Functional, durable and optimized for industrial mass production:“Shaping everyday life !” presents objects that were part of everyday life in the GDR – furniture, glassware, ceramics, technology and graphic design – and biographies of the designers who followed the tradition of the Bauhaus and contributed to the continuing development of its design principles and modern product design.

For example, the exhibition spotlights the design of furniture by the Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau by displaying work by furniture designers Franz Ehrlich, Selman Selmanagić and Rudolf Horn. The furniturefactory had become well known for its innovativeproducts as early as the beginning of the 20th century. The impact of modern and functional design,for example of designs by Wilhelm Wagenfeld, onthe glassware and ceramics created by Friedrich Bundtzen, Erich Müller, Margarete Jahny, Ilse Decho and Christa Petroff-Bohne is also explored. The exhibition shows how designers such as Albert Krause applied the principle of functional, durable and practical design to new materials such as plastics. In addition, the concept of “living functionality” was further developed to achieve greater flexibility and user-friendliness, as seen in approaches such as the “open principle” demonstrated by the Mokick Simson S 50 moped designed by Karl Clauss Dietel and Lutz Rudolph, for example.

The exhibition also examines the contradictions in the GDR government’s approach to the Bauhaus heritage in its cultural policies. Initial attempts to revive the Bauhaus tradition were followed by campaigns against so-called “formalism”, a ban on Bauhausstyle design and a return to what were regarded as national traditions in design. Modernism was tentatively rehabilitated when housing began to be constructed on an industrial scale. It was not until the refurbished Bauhaus Dessau was reopened in 1976 that the former school of design was adopted as part of the official cultural heritage of the GDR. Shaping everyday life! explores how the Bauhaus heritage gradually became accepted in the GDR. It considers early publications and exhibitions in the 1960s as well as later exhibitions, including the exhibition entitled “The Bauhaus Experiment” which was held in Dessau in 1988 in collaboration with the Bauhaus Archive in West Berlin. Exhibitions such as these were used to promote the GDR’s cultural and political image. Notwithstanding the chequered history of the reception of the Bauhaus,  particularly during the years of the Soviet Occupation Zone and the early years of the GDR, former Bauhaus designers such as Mart Stam and Walter Funkat inspired the next generation of designers by their design practice and teaching at East German universities. The graduates of those universities would in turn have a profound impact on everyday culture. The biographies of 50 Bauhaus designers presented at the exhibition also illustrate personal continuities and networks.

The exhibition „Shaping everyday life!“ invites visitors to discover a hitherto long-neglected chapter in German design history as part of the Bauhaus centenary in 2019. Yet there is more than one reason why a visit to Eisenhüttenstadt is well worthwhile. In addition to the exhibition “Shaping everyday life”, the new city built in 1950 is an attractive destination. Just a short walk through the city reveals the changing East German ideals in architecture and town planning which are visible here more than anywhere else. Eisenhüttenstadt is not only one of Germany’s most extensive heritage sites but also one of the 100 selected destinations on the Modernism Grand Tour that can be visited during the Bauhaus centenary.

An exhibition catalogue, also entitled “Shaping everyday life! – Bauhaus Modernism in the GDR”, is available
from Weimarer Verlag mbooks.