German Werkbund

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The German Werkbund e. V. ( DWB ) was founded on October 6, 1907 as an economic and cultural "Association of Artists, Architects, Entrepreneurs and Experts" at the suggestion of Hermann Muthesius , the Heilbronn politician Friedrich Naumann and Henry van de Velde in Munich . Its seat is in Darmstadt .


The association aimed to “refine commercial work in the interaction of art, industry and handicraft, through education, propaganda and a closed position on relevant issues”. He thus continued the already existing approaches of the reform movements inspired by John Ruskin . Relying on a morally sound quality term attempt was a new commodity aesthetics for the craft to establish industrial production, which had been mostly content with copies and adaptations of the ancient traditional form of role models with their often rich ornamentation. According to the art historian Christian Demand , "the aesthetic educational agenda of the [...] Werkbund [...] was built on the direct persuasiveness of terms such as material, form and work justice". The main concern was the search for a new form (also known as “ form follows function ”) based on “purpose”, “material” and “construction” , which was also referred to as “objectivity” - and which in the 1920s was under the toposNew Objectivity ” should be addressed again. This demand for a technically and aesthetically high quality production was set in a programmatic contrast to a previous practice of industrialized arts and crafts that was apparently only oriented towards profit.

Poster for an exhibition of the Deutscher Werkbund in Cologne in 1914 ; Design: Peter Behrens ; Lithography / stone
printing :
A. Molling & Comp. KG Hanover - Berlin

In order to counteract the decline in the quality of the arts and crafts, which has been lamented in this context, a design method should now be developed which is adequate to the specific conditions of machine production and which is characterized in particular by the lack of ornamentation and the simplicity of the forms. In the numerous publications and exhibitions of the Werkbund, this new aesthetic should be made more popular with consumers and manufacturers at the same time through exemplary designs of everyday objects.

In addition, under the expansive motto from sofa cushions to urban development , it was hoped to be able to establish what was then known as the “modern style of our time” of epoch-making durability for the whole world of everyday objects including architecture, far beyond industrial production. In the background was Gottfried Semper's famous prognosis that a new beginning in architecture could only come from the arts and crafts and the art industries. Correspondingly, with regard to the spread of the new forms, special expectations were placed on the dominant forces in industrial mass production and ultimately a kind of “taste cartel” was to be established in this way (see Hermann Muthesius's speech at the Cologne Werkbund exhibition in 1914). At the Cologne exhibition, however, there was a dispute over the direction between the representatives of typification (Muthesius) and those of individualism (van de Velde) (so-called typification debate).

Among the most respected critics of the federal government were Adolf Loos and Werner Sombart , whereby Loos attacked the artistic claim of the association and emphasized that only unconditional functionalism would lead to the development of contemporary styles, while Sombart pointed out that the educational program of the Werkbund inevitably doomed to failure. Looking back in 2016, Christian Demand stated that “the missionary furor that accompanied the activities of the Werkbund for decades [...] at the beginning of the 1970s with the sobering insight [subsided] that in a society that is increasingly pluralizing in all areas of life, its mobility and prosperity, whose desires and technological possibilities were constantly expanding, even among experts it was simply no longer possible to establish a binding aesthetic consensus. "


Chronological overview

  • 1907 Foundation of the Deutscher Werkbund in Munich
  • 1914 Exhibition: Cologne Werkbund exhibition
  • 1924 Exhibition: Industrial Design in Berlin ( Die Form )
  • 1925 Publication of the magazine Die Form (until 1934)
  • 1927 Exhibition: "The Apartment" industrial design in Stuttgart ( Weißenhofsiedlung )
  • 1929 Exhibition: Industrial Design in Breslau ( WUWA )
  • 1929 “Film and Photo” exhibition in Stuttgart (avant-garde photography from the 1920s).
  • 1930: Exhibition "The Apartment" under the direction of Walter Gropius in Paris
  • 1932 Exhibition: Werkbundsiedlung Vienna
  • 1933 conformity by the National Socialists
  • 1938 dissolution
  • 1947 re-establishment according to the federal principle with eight regional federations in Rheydt
  • 1949 Exhibition "New Living" and "Gute Form" in Cologne
  • 1952 Publication of the journal Werk und Zeit (until 2007)
  • 1972 Establishment of the Werkbund Archive as a museum of everyday culture of the 20th century in the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin

1907 to 1947

On October 5 and 6, 1907, respected artists, architects, artisans, industrialists, merchants and writers met at the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten in Munich , who put the work, i.e. the product of their work, at the center of their thoughts and actions. They gave themselves the name “Werkbund” and formulated the tasks in the statutes: “The purpose of the federal government is the refinement of commercial work in the interaction of art, industry and craft through education, propaganda and a closed position on relevant issues.” With this objective the Werkbund represented an ethically sound quality concept that included material fairness, practicality, solidity and sustainability. The founding of the Werkbund was a protest against historicism and cultural decay of the human environment - the equipment and furniture, the apartments and workplaces, the houses, streets, cities and landscapes. At the same time it was a call for artistic, moral and social renewal. The founders of the Werkbund saw the decisive problem in the alienation of the product from the creator. They also saw the need to overcome this alienation within industrial development. The formula “refinement of industrial work” was therefore not only about raising the quality of the products, but also about “refining” the work process itself.

