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Hans Poelzig

Berlin, Germany
1 of 2

Hans Poelzig (April 30th, 1869 - June 14th, 1936) was a German architect, painter and set designer. He was born in Berlin to the countess Clara Henrietta Maria Poelzig. The countess' husband did not recognize him as his son and he was raised by the family of a choirmaster and organist near Berlin. He studied architecture at the TH Berlin from 1888 to 1893.

After his military service, he took up a training post with the Prussian Ministry for Public Works in 1895, and he remained from that point on in the civil service until his death. In 1899 he completed his second set of civil service examinations and in 1900 became a teacher of architectonic drawing and cabinet-making at the Kunst und Kunstgewerbeschule in Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland). He was made director of the school in 1903. The institution was raised to the status of academy in 1913 and came to be considered ground-breaking for its teaching system. In the period 1916-20 Poelzig worked in Dresden as an advisor on urban planning and simultaneously as a professor at the academy.

Berlin Years

Poelzig moved back to Berlin on being awarded the status of master craftsman of the Akademie der Kunste (Academy of Arts) in 1920. He became professor of architecture at the TH Berlin in 1924. His teaching there focussed mainly on structural engineering. His first designs display the influence of teachers who held allegiance to eclecticism and to late classicism; his early design for a gothic style townhouse won him the Schinkel Prize in 1896. His next designs were influenced by regional traditions, art nouveau and by American office building design. Alongside several industrial buildings (such as the chemical factory in Luban, near the Polish city of Poznan, 1911/12), his building for the exhibition of the century in Breslau of 1913 was his first institutional building. In architectural circles he came to prominence for several designs, including his competition entry for an opera house in Berlin, the never-built Haus der Freundschaft (House of Friendship) in Istanbul, Turkey (1916), and the Grosse Schauspielhaus theatre in central Berlin (built 1919, later known as the Friedrichstadtpalast, demolished in 1986). This building, which he designed for Max Reinhardt (1873-1943), displays many similarities to the designs for the Neues Festspielhaus theatre in Salzburg, Austria.

In Berlin Poelzig played a prominent role in the battle over the introduction of modern architecture in the 1920s. As a member (since 1908) and sometime head (1919-22) of the Deutscher Werkbund (German Association of Craftsmen), as a member of the avantgarde architectural society Der Ring, and as the holder of his academic posts, he had an important influence on new architecture. However, the persistence of some late-Wilhelmine forms and tendencies is still recognisable in many of his designs of this period. One extant building that is characteristic of his style is the Haus des Rundfunks (1930) in Masurenallee, Berlin. In 1927, he was one of the fifteen architects who contributed to the influential modernist Weissenhof Estate exhibition. His design (1928/29) for the convention centre opposite was never realised. The rationalism of his planning is evident in the large administration building complex of the IG Farben company in Frankfurt (1929/30). It was not least for his designs for a theatre in the Soviet city of Kharkov and for a congress hall in Moscow, that he came under fire in the atmosphere of denunciatory polemics of the early 1930s. Accused of the "cultural Bolshevism" of the avantgarde, he saw no professional future for himself in Germany. He died on 14 June 1936 shortly before his planned emigration to Turkey.

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Berlin, Germany
roberts, May 1st, 2017
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