Peter Behrens Modernism

For my History of Interior Design Class, we have been asked to put together a blog article highlighting two architects/designers from the Modernism era. As can clearly be seen on my posts below, my past efforts to start a decent blog have been pretty dismal, but maybe this will re-spark my interest.

Our teacher referred us to another blog which I found a little difficult to read given that the writer did not speak English as a first language. Anyway, the article made mention of Peter Behrens, with whom I was not as familiar, so I decided to see what marks he made in the design world. Like most other architects/designers I have been tasked with studying, Mr. Behrens was an artist of many mediums. Born during the late 1860s in Hamburg, Germany, Behrens came into the world during the time that Germany was on the rise. He received his early training in painting in Karlsruhe and Düsseldorf, but expanded his resume to include graphic illustrations and book making. He was fortunate enough to build his own home in his 30’s where he experimented with curvelinear forms and organic inspirations in the Jugendstil, or Art Nouveau style, from his days of spending time in the bohemian circles. He began to develop a great interest in architecture and complete interior design after building his home in the Darmstadt Artists’ Colony.

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I was curious to know more about the colony, so I googled it and found this description on Wikipedia:

“The Darmstadt Artists’ Colony refers both to a group of artists as well as to the buildings in Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt in which these artists lived and worked. The artists were largely financed by patrons and worked together with other members of the group who ideally had concordant artistic tastes.”

In this cooperative arrangement, Behrens’ style evolved and he soon became one of the leading architects at the start of the 20th century. A few years later, he and a dozen or so other gentlemen started the German Werkbund. The organization was inspired by the arts and crafts movement, but adopted its characteristics with a new approach. Rather than dismissing the benefits of the Industrial Revolution, Behrens and the others embraced it. Germany’s influence on the world was becoming more prevalent and the creative bunch wanted to make a name for Germany in the design world. They aimed to produce thoughtfully designed products from large scale designs to household objects, like teapots. Behrens focused his creativity on projects for the German General Electric Company where he designed a number of their facilities, their products, their marketing materials, etc. During his time as AEG’s consultant, he became known as one of the first industrial designers. Behrens made his mark on design here and inspired a great many architects and designers when he planned the Turbine Factory (1910) to highlight the materials: exposed steel, concrete, and large areas of glass.

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During the time that he was designing the AEG facilities, Behrens was a mentor and teacher to the likes of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Adolf Meyer, Jean Kramer and Walter Gropius (later to become the first director of the Bauhaus). Through their study of Behrens more refined, shapely themes, these future architects and designers adopted a minimalist style characterized by free/open spaces, minimal framework of structural order, mathematical design ratios, and simplified ornament. Building materials themselves were considered beautiful and became a part of the designs. Behrens made his mark on modern design and architecture; that is a fact. His philosophies on design sparked new movements in art and architecture that can still be seen now, a century later.

“Peter Behrens.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 July 2004. Web. 10 Aug. 2004.

“Peter Behrens.” Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. 24 May. 2012 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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