Beyond Bauhaus’s Future


The Bauhaus constituted a powerful tradition as to this day individuals, schools, even entire disciplines refer to the Bauhaus to conceptualize their self-understanding. What characterizes this especially modern tradition, however, is less a dogmatic legacy, but rather an ethos of Promethean self-confidence to be the designer of ones own future. Yet in the course of technological developments of recent decades, things have become possible that contemporaries of the Bauhaus could not even dream of. But does this imply that a new era “beyond Bauhaus” has now begun?  Did the design of our future visions, the way in which we conceptualize and realize our future, change as well? Did we really redesign the apperception of future as it was introduced by the Bauhaus? Or does it only seem like that, while we have not yet left the traditional way of thinking? An answer to these questions cannot rely on the modern understanding of human beings and their creative abilities alone. It also has to consider questions of artificial intelligence and its relation to human life as well. Thus the design of the future turns out to be at the same time a philosophical investigation beyond man.

How to design the future? – Only since the industrial revolution can we consciously ask this question.[1] Only since the industrial revolution are we also forced to find an answer to it. Only for us as modern human beings the future has become an essential, if not the main problem of the respective present. “Future” as a critical concept represents the project of modernity and a projection of a better life. It stands for an enlarged activity space in order to change “existing situations into preferred ones”[2] as Herbert A. Simon puts it. So it appears to be no mere coincidence that this problem constitutes the starting point of modern design discourse. Since then design has become a growing business with increasing future earnings and with an increasing impact on traditional economy and ecology. Questions and answers concerning human future revolve around the actual power or powerlessness of design.

One important question seems to be how this now almost self-evident way of viewing the future could arise at all. Earlier times had ideas and plans about their future as well; how to shape the future best is not a specifically modern problem. Yet the “promethean”[3] faith in a better future built up by one’s own hands is a special feature of recent times (since at least the american and french revolution at the end of the 18th century).  So why do modern human beings attach such high priority to their future in contrast to their past or present? Why did almost all modern avant-gardist look forward to the things to come in such a way that they wanted to be ahead of their own times?

To find an answer to these questions, specifically from the perspective of design theory and history, necessitates a return to the world-renowned institution that was founded in Weimar: the Bauhaus. There the future of design and the design of the future, so to speak, constructed its own representative building. The Bauhaus is a home to the modern conception of future; a home to which designers and design thinkers return like the proverbial “prodigal son” times and again. To this day each modernism carries that form of homesickness in its heart, whether its proponents admit it or not. But this homesickness of modernity is a paradoxical one: At the same time it is a yearning to see distant places and a better future. Herein the mystery[4] of the Bauhaus seems hidden.

Correspondingly its history of exile and remigration (up to the present day) documents that in the heart of hearts of this building, this “Bau”, the modern experience of alienation found is home. However, there is no doubt that the Bauhaus wasn’t created out of nothing. It understood itself as a revolution but rather in the sense of a reconstitution or re-invention of tradition (quite comparable to the Lutheran sense of reformation). Thus Walter Gropius refers to the tradition of medieval masons’ lodges in the first Bauhaus Manifesto in 1919 and the woodcut produced by Lyonel Feininger especially for the Manifesto shows a Gothic cathedral.[5] There is always a tradition but the Bauhaus retroactively established its own: the modern tradition of self-transformative design – a Promethean tradition of proactive alienation towards a better self.[6]

But instead of exploring the past, I will take the direction towards the question of (the concept of) future in the Bauhaus tradition, in order to make sense of the quite post-modern phrase: “beyond Bauhaus”. Accordingly, I will omit to address the history of design from its beginning in the 18th century. The industrialization and its huge socio-political consequences taken for granted, I’m going to explicate the original idea of Bauhaus about the future and its future from a philosophical point of view. Therefore, I will take three steps: Starting with some rather general reflections about the design methodology of the Bauhaus, moving on to its alteration as a result of the cybernetic revolution, finally outlining the actual state of affairs with special regard to a so called Computational Design. My motivation for choosing that approach is precisely the specific future-orientation of the Bauhaus tradition itself. However I’m less interested in a “Future of Bauhaus” or a “Bauhaus of the Future” but rather in a “future beyond Bauhaus” – in a future beyond visions of a certain future normally evoked by the modern myth of Bauhaus to this day.



I        Bauhaus



First of all: It is hard to tell what could be meant by the “Bauhaus” in general. According to the changing institutional history and priorities of the Bauhaus – from the “expressionistic” beginnings in 1919 to the more technical position adopted with the arrival of Moholy-Nagy, to the economy and efficiency model under Hannes Meyer, that saw the departure of Moholy-Nagy and the earlier faculty – it seems quiet senseless, on the first sight, to introduce a view of the Bauhaus as a whole.[7] Nonetheless there is a fundamental convenience, in fact a philosophical one, that can be pointed out: At least during the era of Walter Gropius[8] the Bauhaus stood for a methodologically based design of the future, as well as for the Nietzschean dream of a new humankind in terms of design. 

