''I believe that the artist must achieve creative control over the whole of his environment.''- New York Times, October 21, 1984

Herbert Bayer was intimately involved in the celebrated Bauhaus school in Germany in the 1920s and 30s: first as a student, and then as one of its directors. He emigrated to the United States in 1938. As an advocate of Bauhaus principles he produced works which expressed the needs of an industrial age, the positive collaboration between business and art, mirroring the advanced tendencies of the avant-garde.

typography by Herbert Bayer, entrance to Bauhaus    image: Wikipedia

The Bauhaus was based on the principles of the 19th-century English designer William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement that spoke of art meeting the needs of society and that no distinction should be made between fine arts and practical crafts. It was also dependent on the more forward-looking principles that modern art and architecture must be responsive to the needs and influences of the modern industrial world and that good designs must pass the test of both aesthetic standards and sound engineering. This Bauhaus style, could also be described as the absence of ornament and ostentatious facades and by a harmony between function and the artistic and technical means employed.

For over 60 years Bayer created pioneering works in painting, sculpture, environmental works, industrial design, typography, architecture, photography, and applied design.  He was truly what can be referred to as “a renaissance man,” one of the few "total artists" of the twentieth century. 

"Metamophosis"1936 photographic montage
image: metmuseum.org

Marble Garden, 1955
Aspen Meadows Hotel 
In this experimental garden, Bayer introduced modernist imagery into the environment for perhaps the first time. Slabs and blocks of white marble were sourced from a nearby abandoned quarry for this thirty-eight foot square experimental garden that begins to suggests the notion that all gardens are nothing more than three dimensional sculpture.

The "Grass Mound" (1955), came to inspire a whole generation of earthworks artists and initiated the ground for ecological design and restoration projects of today.

Sketches for earthworks by Bayer...

Installed in 1982, the "Earthworks" was hyped for its fusion of art and infrastructure, making the installation a powerful precedent for landscape designers, architects, engineers and artists.  A series of sculpted spaces that feel both ancient and modern, the Earthworks’ pure forms of geometry -- cones, circles, lines and berms—are built into the alluvial delta at the mouth of Mill Creek Canyon. Grass and concrete, a wood bridge and steps: these are the materials at work, joined by the natural forces of Mill Creek itself.  According to Landscape Architecture magazine, "the city of Kent, Washington,  through its Arts Commission and Parks and Recreation Department, commissioned this project as a solution to urban stormwater runoff and its resultant soil erosion problems. The environmental artwork was a means of enlivening the plans for a proposed stormwater detention basin and creating an unusual entrance to an existing public park. The city's goals were to control flooding, to restore fish runs, and to create an aesthetically pleasing facility that would contribute to enhancing the park."

Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks 1982
image: landscapemodeling.org

previous images: flicker.com

Photo by John Hoge and Nancy Leahy

"Layered Landscape" 1944 gouache on paper   
image: aspen journal

In his commercial graphic design work, he was an advocate of social responsibility in design -- products or services that promote positive ideas and behaviors while promoting the company.   In 1941 the Container Corporation which produced 90 percent to 95 percent of its cardboard from wastepaper hired Bayer to oversee a series of posters promoting the companies ability to recycle products on a grand scale, linking corporate responsibility with the environment.  

Subsequently, Bayer also oversaw another series of posters linking entitled "Great Ideas of Western Man".

"The things that will destroy America are prosperity at any price, peace at any price, safety first instead of duty first, and love of soft living and the get-rich-quick theory of life."--Theodore Roosevelt. 
From the series Great Ideas of Western Man. 1959 Herbert Bayer 

“In a response to the Earth Day of 1970, the Container Corporation announced a design competition for a trademark for recycling in the spirit of Bayer. The competition was won by a student at the University of Southern California presenting the symbol at the Design Conference in Aspen (Figure 7).87 Now universally known, its history goes back to the Bauhaus ideal for living in harmony with the natural world.”
-Environmental History, Peter Anker  April 2007

original design for recycling
image" wikipedia


Blood and Soil further examined from my previous post….
The search for national identity gained momentum, at least in Europe, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In Germany this search also led to a closer look at nature. The goal was to find particular natural settings that could help to distinguish German nature and landscapes from the natural environments of other nations and thus be identified as “truly” Germanic. According to Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744–1803), a “nation is called a people because it is first of all through nature.” Ideologically this meant that a people then can be called a nation when it can be derived from nature.

