Marcel Breuer’s Bauhaus furniture inspires Neubau sunglasses
There are strikingly few examples of the Bauhaus wearing glasses. Of the 12 on the cover of the school’s magazine from 1928 only two are bespectacled; the artist Wassily Kandinsky turns to his right, hair perfectly combed, wearing frameless oval glasses with slim arms. Typographer Joost Schmidt smiles to camera, two black rimmed circles around his kind eyes. Yet as the Bauhaus celebrates its centenary, Neubau – the eyewear brand from Silhouette – takes a fresh look at the school’s founding principles for a special edition frame.
Roland Keplinger, Neubau’s head of design says, ‘When you think about Bauhaus, you immediately think about the furniture’. Its impact on design, mass production and even technology is seismic. Toilets, trays and trousers have all laid claim to the group’s maxim: ‘form follows function.’ Since launching in 2016 as an environmentally responsible, made-in-Austria company, Neubau has combined quality with eco-positive design. Packaging is manufactured from a cellulose base without any need for glue and the cleaning cloth is made from recycled plastic bottles. Frames are made with oil extracted from the seeds of castor oil plants. They are radical in their weightlessness.
The archetypal Wassily Chair – designed by Marcel Breuer between 1925-1926 – informed the bended tube structure of the special edition frame. Keplinger says: ‘We used new technologies like 3D-printing and bending the titanium wire to be able to manufacture it on a big scale, exactly as the Bauhaus sought to do.’ The entire design took four months. ‘We also developed our own surface treatment for the 3D-printed parts so it has a nice matte surface and its colour stays,’ Keplinger says. The frame sits as a sculpture on the face or on a shelf.
The Bauhaus strived to formulate a way of working where craft came together with concept, and skill with social influence. Its teachers reunified practical disciplines like weaving, painting and handicrafts. ‘Art rises above all methods; in itself it cannot be taught, but the crafts certainly can be,’ Walter Gropius wrote in the Bauhaus Manifesto in April 1919. Neubau’s philosophy to mix art with new technologies and mass production isn’t dissimilar. ‘The Bauhaus didn’t completely fulfill its aims because the things they created were very expensive but some of the staff and students really had an aim to make design for the masses, a strong social conscience,’ Keplinger says.
The Walter & Wassily frame with its clear, unadorned lines, executed using limited materials as sustainably as possible, expresses Gropius’s ethos: ‘priority of creativity; freedom of individuality, but strict study discipline.’ It brings together function, form and fashion. §