Gottfried Boehm

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Gottfried Böhm (2015)

Gottfried Böhm (born January 23, 1920 in Offenbach am Main ; † June 9, 2021 in Cologne ) was a German architect , sculptor and university professor. He is considered an important modernist architect and an "exceptional phenomenon in German post-war architecture" and is the last personality of the generation of architects who shaped the post-war reconstruction in West Germany and West German post-war modernism. In 1986 he was the first German architect to be awarded the prestigious Pritzker Prize .

Böhm's fame is based on his sculptural buildings made of concrete, steel and glass, some of which are considered "architectural icons of the 20th century". His first independent building was the Cologne chapel “ Madonna in den Trümmern ” (1947–1950); his most important building is the Mariendom in Neviges (1965–1968). The last completed buildings with Böhm's participation are the Hans Otto Theater in Potsdam (2006) and the DITIB Central Mosque Cologne- Ehrenfeld (2007-2018).


Maria, Queen of Peace in Neviges is considered the most important work of Böhm and a typical example of the "concrete rocks" (Photo: 2007)

Gottfried Böhm was born in Offenbach am Main in 1920 as the youngest of three sons Dominikus and Maria Böhm (née Scheiber). His grandfather Alois Böhm already had a construction business in the Bavarian-Swabian town of Jettingen . His father Dominikus moved his office to Cologne in 1926 , where he held a professorship at the Cologne factory schools until 1934 .

Gottfried Böhm attended the apostle high school in Cologne , which he left with the Abitur in 1938. In 1939 the Böhm family withdrew from Cologne to their native Jettingen , where Dominikus Böhm continued his architectural office. In the same year Gottfried Böhm was called up for military service. Due to a foot injury suffered in Russia in 1942, he was released from military service and was able to start studying architecture at the Technical University of Munich. His teachers included Adolf Abel and Hans Döllgast . In line with his inclination and his original career aspiration, Böhm studied sculpture with Josef Henselmann at the art academy . In an interview on his 100th birthday in Monumente magazine , he commented on his career choice with concern that he would not meet his father's standards. He is quoted in the article as saying: "I was afraid that I would not be able to do this". Shortly before the end of the Second World War, he passed his diploma examination.

A return to Cologne, which was in ruins, was delayed for the Böhms until 1947; Gottfried Böhm waited for his future wife to finish his studies in Munich and used the time for free studies and sculpting. During this time his first concept ideas for the later Böhm typical, hanging "fabric ceiling" over a large central room arose. Back in Cologne, Gottfried Böhm worked with his father until his death in 1955; However, the orders were divided up so that Böhm junior could carry out projects under his own name. The first independent building by Gottfried Böhm was the Chapel Madonna in the ruins of the destroyed St. Kolumba Church in 1947.

In 1948 Böhm married his former fellow student, the architect Elisabeth Haggenmüller († 2012); The marriage resulted in four sons: Stephan (* 1950), Markus (* 1953), Peter (* 1954) and Paul (* 1959). In 1950/51 Böhm worked in an office community with his colleague Paul Pott , and in 1950 he also worked for the reconstruction company of the city of Cologne under Rudolf Schwarz .

During a six-month stay in the USA in 1951, Böhm worked in Cajetan Baumann's office and met Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe on his study trip  . After returning to Cologne, he worked in his father's office and built his own house in Cologne-Weiß . When Dominikus Böhm died in 1955, Gottfried took over the office. During this time, numerous sacred buildings were built in the course of the reconstruction: by 1959 alone, Böhm had built 39 churches. Böhm's first secular building was the expansion of the Godesburg  in Bonn . In the years that followed, a number of buildings were built that would make Böhm known internationally. The pilgrimage church of Maria, Queen of Peace in Velbert-Neviges is considered to be one of the architectural highlights in Böhm's work ; the first architecture prizes in 1967 and 1968 particularly honored this building and the Bensberg town hall, which was built in the same period .