The founding members were twelve artists and twelve companies:

Wolf Dohrn , a long-time employee of Friedrich Naumann , was appointed as the first managing director of the Werkbund , and in the following years he was to have a significant share in the planning and construction of the garden city of Hellerau .

Hermann Hesse wrote about the Werkbund in 1912: “In the Deutscher Werkbund, artists work together with craftsmen and manufacturers, and that is against the trash in favor of quality work. It is roughly the Ruskin circle of ideas, but more modern, more practical and less tightly determined. It is about taste as a moral issue, but morality is synonymous with economics. "

Overall, the history of the Werkbund can only be described as highly changeable. The First World War marks a deep turning point in the history of the Werkbund. In the early history, Friedrich Naumann, Fritz Schumacher, Georg Wrba , Karl Schmidt and Hermann Muthesius were among the leading personalities. The climax and end point of this first phase was the large exhibition in Cologne in 1914 , which brought the Werkbund to the brink of split in the course of a major ideology debate (the so-called type dispute).

After the first generation of Werkbund members withdrew towards the end of the war, the Werkbund came increasingly under the influence of the Bauhaus ideas in the course of the 1920s ; Walter Gropius was a member long before the First World War, but in a certain alliance with Henry van de Velde and Bruno Taut initially failed because of his adversary Muthesius in 1914. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe finally became one of the leading members in the 1920s, whereby the exhibition Neues Bauen and the Werkbund exhibition “ Siedlung am Weißenhof ” in Stuttgart in 1927 can certainly be considered milestones in this phase of the Werkbund. This was followed in 1929 by the building exhibition " Apartment and Workroom " in Breslau and in the same year by the "Film and Photo" exhibition in Stuttgart. With what is probably the most important show of avant-garde photography of the 1920s, which presents an international cross-section from the USSR ( El Lissitzky , Alexander Rodtschenko ) to the USA ( Edward Weston ), the visual media have come more into the focus of the Werkbund. In 1930 a Werkbund exhibition on the subject of The Apartment , supported by the German Foreign Ministry, took place in Paris , organized by Walter Gropius - himself a member of the Werkbund - with the assistance of Marcel Breuer , Herbert Bayer and László Moholy-Nagy .

Theodor Heuss was managing director and board member from 1918 to 1933 . After the National Socialists came to power in 1933, the statutes of the Werkbund were adapted to the ideas of the party ("... art is only rooted in German craftsmanship ..."). The chairmanship was taken over by the member of the NSDAP and the SA Carl Christoph Lörcher . In 1934 the association was dissolved. However, the co- ordinated organization was continued until 1938 with the well-known name under the leadership of the National Socialist Hermann Gretsch .

After the war, initiatives to establish a new company in Saxony and Berlin began as early as 1945. However, at first, Landeswerkbünde emerged in quick succession, first the German Werkbunds Bavaria and Hesse (1947) and later also the Werkbund Berlin (1949) and the other Werkbunds. The agreement to re-establish the Deutscher Werkbund took place in Rheydt in 1947 at a meeting organized by Hans Schwippert , at the end of which was the "Rheydter Manifesto". Based on this plan, the official re-establishment of the monastery in Ettal in 1950, in which the federal organization was decided.

1947 to 1987

Theodor Heuss was appointed Federal President of the Federal Republic in 1949 after his work as managing director of the Werkbund. In 1952 the first issue of the magazine “ werk und zeit ” appeared. The "Hahn" (design by Ewald Mataré ) of the Deutscher Werkbund served as a signet in a slightly modified form. In 1953 the German Design Council was founded in Darmstadt. This published the catalog "Deutsche Warenkunde" until 1961, in the content of which exemplary appliances were described.

The German Werkbund also took part in Interbau , which took place in Berlin's Hansaviertel in 1957 . A year later, Walter Rossow designed the outside space for the pavilion for the world exhibition in Brussels. In 1960 a Werkbund conference took place in Munich on the subject of "The landscape must become the law".

In 1965 and 1966, further Werkbund conferences followed in Berlin and Hanover, and a little later (1968) also in Berlin (subject: “The generation and their responsibility for our environment”). The Werkbund Archive was founded in Berlin in 1972 , but it is an institution that is independent of the Werkbund. Between 1986 and 1987 the Werkbund moved from Darmstadt to Frankfurt.

