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European Themeroute | Service and Leisure Industry

The Industrial Revolution resulted in more and more smokestacks shooting out of the ground and a huge increase in factories, coal mines and steelworks; villages merged into towns, and sleepy hamlets were transformed into booming cities. For the first time trading, administrative and leisure facilities ... more

Icon: Service and Leisure IndustryBeyond the shift. European Theme Route Service & Leisure Industry

The Industrial Revolution resulted in more and more smokestacks shooting out of the ground and a huge increase in factories, coal mines and steelworks; villages merged into towns, and sleepy hamlets were transformed into booming cities. For the first time trading, administrative and leisure facilities had to be organised for masses of customers in new, heavily populated centres.

The precursor of the huge department stores was "Les Halles", the huge and legendary market halls in Paris which were built in the middle of the 19th century. The town planner, Georges-Eugène Haussmann, who radically modernised the mediaeval building structures of the French capital, expressly requested that they be built of glass and prefabricated iron segments in accordance with the time. A little later, the first major department stores like "Les Magasins du Printemps" opened. Here an iron skeleton replaced walls as the major supporting structure in the building. This also allowed sales spaces to be more flexibly designed. Typical features included glass-roofed inner courtyards with galleries, and curving staircases in the middle of the rooms.

At the start of the 19th-century the majority of products in the upper price ranges were sold in so-called passages. These were lines of shops in a glass-covered gallery, at first in Paris and London and later in Brussels, Berlin and other major cities. Around the turn of the 20th century, the splendid "Galleria Vittorio Emanuele" in Milan inspired the German entrepreneur Leonard Tietz to copy his model in Berlin and Dusseldorf, where he built department stores with impressive facades containing large areas of windows.

Around the same time architects like the Austrian, Otto Wagner, began to design public buildings in an objective and functional manner. The Savings Bank Office in Vienna, built by Wagner between 1904 and 1912, has become a milestone in the history of architecture. Since the owner demanded "maximum solidity" the facade was clad with precious marble: that said, Wagner left the assembly bolts visible for all to see. The form of the building was determined by the functions performed within it.

The American Louis Sullivan summed up this basic principle of modern architecture with the pithy formula: "form follows function". Sullivan had a major influence on the style of the new office blocks that began to be built in major cities at the end of the 19th century, above all in the USA, because leading companies needed increasingly larger administration sections to market mass products. Office work was a dynamic new service sector, and in the United States it triggered off countless new techniques. In 1876, the American Alexander Graham Bell constructed the first marketable telephone, and in the 1880s the Remington company launched the typewriter on to the market.

New office buildings were particularly prominent in Chicago. By building skyscrapers it was possible to exploit expensive real estate in the city centre in an optimal manner. The safety lift, developed by Elisha Graves Otis in the mid-19th century, ensured that people could be reliably transported to the top floors, because it was equipped with an automatic braking system which went into action if the cable broke. Iron skeleton frames soon took over from bricks as the major support structures for skyscrapers; here the supporting structures were coated with terracotta or cement as a protection against fire. Facades were mainly structured by large windows and – with the exception of an eye-catching ground floor –were uniformly designed from top to bottom to enable as many similar storeys to be piled up on top of one another, as one wished.

As work became ever more mechanised during the industrial age, manufacturers increased working hours, without heed to the increasing stress on men, women and children who were operating the machines. Things only began to change around the 1870s, when the working week was reduced to around 70 hours, mainly as a result of pressure from the unions: this had sunk even further to around 50 hours by the First World War. Increasing leisure in the evenings, and soon on work-free Sundays, meant that a huge variety of new forms of entertainment sprung up in heavily populated cities.

The forerunners in France, from around the middle of the 19th century, were the large permanent circus halls. In Paris the "Cirque d’Hiver" was built right on the Champs Elysées, and the "Cirque Napoléon" was constructed with a glass and iron dome. Smaller towns also had their own "hippodrome", as the halls were often called, where spectacular horse shows, circus shows and operatic performances took place: there were even water battles as in the ancient Roman circuses. That said, the fate of the "Hippodrome du Champ de Mars" in Paris in 1911 was typical for the 20th century: it was rebuilt and opened as the "Gaumont Palace", the largest and – after further extensions - allegedly the most impressive cinema palace in the world.

Public film shows started in Paris in 1895 and quickly became the leading mass medium. The over-decorated facades of the first cinema buildings, which were built around 1910 in many towns, showed that films were at first regarded as a form of fairground attraction. But soon the architects were striving to build neoclassical buildings with luxurious equipment in order to give the cinemas an impression of respectability. The boom years of film theatres followed in the 1920s, when – principally in the USA – glittering dream palaces were built, like the art-déco "Radio City Music Hall" in New York and "Graumann’s Chinese Theater" in Hollywood. The new objective style of building was most predominant on mainland Europe, even in cinemas like the monumental "Lichtburg" in Essen and the "Universum" in Berlin, built by the famous architect, Erich Mendelsohn.

Pleasure parks in European capitals have an even longer tradition. They flourished in the 19th century. In London, "Vauxhall Gardens" even existed since the mid-17th century. This was a respectable park with shaded walkways and fountains: later additions included concert pavilions and restaurants. Illuminations and firework shows were also presented there. The "Prater" in Vienna developed in a similar fashion. It was originally an imperial wild game reservation, but in the mid-18th century it was opened as a public municipal park. It was not long before it was equipped with bowling greens and roundabouts. The famous Big Wheel was built for the World Exhibition of 1897. By contrast the "Tivoli Gardens" in Copenhagen, based on London parks and built in 1843, were equipped from the start with exotic buildings, concert stages and fairground rides.

