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25.03.2019, Mainz and Jena, Germany

100 years of Bauhaus - Revolution in everyday culture with SCHOTT “Jenaer Glas” and Bauhaus design

April 1, 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Bauhaus movement in Weimar, Germany. The cooperation of this renowned art school with the world-famous special glass manufacturer SCHOTT to design and market the heat-resistant “Jenaer Glas” household glasses is an important chapter in German design history. Key personalities in this cooperation were the Bauhaus artists Gerhard Marcks, Wilhelm Wagenfeld and László Moholy-Nagy as well as SCHOTT Managing Director Erich Schott. The use of special glass in the kitchen and living room revolutionized cooking, baking and table culture. For SCHOTT, this meant entering a completely new market.
Founded in Weimar in 1919, moved to Dessau in 1925 and closed in Berlin in 1933 under pressure from the National Socialists, the Bauhaus movement existed for only 14 years. In this short time, it brought something completely new to the world as a lively school of ideas and field of experimentation for art, design and architecture by bringing art and technology together as one.

The first approaches to cooperation between the Bauhaus movement and SCHOTT began in the 1920s. Initially, the Jenaer Glaswerk Schott & Gen. supplied lampshades, rods and tubes made of special glass to the metal workshop of the Bauhaus in neighboring Weimar, where they were used to manufacture lamps, including, from 1924 on, for Wilhelm Wagenfeld’s Bauhaus table lamp. In 1924/25, Gerhard Marcks, head of the Bauhaus ceramics workshop, sketched the first designs for the “Sintrax” coffee machine. “Sintrax” glass filter devices from SCHOTT for research and industrial laboratories served as a model for it. Starting in 1928, the Jena glass factory produced the “Sintrax” coffee machine in large quantities based on designs by Marcks, who had since been appointed Director of the Burg Giebichenstein school of arts and crafts in Halle an der Saale.

In 1918, SCHOTT was the first special glass manufacturer in Europe to launch household glasses made of borosilicate glass developed by company founder Otto Schott. Until then, this chemically resistant, heat- and temperature-shock-resistant special glass had mainly been used as laboratory glassware, lighting glass, and tubes for pharmaceutical ampoules and vials. Its use as household glass was in line with SCHOTT’s strategy of constantly opening up new fields of application and markets with innovations.

Since 1923, the Bauhaus model house “Am Horn” in Weimar had been equipped with the new SCHOTT household glassware. Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius praised the “exquisite baking pots,” but criticized certain “formal weaknesses,” and therefore offered SCHOTT the opportunity to cooperate. No continuous cooperation with a Bauhaus student, however, came about until 1931. After a lecture by Wilhelm Wagenfeld on “Machines and Crafts” at the Jenaer Kunstverein, SCHOTT’s Managing Director Erich Schott commissioned Wagenfeld as a freelance employee to rework the existing shapes and design new ones. By 1935, Wagenfeld had created an extensive range of household glassware, consisting of cooking and baking pots, casserole dishes, a tea service, pressed glass plates, saucepans, coffee cups, cocoa and punch jugs, and an egg cooking glass. For Wagenfeld, working for SCHOTT marked the beginning of his career as one of the most important designers of industrial products. As a classic of German design history, the famous Wagenfeld teapot from 1931 is an example of the Bauhaus idea of harmonizing material, form and function as well as suitability for industrial series production.

Marketing was needed to boost sales of household glassware to broad segments of the population. After all, glass for end consumers had to be advertised differently than SCHOTT’s classic special glasses for industry and science. László Moholy-Nagy took on this task. The Hungarian had taught at the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau until 1928. After that, he ran a studio for advertising graphics and exhibition design in Berlin. From 1933 to 1937, Moholy-Nagy developed a large-scale advertising campaign for SCHOTT household glassware. This included printed advertising material for end consumers and the trade with a circulation of millions as well as exhibition and trade fair booths. His most influential design tool was the “Typo-Photo,” the combination of typography and photography. Moholy-Nagy also convinced SCHOTT to use the still young medium of advertising film to promote “Jenaer Glas” in cinemas and at cooking demonstrations. 

For SCHOTT, the new business field of household glass quickly gained in importance alongside the established business fields of optical glass and technical glass. By the end of the 1930s, its share of total sales had risen to 18 percent. “Jenaer Glas” soon became an integral part of everyday culture in Germany and other European countries. 

The fact that Wagenfeld also designed a range of innovative lamps for SCHOTT from 1931 on is less well known.

After the end of the World War II and the division of SCHOTT into East and West, the now separate companies picked up on the Bauhaus tradition. In 1954, Erich Schott commissioned the former Wagenfeld employee Heinrich Löffelhardt to design a new range of shapes at the new headquarters in Mainz. In 1961, Ilse Decho, one of the GDR’s leading glass and porcelain designers, took over the design of the new household glasses at the old headquarters in Jena, which had been a state-owned company since 1948. Both in Mainz and in Jena, these were now produced largely by machine and continued to be widely used.

For strategic portfolio reasons, SCHOTT withdrew from the household glass business in 2005. Nevertheless, the well-known SCHOTT product brand “Jenaer Glas” continues to live on. Since 2005, it has been used under license exclusively by Zwiesel Kristallglas AG, including for the classic Wagenfeld teapot.

The Bauhaus has also left its mark on SCHOTT’s architecture. For example, the Bauhaus teacher Ernst Neufert, who became one of the leading German industrial architects after World War II, planned the new main SCHOTT plant in Mainz at the beginning of the 1950s, which then went into operation in 1952.

SCHOTT is a leading international technology group in the areas of specialty glass and glass-ceramics. The company has more than 130 years of outstanding development, materials and technology expertise and offers a broad portfolio of high-quality products and intelligent solutions. SCHOTT is an innovative enabler for many industries, including the home appliance, pharma, electronics, optics, life sciences, automotive and aviation industries. SCHOTT strives to play an important part of everyone’s life and is committed to innovation and sustainable success. With more than 15,500 employees at production sites and sales offices in 34 countries, the group has a global presence. In the 2017/2018 fiscal year, SCHOTT generated sales of 2.08 billion euros. The parent company, SCHOTT AG, has its headquarters in Mainz (Germany) and is solely owned by the Carl Zeiss Foundation. This is one of the oldest private and one of the largest science-promoting foundations in Germany. As a foundation company, SCHOTT assumes special responsibility for its employees, society and the environment.
Press contact
Dr. Jürgen Steiner
Manager Corporate Communication
Hattenbergstraße 10
55122 Mainz
Phone: +49 6131/66-4335
Further information
Ute Haubold
Standortkommunikation Jena
Otto-Schott-Straße 13
07745 Jena
Phone: +49 36 41 681 5 304