PETER BEHRENS -Product Designer

Post 710 -by Gautam Shah

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Peter Behrens (1868-1940) was a German artist, architect and designer. His creative conceptual clarity, art, products, architecture and typography all have influenced a generation in Europe. He was born in Hamburg. He studied painting at the School of Art in Karlsruhe (1886-1889). He spent the 1890s in Munich as a painter and designer, practicing in than current Jugendstil or German Art Nouveau style. He was actively involved with the Berlin Sezession group of artists, architects and designers in 1893.

Peter Behrens Products

Sezession was an Austrian and German group of progressive artists, who in 1892 (first in Munich and then in Berlin) formed a separate entity, breaking away from the conservative artists. The secession was a space for people from different backgrounds to work together to influence a new culture of German Modernism. The First World War created a negative impact on the Sezession but Hitler’s rule removed it from the scene.

2 Glasgo School of art

Peter Behrens was the co-founder of the Deutscher Werkbund, whose aim was to link industrialists and artists, paving the way for design-led technology.

The Deutscher Werkbund (German Association of Craftsmen, German Labour League or German Work Federation was -ˈdɔʏtʃər ˈvɛrkbʊnd) was inspired by the Government, in 1907. Its initial concept was to bring together designers and manufacturers to integrate the traditional crafts and industrial mass production techniques. Its motto was ‘Vom Sofakissen zum Städtebau’ (from sofa cushions to city-building).

It became the most important group of artists, architects, designers, and industrialists, to support the development of modern architecture and industrial design. Werkbund was first led by Herman Muthesius. Other key members included Mies van der Rohe and Eliel Saarninen. This initiative later led to formation of the Bauhaus School of Design.

Werkbund members believed that unity and beauty of form was essential and saw industrialization as a force that demanded a re-calibration of the German aesthetic standards. They believed that German designers needed to shift their focus toward designing objects that could be mass produced, to object based on its functional logic, and that each object should be honest about its materials. Its mandate was to enhance the quality of German products in world markets, mainly England and United States in pre WW-I period.

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Peter Behrens (with Henry van de Velde and Muthesius) was also part of the original leaders who developed the philosophy of Gesamtkultur #a cohesive cultural vision where design was the central force for fresh, man-made environment. The visual language perceived for Gesamtkultur was bereft of ornamentation, in favour of simple and function. For the cohesive cultural vision and for re-configuring, optimizing and mechanizing their productions, they discussed all areas of design, graphic, typography, products industrial products design, architecture, textiles, etc. Hermann Muthesius had returned from England to Germany with Morris’s Arts & Crafts concepts, but here he was focussing on mechanizing the production with high-quality design and material integrity.

4 Haus Muthesius Musikzimmer

# Gesamtkultur, as a word was coined by 19th C German composer Richard Wagner, who saw his operas as a total work of art, synthesizing music, poetry, drama, theatre, costume, and set design. It is used for a work produced by a synthesis of various art forms.

18 Dining Room set Behrens

19 Behrens

Peter Behrens, began working as a painter, illustrator and bookbinder. He in 1899, under the influence of J. M. Olbrich moved from Art to Architecture. He was a self-taught architect. In 1899 Behrens accepted the invitation of the Grand Duke Ernst-Ludwig of Hesse to be the second member of Darmstadt Artists’ Colony. Here Behrens built his own house as a debut in architecture. He also designed furniture, furnishings paintings etc. for it. This building in Jugendstil style (German equivalent of Art Nouveau style), though Behrens never lived in it, is considered to be the turning point in his life.

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Behrens became director of the School of Applied Arts in Düsseldorf (1903-1907). At Düsseldorf, Behrens became interested in Theosophist geometry. The curvilinear forms that he once used in own residence were now replaced with the rectilinear geometry. At Dusseldorf Behrens designed a remarkable building, the Crematorium in Hagen (1906), using the plane surfaces and incised linear decoration with experimental cubic symmetry of geometric volume. He also designed several other buildings in now sober and austere style. This included the Exhibition hall for the Northwestern German Art Exhibition at Oldenburg (1905). With new prestige, he began to frequent the bohemian circles and showed interest in subjects related to the reformation of the lifestyles.

