The Ulm Model

5 October to 18 December 2016

Precision balance

Student: Gerda Müller-Krauspe
Instructors: Hans Gugelot, Walter Zeischegg and
Georg Leowald
1959-60, Industrial Design
Photo by Wolfgang Siol
Courtesy HfG-Archiv / Ulmer Museum


During its short life from 1953 to 1968, the Ulm School of Design (HfG Ulm) in Southern Germany pioneered an interdisciplinary and systematic approach to design education – known as the Ulm Model – that was to become universal. This is the first exhibition in the UK to represent the achievements of the school, including the foundation work in drawings and models by the students as well as the radical designs famously commissioned from the school by corporate clients such as Braun and Lufthansa.


From radiographs and weighing machines to traffic lights, petrol cans, bed frames and kitchenware, the exhibition gathers and correlates objects designed for diverse industries at HfG Ulm. Braun GmbH has provided the exhibition with the last remaining units of their iconic D 55 display structure, designed at the school in 1955 to exhibit its modernist reinvention of Braun’s audio sets.


On the face of it, the HfG Ulm had little to do with art. Design work was mostly collectivised and rationalised, the idea of the designer as intuitive 'artist' emphatically rejected, and the designer's role understood as only one amongst the many specialisms of industrial production. But this exhibition suggests that the school continued the projects of the artistic avant-gardes, especially Constructivism, in that objects were systematically designed to project ideal social relations.


The exhibition is curated by Peter Kapos. Its display structures are designed by David Kohn Architects.