Already in the early phase of the Weimar Bauhaus we find crucial thoughts about an elementary (re-)construction of figures by its protagonists Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee. Klee’s attempt to build up the image space by use of a single graphic line (starting with the point via line and face to the body)[9] as well as Kandinsky’s compositions both aim to capture the design of the phenomena methodologically and to (re)construct its figure in the most basic way. Mies van der Rohe’s epoch-making draft “country house in brick” (1924)[10] and Gropius’ lectures on the theory of space[11] from 1921/22 thereby document the fact that not only paintings were considered. Reflections on the “line in space” become the starting point of a development which unfolds at least to spatiotemporal architectures of a coming future.[12] In the words of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe:

Baukunst ist immer raumgefaßter Zeitwille, nichts anderes. […] Man wird begreifen müssen, daß jede Baukunst an ihre Zeit gebunden ist und sich nur an lebendigen Aufgaben und durch die Mittel ihrer Zeit manifestieren läßt. In keiner Zeit ist es anders gewesen. Deshalb ist es ein aussichtsloses Bemühen, Inhalt und Formen früherer Bauepochen unserer Zeit nutzbar zu machen. […] Man kann nicht mit zurückgewandtem Blick vorwärts schreiten und nicht Träger eines Zeitwillens sein, wenn man in der Vergangenheit lebt. […] Die Forderungen der Zeit nach Sachlichkeit und Zweckmäßigkeit sind zu erfüllen.[13]

All the protagonists named shared the opinion that the cultural, political and scientific achievements of their time should be integrated in the artist’s work in order to create an up-to-date use of forms. Influences like Pablo Picasso’s and Georges Braque’s cubism, Albert Einstein’s/Hermann Minkowski’s concept of space-time or the new media of film and photography played an important part in design by inspiring modern solutions according to modern challenges.[14] The point was to design the permanent acceleration of modern life in such a way that people could adopt to it without being left behind or being put to flight. Hence the point was that design has to enable human beings to keep pace with changing trends and furthermore to conduct these dynamics towards a better future, a human(e) future established by human capabilities.

According to this, modern temporality has its own design, a design that is more than similar to the design process as such. Every design calls for a redesign, no design lasts forever, and that precisely because of its own nature. If we design something, we either redesign something, what means that the former product becomes out of date or we design something new, what normally needs further improvements. In simple words: The new is only the newest of the elder. Philosophically speaking: We never achieve a last goal because there is none. A goal we have achieved is immediately followed by another one. Therefore, future itself turns out to be out of reach, whereas the respective present appears insufficient and the recent past remains obsolete. The future itself virtually became a design product undergoing a permanent improvement: the future will be redesigned at all times.[15]

In this sense the inner process of (re)desiging constitutes the very process of “modernization”. Only on the basis of a modern design can we literally “figure out” what the temporality of modern existence amounts to. And in turn only since we witness the unleashed dynamics of our modern temporality can we talk of “Design” as a distinct discipline. Design in its modern sense is a continuous redesign of man’s apperception of time and space.[16]

Consequently, the German word for design: “Gestaltung” was understood primarily as a process in which the final shape, the “Gestalt”, counted only as one part. For people like Klee[17] the emphasis laid on the intrinsic procedure of design, understood as a metamorphosis of sensual forms similar to that experienced in nature – a metamorphosis that recalled Goethe’s morphology. At the Bauhaus the agenda of modernization, called “Gestaltung”, signified a metamorphosis of nature under technical conditions: a kind of self-trans-formation of nature by human hand; and in a final step, as we now can see: a redesign of nature’s own design – including us.[18]

However it is of crucial importance that this procedure as a connection of temporal dynamics and spatial statics aspired to a fundamental (re)construction of all design objects within the human world. Design in the sense of “Gestaltung” was thereby based on an analysis of conventional forms which were to be re-synthesized in order to lead to more modern results. And “modern” in this context means a design that does not only take up the modern industrialization process, but also equally anticipates, accelerates and improves this process (for example in the case of housing: modularization).

Admittedly this all still happened entirely analogous, i.e. on the basis of sketches and drawings by designers who had no access to computers. Instead, the technical environment at that time mostly served as an individual inspiration[19] which manifested itself in abstract paintings, steel furnitures or simple prototypes for serial production. “The Bauhaus […] failed at its objective of replacing an irrelevant easel art (only a few optical illusions and designy chairs mark the grave), ending up with a hybrid, neither art nor science, and certainly not the sum of the two. They failed because they didn’t understand science on its own terms: to them […] it was simply a rich new subject matter to be digested whole into the traditional aesthetic system. It is as if one were to see a computer as only a beautifully ordered set of lights and sounds, missing completely the function itself.”[20]

Firestone hits the nail on the head: design thinking at the Bauhaus at the same time anticipated and failed the later information technology – in fact it could only fail to do so because it missed a crucial precondition: the scientific mindset. Innovation at the Bauhaus, instead, arose primarily from the individual artistic talent of the designer. It was still the romantic “genius” of the designer, which, at the same time, made him appear as a modern descendant of the mythical Prometheus. Thereby, one can define modern Prometheanism as follows: “Prometheanism is the attempt to participate in the creation of the world without having to defer to a divine blueprint. It follows from the realization that the disequilibrium we introduce into the world through our desire to know is no more or less objectionable than the disequilibrium that is already there in the world.”[21] – Indeed, the future visionaries at the Bauhaus believed themselves to be torch-bearers, proponents of the enlightenment and a social revolution – but they lacked some fundamental skills necessary to realize their Promethean dreams to the full extent. 

