Wilhelm Circle

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Wilhelm Kreis, around 1904
Wilhelm Kreis, around 1910
Wilhelm Kreis works as a fortress builder (Belgium, June 1915)

Wilhelm Kreis (born March 17, 1873 in Eltville am Rhein ; † August 13, 1955 in Bad Honnef ; full name: Wilhelm Heinrich Kreis ) was an important German architect in the first half of the 20th century. He worked as director of the Düsseldorf School of Applied Arts and as a university lecturer at the art academies in Düsseldorf and Dresden .


First years

Wilhelm Kreis was born on March 17, 1873 in Eltville in the Rheingau as the sixth of nine children. The father was a surveyor , the ancestors a vintner .

After attending secondary school in Wiesbaden , he studied architecture , initially from 1892 to 1894 at the Technical University of Munich . According to his own statements , he was particularly influenced by August Thiersch , who taught ancient architecture there. After completing his intermediate diploma, Kreis first switched to the Technical University of Karlsruhe , then to the Technical University (Berlin-) Charlottenburg , then to the Technical University of Braunschweig , where he passed his first state examination in 1897 and also met his future wife. In spring 1898, Kreis received the Grand State Prize of the Prussian Academy of the Arts . In December 1899, the group, who came from a strictly Catholic milieu, married the evangelical Hedwig née. Hahn, daughter of a Braunschweig factory owner. Most of his own relatives broke because of the mixed-denominational marriage with him, he integrated himself all the more strongly into his wife's family and their social environment.

First work

His first competition entry, which he - just 23 years old and still a student - submitted for the monumental Völkerschlachtdenkmal in Leipzig , was awarded first prize. However, Bruno Schmitz was commissioned to build the monument . Then Kreis was employed by Hugo Licht in the competition for the New Town Hall in Leipzig.

From 1898 he was Paul Wallot's assistant at the Dresden Art Academy and supported him in the construction of the Ständehaus in Dresden, whose meeting room he designed. In 1899 he won the three first prizes out of 320 submitted designs in the competition for the Bismarck Towers , which was announced by the German student body . In the following years, 47 of these monuments were built by Kreis according to the victorious design "Götterdämmerung" and eleven more Bismarck towers according to other designs. He also designed the fraternity monument in Eisenach in 1902.

Dresden years 1902–1908

In 1902, Kreis was appointed professor for spatial art at the Dresden School of Applied Arts . As a student of Paul Wallot , Kreis was initially influenced by the local baroque tradition. His first major project in Dresden was the Friedrich-August-Brücke (1907–1910). The previous building, the Augustusbrücke , was the work of the Dresden master builder Daniel Pöppelmann (1728–1730) and, despite all objections to the preservation of monuments, had to give way to a new building because it no longer met the growing traffic demands. Based on the historical model, Kreis developed a new building with a modern design, and this compromise met with broad approval. The reinforced concrete construction, clad with natural stone, enabled only nine wide-span arches instead of 18 narrow arches.

During these years Kreis, together with the Art Nouveau painter and illustrator of the Karl May volumes, Sascha Schneider and the sculptor Selmar Werner , often stayed with his friend Karl May in his Villa Shatterhand in Radebeul . Even Kuno Ferdinand Graf von Hardenberg participated in such a meeting artists. Kreis had drafted the plans for the Bismarck Tower in Jena (1906) and for the Bismarck Tower in Radebeul (1907).

Düsseldorf years

In June 1908, Kreis was appointed director of the Düsseldorf School of Applied Arts as successor to Peter Behrens . During his time in Düsseldorf, the neo-baroque decorative form was withdrawn in favor of a more purposeful use form, but baroque reminiscences still had an effect, for example in the administration building for the Emschergenossenschaft in Essen and in the residential and studio building for Fritz Reusing in Düsseldorf . In 1910, Kreis won an architecture competition for the construction of the Szczecin Bismarck Tower .

