History of the „School of Design“

In the "First administrative Report" of the city of Essen, the Citizen Welfare Association is noted as the founder of an "establishment for the ongoing education of school-leaving youths working in trades". As citizens showed little interest, it closed again in 1856.

A second attempt in 1860 was more successful. The city of Essen took the school over as a municipal institution on 19 October 1861. 

Permission was granted by the government to set up a school of trades and applied arts. The permit was revoked again by the Minister responsible. After protests by the mayor and the city councillors, the vocational school was again approved.


  • Tuition areas: mechanical engineering, building trades, decorative/stage-set painting
  • Number of students: 415
  • Strong support from the Krupp firm
  • The number of students continued to grow.

Decision by the city councillors to expand the Trades School into a School of Building and Construction and a School of Mechanical Engineering. The government rejected their proposal.
After a four-year dispute with the government, the state granted a permit to establish such a school.

Opening of the School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Building and Construction. The remainder of the Trades School was expanded with classes for modellers, plasterers, chasers and graphic designers; together with the existing painting department, it was turned into a Municipal School for Trades and the Applied Arts (1 October 1908)

The Ministry withheld its endorsement for the school again. The name was disallowed by the Ministry in Berlin; arts education in Essen was prohibited.

Acrimonious struggle with the authorities in Berlin und Düsseldorf

State-level permission from the Minister in Berlin to set up a School of Trades and Applied Arts in Essen (the EHKGS)
The director was the architect Prof. Alfred Fischer 
(b. 29.08.1881 in Stuttgart /  d. 10.04.1950 in Murnau) 

From 1911 to 1933

Fischer directed the EHKGS and also taught there. The Minister in Berlin commissioned two senior government officials, Senior Councillor Dönhoff and Councillor Dr. Muthesius of the state office for trade and industry in Berlin to initiate a re-organisation of the Essen school. Together with Fischer, these two men were co-founders of the later Folkwang schools.

Muthesius’s suggestions for the trade divisions: Painting, Metal, Interior Design Art, Type/Graphics/Printing, Ornamental Plastic, Design and Drafting


The teaching faculty was of the highest quality:

  • Hon. Prof. Alfred Fischer (Dr.-Ing.) – Architect – Director
  • Kurt Wase – Architect – Building and House Design class
  • Prof. Josef Enseling – Sculpture class (> for more information)
  • Josef Merten – Metalworking class
  • Prof. Karl Kriete –Department of decorative painting
  • Prof. Wilhelm Poetter - Department of Printing and Posters
  • Prof. Karl Rössing – Book art and design class
  • Dr. Max Peiffer-Watenphul (3 years at the Bauhaus in Weimar)  - Preparatory course
  • Max Burchartz (from Bauhaus artist environment) - Graphic design and photography class
  • Prof. Josef Urbach – Studies from nature
  • Grete Willers (Bauhaus student) – Department of Embroidery and Weaving


Founding of the "Friends of the School of Trades and Applied Arts in Essen” association

Oct. 1922
Purchase of the Hagen Folkwang museum by the city of Essen (initiated by Lord Mayor Luther and the museum’s director Ernst Gosebruch)

School redeveloped in Rüttenscheid Town Hall:

Seminar-style practical and workshop classes

Fischer consistently rejected dry academic teaching and learning styles

from 1927
Folkwang School
School for Trades and the Applied Arts
"School of Design"

Folkwang School 
School for Trades and the Applied Arts 
"School of Design"

 Suggestion by the two directors that the schools be combined under the designation “Folkwang schools”. The School for Trades and the Applied Arts was to be given the sub-designation "School of Design", and the new vocational school would have the sub-designation "School of Expressive Art".
In the view of both directors, there was great compelling power in the Folkwang name – a name which already had purchase among the population at large thanks to the name of the art museum, and which had a programmatic meaning.

The city council meeting approved the proposal on 04.06.1927 and authorised the necessary funds as of 01.10.1927.

The decision still required approval from the Ministry in Berlin.

The Berlin Ministry refused to grant the necessary approval for the School for Tradesmen and Applied Arts.

Edict from the Minister of Trade and the Economy in Berlin: "After further review, I wish to declare myself in agreement that the School of Trades and the Applied Arts in Essen may operate under the following designation:
Folkwang School, Essen

Municipal School for Trades and the Applied Arts
"School of Design"

Director: Dr. Alfred Fischer

Beginning of Nazi rule / This ill-fated year was a disaster for all of the Folkwang institutions dedicated to modern art.

