04.11.2016 – 23.04.2017

Approximately 100 vehicles and models, including examples from Germany, Great Britain, France, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and the USA, show how the ideal of streamlining not only changed the construction of cars, locomotives, and everyday appliances, but also became a symbol of velocity and modernity which electrified both ordinary people and those in power throughout the world. Besides displaying the technological variety and outlining the cultural dimensions, the exhibition also explores the historical discontinuity and continuity of this phenomenon and its social significance.

ICEs racing across the countryside at 300 kilometres per hour, passenger jets whizzing through the sky at over 900 kilometres per hour, racing bikes aerodynamically tested in wind tunnels, and production processes perfected by means of streamlining: things that seem normal today were still completely utopic 100 years ago. The continuous effort to optimise shaping as a means of minimising aerodynamic drag eventually led to the triumph over a crucial obstacle on the path to highspeed mobility. This was made possible by the invention of the wind tunnel in the 19th century. After the First World War, Friedrichshafen became a centre for wind tunnel research due to the Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH. From 4 November 2016 to 23 April 2017, the extensive special exhibition “Strom-Linien-Form (Stream-Line-Shape)” at the Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen will present exciting examples of this development and explain how the idea of “streamlining” was born and defined the spirit of the times, both in the USA and in Europe.

Travelling Through Time into the World of Technology and Design
For visitors, the journey through time starts in the 1920s and 1930s. The first streamlined aircrafts and vehicles on a larger scale appeared on the horizon: huge Zeppelins flying across the Atlantic, streamlined cars, or so-called express locomotives travelling the rails at sensational 200 kilometres per hour soon thrilled the masses. The speeds reached by these vehicles was any bit as captivating as their smooth and serene appearance – the designs seemed to herald another, apparently more progressive world in which technology was the key to happiness.

Impressive Exhibits from the World of Automobile and Rail Vehicle Construction
Numerous historical automobile exhibits from the legendary Silberpfeile (Silver Arrows) to the 1970s cult cars serve as impressive demonstrations of technological development and visual effects: models ranging from Auto Union’s 1936 Grand Prix Type C (replica) to the Tatra 87, and to the 1970s Mercedes C 111/3 exemplify the engineers’ decade-long efforts to develop shapes and bodies which provided as little resistance as possible to the circulating airstreams in order to reach ever greater speeds. The same applies to the many locomotive and railcar models, such as the “Fliegender Hamburger”. The rage for all things streamlined, from ashtrays to caravans, caught on just as quickly in the USA – many of these objects were developed by unforgettable design icons such as Raymond Loewy. The streamlined irons and vacuum cleaners on display at the Zeppelin Museum show which kind of devices suddenly attracted attention in shop windows and homes alike.

Speed as a Demonstration of Power
However, the exhibition and its supplementary programme also draw attention to the instrumentalization of streamlining and velocity in National Socialist Germany and other totalitarian systems. In these contexts, every new speed record was immediately exploited for propaganda purposes as a sign of national superiority. The concept of the continuous optimisation of the shapes of vehicle bodies and machines evolved into the idea of a “smoothly” functioning society.

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