The Saint Louis World Exposition 1904
The central exhibitions: arts and crafts and antropology
Year: || 1904|
|City: ||St. Louis|
|Duration: ||30th April - 1st December 1904
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Copyright: Lewald 1904, S. 276
The arts and crafts department
Although the modern developments in arts and crafts originated in England, the English exhibition had no exhibits which gave a detailed documentation of the achievements in this field. France's contribution to the field of arts and crafts also failed to go beyond what had been exhibited in Paris four years earlier. The main emphasis in German applied art, on the other hand, was on the detailed presentation of the latest approaches, which caused Germany to reap some positive criticism and a number of prizes. In the north-easterly part of the industrial palace 40 inner rooms, most of them living rooms, were grouped around a central hall designed by Bruno Möhring. In addition to products from the Berlin Werkring, the most prominent exhibits were rooms designed by Bruno Paul and the library of Joseph M. Olbrich. A wood-panelled wall in stained dark-grey oak fitted with oil paintings was divided into individual sections by projecting pylons and each section had a plinth for miniature sculptures. The furniture, such as the table or the semi-cylindrical upholstered armchair, exactly matched the effect of the room as a whole in terms of form and colour. This was decorated with inlaid work in differently coloured woods on the walls and with gold painting on the high, dome-shaped ceiling. Otto Pankok's interior design, on the other hand, was inspired by vegetable forms. Entwined inlaid ornamental work decorated the surfaces of furniture and walls. What aroused the greatest interest was Peter Behrens's cedarwood-panelled reading room which boasted a red-marble clock flanked by stylised female figures as its main decoration in a niche in the wall with enamelled hands and numbers. The austere design of the furniture was reflected in the rectangular form of the lamps made of milk glass. Simplicity, understating the ornamental and tending more towards tectonic design, emphasising materials and their characteristics as a basis for design, uniform colours and, above all, functionality and comfort were the criteria that were supposed to result in an improvement in quality, not only of the living rooms, but also of the lives of their inhabitants.
The anthropological department
After the Spanish-American war of 1898, the United States had staked a claim in the Caribbean and in the Pacific and had set up protectorates. In the opinion of many, the World's Fair was an ideal opportunity to justify this policy of expansion in the eyes of the world. So this time the anthropological section was not only meant to illustrate exotic dreams from a European point of view, as had been the case in Paris in 1900, but to demonstrate what was allegedly the hopeless primitiveness and barbarism of these peoples who could now be aided with schools of the American government. At some distance from the large palaces, villages had been constructed with the aid of reputed ethnologists where the natives could be viewed going about their everyday business. The contrast between the most modern technical achievements in the large and splendid palaces and the Philippine huts of lime or the wigwam villages of the Red Indians were supposed to convincingly demonstrate human progress and thus the superiority of Anglo-Saxon civilisation. William McGee, who was the director of this section, brought ethnic groups such as Patagonian Indians from South America, Cocopa Indians from Northern Mexico and Kwakiutl Indians from Canada, to St. Louis. Sometimes McGee's staff had needed several months to persuade the Indians to take part in the exposition.
A model school was set up on the site to demonstrate the teaching methods used in what was a total of only five subsidised schools for Red Indians in the whole country. The teaching was carried out in public and was meant to show the visitors that some initial success had been achieved in educating these people.