Similarly, Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) influenced later concepts of natural garden design. In his Ideas for a Physiognomy of Plants (Ideen zu einer Physiognomik der Gewächse), published in 1806, Humboldt referred to “patriotic plant characters” (“vaterländische Pflanzengestalten”) and addressed the decisive impact exercised by the vegetation of a country on the development of individual cultures. According to Humboldt, “the knowledge of the natural character of different regions of the earth [is] most intimately connected with the history of the human race and with its culture.” “The character of a people, gloomy or happy mood of humankind,”  According to Humbolt the outer appearance of plants, their physiognomy, gained considerable importance; he assumed that it could influence even the character of a people.

Eugene Gradmann wrote a book on Homeland Protection and Landscape Cultivation (Heimatschutz und Landschaftspf lege) in 1910. The idea of protecting native plants took on a nationalistic theme. Lange and Schultze-Naumburg emphasized the need for a garden to be rooted in a particular place and to demonstrate an understanding of the region in which it was set. Wilhelm Bolsche, also a founder member of Homeland Protect League, wrote a book with a title drawn from Goethe Die and Become! (1913) (Stirb und Werde!). He called private gardens to be treated as biospheres dedicated to the preservation of the native fauna and flora, so that they could be saved from extinction.

According to research done at Dumbarton Oaks, Willy Lange’s (1864– 1941) was professor of garden design in Berlin and one of the most significant garden theorists in early twentieth-century Germany. In his publications Lange claimed that “the German nature garden was the highest form of garden art and proof that Germany would be the cultural bearer of humankind in the field of garden art. In 1905 he stated: “The highest development of garden design is consequently based on the scientific Weltanschauung of our times and is reflected in the artistic nature garden.”   Some years later he said about natural garden design: “History will call this new stage of garden style, which is firmly based on its precursors, the stage of the German garden style. Germany has chosen to lend its name to this style in the history of gardens and to become once again ‘an improver of the world”. 

The Blood + Soil theory was that true Aryan race, the German/Nordic peasant races were ‘rooted in the soil’, superior and those foreign were inferior.  Lange also wrote that the “highest form of garden culture was only attainable by the German/Nordic races”. Therefore only German plants should be used in gardens.  Much like the Nazi’s believed that any nomadic or homeless race – Gypsies or Jews (the prime focus of the Holocaust) were inferior, plants from other countries should be rejected or destroyed.

Many “garden architects” as they were referred to, left Germany during the National Socialist reign. Alwin Seifert, a chief architect of the autobahn, (another postulated example of Germany’s superiority) banned all foreign plants from the planting of the autobahn.

In opposition to these precepts was Karl Foerster (1874-1970), German nurseryman, plant breeder and writer, who created his own garden in Potsdam-Bornim which dates back to 1912. Many are familiar with his name due to the popularity of Feather reed grass/ Calamagrostis acutiflora 'Karl Foerster' (among 350 other species) which he introduced and named.

He promoted the design of artistic low-maintenance gardens by offering appropriate hardy plants.  The garden is famous for its combination of architectural and naturalistic garden styles and its sunken garden. Foerster and his circle (landscape architect Herta Hammerbacher and Hermann Mattern with whom he founded a design studio in 1928) would embrace “world gardens” and even wrote a book on them.

During the Nazi era, Foerster took the risk and employed numerous Jewish friends in his operation and resisted the Nazi demand to primarily propagate and sell native German, pure plants. After the war, the soviet military administration puts claim on Foersters nursery, which was now managed under tight Soviet rule and remained the only perennial supplier for East Germany. Today the garden is managed by Foerster’s daughter Marianne Foerster and is part of the UNSECO World Heritage Site Potsdam-Sanssouci.