(b Winterthur, 22 Dec. 1908; d Berlin, 9 Dec. 1994). Swiss painter, sculptor, architect, designer, teacher, and writer. From 1927 to 1929 he studied at the Bauhaus, then returned to Switzerland, where he lived mainly in Zurich. He regarded himself primarily as an architect, but he was active in a variety of fields, his ultimate aim being to establish a unity among the individual branches of the visual arts—he once defined art as the ‘sum of all functions in harmonious unity’.
However, he has probably become best known for his sculptures, which characteristically employ smooth, elegant, spiralling abstract forms in stone or polished metal. He took the term ‘Concrete art’ from van Doesburg to describe his work in this vein and popularized the term in Switzerland in place of ‘abstract’. In 1941 he visited Argentina and Brazil, introducing the concept of Concrete art there, and he was a vigorous publicist of his ideas (he wrote several books and numerous articles, in English as well as German, and he organized exhibitions of abstract art). His sculptures have been considered precursors of Minimal art, but in fact they represent a subtle blending of mathematics and intuition, and some Minimalists, including Donald Judd and Robert Morris, have denied his influence. As an architect, Bill's work included his own house in Zurich (1932–3) and the much-praised Hochschule für Gestaltung (College of Design) in Ulm (1951–5), where, working on a limited budget, he created an austerely elegant complex of buildings delicately placed in a romantic setting. He was co-founder of the school and head of the departments of architecture and produce design from 1951 to 1957.
Text Source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)