Gottfried Böhm, Master Architect in Concrete, Dies at 101

MUNICH — Gottfried Böhm, the Pritzker Prize-winning architect who was recognized for his strikingly sculptural concrete buildings and as a frontrunner of a technology of German architects whose process was nothing lower than to rebuild their nation in the wake of World War II, died on Wednesday at his house in Cologne. He was 101.

His son Paul, who can be an architect, confirmed the dying.

Mr. Böhm was thought of one in all his nation’s main architects lengthy earlier than he received that coveted award, usually thought of the Nobel for structure, in 1986. Like his father, the expressionist architect Dominikus Böhm (1880-1955), he was extremely thought to be a builder of church buildings. His first, accomplished in 1949, was Madonna in the Ruins, a chapel that’s now a part of the Kolumba museum complicated in Cologne, a metropolis whose postwar reconstruction he was notably concerned in.

Mr. Böhm constructed the chapel on the positioning of an early medieval parish church, relationship to the 12 months 980, that was destroyed by Allied bombs in 1943. His design integrated the church’s few surviving parts, together with the outside partitions, the northeast pillar of the principle nave and the 15th-century life-size statue of the Virgin Mary that lent the reconsecrated church its title.

A 12 months later, Mr. Böhm started working for Cologne’s official reconstruction program, which was headed by the famous architect Rudolf Schwarz.

“Mountains of rubble flowered beautifully there,” Mr. Böhm mentioned of postwar Cologne in a 2014 documentary movie, “Concrete Love — The Böhm Family.” “It was a mountain world. It fascinated me.”

Like Madonna in the Ruins, a lot of his buildings created a dialogue between previous, usually violently destroyed edifices and trendy designs and supplies.

Mr. Böhm’s altar in the Madonna in the Ruins chapel in Cologne.Credit…Peter Cavanagh/Alamy Stock Photo

During the Pritzker Prize ceremony, in Goldsmiths’ Hall in London, Prince Richard, the Duke of Gloucester, himself an architect in addition to a member of the British royal household, paid tribute to Mr. Böhm, citing “the confidence with which he sites his new structures onto the remains of older structures, linking the future with the past.”

Arguably the defining work of Mr. Böhm’s profession was the Roman Catholic Pilgrimage Church at Neviges, recognized in German because the Wallfahrtsdom or the Mariendom, near the town of Wuppertal in northwest Germany.

Completed in 1968, it’s a monumental Brutalist Gesamtkunstwerk or whole of murals, whose jagged concrete roof has been likened to a tent, a crystal and an iceberg. Set at the highest of a hill, the church rises imposingly above the picturesque homes of medieval Neviges.

Mr. Böhm lavished as a lot consideration on the church’s forum-like inside as he did on its folding roof and sculptural facade, with their tough concrete textures and sharp angles. He designed the stained-glass home windows, lamps and door handles and even the chairs. With room for eight,000 worshipers, it’s the second largest church north of the Alps.

Mr. Bohm in 1989. Three years earlier, he was honored with the Pritzker Prize, thought of the equal of a Nobel in structure.Credit…Ferdi Hartung/ullstein bild, through Getty Images

Assessing the Pilgrimage Church in an appreciation of Mr. Böhm in 1981, the American architect Donald E. Olsen hailed his “ability to dematerialize this massive structure of modern concrete technology through the application of sheer volume, shape and light-modulation.”

Along with Le Corbusier’s proto-Brutalist “La Chapelle Notre-Dame du Haut” (1955), the Pilgrimage is thought to be one of many 20th century’s most essential church buildings. It was cited by the Pritzker jury once they awarded Mr. Böhm their prize and stays probably the most well-known of the greater than 70 church buildings he constructed over his profession.

Gottfried Böhm was born on Jan. 23, 1920, in the river metropolis of Offenbach-am-Main, close to Frankfurt, the youngest of three sons of Dominikus and Maria Böhm. His paternal grandfather was an architect as properly. As a baby, Gottfried loved going to his father’s studio and designing home windows and different easy structure particulars.

He was drafted into the Wehrmacht in 1939 and served till being wounded in the course of the Russia marketing campaign in 1942 and despatched again to Germany. He hardly ever spoke concerning the warfare, however in the 2014 documentary he recalled a slaughter in the High Tatra Mountains. “My task was to shoot,” he mentioned. “We were mountaineers. There was a murderous hail of bullets, and we suffered many losses. Right next to me. Right in front of me.”