That this approach to modernity moreover was at least a paradox becomes evident through Gropius’ slogan of a new synthesis of art and technology.[22] In general, modern art fulfilled the function of counteracting alienation. This trend of alienation was due to the technical innovations against which the romantic tradition of art had declared war. But not so in the special case of the Bauhaus: In order to attack the modern enemy of romantic art (alienation) Gropius formed an alliance precisely with his supposed enemy. The result was a “Neue Sachlichkeit”, whose striving for a better future retained, however, an indelible remainder of romanticism: The Promethean dream of a new humanity, the creation of a new “Menschengestalt”. – A wishful dream of a not yet “cautious Prometheus”[23] and the tragedy of the “German Genius”[24].

The most admired representative of this “German genius” at this time was Friedrich Nietzsche who highly influenced Gropius and nearly everybody at the Bauhaus. His writings built the core concept of the philosophy of Bauhaus.[25] Especially the will to overcome the historical tradition, while unifying the modern socio-cultural tendencies to a “grand” modernist style,[26] goes straight back to Nietzsche’s diagnosis: For Gropius and the others the era of decadence ended with the first world war, and now the “will to power” was searching for a new, i.e. the modernist “Gestalt”. In his “Will to Power” Nietzsche notes:

[795] The Artist-philosopher. A higher concept of art. Can man stand at so great a distance from his fellows as to mould [originally: “gestalten”] them? Preliminary exercises thereto: 1. To become a self-former [originally: “sich selbst Gestaltende”], an anchorite. 2. To do what artists have done hitherto, i.e. to reach a small degree of perfection in a certain medium.

[796] Art as it appears without the artist, i.e. as a body, an organization (the Prussian Officers Corps, the Order of the Jesuits). To what extent is the artist merely a preliminary stage? The world regarded as a self-generating work of art.[27]

Talking about bodies, organs or organizations, the Bauhaus wanted to be the heart of this new society, understanding itself as a “self-generating work of art”, a “Gesamtkunstwerk”[28], the  “Bau” including everything. Instead history has taught us that this Promethean dream of a new humankind became a true nightmare. The fact that this future dream shortly thereafter found its rude awakening among the ruins after the devastations of World War II led to a vast disillusionment. It was now obvious that if anything had won the day, it was a total technologization of everyday life. This victory was even more devastating given that Adolf Hitler and his associates had staged this total technologization as a Wagnerian “Gesamtkunstwerk”.[29]

Afterwards the view had to change: The reality needed to be locked at directly instead of covered over by aesthetics. A straight look into the mirror was required and what showed itself was no longer a genius inspired by machines, but rather something else: a genius of machines.


II       Beyond Bauhaus


My second step towards the future of design is rather something of a jump. Regarding the development of the design discourse up to our present time, I would like to keep it even shorter than before, leaving behind some milestones of the extended Bauhaus tradition like the New Bauhaus Chicago or the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm.[30] Instead, I’m going to raise only one question: How could the future of Bauhaus become the past for us; a past future of which we believe that we are already beyond, or should at least be? To answer this question, we have to be somewhat abstract in our view of the Bauhaus.

The efforts of the Bauhaus era were primarily concerned with “Gestaltung” in the literal sense. Even if design in the sense of “Gestaltung” had a special procedural character, the result, the “Gestalt”, nevertheless implies a primacy of perception. The figure (“Gestalt”) is perceptible for the human senses, its appearance is spatial-temporally constituted. It is the phenomenality of something for our senses.[31] However, the advent of cybernetics after the Second World War[32] brought with it a development which extended the domain of design beyond the realm of phenomenality.[33]

The systematic approach of cybernetics and computerization made it possible to construct increasingly more intelligent machines. And this, in turn, demanded not only a new outer form (“Gestalt”), but in a sense also an internal restructuring of the design process. Correspondingly, within the German language the English-language expression “design” more and more took the place of the term “Gestaltung”. Colleges of Design were founded, claiming a scientific status.[34] The rather external sense of “Gestaltung” had been integrated into a much broader sense of design, already implying more complex interactions between machines and humans. Since the Design Methods Movement[35] established a more global view on converging technologies in post-war Europe and America, the networking of everything had begun.

The beginnings of information technology demanded a more professional understanding of systematic processes, environment and human adaptation. The first computers were mainly used for pioneering engineering achievements. The model developed by Ivan Sutherland in 1962 at MIT called the “Sketchpad” brought a new concept of design into play. The era of CAD was heralded. The need for designed products for the home and the factory increased together with the growing consumer society. There was a shift in emphasis in terms of the contemporary challenges of design. In retrospect it is clear that the primacy of perception was replaced by an interregnum of interaction. Beyond Bauhaus a new horizon arose.

The (re)constructive methodology of the design of objects made a leap toward a revolution of relationships (Internet of Things). Already with the Bauhaus the ground was prepared for a complete analytic-geometric construction of everyday phenomena. Yet there were no appropriate methods of simulation to actually create a digital cyberspace from analogue sketches. But now the particular shape of a product did not have to be literally broken by man’s hand into its analytical elements to be re-synthesized in a new manner. With the CAD process algorithms helped to transform the human input into an optimized machine output.

The consequences for the Bauhaus’ concept of future were enormous. The modern dynamics of redesign didn’t slow down, they were even accelerated. Computerized, the process of design has taken more and more the form of a positive feedback circuit gathering nearly all informations that could be of value for further improvements. As a result, man finds himself exposed to a permanent acceleration that is replacing the old by the new in an ever increasing frequency – whereas on the part of the machinery the situation looks quite different.

