Harald Bodenschatz is a sociologist and urban planner. From 1995 to 2011, he was professor of sociology of planning and architecture at the Technische Universität Berlin. Since 2012, he has been an associate fellow of the Center for Metropolitan Studies at the TU Berlin and of the Bauhaus Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture and Planning at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar. Bodenschatz studied sociology, political science, psychology, and economics at the LMU in Munich and the FU in Berlin (1967–1972). In 1978, he completed his doctorate and in 1986 his habilitation. Since 1972, he has taught in the departments of architecture and of urban and regional planning at the RWTH in Aachen and the TU Berlin respectively. From 2004 to 2009, he was program representative of the Schinkel Center at the TU Berlin and from 2009 to 2010, of the Transatlantic Graduate Research Training Group “Berlin – New York” funded by the DFG German Research Foundation. He was a guest lecturer in urban and regional redevelopment at the Bauhaus Dessau (1990/91) and visiting professor of urban planning and urban design in Rio de Janeiro (1997) and Lima (2000). His research projects are related to the history of urban design and postindustrial urban design. Since 1980, as an urban planner, he has been involved in sensitive redevelopment projects with the office DASS. He has authored numerous publications on the history of urban planning and contemporary issues relating to urbanism.
Bauhaus Innovations in the Rear-View Mirror
My initial hypothesis is this: the most powerful innovation of the Bauhaus was to successfully establish its own self-interpretation as the brightest star in the firmament of a modernist conception of structure and space, achieved through the impressive packaging of a dazzling, placeless chameleon. This is how the representative of one model of modernity succeeded in downgrading the many other models and stylizing its radicalized modernity as modernism per se. However, this is only half the story, because it is common knowledge that the Bauhaus and therefore the Bauhaus program never existed. But were there any innovations, or any primary inventions authored by the polymorphous and poly-local Bauhaus? And how should they be evaluated after a hundred years? My focus here will be on one of the key social issues of the Bauhaus: the simplifying and polarizing reinvention of the city and its people. To give proper value to this innovation, it behooves us to look backward and forward: at the time ten years prior to its foundation and twenty years after. However, even the perspective up to the beginning of World War II is too short-sighted: of course there would be another Bauhaus later, if not two or more versions of it. Long live the chameleon, “the most effective and most successful cultural German export item of the twentieth century” (from a proposal put to the Bundestag by the CDU/CSU and SPD parliamentary groups with the modest title “Rethinking the World: The Hundredth Anniversary of the Founding of the Bauhaus in 2019,” Bundestag document 18/3727 dated January 13, 2015)!