5. Exhibition : Schematic and Symbolic
Having grown disenchanted with Jugendstil, Peter Behrens turned to the work on geometric form, grids, and proportional systems undertaken by several Dutch architects--J.H. de Groot, K.P.C. de Bazel, PJ.H. Cuypers, H.P. Berlage, and J.L.M. Lauweriks--who were beginning their search for alternatives to historical styles as the generators of design10. In the case of Behrens, the resulting projects, especially the Northwest German Art Exhibition at Oldenburg (1905) and the Garden Exhibition in Düsseldorf (1904), are essays in an abstracted, schematic, and idealized classicism whose a-material wall surfaces display the underlying geometric principles that gave rise not only to the buildings but to everything from the site plan to the benches. This dream of prismatic elemental forms set in a geometrically regulated universal space, and displaying the conceptual and spatial schemata of architecture has affinities, in one direction, to Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand and, in another, to the minimalism of Sol LeWitt.
Behrens's Oldenburg project owes its modernism to two theoretical constructs : one neo-Kantian, the other derived from the scientific study of vision.11 In the Critique of Judgement, Immanuel Kant placed considerable emphasis on the intuitive presentation of concepts in opposition to their designation by accompanying signs, which he referred to as "mere characterization." In the section on "Beauty as the Symbol of Morality" Kant described two modes of hypotyposis, or exhibition, through which concepts are made sensible : schematic hypotyposis, on the one hand, which contains direct exhibitions of the concept and proceeds by demonstration, and symbolic hypotyposis, on the other hand, which can only be exhibited indirectly, by means of analogy. Cognition of Cod and the morally good, according to Kant, can only proceed symbolically, which provides both the necessity and the indeterminacy of beauty.12
10. See Stanford Anderson, Peter Behrens and the New Architecture of Germany, 1900-1917 (Columbia University doctoral dissertation, 1968), 136-187. See also Winfried Nerninger, Theodor Fischer. Architekt und Städtebauer. 1862-1938 (Berlin: Ernst & Sohn, 1988), 96-102.
11. The link between Behrens and neo-Kantian aesthetics was first made by Julius Meier-Graefe. See his "Peter Behrens: Düsseldorf," Dekorative Kunst viii, 10 (July 1905): 381-390. For a fuller account of the theory and history of neo-Kantian formalist aesthetics see Harry Francis Mallgrave and Eleftherios Ikonumou, "Introduction," in Robert Vischer et al., eds., Empathy, Form, and Space : Problems in German Aesthetics, 1873-1893 (Santa Monica: The Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1994), 1-88.
12. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgement, Werner S. Pluhar, trans. (Berlin: 1790; Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987), Ak. 59, 225-230, Ak. 17, 80-81.