Journal Article

The Form of Socialism without Ornament

Eli Rubin

in Journal of Design History

Published on behalf of Design History Society

Volume 19, issue 2, pages 155-168
Published in print January 2006 | ISSN: 0952-4649
Published online January 2006 | e-ISSN: 1741-7279 | DOI:
The Form of Socialism without Ornament

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Industrial designers who inherited the Bauhaus legacy experienced a dramatic reversal of fortunes in the socialist German Democratic Republic. The height of the Stalinist era in the Soviet Bloc, 1950–1953, meant a near complete shutdown of modernist and functionalist design and architecture. However, modernist designers found a niche later as the East German economy needed to mass-produce goods without sacrificing quality and with a particular modern appeal, in order to keep up with the shifting and competitive context of the Cold War and to satisfy the postwar generation of East German consumers. Eventually, heirs of Bauhäusler Mart Stam, such as Martin Kelm, found their way into positions of considerable power in the economic planning bureaucracy. The strange confluence of modernist designers and post-Stalinist socialism leads to one of the central questions of the article: is modern design – at least partially—inherently well-suited for the socialist command economy?

Keywords: consumer products; East Germany; functionalism; kitsch; ornament; Planned Economy

Journal Article.  9497 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Art ; Art Forms ; Industrial and Commercial Art ; Art Styles

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