Ulrich Muther (21.07.1934 - 21.8.2007) was a German civil engineer and building contractor. He designed and built about 74 shells. Influenced by Spanish engineer Felix Candela, Muther is responsible for the design and construction of some of the most outstanding buildings in East German architecture, mainly during the 60s and 70s.
Trained as a structural engineer and running the family construction business, Muther was the one and only provider of shell structures in all of the Socialist East, exporting them as far as Libya and Kuwait. Most of his 'hyperbolic paraboloids', short 'hypar shells' can be found on his native island of Rugen in the Baltic Sea and the adjoining Northern regions. Today, because they are too big and not needed for their original function anymore, many of sixty-odd buildings are either in very bad nick, heavily altered (serving mainly as retail space) or altogether gone, like the Ahornblatt in Berlin (1973).
The Firm of Hyperbolic Paraboloids
In 1958 he took over the technical management of the family-owned construction company. In 1953, the family had already been expropriated by the socialist power of the state. In 1960 the company received the legal form of a production cooperative of the handicraft, in 1972 it was nationalized. Muther's specialization in shell construction using the concrete spraying process was able to prevent his company from being integrated into a building combination in 1972. In 1990, the company was transferred back to Muther. In 1999 the company bankrupted.
Muthers first self-supporting construction was built in Rostock-Schutow (1966). He built a series of spectacular buildings, the Ostseeperle beach restaurant in Glowe (1968) as a tipped hyparschale, the tea pot in Warnemunde and the distress rescue station in Binz. The Hyparschale (1969) in Magdeburg has been a protected monument since 1990. In Potsdam he built the eight-shell lake restaurant "Seerose" as a contrast and relaxation to the surrounding prefabricated buildings. His buildings became an important export item for the GDR to Jordan, Kuwait, Tripoli and Helsinki. Muthers shell construction was time-consuming, but material-saving, and therefore corresponded to the economic conditions of the GDR. In the Federal Republic, on the other hand, the building material was favorable and the labor force was expensive, so shell construction was only an "uneconomical shifting".
His best known works are the Lifeguard Rescue Tower (originally 1975, demolished), second tower in 1981, Binz, the restaurant Inselparadies (1966, Ostseebad Babe), restaurant Teepot (1968, Warnemunde), the exhibition centre in the Rotehorn Park (1970, Magdeburg) and several planetariums (Berlin, Wolfsburg, Jena, Brandenburg, Vantaa, Tripoli and Kuwait).
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