Already the machinery of the industrial age was alien to the human perspective since it neglected or even negated finality: the bare processes of industrial production did not involve any kind of human-like, future-oriented intentionality: Machines in themselves are senseless agents, pure means, so to speak, without any intrinsic purposes. They only produce to produce (even more). Their purpose instead solely consists in producing further means either for further means-producing machines or human users and their purposes. They do not possess awareness of what they are doing and to which end they are doing it. Instead they are functioning blindly within the whole of a “automatic system of machinery”. In this sense machines embody the mere means-production as an end in itself, lacking any sense of a intention-based temporality. Therefore, already Karl Marx pointed out in his Fragment on Machines:

Once adopted into the production process of capital, the means of labour passes through different metamorphoses, whose culmination is the machine, or rather, an automatic system of machinery (system of machinery: the automatic one is merely its most complete, most adequate form, and alone transforms machinery into a system), set in motion by an automation, a moving power that moves itself; this automation consisting of numerous mechanical and intellectual organs, so that the workers themselves are cast merely as its conscious linkages.[36]

This “moving power”, however, has already reached a higher level of “metamorphosis” up to the present day. In the coming future this “system of machinery” could more and more remove even all kind of “workers”, i.e. its “conscious linkages”, through a totally automatized feedback information processing. The circle, as it seems, is about to close. The expedited circulation of information culminates already in an information exchange frequency that reverts to a “frantic stagnation”[37]. The temporality of information therefore takes the form of a paradox: Insofar as the exchange tempo tends towards the velocity of light, their temporality is virtually sublated in a vibrant “Now” that seems to have already overtaken its own past and future. Thus the exchange of information seems to solidify in certain (infra-)structures beyond space and time. The perceptible space-time of human beings, the lifeworld implodes, taking the form of mere information.[38]

Accordingly at the time the cybernetic revolution took palce the human design activities were already supplemented by machine programs and codes. In place of the natural genius of the designer, the personal computer had arrived. Today we have to deal with the emergence of even more intelligent agents (or maybe even another intelligence). Design – mistaken as a mere anthropocentric activity – is about to be supplanted by a design network of thinking things.[39] The designer as a human being turns out to be only one agent of a comprehensive agency including materials and objects up to whole landscapes and the global climate. But what does this mean for a future of design? Will there still be a human future beyond Bauhaus? 


III     Beyond Bauhaus = Bauhaus as before


My last step forward is taken into the unknown. I fleetingly touched upon a certain “interregnum of interaction” which was supposed to have replaced the “primacy of perception”. During the cybernetic revolution the human-machine interaction was about to change in the direction of a human-computer interaction.[40]  Nowadays the input-output circuit has already reduplicated itself by driving apart a purpose-centered and a mean-decentralized type of communication. The mechanic output may still lead to a re-input, but under computerized conditions there are today two different ways to keep information running in circles: a still improving human-computer interaction versus a new dimension of machine-machine interaction.[41]

On the one hand the machine-produced output is still in need of human beings. To the present day humans interact with machines in the manufacturing process or as consumers and users, thereby generating new inputs. But with a computerized production, on the other hand, another factor has come into play that seems to change the game. From a certain point onwards it seems to be preprogrammed that cybernetic feedback excludes human interactions in order to avoid unnecessary disturbances. The closed loop stands for a “completed circle”[42] of automatization insofar as informations from now on promote their own exchange and finalize their own type of autonomy, whereas human beings more often stay outside, just watching.

Concerning a “human-centered design” approach,[43] a fundamental divergence seems to grow underneath the surface of a supposed new convergence of technologies and human needs. As users we are used as well – but not solely by other humans or even for the benefit of humans at all. The human-machine interaction (including information-systems) is undergoing a process of separation whereby two almost independent systems are facing each other and are communicating with each other more and more like alien environments. Both may still interact in some sort of homeostasis, but merely according to their own respective logic. Over the second half of the 20th century the industrialized production of goods has evolved into an automated information processing. In the words of Kostas Terzidis:

Unlike computerisation or digitisation, the extraction of algorithmic processes is an act of high-level abstraction. It is often equated with rationalism, determinism or formalism, but more importantly these resources are ultimately in the service of transcendency. Transcendency is the quality of lying beyond the ordinary range of perception. It is the quality of being above or beyond in response to timelessness or spacelessness. Algorithmic structures represent abstract patterns that are not necessarily associated with experience or perception. […] In this sense algorithmic processes become a vehicle for exploration that extends beyond the limits of perception.[44]

In other words, there is a striking tendency towards an absoluteness of algorithms. A new type of transcendency seems to evolve that is neither human nor divine.[45] – The remark by Kostas Terzidis implies more than it may seem at first sight. An „exploration that extends beyond the limit of perception“ describes nothing less than at the same time a transgression of the limits of human comprehension. For example: solutions of “Big Data”[46] analysis concerning congestions in large cities at first glance often look like a further increase in chaos. Following its successful implementation, however, we have to admit that hypercomplexity obeys its own rules, namely rules that seem to lie beyond the limits of human intellect. One could have the impression, that under a certain perspective, rather we are executing a program of rules which remain incomprehensible to us, than the other way round. “Big data” seems already too big to fail, whereas we seem too tiny to still prevail.