The Folkwang School of Design was renamed “Folkwang School for Tradesmen”, misrecognising its aims.
The painter Mankopf became its director.

Fischer was suspended and retired on 01.04.1934.
A number of the best teachers were also dismissed, among them Max Burchartz.
Alfred Fischer became a target for political reproach on the grounds of supposedly having overly advocated the goals of an art academy. In fact, the opposite was the case; Fischer’s goal was a "University of Design"

"Folkwang School for Master Tradesmen"

After the first major air assaults on the city of Essen, it was decided in the summer that the Folkwang School for Master Tradesmen should be moved so as to preserve the school’s valuable installations from destruction and to continue its teaching. It was moved to the Herrenhaus Fürstenberg in Xanten. Instruction began in the Winter Semester.


Memorandum on reopening the “Folkwang School for Master Tradesmen” was sent by teacher Theodor Rüsing to the Cultural Office of the city of Essen.


The culture committee and cultural association of the city of Essen and other organisations had resolved that a School of Design should be reopened 

Reopened as "Essen Industrial Schools”

Establishment of the "Folkwang Industrial Art School" in the former Benedictine Abbey building in Essen-Werden

New director: Prof. Hermann Schardt

1. Applied and free graphic design division| Director: Prof. Hermann Schardt

2. Painting division | Director: SR Theodor Rüsing

3. Wood division | Director: Walter Schulze

4. Leather and Paper division | Director: Frida Schoy

5. Metal division | Director: SR Werner Glasenapp

6. Sculpture division | Director: Adolf Wamper

7. Textile division| Director: Erna Hitzberger

8. Preparatory course (all divisions) | Prof. Max Burchartz


Founding of the Friends and Supporters Association (Gesellschaft der Freunde und Förderer, GFFF)


To report on its activities and achievements, the school put on its first exhibition since its re-inception, in an exhibition hall at Gruga. This attracted extensive interest.

Fundamental reconstruction with the first comprehensive publication of the curricula for all divisions, regulations for study and a comprehensive performance report.


Re-establishment of the Photography division 

Prof. Dr. Otto Steinert appointed as Director

 of the division.

Establishment of the Institute of Commercial Advertising
Director: Prof. Carl Hundhausen

Decision by the administration to let the Folkwang schools stay permanently in the Abbey at Werden. Acquisition of the neighbouring land by the city of Essen creates the preconditions for further expansion of both areas.

Participation in the international "Expo" exhibition in Montreal
Exhibition in the German pavilion on the theme of "The small child and his environment"


Successful participation in the Ford International Competition in Cologne. Theme: "The car of tomorrow"


Folkwang School of Design wants to upgrade to a university. Joint public actions undertaken by both schools, demonstrating in favour of university status.  A shared course structure is developed and introduced.


Separation of the Folkwang schools. Despite all protests, the Folkwang School of Design is integrated as a Faculty in the newly formed Essen Institute of Technology. Taken under the sponsorship of the state of NRW.


Integration in the newly formed University of Essen in Faculty 4.

New program structure and new courses:

1. Industrial Design 

2. Communication Design 

3. School Art 

4. School Music


Concentration of INDUSTRIAL DESIGN in Essen. The ID courses from Dortmund, Krefeld and Cologne are moved to the technical institute (university) at Essen. This concentration in one place leads to a long-desired improvement in training in Industrial Design, in terms of staff, finances and spaces required for the relevant facilities.

Industrial Design and Communication Design become integrated university-level courses (DII). The end qualification is a degree (university of technology level).


Merging of the technical colleges of Duisburg and Essen into the University of Duisburg-Essen

Training in Design is moved from the University of Duisburg-Essen to Folkwang University.

The Industrial Design and Communication Design courses (formerly at UDE) are taken over by Folkwang University on 1 October.
Staff and budget transferred as of 01.01.2008.


  • Aus der Geschichte der Folkwangschule für Gestaltung, "Schrift 26" der FfG, Dr. Käthe klein, © 1965
  • Folkwangschule für Gestaltung, "Schrift 15" der FfG, Hermann Schardt, © 1961
  • Design Schnittpunkt Essen
  • Ernst & Sohn Verlag, Hrg. S. Lengyel + H. Sturm,© 1989


Wolfgang Röver