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When we were in art school in Europe, we learned how the Bauhaus had influenced today's architecture, graphic and industrial art. The founder and director, architect Walter Gropius emphasized functionality in architecture and consumer goods. The term 'Form and Function' became a mantra that is still applicable in today's market.

In 1933, the Bauhaus leadership closed the school under pressure from the Nazi regime. The Nazi government claimed that it was a center of communist intellectualism. Many of the leaders immigrated to the United States, among others Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius.

Mies van der Rohe landed in New York City where he developed a successful business in architecture and furniture design. Walter Gropius, however, moved to Lincoln, Massachusetts, where he build a house in the typical Bauhaus style. Today, the property belongs to a non-profit society that maintains it as a museum. It is clear that both van der Rohe and Gropius were instrumental in the successful spread of modernism in architecture, art and design.

Having lived in Massachusetts, I had also the opportunity to visit the Shakers' Village in Hancock, MA, and I was amazed by the efficiency of the Shakers' architects and designers. Their minimalist philosophy was of course inspired by their religious beliefs in an austere lifestyle, but it resulted in an outstanding example of form-and-function design, particularly when you consider the time in history when that happened. In the mid nineteenth century, they not only built the Hancock, MA, compound, but also settlements in Sabbathday Lake in Maine and Canterbury in New Hampshire.

Even today, every visitor is awed by the simplicity of their designs: their buildings, their built-in closets with drawers, their tables and chairs, their beds on wheels, their baskets and their famous oval wooden boxes, all reflecting the same functional, yet graceful way of thinking. I learned that in the early 1900s, a delegation of Shakers travelled to Denmark to teach local craftspeople how to design and fabricate modern furniture and products. Could this have influenced the renowned 'Danish design,' and ultimately have inspired the Bauhaus leadership?

It remains a question as to why Walter Gropius settled down in Lincoln, MA. Was it to live closer to the Shakers, his role models in design? It is, however, certain that Gropius' house shows many similarities to the Shakers' dwellings. The way he designed his house, his built-in closets, his curved staircase railings, his furniture, all testify to his minimalist way of thinking. Did he influence the European style of design, or was he himself influenced by early American architects and product designers? Maybe it was both...