Bulthaup and Bauhaus

23-10-2019

2019 celebrates 100 years of Bauhaus, the revolutionary school of art, architecture and design. From its founding in 1919 by architect Walter Gropius at Weimar, Germany and far beyond its subsequent closure in 1933, the Bauhaus theories and ideas spread worldwide through the architects (and their pupils) who attended the school.

A truly modern way of thinking, including the union of form and function, Bauhaus is not simply a past movement; it is a driving force today.  Much of what we now think of as new has its roots in Bauhaus.

We also celebrate the life of one of the movement’s greatest advocates, Gerd Bulthaup, who died last month in Munich, aged 75.  Gerd Bulthaup led the German kitchen company bearing his family name from 1976 to 2003, following the death of his father Martin Bulthaup.

In our blog today we’re looking at the intrinsic link between the two.

If you are already familiar with our work, you will know that the bulthaup name is synonymous with Cameron Interiors and quality living kitchen design. We have been a partner, passionate advocate and highly trained design engineers of bulthaup furniture for many years.

Bulthaup, the company founded by Gerd’s father Martin in 1949, played an integral role in the post-war reimaging of the kitchen from a strictly utilitarian space to an inviting hub.  From inception, the company has been dedicated to creating innovative kitchen solutions for a changing society.  Gerd made sure to continue to spread his father’s vision, stating: “Put simply, we wanted to produce first-class kitchens. Rather than focusing on existing functions, we wanted to invent new uses for the kitchen.”

An engaging personality, Gerd actively collaborated with other leaders in the design field. During the 1980s his vision led him to persuade Otl Aicher, co-founder of the Ulm Design School, known to reflect the traditions of the Weimar Bauhaus movement, to work with him. The German graphic designer is respected as the pioneer of the concept of corporate identity, famously designing pictograms for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.  His use of stick figures for public signage was highly influential in graphic design.

Together, they actively pursued a year-long investigation for bulthaup, analysing living and eating habits in homes and restaurants all over the world, leading to the publication of Otl Aicher’s book, ‘The Kitchen is for Cooking’.

Based on their research, the book describes a completely new kitchen philosophy in which ergonomic working was a critical factor.  Design authenticity of both function and materials and a reduction down to the essentials were also key elements, since pleasure, cooking, and communication are paramount.

Gerd Bulthaup naturally embraced this design aesthetic and made it synonymous with bulthaup worldwide. Intelligent installation and planning became main innovations and thus, his vision of directing bulthaup to become the market leader in intelligently designed kitchens took form.

His experience ultimately shaped Bulthaup’s design ethos, now rooted in the Bauhaus guiding principle of “form follows function.” And this became central to the development of new products.

An initial response to their joint research is the introduction of kitchen system b, based on the fundamental re-evaluations of kitchen work, prioritising ergonomics and a living space instead of only a place to work in. A space designed to make work of any kind as easy as possible.

Gerd Bulthaup continued to develop several pioneering kitchen systems.

System 25 followed with the design recognizing that functionalism and living culture do not have to be at odds and in fact complement each other. The design is not, therefore, an aesthetic afterthought; it’s a functional component of the overall kitchen concept.

System 20 introduces a fully modular system with no fixed elements, ensuring that the units can adapt to continuously changing living spaces way beyond the kitchen.

Under Gerd’s leadership, Bulthaup introduced the island workbench, drawing the kitchen focus into the room rather than toward the perimeters of the space and incorporating chef-grade materials in residential design, such as stainless steel, aluminium, and butcher block.

“Through a step-by-step process, the working kitchen in a separate room was replaced by the living space of the kitchen, and above all in a very aesthetic, minimalist design language,” says respected industrial designer Herbert Schultes, also a long-time collaborator. “He left us alone to pursue our concepts, only drilling the following mantra: ‘We will follow no trends or fashions! Think about sustainability, functionality, material honesty, purism (minimalism) and longevity.’”

These systems further develop into B3, B2, b1 and solitaire, intelligent systems available today.

Bulthaup’s love of architecture, Bauhaus philosophy and timeless design fundamentally changed the image of the kitchen over the years to come and influenced the whole industry as we see today.

British architect and Interior Design Hall of Fame member John Pawson, who collaborated on Gerd Bulthaup’s 2004 book Perspectives, which called for a return to quality in the design world—recalls him as “a fearless non-conformist” with an eye for detail, a passion for materials, and an unwavering commitment to quality design.

His qualities shine through in every carefully engineered bulthaup element, qualities we greatly respect and with which we are proud to be associated.

For many years now, Bulthaup has been managed by Marc O. Eckert, grandson of the company’s founder, consolidating bulthaup’s position as an independent family business. Mark believes, “Tradition and a past mean maintaining existing values while also looking ahead to discover new ones to solve new challenges for people and meet needs that continue to change with the times”.

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