AEG turbine hall
The AEG Turbine Hall in Berlin’s Moabit district is considered a key work of modern industrial architecture. Peter Behrens designed the temple-like building in 1908/09 with the assistance of civil engineer Karl Bernhard. The building represents a new formal language that places construction itself at the forefront: Large expanses of glazing, the reduction to a few stylistic elements, and the continuous hall space that is not interrupted by any load-bearing elements whatsoever set new architectural standards.
Peter Behrens had been serving as a design consultant to AEG (Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft) since 1907. He designed the company’s overall corporate identity – from their logo to advertising materials, small appliances and exhibition buildings – and thus he had helped to establish AEG as a dominant brand on the global market.
In 1908/09, AEG founder Emil Rathenau commissioned the construction of a new hall for manufacturing steam turbines that would also serve as a space for presentations. Peter Behrens was responsible for the architectural design while civil engineer Karl Bernhard took on the structural engineering. For his scheme, Behrens avoided the Brick Gothic style commonly used for earlier industrial buildings. Using modern skeleton construction, he created an architecture that was reduced to concrete and glass, and almost reminiscent of a sacred building. Huge expanses of glazing and rounded-off, recessed corner piers give the factory building unusual transparency. The repetitive arrangement of elements on the outer façade is reminiscent of the mechanical production that takes place inside.
Aside from the company’s logo and the inscription “Turbinenfabrik” (Turbine factory), Behrens refrained from using any decoration on the exterior. Thus the building’s function itself takes on an aesthetic value of its own. Although the stately building appears massive from the outside, the concrete walls covering the structural steel skeleton are actually just a few centimetres thick.
The turbine hall has been protected as a historic monument since 1956 and was restored in 1978. Today, the site belongs to the Siemens group. Large turbines for customers around the world are still manufactured inside the turbine hall. [DB/DK]
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