As the successor to Hans Schwippert  , Gottfried Böhm held the chair for work theory (later “work theory and urban area planning”) at RWTH Aachen from 1963 to 1985 . The “Böhm” chair was an active construction and teaching studio in the spirit of the Aachen school founded by René von Schöfer in 1926 . It was run by Hans Schmalscheidt, the senior assistant and senior academic adviser, together with Konrad Schalhorn, Werner Finke, Jan Pieper and others. Böhm and his assistants regularly took part in current construction projects, in particular in major competitions, the development and results of which had a direct impact on teaching. This was based on 4 maxims: 1) Architecture is not free art 2) Architecture is tied to an environment, to be derived from its history, to be continued and to be inserted into it 3) Every architecture arises from a formative building idea 4) This building idea permeates the work on a large scale and the whole of its structure.

After the high phase for church buildings had subsided significantly towards the end of the 1960s, Böhm devoted himself more to public buildings and, in the 1970s, to the construction of commercial and residential buildings. In 1976 he was made a member of the German Academy for Urban Development and Regional Planning and in 1980 took part in the International Building Exhibition with several residential buildings in Berlin .

Since 1982, Böhm has increasingly included his sons in his construction projects. In the following years, teaching positions took him back to the USA: he taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology , at the University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, in St. Louis and at Washington University as well as at the International Academy of Architecture (IAA) in Sofia .

Böhm's architectural office is located in the building erected by his father Dominikus in 1932 as a residential and studio building on Am Römerberg in Cologne- Marienburg . It has been largely continued since 2006 by the sons Stephan, Peter and Paul Böhm and thus in the third generation; However, Gottfried Böhm was still involved in selected projects.

On November 21, 2010 the former parish church of St. Ursula in Hürth-Kalscheuren was renamed Böhm Chapel in his honor.

For Böhm's 100th birthday in 2020, Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki celebrated a festive mass in the chapel Maria in den Trümmern and thanked Böhm for the beauty he created for the Archdiocese of Cologne , which allowed church visitors to experience "the beauty of the divine master builder". Cologne's Lord Mayor Henriette Reker announced the establishment of a Gottfried Böhm scholarship for young architects who are to "deal creatively, experimentally and visionarily with a topic in or around Cologne" during a one-year stay in the city. The scholarship is intended for architects who “ have demonstrated a particular interest in the connection between urban planning and architecture”. The work of the scholarship holders should catch the eye with a sculptural design. The Council of the City of Cologne decided on September 10, 2020 to set up the scholarship from 2021.

Böhm died on June 9, 2021 at the age of 101 in Cologne.


Gottfried Böhm's work extends over the entire second half of the 20th to the beginning of the 21st century. While at the beginning of his career until the late 1960s the focus was clearly on church construction, he then devoted himself to secular buildings, settlements and urban open spaces (“enclosed urban space”).

Characteristic of Böhm's buildings, which were initially often made of concrete, later steel and glass, are their spatial presence and sculptural quality. Part of this is attributed to Böhm's love for the visual arts, which is why he studied sculpture alongside architecture.

Some of Böhm's particularly prominent church buildings have been given the attribute " expressionistic " or are considered examples of brutalism . Overall, however, Böhm's work cannot be classified into a specific architectural style or fashion; it is rather characterized by a special “Böhm touch”, a common thread that connects the generations of the architect family.

Early buildings

The parish church of St. Albert in Saarbrücken (Photo: 2010)

In the first years of his work, Böhm used the freedoms that work in church building offered him. He put the "fabric coverings " he had developed - a further development of Rabitz bowls - into practice, light, suspended concrete bowls with a textile effect. He built it for the first time in the St. Kolumba Chapel in Cologne, his earliest independent sacred building. Typical buildings of this time are St. Anna in Cologne-Ehrenfeld or St. Albert in Saarbrücken .