Kreis returned to its neo-baroque roots for the last time in his designs for the officer's convalescent home (now the Schlosshotel) Bühlerhöhe in 1911 and for the Herne town hall in 1912. Other important buildings in the district in the last few years before the First World War are the department stores for Leonhard Tietz AG in Cologne and Wuppertal - Elberfeld , for the Geschwister Knopf company in Karlsruhe , and for Theodor Althoff AG in Dortmund and Essen . From 1915 on, Kreis volunteered during the First World War , was wounded on the Somme, awarded the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd class and in 1917 was promoted to Lieutenant of the Reserve .

The architecture department of the School of Applied Arts was transferred to the Düsseldorf Art Academy in 1920 , and its teachers became academy professors . Kreis' best-known student in the academy's architecture class was the young Arno Breker - who later became Hitler's favorite sculptor - who was considered highly gifted and not only had a lifelong friendship with the group, but also worked closely together during the so-called Third Reich, as a member of the general building inspector's staff (GBI) Albert Speer belonged. Another student was the architect Bernhard Wielers .

Dresden years from 1926

In 1926, Kreis moved to the Dresden Art Academy as successor to Heinrich Tessenow .

While the avant-garde developed the formal and expressive language of the New Building in the Weimar Republic , the conservative architects, including Wilhelm Kreis, continued the pre-war effort to create monumental, representative and “German” expression in architecture. Kreis, which was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Dresden University of Technology in 1929 , was probably the most renowned architect of the time alongside Paul Bonatz . The most important works of this era in the work of Kreis include the Wilhelm-Marx-Haus (1922–1924) and the so-called "permanent buildings" of the GeSoLei on the banks of the Rhine in Düsseldorf (1925–1926) and the German Hygiene Museum in Dresden (1927 -1930). In June 1926 - during the GeSoLei - Kreis in Düsseldorf was elected President of the Association of German Architects (BDA) ; he held this office until the spring of 1933, when he was replaced by Eugen Hönig, who was of the same age and who was close to National Socialism . The general appreciation of his colleagues, however, manifested itself in his appointment as honorary president, which he remained until the BDA was finally brought into line in 1935.

time of the nationalsocialism

On his 70th birthday in 1943, Kreis (left) received the
eagle shield from Goebbels , in the background Speer and the Vice President of the Reich Chamber of Culture Gutterer

After the National Socialists took power in 1933 , Kreis continued to be one of the most renowned architects in Germany, but lost the BDA presidency and several large commissions. Because of his previous extensive work for “Jewish” clients, he seemed to have been temporarily sidelined. As evidence of a “critical” life situation after 1933, Kreis also complained that his wife was related to the family of the politically unpopular writer Ricarda Huch . However, Kreis soon allowed itself to be captured by the National Socialists. He designed the Gauforum Dresden on the Güntzwiesen (1935), the Luftgaukommando Dresden (1937) and extensions to the Dresden Opera (1938).

He also worked under the direction of Hitler's protégé Albert Speer , who loved the circle very much, on the monumental complexes for the planned “ world capital Germania ”. Here he designed a. a. the new buildings for the Army High Command (OKH) with the soldiers' hall, the new Reich Ministry of Transport and new buildings for the Egyptian Museum, the 19th Century Museum, the Germanic Museum and the World War Museum. Because of the war, none of these designs got beyond the planning stage.

In 1938, Kreis was appointed Reich Senator for Culture for the Fine Arts. He headed the architecture department of the Academy of Fine Arts in Dresden until 1941 (1931/1932; 1940/1941 rector ) and was subsequently appointed by Hitler in 1941 as general building officer for the German war cemeteries . In this capacity he designed numerous memorials and so-called burial castles , including the memorial of the Panzer Army Africa and a monumental burial castle on the Dnepr . None of these buildings were carried out either. In 1943, Kreis became President of the Reich Chamber of Fine Arts as successor to Adolf Ziegler ; This office was previously held by Eugen Hönig, Kreis 'successor as BDA President in 1933 - a final, conspicuous indication of Kreis' "resurgence" after 1933. In August 1944, in the final phase of World War II , Adolf Hitler joined the circle Special list of the "God-gifted" with the twelve most important visual artists included, which saved him from any war effort, including on the " home front ". Shortly before, Albert Speer had appointed him to the task force for the reconstruction of bombed-out cities .