After he was demobilized, he studied structure at the Technical University in Munich, the place he acquired a level in 1946. He spent one other 12 months finding out sculpture at that metropolis’s Academy of Arts, in what he later known as an try and distance himself from his father, who thought of Gottfried his successor and whom Gottfried was afraid to disappoint. Even although Mr. Böhm finally selected the architect’s path, his coaching as a sculptor remained foundational and would inform his most distinctive works.

After Munich, Mr. Böhm returned to Cologne to work in his father’s agency, which he took over after Dominikus’s dying in 1955, persevering with a household enterprise that will come to achieve near-dynastic dimensions.

In 1948 he married Elisabeth Haggenmüller, an architect he had met whereas they had been college students. She assisted her husband on a lot of his tasks, they usually remained married till her dying in 2012 in her early 90s. Three of Mr. Böhm’s sons, Stephan, Peter and Paul, all skilled as architects and labored for his or her father’s agency beginning in the 1980s. Nowadays they every function an unbiased structure agency beneath the identical roof, in the Cologne house that was constructed by their grandfather in 1928 and the place Gottfried had grown up and as soon as maintained his workplace. A fourth son, Markus, is a painter. Mr. Böhm can be survived by 5 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and an older brother, Paul, who’s 102.

In 1951, Mr. Böhm journeyed to America, the place he labored briefly at a New York structure agency. During a monthslong examine tour in the United States, he met Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe, the Bauhaus masters who turned an incredible inspiration to him. After returning to Germany he turned a professor at the Technical University of Aachen in 1963 and held that place till 1985.

The City Hall in Bensberg, Germany, close to Cologne. Its angular centerpiece is a tower ringed by spiraling home windows and capped with a blocky, jagged crown.Credit…Thomas Robbin/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

Mr. Böhm was one in all 17 architects to submit proposals for a brand new Pilgrimage Church in Neviges in 1964. The city had been a devotional website for the reason that late 17th century, however the rising numbers of pilgrims after World War II had led the Franciscans, who administered it, to determine to construct a brand new church.

Mr. Böhm’s submission was controversial, each for its daring design and its proposal to situate the church at the positioning’s highest level, above the city, to be reached by processional method laid out in keeping with Mr. Böhm’s plans. It however received the favor of Cardinal Josef Frings, the archbishop of Cologne, who headed the jury. One account has it that the cardinal, who was practically blind at the time, favored the texture of Mr. Böhm’s jagged mannequin when he ran his fingers over it.

Completed in 1968, the Mariendom sought to accommodate the hundreds of pilgrims who had flocked to Neviges each weekend in the 1950s. Their numbers started to dwindle after the quick postwar interval, as Marian devotion turned much less conspicuous in the late 20th century. Today the church is arguably extra of a pilgrimage website for structure buffs than for Catholics. (The unique church nonetheless stands elsewhere in city.)

Another essential fee from the identical period was the City Hall in Bensberg, near Cologne. Mr. Böhm sited this concrete construction alongside a 12th-century hilltop fortress. The angular centerpiece is a tower ringed by spiraling home windows and capped with a blocky, jagged crown.

It was one in all quite a few administrative buildings that he designed, in addition to malls, competition halls and housing developments. Such tasks occupied him more and more after a postwar increase of church development subsided in the 1970s.

While he labored primarily in Germany, he additionally designed buildings and improvement tasks worldwide, together with in Los Angeles, Boston, Tokyo and Turin, Italy.

Glass turned an more and more essential and versatile materials for Mr. Böhm. In 1995, commissioned by the clothes retailer Peek and Cloppenburg in Berlin, he designed a six-story constructing with a facade of layered glass set inside a metal case. The New York Times known as it “one striking example of what the new Berlin may look like.” In 2000, he unveiled a gleaming glass pyramid that housed the municipal library in the southern German metropolis of Ulm.

Mr. Böhm continued working properly into his 90s. A later challenge of his, from 2006, in collaboration along with his son Paul’s agency, is the Hans-Otto-Theater in Potsdam, near Berlin, whose glass lobby is capped by a fiery crimson sculptural crown.

Yet Mr. Böhm can be remembered primarily for his church buildings, a lot of which have been granted landmark standing.

“The idea that life isn’t completely gone with death, that there is something else, is hard to imagine,” he mentioned in the 2014 documentary, in a scene filmed in the Madonna in the Ruins, the chapel he designed over a half-century earlier.

“Churches have something of that as well,” he mentioned. “You feel a relationship with a higher, more distant realm.”