6 Musik zimmer Haus Behrens Schiedmayer

Deutscher Werkbund principles of quality, as formulated in 1907 was the first theoretical formulation for pursuit of Quality. These concepts were so remarkable that several decades later QMS ( Quality Management Standards, ISO 9000) of the ISO and the SA (Social Accountability Standards ISO 8000) had similar foundations.

7 La maison de Peter Behrens (Musée_de_la_colonie_d'artistes,_Darmstadt)_(8728647639)

Germany was embracing a new philosophy and visual style for its simplicity and exactness. The new products, with their high level of functional utility and beauty were expected to build a new future for German exports. Behrens, with his multi disciplinary experiences was capable of designing things in diverse fields. As a product designer, in 1898, he designed glass bottles and different types of wine glasses. In 1907, Behrens was invited for the post of an artistic adviser to Germany’s largest electric company AEG (Allgemeine Elektricitäts Gesellschaft, Berlin). He was required to form a monumental image for the prestige of the firm by arranging mass production with artistic expression. His job included design of electrical equipments, fixtures, branding packaging, catalogues, posters, architecture for factories and workshops.

8 Behrens Office

Peter Behrens, in Berlin office, between 1908-1911, designed five large industrial buildings. The Berlin office had during the period apprentices and design assistants like, Walter Gropius 1907-1910, Mies van der Rohe 1908-1910 and 1911-1912, and Le Corbusier, Adolf Meyer and Jean Kramer. Mies worked on interiors of two houses, AEG Small Motors Factory and Assembly Hall for Large Machines. Other works include Berlin Turbine factory, High Voltage Factory, AEG factory complex, two houses Cuno and the Schroeder, Osthaus -the site plan for a group of villas in Hohenhagen, Mannesmann Administration Building in Düsseldorf and the Gas Works in Frankfurt-Osthafen.

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22 AEG Voltastraße Alte Fabrik für Bahnmaterial

25 Peter Behrens AEG High Tension Factory, Berlin

The Turbine Factory for AEG, of exposed steel, concrete, and large areas of glass was admired Le Corbusier as the ‘cathedral of labour’, in 1912. The Mannesmann Administration Building in Düsseldorf and the Gas Works in Frankfurt-Osthafen both, were designed in 1910-12.

17 Behrens Peter Hoechst administration offices 1920-27, central hall elevations

21 Behrens Hoechst administration offices 1920-27, central hall elevations

10 Project Mies

Behrens always made the final decisions and had total control of the design process. The clarity of the volumetric articulations is evidenced by the choice of the points of view. The buildings were always represented in relation to the environment. He showed an ability to express the materials in the facades through the representational graphics and in the reality of built form.

23 Peter Behrens Bau Oberhausen

11 The Mannesmann house

Design is not about decorating functional forms – it is about creating forms that accord with the character of the object and that show new technologies to advantage.’ –Peter Behrens.

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The transition between this naturalistic period and his later activities, in the Berlin office show a search for new linguistic conventions based on abstraction, anti-naturalism and expressionism with a degree of monumentality. Peter Behrens remained head of the Department of Architecture at the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin. In 1922 he became a professor of Architecture at the Academy in Vienna, and thereafter little works of consequence emerged. Behrens became associated with Hitler’s urban dreams for Berlin. Hitler also admired Behrens’s Saint Petersburg Embassy.

14 Behrens's Saint Petersburg Embassy

From 1920 and 1924, he was responsible for the design and construction of the Technical Administration Building (Technische Verwaltungsgebäude) of Hoechst AG in Hoechst. In 1926, Behrens designed a home for Englishman Wenman Joseph Bassett-Lowke in Northampton, UK. It is regarded as the modernist house in Britain. In 1928 Behrens won an international competition for the construction of the New Synagogue, Žilina.