The sculptor Arno Breker immortalized the circle in two portrait busts. Breker donated the bust in Carrara marble in admiration for his teacher and later friend after 1945 for the Tonhalle built by Kreis in Düsseldorf. The bust is on public display there. An original plaster of paris of the bust is in the Arno Breker Museum Collection in the Art Museum, Collection of European Art at Nörvenich Castle .

post war period

After the war ended, Kreis moved to Bad Honnef in 1949, in the vicinity of his nephew and godchild, Helmut Arntz , who lived in Arntz Castle and who was to become his heir, as Kreis and his wife had remained childless. Despite his advanced age, he received a few other commissions, e. B. the Dortmund branch of the Landeszentralbank , residential complexes, hotels as well as the health museum in Cologne , which was not carried out , and regardless of his involvement in National Socialist cultural policy, he was a sought-after discussion partner who had the best social contacts - also to colleagues like Bruno Paul , who was critical of National Socialism Had kept their distance. In this respect he is an example of the personal continuity that was accepted at the beginning of 1945.

Kreis even received the Great Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany . For the development of architecture in Germany in the 1950s, however, it no longer came close to the importance it had had in the previous decades.


Buildings and designs

Fraternity monument in Eisenach, 1902
Tietz department store in Elberfeld , today Kaufhof , 1911–1912
State Museum for Prehistory in Halle (Saale), 1911–1913
Concrete hall in Leipzig, 1913
Rheinhalle, today's Tonhalle, in Düsseldorf, 1926
Sparkasse Bochum, 1929
German Hygiene Museum in Dresden, 1930
Luftgaukommando in Dresden, 1937–1938
  • 1900: Renovation and refurbishment of a villa for the entrepreneur Karl August Lingner in Dresden , Leubnitzer Straße 30
  • 1900–1902: Tomb for the chief director Christel Richelsen and the privateer Fritz Buckmann, Johannisfriedhof Dresden-Tolkewitz (preserved, renovated in 2015)
  • 1900–1902: Fraternity memorial in Eisenach (preserved)
  • 1901–1903: Tomb for the government architect Wilhelm May, Johannisfriedhof Dresden-Tolkewitz (together with the sculptor Selmar Werner) (preserved)
  • 1904–1909: Manor of the later Countess Berta von Sierstorpff on the Königsklinger Aue in front of Heidesheim am Rhein (preserved)
  • 1906: Refurbishment of the Stockhausen villa for Karl August Lingner
  • around 1907: Tomb for the Lupprian family in Braunschweig (preserved with changes)
  • around 1907: Tomb of the Netto-Aselmeyer family, Johannisfriedhof Dresden-Tolkewitz (together with his brother Fritz Kreis), (preserved)
  • 1907–1908: Conversion of a house for the merchant Robert Wollner, today Villa Wollner , in (Dresden-) Wachwitz (Elbe), Am Steinberg
  • 1907–1910: Friedrich August Bridge in Dresden (preserved)
  • 1908–1910: Administration building of the Emschergenossenschaft in Essen , Kronprinzenstraße (preserved with changes)
  • 1909: Tomb for Antoinette and Friedrich Zinzen in Düsseldorf , on the north cemetery (preserved)
  • 1909: Tomb for the Rudolph Brach family in Hamburg, Ohlsdorf cemetery (preserved)