Overall, Böhm's early buildings are characterized by a wealth of forms and a variety with which he struggled against the uniformity of urban post-war architecture. Despite all the diversity, many of the buildings are still geometrical in their forms, their structures are cuboids , pyramids , cones , slender pencil-like towers and columns. Some, such as the Herz-Jesu-Kirche in Schildgen , are hidden behind high walls; others traditionally dominate their urban environment, such as the church in Blumenau in southern Brazil .

International fame

Folded ceiling of the parish church St. Ludwig in Saarlouis (Photo: 2019)

In the 1960s, Böhm developed the crystalline "concrete rocks" that were to make him known internationally. The Marienkirche (today: Fatima Church) in Kassel - Wilhelmshöhe and the large asymmetrical folding ceilings in St. Gertrud (Cologne) were on the way to the new spatial shapes . St. Anna in Hammern and Christ's Resurrection in Cologne-Lindenthal also belong to these buildings. Concrete is the dominant material; brick is used in exceptional cases. The high point is the pilgrimage church in Neviges , consecrated in 1968 , which is generally considered to be Böhm's most important work. The monumental spatial sculpture dominates here, rising on an irregular floor plan and merging into the robust folding roofs in crystalline forms. Last but not least, it is particularly effective due to the significant interior design with its self-designed windows and the approx. 5 m high Marian column by Elmar Hillebrand , which encloses the very small Neviges pilgrimage picture.

With the end of the 1960s and the first economic crisis in the Federal Republic, however, the church building boom ended, so that Böhm had to develop new focuses.

Town and settlement construction

The Bensberg town hall as a symbiosis of historical and contemporary building (Photo: 2009)

As early as the 1960s, Böhm had modernized and expanded some historical buildings with concrete structures, including the Godesburg in Bonn , the Kauzenburg in Bad Kreuznach and finally - the most expressive of the period - the new Bensberg town hall , which was architecturally connected to the old castle .

For economic reasons, too, Böhm turned away from the fantastic, sculptural forms of construction in the 1970s towards more flexible and functional components, including steel girders or system elements. During this period, clients were increasingly local authorities who built town halls, but also had some catching up to do with museums and theaters. The Bergischer Löwe community center in Bergisch Gladbach , the Diocesan Museum in Paderborn and the town hall in Bocholt are part of Böhm's work during this period .

Part of the housing estate in Cologne-Chorweiler (Photo: 2009)

In the satellite town of Chorweiler in the north of Cologne, Böhm developed a settlement by 1974 that clearly stood out from the mass quarters of the 1960s. A multi-storey high-rise arches around a central square; In addition, there are nested apartments along a narrow alley that offer more retreat options. The settlement remained exemplary in terms of social housing , as the costs exceeded those of conventional high-rise buildings. The few church buildings in that decade were more functional community centers than large church buildings. The pilgrimage church in Wigratzbad , designed for flexible expansion or even reduction of the buildings, as well as the community center in Essen-Kettwig with its aluminum-glass facade are part of it.

Pritzker Prize and late work

In 1986, the jury of the renowned Pritzker Prize recognized Gottfried Böhm as the first German to be awarded the same. Böhm's connection between tradition and modernity was praised and presented in the laudation itself as part of a tradition by being referred to as the “son, grandson, husband and father of architects”.

"His highly evocative handiwork combines much that we have inherited from our ancestors with much that we have but newly acquired - an uncanny and exhilarating marriage, to which the Pritzker Architecture Prize is happy to pay honor."

"His highly moving work combines a lot of what we have inherited with what we have newly acquired - an uncanny and intoxicating connection that the Pritzker Architecture Prize is happy to honor."

- from the jury's decision
Ulm City Library , 1998–2004

As early as 1985, long before German reunification, Boehm was entrusted by Helmut Kohl with a confidential report on the renovation of the Berlin Reichstag building , where the Bundestag met once a year. Böhm developed the idea of ​​the glass dome for Parliament, on the top of which visitors can stay and wander along spiral paths. When the project finally became acute, his designs were made available to the participating architects for information. Böhm was not involved in the actual implementation, but some of the architect's original ideas can be found in the implemented building.

