A new exhibit at the Tech Library, “From Aurich to Atlanta,” showcases the creative works of Hin Bredendieck, the founder of the School of Industrial Design.
Born in 1904 in Aurich, a small town in northwest Germany, Bredendieck grew up in a household enamored with home repairs and paint jobs. After a four-year apprenticeship which he finished at 18, he attended both the Stuttgart School of Arts and Crafts and the State School of Arts and Crafts in Hamburg, but grew frustrated by the lack of creative innovation offered by these institutions. He returned to being a carpenter after graduating.
Meanwhile, Bauhaus, a design school founded by Walter Gropius in 1919 in Weimar, Germany, began operations in full swing. The school was focused on minimalism and united fine arts and handicraft into one modern design concept. In 1925, it relocated to Dessau, and in 1927 ushered Bredendieck into its metal shop program.
The school was very tolerant for its time, welcoming students from all religious and ethnic backgrounds. Professors taught that designs had to be functional and suitable for mass production, and in doing so, the school became a symbol for the union of modern efficiency and contemporary art.
While at Bauhaus, Bredendieck created perhaps his most celebrated contribution to industrial design: the Kandem lamp. This intensely functional and minimalist desk lamp, which is still used today, became especially popular from 1928 onwards, when Bauhaus partnered with a light fixture company able to produce them on a large scale.
At the height of Germany’s unemployment, Bredendieck received his diploma from Bauhaus and moved to Berlin to become a professional designer.
From 1932 to 1934, he worked in Zurich on new light fixtures and was by this time well-known in the relatively new field of industrial design.
In 1937, with the onset of the National Socialist dictatorship in Germany, Bredendieck was forced to return home. He married Virginia Weisshaus, who was both bilingual and American. The couple emigrated to the United States during the same year.
After settling in Chicago, Bredendieck started teaching at the New Bauhaus school, with Weisshaus acting as his translator during the first year of instruction. Because of financial strains, the school closed in 1938 and Bredendieck spent much of his time building wooden children’s toys and DIY furniture. In 1945, he received a position at the Institution of Design in Chicago, where he continued to teach in the Bauhaus fashion.
He joined Tech in 1952, where he established modern industrial design courses under his newly-founded School of Industrial Design.
This new area of expertise was especially important at the time given the advent of industry in the South.
Bredendieck’s courses were focused on wood and metal material and construction exercises, following the Bauhaus model he learned in his own undergraduate days.
The exhibit features many of the furniture fixtures designed by Bredendieck’s Tech students, where the Bauhaus influence is clearly visible.
This exhibit comes at a time when Bredendieck’s projects are just starting to be assembled after decades of disorganization.
Because his work is scattered across Oldenburg and Atlanta, he is not as recognized as one might expect for a pioneer in the industry.
“From Aurich to Atlanta” is bilingual (German and English) and open to the public until May 31 on the first floor of the S. Price Gilbert Memorial Library. In addition, three virtual events are planned for April, including a book talk on April 25 to discuss Gloria Köpnick and Rainer Stamm’s book “Hin Bredendieck: From Aurich to Austria.” More information can be found at library.gatech.edu.