12 Peter Behrens Neologic Synagogue in Zilina 1928-1931

15 Behrens Mausoleum 1925, elevation + Plan

Behrens was AEG’s chief artistic advisor from 1907-1914 and is now considered the Father of Industrial Design. He designed several domestic products for use of electricity. The domestic products were conceived for mass production, utility and not have ‘impersonal’ identity. The objects include fan or Ventilatoren in 1908, light fixtures and electric teakettle. The Fan evolved from the first electric fan, created by Schuyler Wheeler in 1886, with variations in speed setting and wind direction. The electric kettle was the first product with immersion heating elements, integrated into the body of the kettle rather than placing it as an adjunct element. The kettles were produced in several shapes (cylindrical, octagonal or oval), materials (chromium and brass), and surface finishes. Of the possible 216 configurations only 30 were produced. He devised, the Sans serif fonts for the reductive graphic style. Behrens is credited with Schrift (1901-7), Antiqua (1907-9) and Medieval (1914), through Klingspor Type Foundry.

26 Behrens 1930 Berlin Bernauer Strasse subway

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INDUSTRIAL AGE BUILDING TECHNOLOGY

Post 675 –by Gautam Shah

Industrial Building

Industrial age, from the late 18th C changed the materials of construction and processes. These affected the form, scale and functions of the buildings. Cast-iron, wrought-iron and mild steel were being produced economically and qualitatively. Portland Cement was developed in 1824. First applications of new materials were through older processes, so the change was not noticeable, but did saw the termination of Revival styles. Steel was no longer a stronger cousin of cast or wrought iron. It began to be exploited for its tensile potential. Concrete as Steel-Cement composite offered radically different possibilities.

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Powerloom_weaving_in_1835

New Iron Age

New structural configurations emerged for entities like railroads, depots, shopping centres, bridges, warehouses, factories and commercial complexes. During 1850 to 1870 building facades of steel and glass virtually eliminated the masonry walls. This was accompanied with changes in of the fuels for home warming, cooking and lighting. The glass fronted buildings created new architectural exteriors and brightly lit interiors. Buildings now had deeper spaces, and larger footprints.

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The glazing for openings was larger, and mullions and transoms became thinner or disappeared. The conspicuous columns and beams on the facades began to recede to the interiors. Factories produced opening systems for commercial spaces, now had standard of sizes, shapes, materials and hardware. These also helped the demand for cheap and quick public housing.

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Many older types of openings, typically conservatories, jalousie, bay and bow windows were redefined with better technologies. Till now dwellings, had main facades as a style treatment, and other sides were simpler and less expensive. High rise buildings in dense urban areas were, however, seen from all sides and required equal treatments. The equal treatment on all sides did not respect the climatic orientation or follow the functions inside. The openings’ systems were required to do many different things, depending on the location. Such localization and customization were done by installing new internal treatments to openings.

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Flooring was another changed entity. It was not possible to procure natural materials for very extensive spaces. So many new cement-based systems, precast and cast-in-situ, were innovated.

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The transition to new age was not smooth. The resistance included, rejection of time tested styling and skepticism for new things. These were arising due to several facts, machine-craftsmanship was poor, no quality-assurance was available, and mass-produced items lacked the personalization or exclusivity. At another, level the resistance was coming from designers’ and builders’, who found their roles changing with ready to use components.

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WINDOWS of INDUSTRIAL AGE

Post 611 by Gautam Shah

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Natural History Museum 1881 London with Cast iron structure > Wikipedia image by DAVID ILIFF Licence: CC-BY-SA 3.0

 

The Industrial age marked rapid changes in materials and technologies. Cast-iron, wrought-iron and mild steel were being produced in quantity, of consistent and reliable quality. Portland Cement was developed in 1824. Steel in new spatial-structural configurations, and as a composite with cement began to replace old techniques of construction. New large span entities like railroads, depots, shopping centres, bridges, warehouses, factories and commercial complexes began to come up using steel-based columns, beams and roofs. These new format structures nearly eliminated the massive masonry walls. Partially or fully framed walls were neo-gothic in character. Buildings could now be deeper and have a wider footprint.

