FRANCE, at Liege in 1905, made a truly remarkable effort and drew general attention to its Section, where lectures by its most brilliant publicists completed the teaching given by the French participation. Germany joined in the game, and we witnessed in Brussels in 1910 the most courteous and ardent struggle between these two great nations to extend their fame and influence in Belgium and in the world.
Germany, therefore, apart from its official participation, had left no stone unturned in order to give a complete and precise idea of what German science and art are at the present time, at the latest hour. The Imperial Government had devoted to this purpose a considerable sum of money, of which its Commissioner General, Privy Councillor Albert, made the most judicious and productive use. On the other hand, the Permanent Commission of the German Industrial Exhibitions had founded a German Committee, headed by the commercial councillor Louis Ravené, and to which most of the great industrialists from across the Rhine had rallied.
The German Exhibition was thus complete. Not only did the Government see to the presentation of everything concerning the "administrative" part, as our neighbours in the East say, that is to say, education, means of communication, etc., that vast field in which the German State has taken such a broad and fertile initiative; but the group of industrialists, the most powerful and the most informed, had organized the Exhibition of everything that makes up the strength and the interest of German industry and technique. And it is well known that this is where Germany derives its best share of glory and power.
The distribution of the Section helped to create the impression of unity and grandeur in all areas of activity that Germany values above all else. In contrast to other exhibitions, everything that represented Germany in Brussels was brought together to form an imposing whole; even the halls and rooms were built with purely German materials and processes, and in their design and construction formed an interesting part of the German Section.
The German Section was located in the northern part of the Exhibition, in a beautiful setting, formed on the one hand by the Bois de la Cambre, and on the other by the Solbosch Park, which seems to end all the way over there, at the blue line of the Brabant hills.
In this graceful and vast setting, the well-known architect von Seidl, a professor in Munich, who had been commissioned by his government to draw up the overall plans, had happily arranged the twelve buildings in which the riches of Germany were to be aligned. Each of these buildings had its own style and was of a technical architecture in keeping with the products it housed, but all of them nevertheless contributed to producing a harmonious and, one might say, national overall effect. The "German House" dominated the entire section. From the outset, it imposed itself on the visitor. Its monumental proportions, its robust yet slender style, its air of medieval solidity and modern comfort did not give the impression of being heavy and massive, as might have been feared, but rather that of the spacious and comfortable dwelling required by men of our time, whose lives are divided between business, physical exercise and family and social pleasures.
The "German House" was the centre of the Section for exhibitors and visitors. It was the focal point, so to speak, of all German interests during the Exhibition. It housed the offices of the General Government Commission, as well as artistically decorated rooms and halls for conferences and parties. Next to it, and as a sort of extension, was a large Teutonic restaurant, where the best of meals could be obtained and where the golden wines of the Rhine and the Moselle flowed freely. A little further on, an attractive brewery offered, with the grace of its Gretchen blondes, the pale or dark copper of the great beers from across the Rhine.
So much for the "Deutsches Haus".
As for the halls, renowned German artists such as Peter Behrens, Martin Dülfer, Bruno Paul and Otto Walter were commissioned to decorate them.
The architect von Seidl did not neglect the appearance of the surroundings for the exclusive benefit of the buildings. In fact, he had agreed with the Mannheim planting inspector, Mr. Brahees, to surround the German Section with trees and flowerbeds that even formed a real public garden, where the cheerfulness of the floral colours rested the eye from the mechanical splendours he had been able to admire inside.
The German halls were almost 500 metres long. They were about 100 metres deep.
In the railway hall, built entirely of wood, the shells of the formidable locomotives gleamed. The most beautiful and largest German wagons were on display.
Next to the halls were the steam boilers that supplied power to the engines and locomotives. The engineers had built a high tower to cool the water which, after passing through the engine house, returned to it. This tower contained thousands of tiny pipes through which the water was chilled before returning to a vast cistern, where it was stored for boiler service. The flow rate was 5,000 cubic metres per hour.
There were several machine halls: the engine hall, the industrial hall and the large machine hall.
The latter was the highlight of the German Industrial Exhibition. All the machines on display here were set in motion. Most of them were powered by electricity, and it is well known that the electric machine industry has developed enormously in the countries beyond the Rhine. The electricity was supplied by three generators.
In the machine hall, five cranes moved: two were installed in the small aisles and three in the large central aisle. These were thirty-ton cranes. Thanks to an ingenious arrangement of the arms, it was possible to work in the small aisles with the overhead cranes in the middle. It is well known that the role of the overhead cranes is similar to that of the cranes in the open air. They are responsible for lifting large masses and transporting them to the desired location. They run on rails laid in the superstructure of the halls. And it was marvellous to see with what ease huge blocks were picked up by the large bridges in the middle and deposited, as if without effort, in the adjacent halls by an iron claw with a precise and firm articulation.