I will not deny that those informational networks owe their development to human inventiveness. However, it does not follow that they will be in our debt forever. Especially regarding design, the situation has almost reversed, considering to which degree a computational design already determines the everyday life of its designers and of its users. “Computation takes command”: The Invasion of algorithms is already achieved by each smart device (and soon probably even by any kind of material) that we take to hand. Design is for agents of informational exploitation both in the positive and in the negative sense.

Where, to such an extent, every conceivable parameter of design seems to be already anticipated by programs in real time, we may agree with Luciana Parisi’s assumption that „the inclusion of material agency, bio-physical catalysts and temporalities in computational design is […] revealing a less tractable tendency of technocapital acceleration: the computational function of algorithms to add new data to processing. This means that […] the acceleration of automation is not simply replacing the organic ends of reason with technical means, but is irremediably constituting a second nature, an algorithmic evolution equipped with its own physical and conceptual levels of order that are not one with nature.“[47]

Earlier we stated a revolution of relationships, now we recognize in what way it is associated with an absoluteness of algorithms. The signs of our times reveal an acceleration of information technology towards an end that we actually might talk about as a new branch of evolution. If we would lose track of this development there would be no real difference left to our own relationship to pets: Dogs or cats facing human beings might be puzzled in almost the same manner as humans facing an algorithmic evolution of algorithms beyond human comprehension.

Thinking about ourselves as designers we now see ourselves facing an abyss, and our initial question takes the form of an existential threat: How to design the future? – While the protagonists of the Bauhaus era could still dream of creating the future form of and for humankind, it now seems this future has itself passed – together with the dreams of it. What then remains of the design of the future or the future of design? – The answer takes the form of a paradox: What remains for us to do as designers, is at once everything and nothing:

The determinism of algorithms leads to an indeterminism. In this way the character of creativity is an open horizon, even though it is generated through a finite number of rules. Creativity means algorithmic design, which needs to be conceived in a way that even the unpredictable, that is occurrences far beyond the subjective horizon of design, can be designed for. Creativity entails algorithmic design plus the complementarity of designing additional system components. […] The creative figure will be both the designer of algorithms and the interpreter of their outcomes.[48]

In other words, beyond Bauhaus is just Bauhaus; in fact Bauhaus as it was before – but with the crucial difference that we now know that we are not the sole agents of design and its progress. In the end, everything will become design, including our own being. But we will have understood that we, as a human race, are no longer all that counts on this planet and on which we can count. We will have to adapt to this new environment and in turn this new environment to us.

If a trap is to be escaped by anything other than luck […], the escapee itself must change: the thing that escapes the trap is not the thing that was caught in it. In order to be free, it is of less use to settle upon some hallowed condition of “authentic freedom”, than to understand how one is implicated in the mechanism of one’s entrapment. To be prey is a lesson in predation, and this recognition is the precondition of escape. […] The escape attempt tutors a view of oneself as an object within a nested structure of traps, and converts this knowledge into an active resource. […]  Rendered thus, freedom from entrapment is not freedom from but through alienation, and this creates a pernicious stowaway in the project of extended escape from the perspective of any unreconstructed humanism: the continuous transformation, through revisionary reconstruction, of the agent that pursues it. This is already here and has already happened. The human body is the host of an artificial intelligence, in the atypical sense of the term as an intelligence that operates through artifice.[49]

If we talk about “design” we are already engaged in the Greek tradition of “techne”, i.e. the conception of man trapping nature by artifice. It is not by chance that especially the western culture has developed in a way that leads to the mentioned problems. Facing our fate, we are becoming aware of the consequences. There seems to be no freedom for human beings, except that of “alienation”, in fact, a paradoxical alienation from themselves through themselves and to another self.[50]

The shift from conceiving intelligence as a quantitatively homogeneous measure of adaptive problem solving to conceiving it as a qualitatively differentiated typology of reasoning capacities is the properly philosophical condition of the shift from the hyperstitional invocation of machinic intelligence of the Cyberculture era to the active design of new systems of collective intelligence […].[51]

There will be no more future – unless we design one. But there never has been a future before – unless we have called it into question.