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building_fire_escape_staircase_escape_emergency_safety_urban_wall-909361.jpg!dA window tax (during 1696 – 1861, in England) had forced people to wall-up unnecessary windows to save on tax, and also add fictitious windows for the sake of facade composition. During 1850 to 1870 facades of public buildings, of steel and glass began to be wide and tall. Ironically, in spite of the discouragements on taxation (window tax and a heavy excise duty on glass in 1746), this period witnessed some of the most innovative changes in windows’ design. One of the changes was borne out of necessity. Great fire of London, in 1907, forced the authorities to allow use of steel for windows. Wood windows were initially positioned flush with the front face of the building, but regulations asked for setting back them by 4″, from the outer face of masonry.

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Walled up windows to save on Windows tax

The glazing panes for windows were now larger, and mullions and transoms thinner. The conspicuous columns and beams began to recede from the face of the building. The shop fronts began to have full size glass. Windows units for domestic as well as commercial spaces now began to be produced in factories, with standardization of sizes, shapes, materials and hardware. The large glass fronted buildings offered daylight illuminated interiors. This occurred parallel to major changes in of quality of fuels for home warming, cooking and lighting. The new architecture offered bright daytime illumination and night time environment free of smoke and soot.

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Roof Lights in steam powered Weaving shed Lancashire 1914 > Wikipedia image by Hoskyn

The transition to new age was not very smooth, there was resistance to do away with the time tested styling of windows, and skepticism to accept new things. Both the factors were significant due to the fact that craftsmanship of new building products was not as refined. Industrial products lacked the personalization or exclusivity. At another level the resistance was coming from builders and designers, who found their roles changing with ready to use windows and components.

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Industrial period caused the end of the last phase of Revival styles (late 18th C). But Industrial period also saw resistance across the Atlantic. On one side of the Atlantic, in Europe, opponents felt that industrial products are separating human beings from their creativity and individualism. To offset the poor quality of goods, stress was placed on craftsmanship, often with disregard to the cost or affordability. The Arts and Crafts style, also called Aesthetic style, created exquisite and decorated pieces, but these were called as ‘work of a few for the few’. On the other side of the Atlantic, the American Arts & Crafts movement was based on the clarity of form, and materials’ expression through grain pattern, colour and texture. The machines were used for lowering the cost and greater productivity. The US version of movement reinstated the ideal of design as the essential component for all products.

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Pennsylvania Station > Wikipedia image

During the Industrial period large scale immigration and resettlement of workers increased the demand for public housing, which was cheap and quick in supplies. Steel rolled sections for doors and windows began to be available. Many new windows’ configurations such as the North light or saw tooth truss lighting, domed and sky lights, port holes were devised. Casement windows with friction hinges and sash windows with spring balances replaced the counter weight system. Windows with dual mechanisms of sliding and folding became popular. Many old opening styles were refurnished with better technologies, typically conservatories, jalousie, bay and bow windows were redefined.

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Peters Cartridge factory > Wikipedia image by Samuel W Smith

Openings’ planning attitudes also changed, till now domestic buildings had a main facade treated with a style, whereas all other sides were treated with less expensive and simpler windows. In high density urban areas, high rise buildings were seen from all sides and required equal windows’ treatment on faces. The equalized treatment on all sides ignored the climatic orientation or follow the interior functions. Such universal windows required many appendages or internal treatments.

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Limoges France Railway station Art Deco lighting with grisaille and yellow stain > Wikipedia image by TTaylor

In US Southwest a term Mission style was used to describe US versions of Arts and Crafts movement. The local Mission Style mixed the rectilinear forms, with embellishments and Patterns of native America, Spanish and colonial origins. The Art Nouveau style which was concurrent with the Arts & Crafts style used natural forms with curved lines, arranged in asymmetrical forms. Windows were shaped with curvilinear shapes and masking grill to deform their rectangularity.

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Gaudi windows > Pixabay image by benedicl

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