Peter Behrens, a leading German architect, painter and designers, was regarded as the leading designers of the 20th century to have made a great and long lasting influence on European architecture for generations to come.
Peter Behrens was born on April 14, 1868, in Hamburg, Germany. He enrolled in the School of Art in Karlsruhe in 1886, and studied there until 1889. In the 1890s, Behrens moved to Munich, where he worked as a painter and designer using the Jugendstil, or German Art Nouveau Style. Later, in 1900, Brehens designed a house in Darmstadt for himself, which is considered as a primary demonstration of the Art Nouveau Style. In 1893, he co-founded the Sezession, a group of artists, designers and architects. In 1899, he became an active member of the artist’s colony on the Mathildenhohe, in Darmstadt. It was here, that he encountered J. M. Olbrich, who influenced him to turn towards architecture.
In 1903, Behrens was appointed as the director of the School of Applied Arts in Dusseldorf, he served this post for the next four years. During this period, Behrens devoted his time by creating designs based on simple rectilinear geometry, incised linear decoration and plane surfaces. In 1905, he designed the exhibition hall for the North-western German Art Exhibition at Oldenburg. In 1907, he replaced Alfred Messel as architect and designer for the German General Electric Company, in Berlin. He was commissioned to design everything, ranging from the company’s brochures, to light fixtures and factory complexes. Some of his significant projects constructed during this period were the Turbine Factory, the High Tension Factory, the Small Motors Factory and the Large Machine Assembly Hall. The development of these landmarks in Berlin marked not only Germany’s, but the entire Europe’s advent towards the new generation of architecture.
Behrens’ later work shows a marked influence of the German neoclassic tradition, some of his highly praised and applauded works include the houses at Eppenhausen near Hagen, such as the Schröder House and the Cuno House. The neoclassical style is more prominent in his design of the German Embassy in Leningrad.
Following the WWI, Behrens followed the architectural trend and adopted an expressionistic approach in his designs, which is reflected in his I. G. Farben Company Building at Höchst. In 1922, he was appointed as a Professor of Architecture at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Vienna, he continued to teach there until 1936. In 1926, he designed his iconic “New Ways”, a private house in Northampton, which is widely regarded as a prominent example of the International Modern Style. He remained the head of the architecture department at the Preußische Akademie der Künste in Berlin, for the rest of his life, and one of his last projects, was the new AEG headquarters in Berlin, in 1938.
He died on February 27, 1940, in Berlin.