[1]   For a broader perspective see Harold Nelson/Erik Stolterman, The Design Way. Intentional Change in an Unpredictable World (Cambridge/London: MIT Press, 2012), 1, who claim to inaugurate “a new philosophical look of this seminal human tradition”: „As human beings, we continuously create things that help reshape the reality and essence of the world as we know it. When we create new things – tech­nologies, organizations, processes, environments, ways of thinking or systems – we engage in design. To come up with an idea of what we think would be an ideal addition to the world, and to give real existence – form, structure and shape – to that idea is at the core of design as a human activity.“ – As we will see, this position misses the special situation of a modern design and its perspective: the modern concept of future.
[2]   See the classical definition of Herbert A. Simon, The Sciences of the Artificial, 3rd ed. (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1996), 111. Still more recent definitions, like the one of Glenn Parsons, are pointing out the same thing: “Design is the intentional solution of a problem, by the creation of plans for a new sort of thing, where the plans would not be immediately seen, by reasonable person, as an inadequate solution.” (Glenn Parsons, Philosophy of Design (Cambridge/Malden: Polity Press, 2016), 11. Design is about changing the present by the future. But by what kind of future one should ask.
[3]   “Promethean” in the representative sense of Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s famous poem “Prometheus” in the years 1785 (first version) and 1789 (second version), beginning in english with the verses: “Shroud your heaven, Zeus, / With cloudy vapours, / And do as you will, like the boy / That beheads thistles, / With oak-trees and mountain-tops; / You must my Earth / Now abandon to me, / And my hut, which you did not build, / And my hearth, / Whose glow You begrudge me.”
[4]   Or rather its myth? For this discussion see Anja Baumhoff and Magdalena Droste, eds., Mythos Bauhaus (Berlin: Reimer, 2009).
[5]   Walter Gropius, „Programm des Staatlichen Bauhauses in Weimar“ in Das Bauhaus. Weimar, Dessau, Berlin und die Nachfolge in Chicago seit 1937, ed. Hans M. Wingler (Cologne: DuMont, 2008), 38-41: “Bilden wir also eine neue Zunft der Handwerker ohne die klassentrennende Anmaßung, die eine hochmütige Mauer zwischen Handwerkern und Künstlern errichten wollte! Wollen, erdenken, erschaffen wir gemeinsam den neuen Bau der Zukunft, der alles in einer Gestalt sein wird: Architektur und Plastik und Malerei, der aus Millionen Händen der Handwerker einst gen Himmel steigen wird als kristallenes Sinnbild eines neuen kommenden Glaubens.”
[6]   In this sense Oskar Schlemmer stated in his first year as a teacher: „daß das Bauhaus nach ganz anderer Seite hin ‚baut‘ als erwartet wird, nämlich: den Menschen. Gropius scheint das sehr bewußt, und er erkennt darin das Manko der Akademien, die die Menschenbildung außer acht lassen.” – Oskar Schlemmer, Briefe und Tagebücher, ed. Tut Schlemmer (München: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 1958), 105.
[7]   For the history of changes at the Bauhaus see Gillian Naylor, The Bauhaus Reassessed. Sources and Design Theory (London: Herbert Press, 1985).
[8]   But even after Gropius had left both moments were still of crucial importance. For instance, the following director Hannes Meyer, who was rather know as a neopositivistic socialist noted: “die neue baulehre […] muss erkenntniskritisch den gesamten lebenskomplex anpacken […], muss seelenkunde vermitteln, und auf der grundlage der leib-seele-einheit (carus – nietzsche – klages – prinzhorn) psychologische unterlage zur erkenntnis vorbauen.” Hannes Meyer, “Vorträge in Wien und Basel 1929,” in Hannes Meyer, Bauen und Gesellschaft. Schriften, Briefe, Projekte (Dresden: Verlag der Kunst, 1980), 54-66, here 62. 
[9]   Paul Klee, Das bildnerische Denken. Form- und Gestaltungslehre, 6th ed. (Basel: Schwabe, 2013), 19: “Der Punkt ist nicht dimensionslos, sondern unendlich kleines Flächenelement, das als Agens die Bewegung Null ausführt, das heißt es ruht. Kurz nach dem Ansetzen des Stiftes entsteht eine Linie. […] Der Punkt kommt in Bewegung, und es wächst ein wesentliches Gebilde, auf Gestaltung beruhend. Das Ende ist nur Teil des Wesens (die Erscheinung). Wahre wesentliche Gestalt ist eine Synthese von Gestaltung und Erscheinung.“
[10]  This draft shown in 1924 at the Große Berliner Kunstausstellung owns a plan that looks like the composition of Theo van Doesburg’s picture Rhythmus eines russischen Tanzes (1918). The walls seem to dance. Everything seems to be a part of a moving space-time, as pointed out by Ulrich Müller, Raum, Bewe­gung und Zeit im Werk von Walter Gropius und Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2004), 77 ff.
[11]  Walter Gropius, MS Raumkunde, 1921/22, Bauhaus Archiv Berlin, Sammlung Gropius. Also Walter Gropius, „Idee und Aufbau des Staatlichen Bauhauses,“ in Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar. 1919-1923, ed. Karl Nierendorf (Weimar/München: Bauhaus-Verlag 1923), 7-18, here 8:“Alle bildnerische Arbeit will Raum gestalten. […] Im künstlerischen Raum finden alle Gesetze der realen, der geistigen und der seelischen Welt eine gleichzeitige Lösung.“
[12]  A well-know insight, already formulated by Sigfried Giedions, Space, Time and Architecture. The Growth of a New Tradition (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1941).
[13]  Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, “Baukunst und Zeitwille,” in Der Querschnitt 4 (1924): 31 – 32.
[14]  According to Ise Gropius her husband had the opinion that the pupils should get a feeling about the revolutions of space, which took place in the arts and sciences during the last decades. See Ise Gropius, “Bauhausmethodik,” in  form + zweck 11 (1979), 54-55.