At the end of the 19th century seaside piers began to spring up in British coastal resorts – a national peculiarity. They developed from landing stages and stretched out into the sea to enable walkers to enjoy the water and sea air even at low tide. Competition between the various seaside resorts triggered off further investment and soon pleasure piers became one of the main characteristics of the Victorian époque. Soon visitors were passing through representative arched gateways to restaurants and music halls, many of them decorated in an oriental style with onion-shaped cupolas, towers and cast-iron decorations. Other attractions offered on piers included orchestral concerts, ice-skating and penny-slot machines; all of them just a few metres above the waves. 

Once in 80 years. Or in 4000. There’s a big difference. We are talking about the danger of flooding in the area of the Schelde estuary. In 1953 it suffered a terrifying flood disaster which swept away everything. Now a modern storm surge barrier ensures that the local inhabitants can live in peace ...

Oosterschelde storm surge barrier - Waterparc Neeltje Jans
Faelweg 5
4354 RB Vrouwenpolder, Netherlands

Bilbao | Spain
The first bullring at Vista Alegre in Bilbao was designed by the architect Sabino Goikoetxea Etxebarria, and opened in August 1882. Some 1817 ‘festejos’ took place there until it was destroyed by fire in 1961. A new ring to the design of Luis de Gana was opened the following year, with 14,781 seats, ...

Bullring and Museum
Plaza de Toris de Vista | Museo Taurino
Martin Aguero 1
48012 Bilbao, Spain

Ronda | Spain
The bullring at Ronda, 65 km west of Malaga, is one of the oldest in Spain, and occupies a significant place in Spanish culture. It was particularly associated with the Romero family. Francesco Romero, who died in 1763, invented the killing sword used by bullfighters. His grandson Pedro Romero ...

Plaza de Toros
29400 Ronda, Spain

Valencia | Spain
Valencia stands at the centre of an agricultural region that irrigation has made one of the most fertile in Europe, and its fertility is celebrated in the city’s vast central market, that extends of 8000 sq m, and accommodates more than a thousand stalls. The steel and glass building, topped by a ...

Mercado Central
Plaza de Mercado 6
46002 Valencia, Spain

Blackpool | United Kingdom
One of the most recognised landmarks in the region owes its existence to Victorian engineering ingenuity, opening in 1894 at a cost of £64,000. Situated on the seafront between the North and Central Piers, today the Tower is an entertainment mecca, featuring a circus, aquarium and major family shows ...

Blackpool Tower
Bank Hey Street
FY1 4BJ Blackpool, United Kingdom

Great Yarmouth | United Kingdom
The Hippodrome is one of only three remaining purpose-built indoor circus buildings in the world, and is remarkably well-preserved. It was constructed in 1903 for the circus proprietor George Gilbert, who was already staging circus performances in the town. The architect Ralph Scott Cockerill ...

The Hippodrome
St George’s Road
NR30 2EU Great Yarmouth, United Kingdom

Great Yarmouth | United Kingdom
Great Yarmouth was one of Europe’s principal industrial fishing ports of the late nineteenth century, and also one of the most prosperous of the English seaside resorts that benefited from the opening of main line railways. The town was laid out in the middle ages and large parts of the town walls ...

The Resort
NR30 3BX Great Yarmouth, United Kingdom

Harwich | United Kingdom
The Electric Palace is one of the earliest surviving purpose-built cinemas. In most countries movie films were first shown to public audiences in existing buildings, such as theatres or corn exchanges, or in portable auditoria at fairgrounds, such as that displayed from time to time at the ...

Electric Palace
The Electric Palace Trust & Electric Palace (Harwich) Ltd.
Kings Quay Street
CO12 3ER Harwich, United Kingdom

The Industrial Revolution transformed popular entertainment. Nothing displays this more clearly than the development of mechanical rides at fairs from the mid-nineteenth century. Fairground rides across Europe have much in common, and mechanical organs made in France by Marenghi and Gavioli and ...

Dingle’s Fairground Heritage Collection
PL16 0AT Lifton, United Kingdom

London | United Kingdom
The growth of manufacturing industry in Europe was sustained by the development of financial institutions that provided capital for entrepreneurs and a measure of security for the population at large. The success of the principal insurance companies was reflected in every great European city by the ...

Prudential Building
Laurence Pountney Hall
EC4R 0HH London, United Kingdom

Newcastle upon Tyne | United Kingdom
The neo-classical Grainger Market of 1835 characterises the movement throughout nineteenth-century Europe to bring boisterous and sometimes rowdy street markets under a greater degree of control. It was designed by John Dobson (1787-1865), the most eminent architect to have practised in north-east ...

Grainger Market
off Nelson Street
NE1 5QG Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom

Southend-on-Sea | United Kingdom
The Pier and electric railway opened for the first time in 1890. At 2158 metres / 2360 yards it is the longest pleasure pier in the world. The seaside piers around the coast of Britain are a powerful reminder of the achievements of Victorian engineers. The modern Pier Railway follows the route of ...

Southend Pier
Western Esplanade
SS1 1EE Southend-on-Sea, United Kingdom

Wellingborough | United Kingdom
Wellingborough, like most Northamptonshire towns, was a centre for factory-based shoemaking from the mid-nineteenth century. It was also the staging point for coal trains between coalfields of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire and London. There were extensive marshalling yards and its locomotive depot ...

The Wellingborough Museum at Dulley's Bath
12 Castle Way
NN8 1XB Wellingborough, United Kingdom

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WORK it Out – Day of Industrial Culture

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