  • 1909: House with studio for the painter Fritz Reusing in Düsseldorf, Venloer Straße (not preserved)
  • 1909–1910: House for textile manufacturer Alex Oppenheimer in Krefeld , Uerdinger Straße
  • 1910–1911: Extension of the department store of Theodor Althoff AG (since 1920: Rudolph Karstadt AG ) in Dortmund , Hansaplatz (facade with changes preserved)
  • 1911 (?): Memorial for 349 fatally injured miners from the Radbod colliery in ( Hamm -) Hövel (Westphalia)
  • 1911–1912: Department store of Theodor Althoff AG (since 1920: Rudolph Karstadt AG ) in Essen, Limbecker Platz (facade preserved with changes, was demolished in 2008 in favor of the Limbecker Platz shopping center )
  • 1911–1912: City Hall of Herne , Friedrich-Ebert-Platz 1 (preserved with the original furnishings of the council chamber, the magistrate hall and the wedding room)
  • 1911–1912: Leonhard Tietz AG department store in Elberfeld (now part of Wuppertal ), Neumarktstrasse (partially preserved)
  • 1911–1913: Reconstruction of Arntz Castle in Bad Honnef for his brother-in-law Emil Arntz
  • 1911–1913: Museum of German Prehistory in Halle (Saale) , Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz (preserved)
  • 1911–1914: Officer's convalescent home, later " Schlosshotel Bühlerhöhe " near Bühlertal (Black Forest) Due to financial problems, the original concept was implemented (preserved) by Curt Karl Rüschhoff (1887–1969) and Hans Woltmann, two employees of Wilhelm Kreis, in a reduced form
  • 1912: “ Palatium ” residential and commercial building in Cologne , triangular building block Hohe Straße 55–61 / Schildergasse 1–5 / Gürzenichstraße 1–5 The wing at Hohe Straße / Schildergasse was destroyed in the Second World War and rebuilt in a modern way.
  • 1912–1913: H. & C. Tietz AG (commonly known as Hermann Tietz ) department store in Chemnitz , Bahnhofstrasse (preserved, today a cultural center )
  • 1912–1913: Exhibition hall, so-called " concrete hall " (Hall 12, later Hall 16) for the Leipzig International Building Exhibition 1913 , on the (former) site of the Technical Fair (under monument protection)
  • 1912–1913: Geschwister Knopf department store in Karlsruhe , Kaiserstraße (preserved with changes, today Karstadt )
  • 1912–1914: Leonhard Tietz AG department store in Cologne, Hohe Strasse (facade with changes preserved, today Kaufhof )
  • 1913: Planning and start of construction of the Great Exhibition Düsseldorf 1915 - One Hundred Years of Art and Culture , Düsseldorf-Golzheim (canceled in 1914)
  • 1913: War memorial for those who died in the Wars of Unification in Emmerich
  • 1913–1914: "Teehaus" (also "Parkhaus") for the German Werkbund exhibition in 1914 in Cologne-Deutz (torn down in 1957)
  • 1913–1914: House for the painter Walter Petersen in Düsseldorf, Lindemannstrasse 42 (modified, listed)
  • 1914: Dhein department store in Krefeld ; Grave of the Kommerzienrat family Friedrich Soeding in Witten , in the Protestant cemetery (preserved)
  • 1914: "König-Ludwig-Brunnen" in Zweibrücken (under monument protection)
  • 1915: New buildings of the AG for pulp and paper production in Aschaffenburg
  • around 1915 (?): New buildings for the CF Beer Söhne paint factory in Cologne