[15]  To be precise: The modern concept of future functions like a vanishing point that regulates our view of reality at present (and retroactively in the past). Everything in the picture of our world gets its own structure from this linear perspective. The future is our horizon of time; future is primordial to the present and even to the past.
[16]  Even more general: the materialization of concepts in terms of a spacialization of time based processes.
[17]  Paul Klee, Das bildnerische Denken. Form- und Gestaltungslehre, 6th ed. (Basel: Schwabe, 2013), 17: „Die Lehre von der Gestal­tung befaßt sich mit den Wegen, die zur Gestalt (zur Form) führen. Es ist die Lehre von der Form, jedoch mit der Betonung der dahin führenden Wege.“
[18]  It should be clear that nobody at the Bauhaus made this point explicit. Instead one could say that we deal here with the hidden metaphysics of a institution rooted in the tradition of German Idealism (Fichte, Schelling, Hegel) or the Weimarer Klassik (Schiller, Goethe, Schlegel, Novalis, Hölderlin etc.). For further details see Peter Bernhard, „Die Einflüsse der Philosophie am Weimarer Bauhaus,“ in: Das Bauhaus und die Esoterik, ed. Christoph Wagner (Bielefeld: Kerber, 2005), 29-34.
[19]  For the historical state of the art see Christoph Wagner, “Bildgebende Verfahren am Bauhaus zwischen Kunst und Geschichte,” in: Was macht die Kunst? Aus der Werkstatt der Kunstgeschichte, ed. Urte Krass (München: Herbert Utz Verlag, 2009), 161-186.
[20]  Shulamith Firestone, “Two Modes of Cultural History,” in: #Accelerate. The Accelerationist Reader, ed. Robin Mackay and Armen Avanessian (Falmouth/Berlin: Urbanomic/Merve, 2014), 125-26.
[21]  Ray Brassier, “Prometheanism and its Critiques,” in: #Accelerate, op. cit., 485.
[22]  At the opening of the “Haus am Horn” in 1923 Gropius held a speech concerning “Kunst und Technik – eine neue Einheit”
[23]  Bruno Latour, “A Cautious Prometheus? A Few Steps Toward A Philosophy of Design (With special Attention to Peter Sloterdijk),” in Proceedings of the 2008 Annual International Conference of the Design History Society, ed. Fiona Hackne, Jonathn Glynne and Viv Minto (Falmouth: Universal Publishers 2009), 2-10.
[24]  See Peter Watson, The German Genius: Europe’s Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution, and the Twentieth Century (New York: HarperCollins, 2010).
[25]  Plenty of Evidence is providing Peter Bernhard, “’Ich-Überwindung muß der Gestaltung vorangehen‘”. Zur Nietzsche-Rezeption des Bauhauses,” in Nietzsche – Philosoph der Kultur(en), ed. Andreas Urs Sommer (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2008), 273-282, 281f.: “Wie in den meisten Reformprojekten der 1920er Jahre, so dienen auch am Bauhaus eine ganze Reihe nietzscheanischer Theoriestücke als Quelle der Inspiration und der Legitimation. Vor allem durch den Bauhaus-Gründer Walter Gropius war bereits die Konzeption der Schule von nietzscheanischem Gedankengut geprägt.; darüber hinaus hatten sich viele Bauhausmeister mit dem Werk des Philosophen auseinandergesetzt. Für das Bauhausprojekt standen hierbei die Ablehnung des Historismus mit der daran anknüpfenden Bildungskritik, sowie Nietzsches emphatischer Kunstbegriff mit der einhergehenden Forderung nach einem Neuen Menschen im Mittelpunkt. Dabei machte man sich Nietzsches Positionen derart zu eigen, dass sich viele programmatische Äußerungen von Bauhäuslern wie Paraphrasierungen von Nietzsche-Texten lesen.” – Besides the dominating influence of Nietzsche there were also other philosophers like the logical positivist group. For more details see Peter Galison, „Aufbau/Bauhaus. Logical Positivism and Architectural Modernism,“ in Critical Inquiry 16, 4 (Summer 1990): 709-752.
[26]  Friedrich Nietzsche: Will to Power. An Attempted Transvaluation of All Values, trans. Anthony M. Ludovici (Obscure Press, 2013), § 842: “The greatness of an artist is not to be measured by the beautiful feelings which he evokes […]. It should be measured according to the extent to which he approaches the grand style, according to the extent to which he is capable of the grand style. This style and great passion have this in common that they scorn to please; that they forget to persuade; that they command: that they will. . . . To become master of the chaos which is in one; to compel one’s inner chaos to assume form; to become consistent, simple, un equivocal, mathematical, law this is the great ambition here.”
[27]  Friedrich Nietzsche: Will to Power. An Attempted Transvaluation of All Values, trans. Anthony M. Ludovici (Obscure Press, 2013), § 795 and § 796.
[28]  This term, coined by Richard Wagner, was already revoked by the manifesto in 1919 according to the demanded unity of all arts and crafts in the one “Bau”. See Footnote 5.
[29]  In doing so Hitler simply needed to pervert his own cultural tradition, i.e. the German tradition of metaphysics and mystics combined with a particular enthusiasm regarding technology and engineering; in short: a tradition, whose “leaders” tended to take themselves for Faustian characters.
[30]  See for example Alain Findeli, The New Bauhaus at Chicago. The Moholy-Nagy Years 1937-1946 (Cambridge: MIT-Press, 1990) or Herbert Lindinger, ed., Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm. Die Moral der Gegenstände, 2nd ed. (Berlin: Ernst, 1991). Needless to say that both schools were closely related to the original Bauhaus, but at the same time eager to draw a distinction.
[31]  Think of the school of Gestalt psychology, founded by Christian von Ehrenfels, and the school of phenomenology, founded by Edmund Husserl. Both were former students of the same teacher, Franz Brentano. See Liliana Albertazzi, Massimo Libardi ans Roberto Poli, eds., The School of Franz Brentano, (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1996).
