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Aerodynamics becomes the decisive design element!

It's all a question of air currents: Swiss artist Hans Erni (1909-2015) created this ink drawing for his friend and Lucerne neighbour Paul Jaray.
(Photo: Privately owned, Hans Erni estate)

The illuminating exhibition "Architecture of Speed - Paul Jaray and the Shape of Necessity" has been on show in Venice since this weekend (Arsenale Institute for Politics of Representation). Wolfgang Scheppe, exhibition organiser and philosopher, is concerned with "previously overlooked aspects of the invention of the streamlined shape of automobiles" in addition to the shape of necessity. In terms of design history, the exhibition, which is also a co-operation with the trade journal Arch+ is extremely remarkable. This is not only due to the modern phenomenon of acceleration and deceleration, but also to Paul Jaray's biography. Which becomes a political issue. Racism, fascism and an economic competition between the German automotive industry and the history of ideas are symbolically involved.

The Viennese engineer Paul Jaray's path to becoming a streamlining pioneer began after various training programmes at Luftschiffbau Zeppelin in Friedrichshafen. During the years of the First World War, he was responsible for drawing up the design documents for airship production for the army and navy. Appointed chief engineer in 1917, he had a wind tunnel installed for airship research. This facility enabled him to investigate the flow behaviour of various objects and models. As early as 1921, he registered his first motor car patent with the German Imperial Patent Office as a private individual from Friedrichshafen with the number 441 618. Strangely enough, there is no reference to streamlining in the title. He then registered the main patent in the most important European countries and in the USA (1922). With this and other additional patents, he became the top dog in the streamline design business and swept competitors' patents off the table. His first series of streamlined cars (1922/23) for the German car factories Ley, Audi and Dixi was based on his patents and the aerodynamic tests in the Zeppelin wind tunnel. He carried out the tests with his first wooden model from 1922, which is now in the Swiss Museum of Transport. However, the narrow and high-backed chassis used at the time, which were still modelled on carriages, resulted in vehicles of an extremely grotesque shape. During the first propaganda drives in a pack of three (Ley, Audi, Dixi) throughout Germany, the misshapen vehicles provoked strong reactions. People found them quite simply ridiculous.

In 1923, Paul Jaray moved to Brunnen on Lake Lucerne and immediately after his move opened the Stromlinien-Karosserie-Gesellschaft in Zurich with a newly created company logo for licence exploitation. This early phase is recorded by Hans Erni in an undated ink drawing that has never been published but was created much later. In a didactic comparison, it shows the investigations into the flow behaviour of four different objects (wall, drop shape and two cars) in the wind tunnel. Paul Jaray's previously unnoticed wind tunnel model from the later 1920s conveys the trend towards wider chassis and the coming lowering of the car. With the wider American Chrysler Type 72 chassis, he was able to approach this goal for the first time in 1927/28. In 1932, Jaray moved to Lucerne and became Hans Erni's neighbour. Unfortunately, little is known about this friendship. Only one photo shows the two of them together on Lake Lucerne during a test drive of a motorised watercraft with streamlined floats. A year later, Jaray's company was also relocated to Lucerne and continued under a new name: Aktiengesellschaft für Verkehrspatente (AVP). It managed his European patents, while the Jaray Streamline Corporation of America in New York looked after the American and Canadian patents. For a new advertising campaign in 1933/34, Jaray had a Mercedes built on a Type 200 chassis and an Audi 2 lt. front for his own use according to his own drawings at the Lucerne-based coachbuilder Huber & Brüh-wyler, which he drove well into the 1950s. The next car he bought was a VW Beetle! The thirties can be described as the streamlined years. There was a "race" between the various car firms, increasingly also in motor racing. Jaray's company was still able to conclude licence agreements with many car manufacturers and develop prototypes. H. P. Bröhl describes Jaray's final round of streamline euphoria as follows: "However, the expected financial success failed to materialise for the AVP, despite the undisputed triumph of the streamline in sport. The only cars that were built in series, but in modest numbers, were the Czech Tatra. Although the licence fee of 5 Reichsmark per seat of each car was actually quite modest, most car manufacturers could not yet bring themselves to introduce the streamline". As a result, Jaray's influence on the development of the streamline design in car construction diminished and he turned his attention back to aircraft construction.

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