The WDR-Arkaden, created in collaboration with Elisabeth Böhm and Peter Böhm, 1991–1998
Hans-Otto-Theater in Potsdam , 1995-2006
Garbage coven, parish church of St. Adelheid
Cologne, Catholic Clinic Church of St. John the Baptist (1965)
Kölnarena and Technical Town Hall Cologne (1996–1998)

From 1982 to 1989, the restoration of Saarbrücken Castle was carried out with Böhm's participation . Böhm is also responsible for the design of the striking central building, the steel and glass construction of which connects the two wings of the castle. In 1986 the new Neulußheim railway station was built according to his ideas. At the end of the 1980s and 1990s, a whole series of clearly perceptible buildings in public space were built, some of which were already part of Böhm's sons or - in the case of the WDR Arkaden - his wife Elisabeth. The glass pyramid of the Ulm city library , the library and lecture hall building in A3 of the University of Mannheim , the administration building of the Deutsche Bank in Luxembourg- Kirchberg and the city theater in Itzehoe are just as much a part of it as the outer shell of the Lanxess Arena and the event hall itself in Cologne-Deutz as well as a municipal administration building in Cologne-Kalk . Its best-known company headquarters is the Züblin building in Stuttgart-Möhringen , which was built with the assistance of civil engineer Jörg Schlaich , with its glass-covered central hall.

Böhm's last buildings and projects were the Hans Otto Theater in Potsdam and the DITIB Central Mosque in Cologne- Ehrenfeld. Both designs feature shell constructions, this time in the exterior, which are reminiscent of those in Böhm's early work.

Prizes and awards


"A building is a human being's space and the background for his dignity and its exterior should reflect its contents and function."

"A building is a space and a framework for human dignity, and its exterior should reflect its content and functions."

- Gottfried Böhm : on the occasion of the presentation of the Pritzker Prize in 1986

See also


  • Gottfried Boehm. Lectures, buildings, projects. Edited by Svetlozar Raèv. Krämer, Stuttgart 1988, ISBN 3-7828-1604-8 .
  • Gottfried Boehm. Deutsche Bank Luxembourg. Issued by Deutsche Bank Luxembourg in 1992.
  • Gottfried Boehm. Buildings and projects. Extract from the years 1985–2000 Wasmuth, Tübingen, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-8030-0610-4 .
  • Veronika Darius: The architect Gottfried Böhm. Buildings from the sixties. Concrete, Düsseldorf 1988 (Baumeisterforum).
  • German Architecture Museum Frankfurt (ed.): The drawings by Dominikus and Gottfried Böhm. Kulturstiftung der Länder [u. a.], Berlin, 2005
  • Falk Jaeger: Hans Otto Theater Potsdam - Gottfried Böhm. Jovis, Berlin 2006, ISBN 978-3-939633-09-9 .
  • Peer Kantzow: Chances of urban repairs? G. Böhms WDR arcades in the urban environment. Müller, Saarbrücken 2008, ISBN 978-3-639-06177-2 .
  • Kunkel, Steffen: Search for the indefinite: Gottfried Böhm and the pilgrimage church "Maria, Queen of Peace". ISBN 9783959054416
  • Stefanie Lieb and Hartmut Junker: Sacred buildings by the Böhm family of architects. Schnell & Steiner, Regensburg 2019, ISBN 978-3-7954-3347-5 .
  • Wolfgang Voigt (Ed.): Gottfried Böhm. Catalog book for the exhibition Rocks made of Concrete and Glass. The architecture of Gottfried Böhm in the German Architecture Museum. JOVIS Verlag Berlin 2006, ISBN 978-3-936314-19-9 .
  • The architect Gottfried Böhm. Drawings and models. Rheinland-Verlag, Cologne 1992, ISBN 3-7927-1299-7 .
  • Ulrich Weisner (Ed.): Connections. The architect Gottfried Böhm. Catalog book for the exhibition in the Kunsthalle Bielefeld November 25, 1984 to January 13, 1985.
  • Ulrich Weisner: New architecture in detail. Heinz Bienefeld , Gottfried Böhm, Karljosef Schattner. Kerber, Bielefeld 1989, ISBN 3-924639-09-4 .
  • Ulrich Weisner (Ed.): Böhm. Fathers and sons. Architectural drawings by Dominikus Böhm, Gottfried Böhm, Stephan, Peter and Paul Böhm. Kerber, Bielefeld 1994, ISBN 3-924639-33-7 .



