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Peter Behrens (1868—1940) German architect and designer

Deutscher Werkbund


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(Allgemeine Elektrizitäts Gesellschaft) (established 1883)

AEG was originally founded as the Deutsche Edison Gesellschaft für angewandte Elektrizitäts (DEG) by engineer Emil Rathenau two years after he had seen Edison's lighting at the 1881 Paris Exposition Internationale de l'Electricité. In 1887 the company was renamed as the Allgemeine Elektrizitäts Gesellschaft (General Electric Company), rapidly expanding its activities from the manufacture of light bulbs to the production of electric motors, domestic appliances, transformers, and other electrical equipment and the building of power stations at home and abroad. Industrial expansion continued in many fields of industrial production and transportation, making the company highly visible by the early years of the 20th century. The company also placed a high premium on design with the employment of leading architects and designers as an important underpinning of its Corporate identity. These included Otto Eckmann, who executed many publicity and typographical designs, including the company's presentation at the Paris 1900 Exhibition. Perhaps most significant was the appointment of Peter Behrens as artistic adviser to AEG in 1907, taking on the responsibility for the corporate identity of all dimensions of the company. These ranged from commercially successful arc lamps, clocks, kettles, and fans to publicity materials, exhibition pavilions, showrooms, factory buildings (including the famous Turbine Hall in Berlin 1909), and workers' housing and furniture. Such designs, which often incorporated standardized elements, embraced an efficient, contemporary aesthetic symbolizing the modernity of the industry that produced them, an outlook that was compatible with the modernizing tendencies of the Deutscher Werkbund, established in 1907. He also redesigned the company's AEG logotype, which had first been introduced in abbreviated form in 1898. After Behrens's departure in 1914 the company did not employ such high‐profile designers although it continued to play an important economic role. In the post‐Second World War period the company redefined its activities. In the late 1970s it gave up its role in electricity generation, concentrating on such fields as microelectronics, domestic electrical appliances, and business‐oriented electronic communications technology.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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