  • 1916: Memorial to the fallen in the Westfriedhof in Ghent (preserved)
In memory of the eight crew members who died when the Army airship LZ 37 was shot down on June 7, 1915 over Sint-Amandsberg near Ghent; LZ 37 was the first German airship in World War I to be shot down by a British airplane pilot at full speed by dropping an incendiary bomb. The monument was commissioned in 1916 by the German military building authority in Ghent, and the inauguration took place on January 7, 1917.
  • around 1917: various new buildings for Rheinische Metallwaren- und Maschinenfabrik AG ( Rheinmetall ) in Düsseldorf
  • 1921–1922: Coal silo for the coking plant of the Hannibal colliery in Bochum (demolished around 1975)
  • 1922–1923: Boiler house of the United Constantin der Große colliery in Bochum (demolished around 1975)
  • 1922–1924: “ Wilhelm-Marx-Haus ” office and commercial building in Düsseldorf , Heinrich-Heine-Allee (one of the first high-rise office buildings in Germany, under monument protection, expanded similarly in 1984)
  • 1923: Administration building for the Höntrop plant of the Bochumer Verein in Bochum-Höntrop, Essener Straße (preserved)
  • 1923–1924: Commercial building of the Wilhelm Strothmann distillery in Minden
  • 1924: War memorial in Hattingen (preserved)
  • 1925: Renovation and interior design of the "Residenz-Theater" cinema in Düsseldorf
  • 1925: Tomb of the Leonhard Tietz family in the Bocklemünd Jewish cemetery
  • 1925–1926: Permanent buildings for the GeSoLei exhibition in Düsseldorf, Ehrenhof and Joseph-Beuys-Ufer
    • "Rheinhalle" ( ballroom usable as a planetarium ), since 1978 "Tonhalle" (main hall modernly renovated after war damage 1975–1978, facades and foyer preserved)
    • "Museumsbau 1" (contemporary) later "Museum Volk und Wirtschaft", since 1998 "NRW-Forum Kultur und Wirtschaft" (preserved with relatively minor changes)
    • "Museum building 2" (contemporary), later "Kunstmuseum", since 2001 "museum kunst palast" (preserved with changes)
    • Restaurant " Rheinterrasse " (partially rebuilt, interior of the "Rheingoldsaals" incomplete)
  • 1927: Reception building of the Meissen train station (revision of a draft by the Reichsbahn -bauverwaltung)
  • 1927–1930: German Hygiene Museum in Dresden, Lingnerplatz (under monument protection, partially changed)
  • 1927–1928: “Gloria-Palast” cinema in Bielefeld (exterior and interior design, heavily modified after partial destruction in World War II, meanwhile converted into a commercial building, exterior with reconstructed facade preserved)
  • 1928–1929: Municipal bank (today: Sparkasse Bochum ) in Bochum, Dr.-Ruer-Platz (preserved with changes)
  • 1929–1932: State spa hotel in Bad Schwalbach
  • 1930–1931: Clubhouse of the Dresden-Bad Weißer Hirsch / Bühlau Golf Club ; today Bühlau forest gardens
  • 1937–1938: Luftgaukommando IV in Dresden-Strehlen, August-Bebel-Straße (preserved)
  • 1940–1941: Extension, so-called "Rotunda-Bau", of the metal and lacquerware factory Johannes Großfuß in Döbeln , Grimmaische Strasse (attribution to Kreis after a publication by the State Monuments Office from 1996, preserved)
  • 1950–1952: Landeszentralbank in Dortmund, Hiltropwall 16 (today a branch of the Bundesbank)