1987 to 2010

The Rhein-Kolleg was founded in 1988 . In the next two years, the Werkbund presented the two exhibitions "ex and hopp - The throwaway principle - A balance sheet with losses" (1989) and "From the Bauhaus to Bitterfeld" (1990). On March 6, 1992, the first Werkbund in the new federal states was the German Werkbund Sachsen e. V. launched. In the following years, the laboratories of the civilization / Academy Deutscher Werkbund were founded, whose task it is to deal with design issues. In 1995, the exhibition “War architecture - Sarajevo, a wounded city” in Frankfurt focused on the war in Yugoslavia.

In 1996 the Werkbundhaus was inaugurated in Dresden-Hellerau. In the same year, all funding from the federal states and the city of Frankfurt was canceled. The result was severe financial difficulties and the closure of the federal office in Frankfurt. After the umbrella organization was taken over by the Landwerkbund Bayern, the poor financial situation was tackled over the next four years. The office first moved to Munich, then later back to Darmstadt (1999). A Werkbund day with a different topic has been held every year since 1998.

100th anniversary stamp (Deutsche Post 2007)

To mark the 100th anniversary of the German Werkbund in 2007, the Architecture Museum of the Technical University of Munich in the Pinakothek der Moderne in cooperation with the Institute for History and Theory of the TU Darmstadt, the Institute for Foreign Relations and the New Collection presented the first large overall presentation in a long time about the German Werkbund. The Werkbund Bayern initiated the construction of a new Werkbundsiedlung in Munich, the city where the Werkbund was founded. The design by the Japanese architect Kazunari Sakamoto was selected as the urban planning concept for the Werkbundsiedlung Wiesenfeld via an international architectural competition. Starting in 2007, the construction of the residential buildings according to the drafts of twelve architectural offices was to begin, but this was rejected in autumn 2007 by the rejection of the concept by the Munich city council. Throughout Germany, the individual members of the Deutscher Werkbund organize a large number of exhibitions, symposia and public conferences. The German Post honored the anniversary by publishing a 55 euro cents - special stamp , its first edition was on 11 October 2007. At the centenary of his birth were between the country's business federations, which in the German Work Federation e. V. are represented, and those who had left in the meantime, negotiations started on the reunification of all state federations. Thanks to the moderation by Hans-Hörg Oehm (BW) and Yvonne Endes (BW) as well as the work of the statutes by Georg Drost (Bavaria), this union was completed in summer 2008. The chairmanship of the Deutscher Werkbund will now move regularly between the regional associations (initially: 2008 Hans-Jörg Oehm BW, 2009 Dieter Koppe Bayern, 2010 Roland Günter NRW).

From June 19 to 21, 2009, the German Werkbundtag took place in Munich for the first time, with the focus on the “future of living”. The German Werkbundtag 2010 was in Oberhausen in summer 2010.


Initiated by the architectural historian Werner Durth , a group of students under the name wb.jung was formed at the Technical University of Darmstadt in 2006 , which works as a project group in individual German Werkbunds as "werkbund.jung" - as it did at a closed meeting of the German Werkbund in Kassel was made possible in March 2011. There are currently werkbund.jung initiatives in the Rhine-Main area and Detmold. He organizes projects (exhibitions, publications, etc.) in consultation with the responsible Werkbünden.

On the issue of copyright protection

The founding of the Werkbund was immediately preceded by an amendment to the copyright law , so that for the first time it became possible to protect the inventions of forms by the artist of the arts and crafts or the newly emerging " industrial design " (such as a Peter Behrens ) from any imitation. “ Designer ” had become an equal partner of the industrial manufacturer in legal terms. Like the new legislation on design protection, the Werkbund was looking for an answer to the problem of plagiarism that had arisen with Art Nouveau , which had not only deprived many artists of the economic fruits of their design achievements, but in the eyes of many critics had also led to Art Nouveau in Interplay with the market forces unleashed since industrialization as a fashion wave ebbed just as quickly as the style fashions that preceded the 19th century. The stylistic fashions of historicism looked for their formal models in historical material, which is why the question of the designer's rights to his forms and symbols only became really acute with Art Nouveau and the rapidly growing industrial mass production. This is still an important field of activity for the Deutscher Werkbund, to which Rido Busse is dedicated with his Plagiarius initiative .

Founding members

The founding members of the Deutscher Werkbund were twelve artists and twelve companies.



Early members of the Werkbund


Members (selection)

The statutes were amended for the first time on July 12, 1908.

