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Ulm School of Design 1955-1968

The History of the Ulm School of Design

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Building of the HfG Ulm, 1955. Photo: Ernst Hahn. © HfG-Archiv / Museum Ulm, Sign. HfG-Ar Dp 090.18. All rights reserved

The Ulm School of Design was one of the most progressive institutions for teaching design and environmental design in the 1950s and 1960s. It was founded by Inge Scholl, Otl Aicher and Max Bill; the latter became the school’s first rector in 1953. The HfG Ulm quickly gained international recognition. New design approaches were researched and put into practice in its departments: visual communication, industrial design, building, information and later film. The HfG building was designed by Max Bill and still impresses today with its striking, open location.

The campus reflects the teaching concept, namely the integration of work and life in one place. The history of the HfG has been characterized by innovation and change, in keeping with the university’s self-image as an experimental institution. This led to numerous modifications in the content and organization of teaching.

Even during its existence, this private university became a model for new foundations, for example in India or Brazil. After its closure in 1968, faculty and students carried on the core of its teaching – whether in their day-to-day work with numerous well-known industrial companies or by teaching at universities and academies around the world.

7.1 History

Designing for democracy

«The HfG is not just a school where you are educated in a special subject; the HfG is more like a community whose members share the same intentions: bestowing structure and stability upon the world around us.»

(Tomás Maldonado, «Inaugural speech of the Rector of the HfG,» October 5, 1964)

The Ulm School of Design was an international center for teaching, development, and research in the field of designing industrial products. Designers were trained in five areas—Industrial Design, Visual Communication, Building, Information, and Film. The program lasted four years, and students graduated with a diploma. Classes were divided into departmental work, which concentrated on the practice of design, and relevant theoretical subjects. Teaching materials and methodologies were developed at the Ulm School for a whole new profession, that of the designer. The ongoing further development of the teaching methods of Ulm has led to an entire model that is still relevant in the teaching of design today.

HfG basic course, Tomás Maldonado with students, 1955. Sign. HfG-Ar Dp 090.32. Photo: Ernst Hahn © HfG Archive / Museum Ulm

HfG basic course, Tomás Maldonado with students, 1955. Sign. HfG-Ar Dp 090.32. Photo: Ernst Hahn © HfG Archive / Museum Ulm. All rights reserved

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Ulm School of Design 1955-1968

Building

«an aerial picture. like a model of a town. at the front black forest scenery in front of a white building, cubic, flat. crystals with windows, many windows, as if a right angle has been fitted into a slope in a set of building blocks. behind that in the haze, untidy, gray in gray, the tangled city. over it, like a shadow on the shining ribbon of the Danube, the mass of the cathedral, far away, disappearing. transient. the past is behind us. ahead, white, the blocks of the future. a glorious castle of the future.»

(Bernd Rübenach: der rechte winkel von ulm (the right angle of ulm). Radio essay 1959. Darmstadt 1987.)

The HfG Ulm building was one of the first reinforced concrete frame constructions in Germany. For all components, all exterior walls and visible interior walls, the exposed concrete was coated with a fine concrete framework. The window frames were made of laminated wood, as were the doors.

The Buildings of the Ulm School of Design, 1955. Photo: Ernst Hahn, Sign. HfG-Ar Dp 090.012-1 © HfG-Archiv Ulm. All rights reserved

The Buildings of the Ulm School of Design, 1955. Photo: Ernst Hahn, Sign. HfG-Ar Dp 090.012-1 © HfG-Archiv Ulm. All rights reserved —› more

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