Bismarck Towers

Bismarck tower "Götterdämmerung"

Design "Götterdämmerung"

Kreis owed particular popularity to his competition design “Götterdämmerung”, which won a prize in 1899, for a Bismarck tower of the German student body (see subsection “ First Works ” in the “Life” section). A selection of the 47 Bismarck towers based on this design, some with small deviations and always built by local architects or contractors, is listed here (detailed list: Bismarck tower ) :

Individual designs

Kreis was later repeatedly commissioned with the design of individually designed (i.e. only executed once) Bismarck towers. Some of these designs have emerged victorious from architectural competitions.


A street was named after him in Düsseldorf and Eltville.


Web links

Commons : Wilhelm Kreis  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Prussian Academy of the Arts (PrAdK 0730). Great State Prize. March 11, 1898: Prize winners Erwin Küsthardt and Wilhelm Kreis
  2. Hans-Dieter Steinmetz, Hartmut Vollmer: Correspondence with Sascha Schneider (= Karl May's collected works and letters. Volume 93). Karl-May-Verlag, Bamberg and Radebeul 2009, ISBN 978-3-7802-0093-8 , p. 39.
  3. Informational directory of the cultural monuments in the Mainz-Bingen district. (PDF; 1.9 MB) General Directorate for Cultural Heritage Rhineland-Palatinate (Ed.), Mainz 2014.
  4. Edgar Thies citizens: Tomb of Antoinette and Friedrich Zinzen. Retrieved July 18, 2019 .
  5. Grab Brach, details from Barbara Leisner, Heiko KL Schulze, Ellen Thormann: The Hamburg main cemetery Ohlsdorf. History and tombs. Hans Christians Verlag, Hamburg 1990, pp. 87/88, cat. 535.
  6. ^ Grab Brach, inscriptions at genealogy.net
  7. The draft for the memorial is mentioned in Thieme-Becker as a "Tomb for the miners of Radbod" without a date, but interpreted in the catalog raisonné of the 1994 district monograph (see literature) as a "memorial to the miners of Radbod who died in the war" , strangely enough, however, dated to "around 1912". (Since the colliery did not come into being until 1905, there could be no Radbod miners who died in a war before 1914.) Neither source reproduces an illustration. However , the sculptor Ernst Müller-Braunschweig is named as the artistic author of the memorial , which is still preserved on site , and the design by Kreis may be a competition entry that was not carried out.
  8. ^ Ulrich Coenen: Bühlerhöhe and Stupinigi. Filippo Juvarra's hunting lodge as a model for the neo-baroque monument by Wilhelm Kreis. In: The Ortenau. Publications of the Historical Association for Mittelbaden, ISSN  0342-1503 , 82.2002, pp. 243-276.
  9. ^ Ulrich Coenen: Bühlerhöhe. The castle in the Black Forest by Wilhelm Kreis. Swen Panten, Baden-Baden 2004, ISBN 3-928813-13-7 .
  10. ^ Hiltrud Kier : List of monuments Cologne old town and Deutz . Ed .: State Conservator Rhineland . tape 12.1 . Rheinland Verlag, Cologne 1979, ISBN 3-7927-0455-2 , p. 68 .
  11. Architects and Engineers Association Cologne e. V. von 1875 (Ed.): Cologne. His buildings 1928–1988 . 1st edition. JP Bachem Verlag , Cologne 1991, ISBN 3-7616-1074-2 , p. 280 .
  12. ^ Richard Klapheck : New Architecture in the Rhineland , VI. Wilhelm Kreis Architecture up to the World War, p. 32
  13. H. P.Schwanke: v Two buildings. Wilh. District in Krefeld. In: The home. 56, 1995, pp. 150-154.
  14. ^ Dated to 1914 according to: Heinrich Schoppmeyer: Witten. History of the village, town and suburbs. Volume 1, Witten 2012, ISBN 978-3-00-040266-1 , pp. 505-506.
  15. Graf Monument bemanning Duitse zeppelin in De Inventaris van het Bouwkundig Erfgoed. Retrieved November 13, 2014 (Flemish, Dutch).
  16. Günter Dick: From heaven, through hell to the monastery bed. The "given life" of Alfred Mühler, Höhensteuermann on the Army Airship LZ 37, 1915. St. Augustin 2015, p. 16 ( luftschiffwaffe.de PDF).
  17. Dresden city districts website , accessed on May 26, 2016.
  18. Max Schmid (ed.): One hundred designs from the competition for the Bismarck National Monument on the Elisenhöhe near Bingerbrück-Bingen. Düsseldorfer Verlagsanstalt, Düsseldorf 1911. (n. Pag.)