Peter Behrens (1868-1940)

German architect and designer Peter Behrens was one of the most influential designers of the 20th century, and he is one of the founders of modern industrial architecture and design.

Portrait of Behrens in black and white. Additionally, he is sitting down at a desk.
Portrait of Behrens

Image source:,_um_1913.jpg

About His Life

Peter Behrens was born in Hamburg, Germany to a Protestant family. He studied painting in his hometown before moving to Düsseldorf and Karlsruhe between 1886 and 1889. In 1899, after marrying Lilly Kramer, he moved to Munich, where he joined the Jugendstil movement. There, he first worked as a painter, illustrator, and artisan bookbinder, approached bohemian circles and developed an interest in modern living. Then, in 1893, he helped found the Munich Succession. Later, in 1899, he accepted the invitation of the Grand Duke Ernest Louis of Hesse to be one of the participants in his project of an artists’ settlement. 

Behrens House (1899) Peter Behrens: A picturesque white and brown house.
Behrens House (1899) Peter Behrens

Image source: by dalbera

His Work

In addition to architecture, Behrens also designed household appliances. He worked to standardize the shapes of their components to make them interchangeable and to simplify the production process. In 1898, he collaborated with the Berlin design magazine Pan to create his first furniture design. Additionally, he produced woodcuts, colored illustrations, designs for book bindings, and crafts objects entirely shaped by the Jugendstil formal language.

Coffee service by P. Behrens (British Museum): A white and red funky designed mug.
Coffee service by P. Behrens (British Museum)

Image source: by dalbera

Electric kettle by Peter Behrens (museum of decorative arts, Paris): A brass tea kettle with a circular handle.
Electric kettle by Peter Behrens (museum of decorative arts, Paris)

Image source: by dalbera

Also, Behrens made significant contributions to painting, architecture, graphic and industrial design. His works impacted all these areas and laid the foundation for the experiments and discoveries of future generations (including Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and Walter Gropius).

Peter Behrens’ AEG Turbine Factory: A large tan building without much elaborate design.
Peter Behrens’ AEG Turbine Factory

Image source: by IK’s World Trip

His Style

Behrens was one of the leaders of architectural reform at the edge of the century and a major designer of factories and office buildings in brick, steel, and glass. Further, he is one of the most important forerunners of Modernism and Functionalism, as much as fellow contemporary designers, architects, and painters, such as Henri van de Velde, Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, Josef Hoffmann, or Gustav Klimt and Mies van der Rohe

Behrens’ Major Works

  • Behrens House in Darmstadt, Germany (1899)
  • AEG Turbine Factory in Berlin, Germany (1909)
  • AEG Factory Hall in Berlin, Germany (1910)
  • Office building of the Hoechst AG in Frankfurt, Germany, (1920-1925)
  • Winarsky-Hof (with J. Frank, J. Hoffmann, O. Strnad, Wlach) in Vienna, Austria (1924)
  • Franz-Domes-Hof in Vienna, Austria (1928)
  • Tobacco Factory in Linz, Austria, (1929-1935)
Poster by Peter Behrens for the company (AEG- year of creation 1907): A poster with a light bulb in the center.
Poster by Peter Behrens for the company (AEG- year of creation 1907)

Image source: by MCAD Library

Arts Journal (1912) by Peter Behrens from Jahrbücher: A black and white art journal with fluid designs on the cover.
Arts Journal (1912) by Peter Behrens from Jahrbücher

Image source: by Double–M

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