Reading Time: 5 min | Nov 2021

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Designing Bauhaus Icons - Industrial Design Pioneer Wilhelm Wagenfeld and iF

“Good household products should always be cheap enough for the worker and good enough for the rich!” Wilhelm Wagenfeld

2019 is the year of Bauhaus – the worldwide most influential school of art, design and ideas celebrates its centenary. We celebrate this avant-garde movement by starting a design special series that guides you through the year: Where to find the best Bauhaus Design Events? What links Bauhaus Icons to iF? As a highlight, we will take you on a journey deep into our iF archives to find traces and names of the Bauhaus.

Our second encounter, after Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius, is: Prof. Wilhelm Wagenfeld.

"I assure you that you and your work are the model case for what the Bauhaus has been after." Bauhaus founder Gropius wrote these words in a letter to Prof. Wilhelm Wagenfeld in 1965. And he was right, as Wagenfeld is considered a pioneer of industrial design of the 20th century until today. His designs marked a consistent development of a modern and democratic culture of products and design. With his creations, Wagenfeld aimed to link the design of our everdy culture with social responsibility. He wanted to reach broad levels of the population with industrial design.

And he surely did: He is the creator of the most iconic Bauhaus designs and one of the most famous industrial lamp designs not just in German Design History: the Wagenfeld table lamp by Tecnolumen WA24. No wonder, Wagenfeld played a crucial role in the founding of iF 66 years ago, which was then named "Die gute Industrieform e.V." (Good Industrial Form). He supported iF at the time to develop further and wrote an inspiring opening address for the foundation of iF Industrie Forum Design e.V. Many designers use his key phrase that good household products should always be "cheap enough for the worker and good enough for the rich" as a credo in their work until today.

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The Bauhaus Lamp: Timeless Lighting Design

The famous table lamp was designed by Wagenfeld in 1920 for an assignment by László Moholy-Nagy at the Bauhaus metal workshop, but it was not until 1980 that Tecnolumen's founder Walter Schnepel started producing Wagenfeld's design. Schnepel visited Wagenfeld 1976 in his studio and saw the prototype of the lamp. He wondered why nobody produced the lamp, so Wagenfeld told him: “Then you should do it!” And he did and founded the company based on the classic WA24.

The lamp has an elegant, functional, straightforward, timeless design with a reduction on basic elements. The lamp is a design icon until today and its shape became a symbol for the Bauhaus-style. Today, the company is one of the most known manufacturers of originals from the Bauhaus.

Wagenfeld & WMF: Bauhaus in the kitchen

Household goods and lamps are among the 80 awarded designs by Prof. Wagenfeld at iF. His lighting designs for German manufacturer Peill & Putzler, Glashüttenwerke, are outstanding and have his typical handwriting. However, Wilhelm Wagenfeld, the household goods manufacturer WMF and iF connects an even more special bond! Since the beginnings of iF, WMF has been honored with over 470 awards! Around a fifth of them for designs by Wagenfeld himself.

The Max and Moritz salt and pepper shakers, the butter dish and the stackable egg cups have made design history and are a classic until today! Prof. Wilhelm Wagenfeld developed them for WMF back in the 1950s, and they are still part of the range today. He was also the person who recognized and promoted the excellent material properties of Cromargan® for industrial series production. His philosophy of the usability of objects and the benefit for the user still determines the WMF product development process today.

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