This is Aspen’s Bauhaus year. Herbert Bayer, who trained at the Bauhaus school in Germany, came to Aspen in 1946 and, applying Bauhaus principles, used what he had learned to transform an-almost-out-of-business mountain town into a desirable destination. The Bauhaus was a design school that believed in uncluttered clarity in art and architecture. It opened in 1919, so this is its 100th birthday year. Bauhaus was closed by the Nazis after only 14 years. Nevertheless, it has gone on to have an international reputation as the best of German design. Bayer was one of the chief promoters of that reputation and Aspen benefited.
Herbert Bayer went to study at the Bauhaus School in 1921 but quit to work in advertising for 10 years before coming to the United States to escape Nazism. After making important social connections and establishing a relationship with Walter Paepcke, Aspen’s biggest fan, Bayer moved there and helped rejuvenate what was a shrinking mining town surrounded by potato farms that had fallen on hard times. Its population had dropped from 14,000 to 750, but the Wheeler Opera House was still there and both men saw Aspen’s potential for rebirth. Bayer began designing for Aspen in 1946 and stayed until 1985, when he moved to California. While in Aspen, he used Bauhaus design principles to create stationery, promotional materials, pins, ads with arresting images, books, even a fence-style only seen in Aspen. See the photo below. But perhaps his greatest contribution was the Bauhaus inspired campus he totally designed for the still functioning Aspen Institute. This project began in 1949, the same year the still functioning and better than ever Aspen Music Festival and School began. He designed the Aspen leaf logo. Born in Austria and an avid skier, Bayer created ski posters that are still cool. He designed the poster for the 1950 World Ski Championship held in Aspen, which became a Hollywood hangout attracting major stars like Gary Cooper. As the result of Bayer’s efforts, Aspen became known as an exciting town with excellent skiing.
There’s a Bauhaus exhibit at the Wheeler/Stallard Museum in a classic Aspen residence until April, 2020. Called “bayer to bauhaus: how design shaped Aspen”, it’s both comprehensive and excellent. Tours of the Bauhaus campus that Bayer designed are offered regularly. Other Bayer and Bauhaus events are being considered and scheduled all year.
ps In a little remembered historic occurrence, Aspen became the only already chosen Olympic site to turn down The Games. Denver bid on the Winter Olympics in 1976 and included Aspen as the ski venue, but voters in Colorado rejected a tax to fund The Games.