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Peter Behrens

Peter Behrens

*  1868 Hamburg
† 1940 Berlin

Born in Hamburg in 1868, Peter Behrens attended the Kunstgewerbeschule in Hamburg 1886-1889, before studying at the Kunstschule in Karlsruhe and Düsseldorf Art Academy. In 1890 he went to Munich, where he worked as a painter and graphic artist and joined the Jugendstil movement, becoming a founding member of the Munich Secession in 1893. Together with Hermann Obrist, August Endell, Bruno Paul, Richard Riemerschmid, and Bernhard Pankok, Peter Behrens founded the Vereinigte Werkstätten für Kunst und Handwerk in Munich. Peter Behrens designed woodcuts, colored illustrations, designs for book bindings, and crafts objects. In 1898 Peter Behrens collaborated on designing "Pan", the Berlin journal for art and literature, and also designed his first furniture. Behrens built his first house on the Mathildenhöhe, the artists' colony founded in Darmstadt in 1899; designed as a total work of art, "Haus Behrens", Peter Behrens' studio and dwelling during his Mathildenhöhe period (until 1903), was a sensation. In 1906 Peter Behrens was hired by Emil Rathenau, director of AEG (Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft), as an artistic consultant responsible for a wide range of tasks. In 1908/09 Behrens built the AEG Turbine Hall in Berlin, a factory building of concrete, steel and glass. The unified design throughout of salerooms, catalogues, price lists, etc. marked the dawning of uniform appearance as representative of corporate identity. Peter Behrens also designed household electrical appliances. Formally standardizing their parts, he made them interchangeable, a step that rationalized production. Peter Behrens joined Peter Bruckmann, Josef Maria Olbrich, Fritz Schumacher, Richard Riemerschmid, and Hermann Muthesius in founding the Deutscher Werkbund in October 1907. In 1907 Peter Behrens established an architectural and design practice in Berlin. Walter Gropius worked there until 1910, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe 1908-11, and Le Corbusier 1910/11. The practice executed numerous architectural commissions, including the German embassy in St. Petersburg (1911/12) and the IG Farben Höchst headquarters in Frankfurt (1920-25), which showed the influence of Expressionism. "New Ways" (1926), a house in Northampton, England, is regarded as a pioneering example of the International Modern style. Throughout his career Peter Behrens also taught; from 1922-36 he was head of the architecture department at the Viennese Akademie der Bildenden Künste. Until his death he was head of the architecture department at the Preußische Akademie der Künste in Berlin. Peter Behrens is regarded as one of the most important German designers of the 20th century; he produced seminal works early in the century, which would exert a paramount influence on generations to come in all the various fields of design. Peter Behrens can be said to have single-handedly invented modern objective industrial architecture and modern industrial design.