The History of World Expositions

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Copyright: Lemoine, Paris 1987, S. 138

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From today's as well as the contemporary point of view, the architectural form of the German contribution, in the immediate vicinity of the Soviet Pavilion, completely contradicted the objectives of the World Exposition organisers for the EXPO to symbolise peaceful cooperation between nations. The architect of the German Pavilion, Albert Speer, who gained early intelligence of the Soviet design, interpreted the monumental sculpture which crowned the Russian Pavilion - in the form of a striding group of figures - as symbolising a Soviet "invasion" of Germany. The architect of the enormous demonstration of power embodied by the "German House" - "as a cubic mass shaped by massive pillars" (Albert Speer) - thus justified it as a vital gesture of defence against its Soviet counterpart. Both buildings, with their natural stone claddings, were pure monumental conceptions to lend the represented ideologies the appearance of power and permanence - as emphasised by the bronze over-dimensional political symbols of the imperial eagle with swastika on the one side and the hammer and sickle on the other. Erected on raised plinths with a similar layout, the pavilions with their mighty windowless walls brooded over their surroundings.

In the oblong German building, which at the front narrow end was embellished by an oblong tower, Speer served up an eclectic mixture of formal details from various cultures and epochs including ancient temple design, mausoleum art, and fortification engineering. The mixture of tyrannical ecclesiastical and secular iconography formed the stage for German imperial propaganda. The ground plan, with a long aisle and tower, were reminiscent of ecclesiastical buildings, whereas the modified proportions and windowless walls created the impression of a fortification. The tower with its cannelated pilasters of massive-looking stone blocks and stepped pediment were derived from ancient temple halls - with the notable departure here from the principle of reflecting human proportions in the design, to create a bombastic plinth at the top of the elongated pillars for the imperial eagle with swastika.

The Soviet Pavilion directly opposite designed by Boris Iofan also acts as an over-sized plinth for an enormous group of figures - "Cooperative farm maids and workers" which press forward bearing hammer and sickle in outstretched arms. On the wedge-shaped floor plan, the wall slabs ascend stepwise to the front so that the movement of the figures with their wafting clothes seems to originate from the structure itself. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the October Revolution, this political milestone was reflected in the interior decoration of the pavilion in huge scenes of advancing socialism.

In contrast, the German Pavilion interior decoration designed by Waldemar Brinkman was dominated by aura-enhancing lighting effects, triumphal phrases, and solemn ecclesiastical mannerist hallmarks. Visitors reached the portal with its 5 metre high and 2 metre wide heavy bronze doors via an open staircase past symmetrically arranged pyrrhic bowls and groups of figures by Josef Thorak. They then entered a lavishly decorated foyer in front of an exhibition hall illuminated by over-decorated chandeliers. The head of the room was embellished with a wall-hanging featuring the imperial eagle and swastika behind an altar-like plinth exhibiting models of the major national socialist construction projects. It is certainly more than a coincidence that in a deeper-lying room underneath the plinth the tools of fascist propaganda - a cinema and a television and radio room of the German imperial post - were displayed as additional German technological innovations. With hindsight, the German contribution to the World Exposition confronted its visitors with the whole gamut of instruments available to the national socialist propaganda machine and made a large impression on many visitors - if one is to believe the contemporary press.


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The Paris World Exposition 1937

Monuments to dictatorship - the German and Soviet Pavilions


Year: 1937City: ParisCountry: France
Duration: 25th May - 25th November 1937

 

 

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