetishes that carry the energy of time and place within them and release it whenever they want. But, of course, there will be hardly an architect or designer today who won't deal with it at some point, whether he likes it or not. You can't not have some relationship or interaction with the Bauhaus.

5. The concept of design has changed in recent years and decades. Is this reflected in the applications for the beyond bauhaus competition?

Like everything else, design as a profession, as an activity, as a concept is always subject to historical change. Just think of the 1980s, when the term "design" was often used as an advertising label to distinguish the supposedly chic object from anonymous mass-produced goods. “Designer jeans” and “designer glasses” were such buzzwords, as if there was something by human hand that wasn't designed, no matter how badly. Just as people today prefer to talk about “craftsmanship” when they mean craft. That gives it a different charge. Today the themes are completely different. It's great to design a fantastic chair, a lamp, a bed. But to create sustainable design on a dying planet, as a designer and architect to deal with the environment, cities, educational institutions, hunger, social change, ageing, and so on—that has an entirely other dimension to it. This competition showed me not only the huge potential there is out there, but also and more so how much commitment there is.

Photo: Condé Nast Germany