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Digital Collection Egon Eiermann

German pavilions 1958 World's Fair


German pavilions 1958 World's Fair

No World's Fair had been held since 1939, and Germany had last been represented in 1937 in Paris with a pavilion designed by Albert Speer. Now Belgium invited all the nations with which it maintained diplomatic relations to its national capital to participate in the first World's Fair in nineteen years. The idealistic motto "Taking Stock-For a More Humane World" pointed to the aspiration of the Belgian organizers to avoid perpetuating the usual mutually competitive display of commercial achievements by various nations, and instead makes cultural progress the central theme. After the devastating impact of the war, technology was now to be deployed solely for the benefit of humanity, a sentiment expressed by the Atomium, a symbol for the pacific exploitation of nuclear energy that was set up at the center of the exhibition. The Federal Republic of Germany received a site of eighteen thousand square meters within the ample area, itself a part of the royal park of Laeken, containing old trees that could not be felled. After an internal ideas competition between Egon Eiermann and Sep Ruf, the German commission granted both architects equal responsibility for the German contribution. They developed a sequence of eight pavilions that were linked together by footbridges, enclosing the mature trees in a garden courtyard. From the higher-lying edge of the area, a sixty-meter-long pedestrian footbridge suspended from an asymmetrical pylon led downward to the pavilion group. The prefabricated steel construction, with ten-meter intervals between supports, ensured maximum flexibility of the pavilions' square ground plans. This light construction corresponded to the floating elegance of the architecture and the painstaking simplicity of the detailing: story-height glazing surrounded the cubic buildings as transparent envelopes, while filigree galleries, to which electrically adjustable blinds were affixed, composed an additional façade layer, an accessible zone between interior and exterior. The German contribution was praised, especially in the foreign press, for its buoyant transparency and light-flooded airiness-qualities that were interpreted as symbolic of the renunciation of Fascism and of a breakthrough to an open social order. Toward the end of the exhibition, a discussion began about the eventual fate of the pavilions. There was no shortage of proposals for reuse. In 1959, Berlin's Tagesspiegel pled for their continued use as a gallery of the twentieth century, "a modern Petit Palais in Germany" that might find a suitable harne in Berlin's newly developed Hansaviertel. But private interests also attempted to preserve the structures. Werner Schriefers, who tought the Preliminary Course at the Werkkunstschule in Wuppertal, planned to take over the pavilions as school buildings, and even to use one of them as his private home. In the end, when demolition and disposal were assured, the passionate design collector Schriefers unhesitatingly purchased a portion of the interiors designed by Eiermann, acquiring among other items three Majolica vases, twenty-five ceramic ashtrays, fifteen candelabra, six spotlights, five umbrella stands and two walnut tables. The only structure to survive from Germany's contribution to the Brussels World's Fair was the footbridge. Renamed the "Zoo Bridge," it was transported to Duisburg.

Annemarie Jaeggi

"Egon Eiermann 1904-1970. Architect and Designer", Ed. Annemarie Jaeggi, Hatje Cantz: Ostfildern-Ruit, 2004, p. 169


Baumtisch, SE 119, SE 119A, SE 119H, SE 66, SE 18, SE 76, E 10, E 14, E 17, E20, Aschenbecher


Ernst Johann, „Der Deutsche Pavillon auf der Weltausstellung in Brüssel 1958“, in: Architektur und Wohnform, Heft 8, Oktober 1958, S. 323f.

Paulhans Peters, „Weltausstellung Brüssel“, in: Baumeister, Heft 6, Juni 1958, S. 391ff.

Project-specific information

Project German pavilions 1958 World's Fair
Persons involved
  • Egon Eiermann und Sep Ruf, Architektur
Project period 1956-1958

Object-specific information

Typology Länderpavillion, national pavilions

Site-specific information

Country Belgien
City Brüssel