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Deutsches Technikmuseum - Peter Behrens - AEG Electricity Company Buildings

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The Websites of the donation Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin at a glance:

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The donation contains six locations:

BW-photo: The 200 meter-long façade is dominated by the imposing repetition of verticals. The columns, covered with bricks and protruding at window level, are monumental in design, but show a rhythmical repetition in their spacing.

AEG Small Motors Factory, Berlin-Wedding (1910-13), ca. 1925

Photo: Detail of the red clinker brick masonry with different glass façades.

AEG Small Motors Factory, Berlin-Wedding (1910-13)

BW-photo: Historical Side view of the red clinker brick masonry with different glass façades.

AEG Small Motors Factory, Berlin-Wedding (1910-13); photo: Emil Leitner, ca. 1925

Photo: View into the atrium of the admin building. This hall was designed according to geometric rules of proportions.

NAG Factory, Berlin-Oberschöneweide (1915-17)
The factory of the national automobile company consists of various factory buildings and an administration section with a closed atrium.

Photo: The complex consists of several buildings. Throughout, yellow brick was used and through masonry pilasters and cornices, a structured relief was created in the façade.

AEG Factory, Riga (1913)

BW-photo: The factory for transformers, resistors and high voltage material consists of various building elements. Here the wing sections with protruding staircase towers are interlinked with the contained double hall.

AEG High Voltage Factory, Berlin-Wedding (1909-10), photo: Emil Leitner, (detail)
Today the building is used by the Technical University.

BW-photo: View onto the four main halls, which monumental windows are reaching the bottom.

AEG Locomotive Factory, Hennigsdorf (1913)
This factory complex embraces four main halls, kettle and hammer foundry, offices and storage rooms. The anchoring construction of the halls is of the same type used in the AEG assembly hall for heavy machinery.

Peter Behrens – AEG Electricity Company Buildings

Photographs by Carsten Krohn and from the Deutsches Technikmuseum´s archive 

February 11 – April 27, 2014

The permanent exhibition "Photo Technology" gallery

Photo: The upper part of the turbine factory-hall. To the left the front-wall, to the right the side-wall with its high glass façade and the glass roof.

AEG Turbine Factory, Berlin-Moabit (1908-09) Despite being a steel construction, Behrens imparted a monumental feeling to the building through its front façade. While the glass front runs directly to the eaves, ...

BW-photo: Entire view of the turbine factory-hall

...those at the side of the building are sloped. The pylons at the side are of non-structural concrete elements and are also sloped.

A juxtaposition of current and rediscovered historical images

The rapid growth that led to Berlin’s electrical industry becoming that industry’s most important European centre began at the end of the 19th century. The foremost feature of the "Electropolis" Berlin was the array of buildings erected by the electrical companies Siemens, AEG (Allgemeine Elektricitäts Gesellschaft – "General Electricity Company") and its affiliate BEW (Berliner Elektricitätswerke – "Berlin Electrical Works").

A significant part of the planning and construction of the administration building, industrial facilities and company housing fell to the architect and designer Peter Behrens (1868-1940). In 1907 he was appointed the company’s "Künstlerischer Beirat" (artistic consultant) and thereby became responsible for all aspects of AEG´s corporate image.

To this day, his industrial buildings continue to be dominant features of Berlin’s cityscape. Despite that prominence, however, there is today very little knowledge of the present condition of those factory and residence buildings.

The Berlin architect and photographer Carsten Krohn has documented for the first time all the work that Behrens undertook on behalf of AEG. Twenty of his most recent colour photographs graphically depict the present state of those buildings.

Their historical status, on the other hand, is chronicled by seventeen until now unpublished black-and-white vintage prints from the AEG archives that, since 1997, have been administered by the Historical Archive at the Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum.

From Wedding to Hennigsdorf and all the way to Riga

The exhibition focuses on the AEG buildings by Peter Behrens that still stand today. These include the AEG turbine factory in Berlin-Moabit (built 1908-09), the NAG building in Berlin-Oberschöneweide (1915-17) and the apartment houses for AEG employees in Hennigsdorf (1910-11). The AEG factory in Riga (1913), the building complex of which serves today as a commercial centre, is also shown for the first time in its current guise.

Photo: A view behind green hedges on a row of one-storey houses, each with the front-door in a small porch. The small windows, also in rows, have dark-green shutters.

AEG Workers’ Housing, Hennigsdorf (1918-19) In 1910 Behrens had already constructed rented accommodation for AEG workers in Hennigsdorf. This time, however, instead of brick he used unrendered artificial stones. He realized a row of meandering buildings ..

BW-photo: A row of four one-storey houses with young hedges and trees in narrow front gardens.

... according to a principle that he named "group construction method". Today the houses are covered in a wallpaper-type insulation that imitates the structure of the masonry below. Photo: E. Leitner

The historical images that Krohn has set in opposition to his present-day photographs come from Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum´s archives, which provided Krohn with the opportunity to consult an extensive collection of original contemporary AEG prints, some of which had never been published. The photo exhibit of the turbine factory in Berlin-Moabit (1908), for instance, had never before been seen in this aspect. This comparative study is further enriched by vintage prints from the 1920s made by the contemporary architectural photographer Emil Leitner, including, for example, the AEG High Tension Factory in Berlin-Wedding (1909-10) and the AEG Locomotive Factory in Hennigsdorf (1913).

The Photographer and Curator Carsten Krohn
Carsten Krohn studied architecture, art history, and urban planning in Hamburg and at Columbia University, New York.
He worked as an architect for Norman Foster’s architectural firm and, in 2004, wrote his Art History doctoral dissertation on the historical impact of Buckminster Fuller. In addition, he has held teaching positions at the Universität Karlsruhe, Humboldt-Universität and the TU Berlin. In 2010 he was the curator of the exhibition "Das ungebaute Berlin (The unbuilt Berlin)" at the Café Moskau in Berlin.

He is the author of the illustrated book "Peter Behrens – Architektur", in which all the buildings built by Peter Behrens are catalogued and displayed. In the book, the present-day buildings are juxtaposed with images from their historical past. Krohn´s presentation of Behrens´ work, which runs from art nouveau to classicism and expressionism to "Neues Bauen (New Architecture)", is distinguished by his keen eye for detail and formal references.

Carsten Krohn: Peter Behrens – Architektur (German/English)
Weimarer Verlagsgesellschaft (Publisher), Weimar 2013, 256 pages, hardcover, EUR 58.-, ISBN 978-3-86539-687-7
The book is available for purchase at the Deutsches Technikmuseum shop "Wasmuth".

Header photo: AEG Small Motors Factory, Berlin-Wedding (1910-13), © Carsten Krohn
The 200 meter-long façade is dominated by the imposing repetition of verticals. The columns, covered with bricks and protruding at window level, are monumental in design, but show a rhythmical repetition in their spacing. Every seventh vertical is followed by one that is round.

© for all colour photographs: Carsten Krohn
© for all historical photographs: SDTB / AEG-archive