Gottfried Boehm : architect biography

famous architect : Gottfried Boehm

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Gottfried Boehm architect
Gottfried Boehm architect
Gottfried Boehm architect
Gottfried Boehm architect

Gottfried Boehm

Gottfried Boehm architect Gottfried Boehm, German architect, was born in 1920 in Offenbach / Main, near Frankfurt / Main, in what today is the Federal Republic of Germany. Gottfried Boehm was the third and last son of Dominikus Boehm (1880-1955), one of the most prominent Catholic church builders of his time in Germany, known for his typological and constructive innovations as well as his expressive architecture. Gottfried Boehm received his Abitur in Cologne at the Aposteln Gymnasium in 1939, served in the German army from 1938 to 1942, and studied architecture at the Technische Hochschule in Munich from 1942 to 1946 and sculpture at the Akademie der bildenden Kunste in 1947. Gottfried Boehm married in 1948 and has four children, three of whom are architects. Gottfried Boehm worked in Cologne at his father's office from 1947 to 1950. In 1950, Gottfried Boehm began working for Rudolf Schwarz (1897—1961), another prominent German church architect, and in 1951 for Cajetan Baumann in New York City. Returning to Cologne, Gottfried Boehm went into a partnership with his father from 1952 to 1955, and took over the office after Dominikus Boehm's death.

Gottfried Boehm was a Professor of Urban Planning (Stadtteilplanung und Werklehre) in Aachen (Aix la Chapelle) at the Rheinisch Westphalische Technische Hochschule from 1963 to 1985. Gottfried Boehm has been a member of the Akademie der Kunste, Berlin, since 1968, of the Deutsche Akademie fur Stadtebau und Landesplanung, Berlin, since 1976, of the Academie d'Architecture, Paris, since 1983, and of the Academia Pontificia ad Pantheon, Rome, since 1986. Gottfried Boehm has been a Profesor Honorario of the Universidad Nacional Federico Villarreal, Lima, since 1977, Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects since 1982, and Dr.hc. of the Technische Universitat in Munich since 1985.

Gottfried Boehm began his professional career in the Federal Republic of Germany's postwar reconstruction period. His architecture was in many respects a continuation of his father's work. His family and social extraction made him a cultivated, urbane Roman Catholic artist with a sense for the past and for the prewar developments of the arts, especially for the more conservative, romantic, and expressive modern tendencies at that time. His connections with intellectual circles and the Catholic Church, then one of the architect's foremost patrons, permitted him to work at high professional and artistic levels from the very beginning.

His professional approach is characterized by clear concepts and correct, very conscious realizations of building types, building materials, and structural systems as the natural bases for architectural language. His artistic approach emphasizes the sculptural aspects of architecture, both on a large scale and in details. His buildings are always extremely personal, transcendent, original, and thereby singular solutions. Gottfried Boehm is thus more an introverted individual artist than the expansive leader of a mainstream architectural tendency in the German architectural scene.

At the beginning of his professional work, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Gottfried Boehm went through an experimental phase influenced by the formalist U.S. versions of the modem movement. His contribution to the construction of wide-span church roofs was the realization of suspended reinforced-concrete shells. This development is explained by the limited financial and material resources of those years and the urgent need for quick solutions. Examples are the churches St. Columba, which is a reconstruction, and St. Paulus, both in Cologne. These solutions were soon abandoned, however, probably because of the reduced durability of tensioned concrete constructions.

A second phase, in the late 1950s, was dominated by clear and simple lines (skeleton framing, panes, and walls) of almost Miesian character, as well as Corbusian stereometrical elements (cones, cubes, and pyramids) attached to different functions. Pencil-like towers, ornamental colored windows, and other decorations were added to the clear forms. The Herz Jesu Church is an example of Gottfried Boehm's work in this period. Separated from the street by a high wall, there is an entrance courtyard, followed by a kind of cloister and finally the sanctuary. The last is strictly rectangular and is defined by several rows of supports. The zone of the altar is arched over by a dome. The cloister is closed by ornamental glass panes. All special uses (church bell, baptismal font, confessional) are in free-standing round towers meant to be seen from afar.

Gottfried Boehm's architecture passed through a third phase, possibly the first high point in his work, through a correspondence between his individual artistic expression and the individual constructive solutions still possible at that time. In this sense, from the beginning of the 1960s his architecture was characterized by plastic volumes and spaces and by dynamic, crystalline forms. The best examples are the Pilgrimage Church in Neviges, the Bensberg town hall, and the residence for the elderly in Garath. The Pilgrimage Church in Neviges is located in a hilly countryside in the middle of the old town bearing its name. Beside the church, there are several subsidiary rooms for pilgrims, which accompany the path leading to the church. Gottfried Boehm describes the project as a series of squares, which lead to the large covered square inside the church. The inner space of the latter gives the impression of a superelevated crystalline form, and the central area with the altar is surrounded by lateral chapels and a multistory gallery. Big, vividly colored glass windows in the lateral chapels and small openings in the upper zone provide light and create an almost magic, sensual atmosphere.

