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#84 - Ulm School of Design

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Article written by
Juan Jesús Millo

Writing of the week

This past weekend we have been to one of the most important germs of the current design panorama, the Hochschule für Gestaltung (HfG) or the Ulm School of Design, and I can only say that it has made me reflect on a level that was quite unknown to me.

This school was born out of the Scholl Brothers Foundation, which was formed in 1950 by Inge and Grete Scholl in memory of their brothers who were executed by the Nazi regime. On the basis of this and the closure of the Bauhaus years earlier by German National Socialism, Inge Scholl, Otl Aicher and Max Bill opened the school thanks to donations and grants of all kinds, the most important one being the Marshall Plan.

When we arrived last Thursday in Munich, we travelled about 150km by train to Ulm, and although it was already quite late (by German time), I couldn't miss having a few beers on arrival with the group I was in; we all like beer.

At sunrise (german “sunrise” -> fucking cloudy) we went to see the highest church in the world, the Ulm Cathedral, what a tremendous gothic sight, especially the polychrome stained glass windows of the period and the contemporary ones.

After a stroll through the town it was time to go to the main objective of the trip, the HfG Ulm. The road was beautiful, very cold, snowy, windy... but the landscape and the excitement of arriving transformed these sensations into something warm.

From afar we could already see the architecture of the school and the obsession for the design of the Bauhaus legacy; perfect forms, mathematical predominance, integral systematisation of absolutely everything, the culmination of Gute Form.

We arrived late (typical of the Spanish, what can we do) and they gave us a beautiful tour of the museum explaining us the reason for its foundation, its complex curriculum and the works of both the teachers, founders and students, who worked side by side with brands such as Lufthansa or Braun.

What was interesting was the freedom we were given there to explore the space, to walk the same corridors that Hans Gugelot, Otl Aicher, Max. Bill, Tomás Maldonado or Horst Rittel walked; It was overwhelming. I've always had an internal dispute about whether I'm a designer or not, what are the minimum skills a designer needs to proclaim himself a designer? I still don't know, but I'm sure I'm not, or at least not yet.

This internal debate intensified when I was there and among several thoughts the clearest one was "Millo, are you seeing how they have created design artefacts with such a high social impact, and what have you created? I felt small, tiny, with a weak voice, any fragment of concrete would overshadow me, "This is crazy" I exclaimed repeatedly, over and over again. I remember leaving school and thinking that I wanted to leave private design and focus on studying, on training, on nurturing myself, on acquiring the knowledge that the Ulm school taught 70 years ago. It was a transcendental experience and one that will remain in my mind forever.

This is a short short report of my experience in the HfG, but I would like to write a long one if I have time where I am allowed to digress, until then, a greeting to all those people who made the trip a unique moment.

PS: we stole a lot of beer.

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