[32]  See Claus Pias, ed., Cybernetics. The Macy-Conferences 1946-1953. The complete Transactions, (Berlin/Zürich: Diaphanes 2003). The importance of this conferences leads to the conclusion of N. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman. Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature and Informatics (London: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 7:The result of this breathtaking enterprise was nothing less than a new way of looking at human beings. Henceforth, humans were seen primarily as information-processing entities who are essentially similar to intelligent machines.”
[33]  One could also argue that Sigmund Freud, another pupil (in the broadest sense) of Franz Brentano (Footnote 30), had already inaugurated another way of exploring the inner logic of the Gestalt.
[34]  For example, Tomás Maldonado, director of the HfG Ulm (1964-66) and biographer of Max Bill (the former Bauhaus student and later HfG Ulm founding director), wrote an article together with Gui Bonsiepe about sciences and design. The diagnose said already “Methodolaterie”: a certain sickness caused by to much method thinking. See Tomás Maldonado and Gui Bonsiepe, „Wissenschaft und Gestaltung,“ in ulm. Zeitschrift der Hochschule für Gestaltung 10/11 (1964): 10-29, here 10. 
[35]  A good survey provides the thesis of Alis Upitis, Nature Normative. The Design Methods Movement 1944-64, (Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2006). Aptly, she states in the summary: “Postwar, an emerging discourse of computer-related technologies contributed to reconfiguring representations of architecture, engineering, product and urban planning in the US and UK. The collective driving these changes became known as the Design Methods movement. Together with trajectories of thought in psychology and psychiatry, discourses materializing from such fields as cybernetics, operations research, information theory and computers altered design processes and education.”
[36]  Karl Marx, “Fragment on Machines,” in #Accelerate, op. cit., 53.
[37]  See the book by Paul Virilio, Polar Inertia, trans. Patrick Camiller (London: Sage Publications, 2000), 71 ff.
[38]  May this sound like Jean Baudrillards in the 80s: Finally, he was right. We didn’t even realize, that we already entered the age of hyperrealitiy – but that was precisely part of its concept… That today everything still seems to be the same, whereas everything has already changed, gives an impression of how it feels to be caught in the realm of simulation. It is even needless to argue about this “fact” or “fiction of facts”, we are already used to it as “users”.
[39]  To name only a few Theorists and Practitioners who deal with this situation to get some profit out of it: Bruno Latour, Peter Sloterdijk, Graham Harman on the one hand, and Zaha Hadid, Patrick Schuhmacher, Achim Menges on the other.
[40]  For details see Jonathan Grudin “A moving target. The evolution of human-computer interaction,” in Human-Computer Interaction Handbook. Fundamentals, Evolving Technologies and Emerging Applications, ed. Andrew Sears and Julie A. Jacko, 3rd ed. (Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2012), XXVII-LXI.
[41]  Since 2011 the german government is patronizing a new infrastructure program, called  “Industrie 4.0” (“Industry 4.0”). But according to Klaus Schwab, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Cologne and Geneva: World Economic Forum, 2016) the future lies in more than a computerized manufacturing: “We are at the beginning of a revolution that is fundamentally changing the way we live, work and relate to each other. In its scale, scope and complexity, what I consider to be the fourth industrial revolution is unlike anything humankind had experienced before.” (p.1)
[42]  Taking the “completed circle” as a symbol, Dave Eggers has written a dystopia about the consequences for human society. See David Eggers, The Circle (Toronto: Knopf, 2013).
[43]  For example elaborated in the writings of Donald A. Norman: Things That Make us Smart. Defending Human Attributes in the Age of Maschines (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1994) or The Design of Future Things (New York: Basic Books, 2007).
[44]  Kostas Terzidis, Expressive Form: A Conceptual Approach to Computational Design (London/New York: Routledge, 2003), 71.
[45]  It is not (yet) clear if this type of a “technological singularity” should have something to do with transhumanist scenarios exemplified by movies like “Transcendence” (Director: Wally Pfister, 2014). For a rather scientific (still transhumanist) evaluation see Nick Bostrom, Superintelligence. Paths, Dangers, Strategies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).
[46]  See Min Chen, Shiwen Mao, Yin Zhang, and Victor C.M. Leung, eds., Big Data: Related Technologies, Challenges and Future Prospects (Cham, Heidelberg, New York, Dordrecht, London: Springer, 2014).
[47]  Luciana Parisi, „Automated Architecture. Speculative Reason in the Age of Algorithm,“ in #Accelerate, op. cit., 407.
[48]  Peter Waibel, „Algorithmus und Kreativität“; in Woher kommt das Neue? Kreativität in Wissenschaft und Kunst, ed. Christian Smekal and Walter Berka (Wien: Böhlau, 2003), 96.
[49]  Benedict Singleton, “Maximum Jailbreak,” in #Accelerate, loc. cit., 504-505.
[50]  The german term for this particular course of self-transformation is simply “Bildung”, in contrast to “Erziehung” (education). “Bildung” indicates the process “of becoming an image” or “of making oneself to an image of something”. It is closely related to the proper sense of “Gestaltung” (to shape something).
[51]  See this crucial statement of the Robin Mackay and Armen Avanessian as editors in their Introduction to: #Accelerate, op. cit., 45.

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