The simple and regular structures of the 1950s had become highly complex: as in his father's work, the use of folded systems and shells predominated; however they were no longer geometrically simple and repetitive but highly irregular and individual. Such constructions were made by hand and exploited the possibilities of in situ reinforced-concrete and brick construction to the maximum.

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In the 1960s, the Federal Republic of Germany had developed into a rich and highly industrialized country, with cheap industrial products and a decreasing number of craftsmen. In contrast to preceding periods, the 1970s and 1980s have been characterized by the use of modern materials and methods of production (ie, steel, sheet metals, and precast concrete instead of brick and in situ concrete) and by rationalized structures, such as skeletons, and repetitive versions of other systems instead of the individual and irregular ones of the past decades.

In accordance with this, in his fourth phase, beginning around 1970, Gottfried Boehm designed several large buildings, in which the new materials and technologies played an important part. The plastically shaped skyscraper of the Landesamt fur Datenverarbeitung und Statistik in Dusseldorf, the Town Hall and Cultural Center in Bocholt, a combination of a sculptured concrete basis and steel-glass construction, and the Civic Center Bergischer Löwe in Bergisch Gladbach, a sheet-metal-covered skeleton construction, are examples from that period. The changing material contitions change the forms; they demand other forms and details.

A project of the 1980s also shows the continuing development of technology and the way Gottfried Boehm uses it for creation; the Züblin Building is a standard precast concrete skeleton construction with a facade of red-colored concrete prefabs also designed by the architect. A glass hall connects the two seven-story wings of officies. The main circulation facilities, two escalators, a staircase, steps, trees, fountains, and the possibility of putting the tables and chairs of the ground floor restaurant inside the hall make it the center of the building for all people working in it.

All of these attempts to individualize the usual standard building types, the stressing of the color and surface of the concrete prefabs or of the massive, plastic effect of the thin, light sheet-metal facades, serve the purpose of formal dramatization and individualization. To this day, these attempts seem to be contributions to a new architectural language that is still waiting for culmination. Gottfried Boehm's demand for an integration of art and architecture, of human desires and needs and construction, seeks to create the conditions to enhance life and the possibilities of communication in an open society.

Awards for his work include Grosser Preis Bund Deutscher Architekten 1975; Medaille d'Or de l'Academie d'Architecture, Paris, 1982; Fritz Schumacher Prize, Hamburg, 1985; Pritzker Architecture Prize 1986.

General References
1. F. Otto, "Rheinische Kirchenbauten und hangendes Dach," Bauwelt 51, 1047-1050 (1955).
2. Gottfried Boehm with N. Rosiny, "Zur Wiederherstellung der Hohen Domkirche zu Trier," Bauwelt 22, 810-815 (1974).
3. E. Schirmbeck, "Gottfried Boehm, Anmerkungen zum architektonischen Werk," Bauen + Wohnen 11,421-424(1977).
4. H. Klumpp and E. Schirmbeck. "Interview mit Gottfried Boehm," Bauen + Wohnen 11,425-427(1977).
5. S Raw. "Architecture of Synthesis." Architecture and Urbanism, S, 5-7 119781.
6. P. Bode. "Expressive Kraft und schopferische Humanitat: Der Architekt Gottfried Boehm," Architecture and Urbanism 3,37-48(1978).
7. "Chronological List (of Works) 1946-1977," Architecture and Urbanism 3, 55-60 (1978).
8. H. Klumpp. "Der Architekt Gottfried Boehm," Werk Bauen + Wohnen 9,9-12 (1980).
9. S. Raev, ed. Gottfried Boehm, Bauten und Projekte 1950-1980, Konig, Cologne, FRG, 1982.
10. Der Architekt Gottfried Boehm, exhibition catalogue, Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Bielefeld. FRG. 1984-1985.
11. Gottfried Boehm. "Acceptance Address," in The Pritzker Architecture Prize 1986 Gottfried Bohm, The Hyatt Foundation, 1986.

Major works:

Church in Neviges (1962) Photo
Religious compound (church, library, and youth center) (1968) in Cologne Photo
Zublin Office Building (1985) in Stuttgart Photo
Town Hall in Bensberg
Municipal Building in Rheinberg
Restaurant in Bad Kreuznach
Civic center in Bergisch Gladbach
Magasin Peek+Cloppenburg in Berlin
Deutsche Bank in Luxembourg
Public Library, Ulm, Germany (2004)

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