See also


  • Gerda Breuer (Ed.): The good life. The German Werkbund after 1945. Wasmuth, Tübingen 2007, ISBN 978-3-8030-3207-2 .
  • Tilmann Buddensieg , Hennig Rogge: Industrial culture: Peter Behrens and the AEG 1907–1914 . Gebrüder Mann, Berlin 1993, ISBN 978-3-7861-1155-9 .
  • Joan Campbell : The German Werkbund 1907-1934. Translated by Toni Stolper . Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1981, ISBN 3-12-911980-9 .
  • Joan Campbell: The German Werkbund 1907-1934. Translated by Toni Stolper. dtv, Munich 1989.
  • Christopher Oestereich: "Good shape" in the reconstruction. On the history of product design in West Germany after 1945. Lukas Verlag, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-931836-43-6 .
  • Ulrich Conrads, Peter Neitzke (Ed.): People and space. The Darmstadt Conversation 1951 (with lectures by Schwarz , Schweizer, Heidegger , Ortega y Gasset ) New edition: Vieweg, Braunschweig 1991, ISBN 978-3-528-08794-4 (= Bauwelt-Fundamente , 94).
  • Armin Chodzinski: Art and Economy. Peter Behrens, Emil Rathenau and the dm drogerie markt. Kadmos, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-86599-030-3 .
  • Wend Fischer (ed.); New Collection, Munich: Between Art and Industry, the German Werkbund . DVA, Stuttgart 1987, special edition for DWB, ISBN 3-421-02890-7 .
  • Roland Günter: The German Werkbund and its members 1907 to 2007 . Klartext, Essen 2009, ISBN 978-3-89861-861-8 .
  • Theodor Heuss : What is quality? On the history and the task of the Deutscher Werkbund. Rainer Wunderlich Verlag Hermann Leins , Tübingen and Stuttgart 1951.
  • Ot Hoffmann (Ed.) On behalf of the DWB: Der Deutsche Werkbund - 1907, 1947, 1987. Wilhelm Ernst & Sohn, Frankfurt 1987, ISBN 3-433-02268-2 .
  • Yuko Ikeda (Ed.): From sofa cushions to urban planning. Hermann Muthesius and the German Werkbund. Modern design in Germany 1900–1927. Exhibition catalog. The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto 2002, ISBN 4-87642-165-X .
  • Karl Ernst Osthaus Museum Hagen and Kaiser Wilhelm Museum Krefeld (ed.): Beauty and everyday life - German museum for art in trade and commerce. Exhibition catalog. Pandora Snoeck-Ducaju & Zoon, Gent 1997, ISBN 90-5325-090-5 .
  • Frederic J. Schwartz: The Werkbund. Goods and marks 1900–1914. Translated by Brigitte Kalthoff. Verlag der Kunst, Dresden 1999, ISBN 90-5705-116-8 .
  • Werkbund-Archiv (Ed.): Hermann Muthesius in the Werkbundarchiv. Exhibition catalog. Berlin 1990.
  • Werkbund-Archiv (Ed.): Battle of Things. The German Werkbund between aspiration and everyday life. Koehler & Amelang, Leipzig 2008, ISBN 978-3-7338-0364-3 .
  • Deutscher Werkbund Berlin (Ed.): This is modern! - German Werkbund Exhibition Venice 2014 , Jovis, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-86859-283-2

Web links

Commons : Deutscher Werkbund  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Christian Demand: Moral Institutions. In: Mercury . February 24, 2016, accessed March 12, 2016 .
  2. cf. Joan Campbell : The German Werkbund, 1907-1934 . Munich 1989, p. 73.
  3. cf. Joan Campbell : The German Werkbund, 1907-1934 . Munich 1989, pp. 39-42.
  4. ^ Peter BruckmannWerkbund exhibition "Die Form". In:  Oesterreichs Bau- und Werkkunst. Illustrated monthly , year 1924, (1st year), p. 58 f. (Online at ANNO ). Template: ANNO / Maintenance / buw.
  5. ^ Kurt Junghanns : The German Werkbund. Its first decade. Berlin 1982, p. 140.
  6. ^ Deutscher Werkbund NW: 1930: The exhibition in Paris ( Memento from June 17, 2016 in the Internet Archive ).
  7. ^ Werkbund Berlin: History of the German Werkbund , accessed on April 23, 2016
  8. ^ Deutscher Werkbund e. V .: List of chairpersons ( memento of May 29, 2016 in the Internet Archive ), accessed on April 23, 2016
  9. ^ Exhibition on the German Werkbund 2007 in the Architecture Museum of the Technical University of Munich
  10. Official overview of the German Werkbund about the events in 2007 ( Memento from September 27, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 58 kB)
  11. ^ Minutes of the closed conference of the Deutscher Werkbund e. V. on March 16 and 17, 2011 in Kassel
  12. ↑ Directory of members and statutes (1908) (PDF; 1.5 MB), accessed on August 18, 2012