The “Industrie-, Gewerbe- und Kunstausstellung” in 1902 was a milestone in the development of the city and exceeded all expectations. This exhibition had 160 different buildings, about 2500 exhibitors and five million visitors – among them were the Emperor Wilhelm II, the Crown Prince of Siam, the brother of the Japanese emperor, nearly all of the German princes and also numerous ministers from home and abroad. The “Parkhotel” at Corneliusplatz was especially built as an exhibition hotel for upmarket tastes. The “Kunstpalast” was later given to the artists as a permanent exhibition building because they had initiated this successful exhibition together with Prof. F. Roeber (later the director of the academy of arts), Mayor Marx and H. Lueg and F Krupp, two entrepreneurs, who were the spokesmen of the mining industry.
At the same time the city could develop extensive areas in the centre and along the riverbank. The former barracks grounds stretched from Kasernenstraße (Kasernen street) to the western side of Königsallee. The former palace (since 1872 only a ruin) had been demolished and the riverbank had been widened which now provided enough space for buildings with new architectural features.
Auf dem Weg zur rheinischen Metropole
Not only by the number of its inhabitants and its special atmosphere but also by buildings typical of cities of this time Düsseldorf aimed at presenting itself as a metropolis. A remarkable number of specific big buildings give an impression of the structure of the city before the First World War. These are e.g. the administration building of the steel association (“Stahlhof” – 1904), the “AOK” building (1904/05), the “Luisenschule” (1905-1907), the government building (1907 – 1911), the Provincial Court of Appeal (1910), the “Mannesmann” building (1910/11), the department stores “Tietz” (1907 – 1909) and “Carsch” (1914 – 1916) as well as the buildings of the district court and the country court in Mühlenstraße (1912 – 1921).
The “Dumont-Lindemann” theatre with performances throughout the year, the opera, the concert hall (built at the end of the 19th century and expanded in 1901), the “Apollo” theatre, numerous art exhibitions in the “Kunstpalast” and various other attractions provided for an unusually abundant cultural life. Several modern secondary schools were opened; not only the “Kunstakademie” (academy of arts) but also the “Kunstgewer-beschule” (college of arts and crafts) headed by Peter Behrens had an outstanding reputation.
In 1908/09 a municipal reform was carried out as the permanent growth of the city required new relationships to the adjacent villages. These had experienced an increase in population because of the improved traffic conditions but did not have the financial means to satisfy the needs of their growing population. The incorporation of Wersten, Stockum, Rath, Gerresheim, Ludenberg, Eller, Himmelgeist, Heerdt and Oberkassel doubled the size of Düsseldorf, the number of inhabitants rising by about 62,900.
Before the beginning of the First World War the population exceeded 450.000. Therefore it was not surprising that the award-winning design for “Düsseldorf as a city of more than one million inhabitants“ by Prof. B. Schmitz was highly appreciated when presented at the “Städtebau-Ausstellung für Rheinland, Westfalen und benachbarte Gebiete” in 1912. But the economic consequences of the First World War, the period of inflation and the French occupation foiled a lot of plans. Construction work came to an almost complete standstill followed by housing shortage and a state-controlled housing market.
Already in 1919 young artists such as Max Ernst, Jankel Adler, Arthur Kaufmann, Otto Dix, Otto Pankok, Adolf Uzarski and others met in Johanna Ey’s art gallery and founded the group of artists ”Junges Rheinland“.
Soon the first important examples of the architecture of the 1920s were erected. Nowadays they are considered as ground-breaking for the architecture of the Weimar Republic, although their construction was begun during a time when the economic situation was still bad : the “Wilhelm-Marx-Haus” (1922 – 1924), the “Industriehaus” am Wehrhahn (1924), the “Darmstädter und Nationalbank” (1924) in Königsallee, the “Pressehaus” at Martin-Luther-Platz (1924/25), the “Stumm-Verwaltung” (1923 – 1925) and the administration building of the “Phoenix AG” (1922 – 1926). An office-building company – in the foundation of which the city of Düsseldorf had played a major role – erected the two buildings mentioned at first. Different cooperatives and this office-building company were also in charge of constructing the first housing estates in Golzheim (from 1921 to 1923 and from 1922 to 1926).
Probably inspired by the exhibition centre founded by the mayor of Cologne, Dr. Konrad Adenauer, the mayor of Düsseldorf, Dr. Robert Lehr (1924 – 1933), realised that only a special event could do justice to the inhabitants’ undiminished zest and bring new glory to Düsseldorf as an exhibition place. The director of the children’s hospital, Prof. Arthur Schloßmann, had already energetically fought for founding the academy of medicine (1919) in Düsseldorf. He achieved that the ”Gesellschaft der Naturforscher und Ärzte“ held its conference in Düsseldorf in 1926. Therefore he is also considered the initiator of the “Große Ausstellung für Gesundheitspflege, soziale Fürsorge und Leibesübungen“ (Gesolei). This exhibition was not focused on industry and commerce but on human needs. Four hundred congresses and conferences emphasized its informative character. The permanent buildings by Prof. W. Kreis – the museums, the planetarium and the “Rheinterrasse” – closed the riverfront between the “Kniebrücke” and the government buildings. More than 7.5 million visitors – among them about three million from abroad – saw this exhibition.