par Devos, Rika
Editeur scientifique Van Acker, Wouter ;Verbruggen, Christophe
Référence Gent 1913. Op het breukvlak van de moderniteit, Snoeck, Gent-Kortrijk, Ed. 1, page (30-45)
Publication Publié, 2013
Partie d'ouvrage collectif
Résumé : The Ghent world fair of 1913 is the seventh universal and international exhibition organized in Belgium, yet it is the only one with an explicit reference to the White City, the iconic Chicago Columbian Exhibition of 1893. The homogeneous setting and the axial plan of the monumental, neo-classicist ensembles in Ghent were presented as a reaction to the criticism on the preceding world fair of Brussels 1910, of which the overall image was considered as too fragmented. The Ghent architect Oscar Van de Voorde (1871-1938) was responsible for the majority of the white, stately buildings constructed out of staff, surrounding the main axes of the Cour d’Honneur and the Avenue des Nations. While demonstrating playful variations within the same scheme and principles along the former, the Avenue had two divergent facades: one in line with the Cour d’Honneur, the other demonstrative of the architect-in-chief’s knowledge of nationally inspired building idioms in the smaller pavilions of Persia, Italy and the Netherlands. The overall uniform image of the architecture at the exhibition site was considered as a success by the contemporary press and the “modernist” Van de Voorde was applauded for his fusion of French and Viennese influences.The powerful overall image did not, however, prevent the rich and variegated contemporary architecture culture to be manifest at the exhibition site. The Ghent architect Geo Henderick (1879-1957) presented his facade for the ensemble of the machine halls in a fairytale-like art nouveau. The pavilions of the major Belgian cities: Ghent, Antwerp, Brussels and Liège were conceived as imaginary but recognizable reconstructions of the local building heritage, then still a common practice at world fairs and a strategy that enabled the identification of the commissioner. However, it was the German pavilion by architect Curt Leschnitzer (1877-1959) that stood out explicitly and provoked most controversy. This was due not so much to the overt nationalist rhetoric of the pavilion, but rather to the starch and undecorated idiom of its architecture and interior fittings. Moreover, architecture and the applied arts were central in the German representation, as they were deemed exquisite media to represent the forward position the German industries. Among the architects and designers that participated in the pavilion were Henry Van de Velde, Walter Gropius, Peter Behrens, Bruno Paul and Johannes L.M. Lauweriks. Especially the Kunstgewerbehalle of the latter was demonstrative of the new German tendencies. While the German press evaluated the pavilion as a fit counterbalance to the “French taste” of Van de Voorde, some Belgian observers considered it as a demonstration of German “barbaric monstrosity.” Clearly, the appreciation of the German section at the Ghent world fair was dominated by the political tensions of the moment. At the eve of the First World War, the contrast between the German sobriety with its associated “moral victory” and the guirlandes of the dominant French taste illustrated the conflicts and complexities in the “modern” representation of contemporary cultures and industries.