Web links

Commons : Gottfried Böhm  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


Individual evidence

  1. architect Gottfried Böhm with 101 years died on from June 10, 2021
  2. Ulf Meyer:“Concrete is blooming, postmodernism is withering. And this German Pritzker Prize winner is 100 years old "on from January 23, 2020, accessed on June 10, 2021
  3. Gottfried Böhm. Concrete and glass rocks. Exhibition guide of the Museum for Applied Art, Cologne 2009, (introductory text without pagination).
  4. Wolfgang Voigt (Ed.): Gottfried Böhm catalog book for the exhibition rocks made of concrete and glass. The architecture of Gottfried Böhm in the German Architecture Museum.
  5. Veronika Darius: The architect Gottfried Böhm. Buildings from the sixties. Düsseldorf: Beton-Verlag 1988.
  6. a b Wolfgang Voigt: Gottfried Böhm , pp. 13/14
  7. a b Amelie Seck: Meister der Betonarchitektur: On the 100th birthday of Gottfried Böhm , In: Monuments , edition 1/2020, p. 20ff.
  8. Jan Pieper: Under the eyes of Gottfried Böhm A homage to the master on his 90th birthday. In: Bauwelt. Bauwelt, March 2010, accessed on June 11, 2021 (German).
  9. a b c Cologne relies on Böhm. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. January 27, 2020, p. 13.
  10. Jürgen Müllenberg: Council decides on "Gottfried Böhm grant". City of Cologne - Office for Press and Public Relations, September 11, 2020, accessed on September 13, 2020 .
  11. Wolfgang Pehnt: Gottfried Böhm; 1999, p. 10.
  12. Wolfgang Pehnt: Gottfried Böhm; 1999, pp. 8/9.
  13. ^ Pehnt, p. 22.
  14. Gottfried Böhm. Concrete and glass rocks. Exhibition guide of the Museum of Applied Art, Cologne 2009, p. 9.
  15. ^ Pehnt, pp. 30/31.
  16. Gottfried Böhm. Concrete and glass rocks. Exhibition guide of the Museum of Applied Art, Cologne 2009, p. 12.
  17. ^ The Pritzker Architecture Price 1986, Jury Citation
  18. Wolfgang Voigt (Ed.): Gottfried Böhm catalog book for the exhibition rocks made of concrete and glass. 2006, p. 26
  19. a b Wolfgang Voigt (Ed.): Gottfried Böhm catalog book for the exhibition rocks made of concrete and glass. 2006, p. 49.
  20. The Züblin House ( Memento from February 21, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  21. On the way to Gottfried Böhm., January 23, 2015.
  22. American Institute of Architects, New York Chapter ( Memento August 4, 2015 in the Internet Archive
  23. Members: Germany. American Institute of Architects, Continental Europe Chapter.
  24. ^ Rocks made of concrete and glass. Big Gottfried Böhm exhibition in Frankfurt / Main. BauNetz , August 23, 2006.
  25. ^ Rocks made of concrete and glass. Look over Gottfried Böhm. Frankfurter Rundschau , January 9, 2009.
  26. ^ ↑ Acceptance speech by Böhm for the Pritzker Prize, website of the Pritzker Prize (English) ( Memento from June 22, 2014 in the Internet Archive ).