This engine hall was made of iron. The same was true of the engine hall, where the electricity-generating machines we mentioned earlier were placed. The ground had been deeply dug for the installation of the turbine machines, whose work provoked the curiosity of the crowd of visitors. It is worth mentioning that Germany was also brilliantly represented here, and that the smallest and largest power machines lined up side by side, showing off the qualities of both.
The adjacent industrial hall had three aisles, just like the large machine hall. Here you could see all the major German industries at work in great detail. Paper was made here, all kinds of paper. Linen and wool were woven. The main stages of weapons production were shown. The group of chemical industries was particularly interesting. It is well known that in the department of world industry most countries are dependent on Germany. The patient work of two generations of industrial chemists has put German industry in possession of a truly extraordinary chemical technique. It is in the field of organic chemistry that this primacy has been particularly asserted. Every day, new processes, often fruitful discoveries, are being developed in the vast laboratories attached to German factories. And, of course, it is not in the midst of fame that German researchers work. Their names do not appear in the newspapers and are only read in technical journals. On the other hand, at the Exhibitions they take a well-deserved revenge, and one can appreciate the progress they have made in the science of the practical applications of chemistry, which has become so fundamental for our civilization.
Now comes the hall of the engineer's art. The engineer is the doctor of nature; he corrects the defects of this old earthly crust on which we live; he digs the mountains, fills the valleys, bridges the rivers. He straightens out the crooked ways, just as the doctor straightens out the stunted or malformed child. The procedures obviously differ. The doctor goes gently, appeals to life, excites the activity of living matter, awakens in the tissues the secret force that must regenerate them, or gives the disfigured limbs the direction of an articulated iron stake. The engineer acts rather the hard way. He digs, he places the powder, he blows up the obstacle, he diverts the river, he crosses the mountain, he throws down the forest and makes the breathless railway pass through it. It is an art both great and subtle, which has given, after centuries, a new physiognomy to most of our countries and which is transforming the new countries. Some people complain about it. They are wrong. Poetry will always find its place, even in the most industrial society, and the soul of the engineers themselves is not insensitive to it. Witness this hall where scale models of the great works of German engineers were on display. It was no longer a question of dry, arid plans, generally incomprehensible to the public. To present ingenious constructions, bridges between the banks of rivers, forts dug with dredgers and suction hoes, by placing them in their setting of hills, forests, lakes or maritime horizons, is to give the crowd an admirable lesson in things, sensitive to all, because it reminds us of the abolished age when each one of us built, with the help of a box of cardboard cut-outs, castles full of marvels. And the engineers' hall was not the least visited, by adults and children alike, who also saw tiny railways running along hillsides or over precipices, in the great pine forests where ibexes and chamois shelter.
Germany is not only an industrial nation with a conquering temperament. It is also an agricultural nation, whose people toil on a sometimes stingy soil. Germany has made the most meritorious and methodical efforts to improve its agricultural situation. The chemistry of fertilisers and the mechanics of cultivation are particularly honoured there. The exhibition in the large agricultural hall was interesting and comprehensive. The agricultural machinery department was particularly popular.
We still have to talk about the school hall and the German art hall. But first let us finish with the industrial halls and say a few words about their decoration. Most of them were made of iron. But iron was not naked. The architect Otto Walter and Professor Dülfer from Dresden had planned an interior decoration which was entrusted to Professors Bruno Paul and Behrens from Berlin, a decoration conceived in a very modern style. The effect was both sober and beautiful, especially since a real main street ran through all these halls in the transverse direction, thus linking them together and making an imposing whole of all these vaults and worked columns.
Let us move on to the last halls, those that housed the Exhibition of School and Art, the Kulturhalle, the Raumkunsthalle, the Kunst-gewerbehalle, etc.
These halls were grouped around the "German House", which we have already mentioned. They were made of wood. German industrial art was given pride of place; it decorated the "German House" from the floors to the walls and ceilings, not forgetting the painting and sculpture, where superb works were executed. The Educational Exhibition was divided between the Kingdom of Prussia, the Kingdom of Saxony and the City of Hamburg and presented an overview of German education from the kindergarten to the university. Among other things, model classrooms and all the curious objects related to education were on display, as well as a library for teachers and pupils. German teaching material for the deaf and blind was also on display. In addition to the School Exhibition, there was a department for fine mechanics, optics, surgical mechanics and the book industry.
It has been said that it was the school that made contemporary Germany. This formula is too narrow. A country and a nation are the product of many factors. The German Exhibition illustrated this truth. It showed German activity in its essential forms. It was a lesson in what can be achieved in all the great fields of science and industry, in barely half a century, by method, patient work, initiative and activity, served by nature and by fortunate circumstances.
©Livre d'Or de l'Exposition Bruxelles 1910