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Johanna Wolf

The power plant of Inota, Várpalota
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The power plant of Inota, Várpalota
Photo: Fortepan, orig. Szánthó Zoltán

One of the first female architects and engineers in Hungary, Johanna Wolf graduated in 1931 at the Budapest University of Technology. During her university years, she was bullied because of her Jewish roots, as reported by a contemporary newspaper. After graduation, she started working as a construction engineer at the private construction company Magyar Építő Részvénytársaság. She soon specialised on industrial architecture and received major commissions, such as the Mátravidék Power Plant (Mátravidéki Erőmű) or the Viscosa factory in Nyergesújfalu – the latter she co-designed with Gyula Mátrai. In 1939 she married József Weber.

As Péter Haba mentions in his important essay, ‘At the forefront of socialist development. Women in Hungarian industrial architecture, 1945-1970.’, Johanna Wolf became associated with an important engineering group quite early in her carrier, specialised on pre-casting concrete on site. Along with other members of the group, such as Gyula Mátrai, László Mokk or Károly Pászti, this lead Wolf to became a prominent figure of industricla constructions from the 1940s onwards.

After 1945 she participated in the rebuilding efforts of Budapest. From 1947 she worked as a main engineer at the state industrial construction company Magyar Gyárépítő Nemzeti Vállalat; in this role, she participated in the reconstruction of the Budapest Ganz Ship Building Factory and the construction of the new Power Plant in Inota (today Várpalota, 1949-1952, with Gyula Mátrai, Béla Fekete and Károly Pászti).

At the summit of her carrier, in 1950 she was became chief engineer at State Building Trust No. 26., overseeing the construction of the Iron Works of the newly built city of Sztálinváros (today Dunaújváros), the most important industrial works of the early 1950s. She organised women-only construction brigades for the residential constructions of the city. In 1953 she became a member of the Parliament, representing Sztálinváros. In these years, she became a prominent figure in the media, representing the new, communist ideal of working women.

Though the fever of industrial construction calmed down after 1956, Johanna Wolf retained her leading position in the field. She retired as chief engineer of the State Construction Company of Chemical Plants.

On her 90th birthday in 1995 she received the Eötvös Loránd Award for her lifetime achievements on the field of construction.

DKovacs, May 11th, 2018