Gottfried Böhm (born January 23rd, 1920 - 9. June 2021) was a German architect and sculptor and the only German Pritzker Prize laureate. He was born into a family of architects in Offenbach, Germany. His father, Dominikus Böhm, is renowned for having built several churches throughout Germany. His reputation is based on creating highly sculptural buildings made of concrete, steel, and glass. Böhm's first independent building was the Cologne chapel "Madonna in the Rubble" (now integrated into Peter Zumthor's design of the Kolumba museum renovation). Böhm's most influential and recognized building is the Maria, Königin des Friedens, also known as the Nevigeser Wallfahrtsdom. The most recently completed construction project involving Gottfried is the Hans Otto Theater in Potsdam (2006).
His academic career began in 1942, when he attended the Technische Hochschule in Munich where he received his degree in 1946. For another year, he continued his education, studying sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. That training has been important for the clay models he develops during the design process of his buildings. He worked in his father's office as an assistant architect from 1947 to 1950. During that time he collaborated with the Society for the Reconstruction of Cologne under the direction of Rudolph Schwarz. In 1948, he met and married Elisabeth Haggenmueller, who is also a licensed engineer and architect. They have four sons, three of whom have become architects.
New York Years
Feeling the need for other points of view, in 1951, Böhm journeyed to New York where he worked in the architectural firm of Cajetan Baumann for six months. Several more months were spent on a study tour of the United States, during which time he had the opportunity to meet Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius, two of the architects for whom he holds great admiration.
Back to Germany
His study tour over, Böhm returned to work with his father in 1952. His father's influence plus the ideas and theories of the Bauhaus, were apparent in his first independent projects. Nevertheless, his multiple skills enabled him to overcome this phase quickly. He did not discover a different style; what he discovered was a clear conviction of the importance of every single architectural assignment, no matter how small, and he learned that, along with the factors of time and place, man is the most important value to be taken into consideration. When his father died in 1955, Böhm took over the family firm. In the following three decades he has accomplished many buildings, including churches, museums, theatres, cultural and civic centers, city halls, office buildings, public housing, and apartment buildings, many of the latter with mixed use. The Bensberg City Hall, as well as the restaurant he designed at Bad Kreuznach, both built on historic ruins, illustrate his creativity in joining the old with the new.
Some of the connections Böhm refers to are also between private and public or semi-public spaces, new uses for deserted urban areas, and the analyzing of a design problem as both a boundary and a link. One of his projects, the Zueblin Corporate Headquarters in Stuttgart, straddling two newly incorporated townships, embodies these connections.
Gottfried Böhm has been considered to be both an expressionist and post-Bauhaus architect, but he prefers to be seen as somebody who is able to create connections between the past and the future, between the world of ideas and the physical world, between a building and its urban surroundings. 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.
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