November 19, 2020 | "A Day of Böhm" wrap-up


A gleaning by Anna Graff, Verena Hake and Caroline Helmenstein


On the occasion of the 100th birthday of the architect Gottfried Böhm, whose multifaceted œuvre is currently being honored and celebrated in various ways in the professional world within the framework of a veritable "Böhm Year", the Chair of Architectural History in cooperation with the Chair of Building Typologies organized a digital study day on October 30, 2020, along with an exhibition of student work. Scholars from Germany, Austria, Italy and Lebanon presented their current research methods and results on the works of the Pritzker Prize winner and discussed them with a large number of virtual participants from Paris to Cape Town.

Professors Anke Naujokat and Anne-Julchen Bernhardt opened a day with a variety of perspectives on the external and internal approach to the works of Gottfried Böhm. The morning section was devoted to his secular buildings and in particular to his virtuoso handling of the architectural interweaving of tradition and the present. To name just a few examples, the lecturers highlighted the wide range and thematic complexity of the architect's designs, which were in many respects exemplary, but also not infrequently controversial, with the Diözesanmuseum in Paderborn, the Bergischer Löwen in Bergisch Gladbach, and the exemplary further development of the historical inventory of castles and city layouts so typical of Böhm.

The focus of the afternoon section was on the Neviges Cathedral of Our Lady. The lecturers, who approached the building with, in part, completely different research methods and questions, each knew how to introduce the audience in an individual way to what is perhaps Gottfried Böhm's most important sacred building by making the architectural power and spatial intensity of this "animated monolith" tangible on different scale and program levels. For example, the lectures addressed the urban conception and contextualization, aspects of atmospheric formation, and the physical apprehension and experience of the church space.

The afternoon section was preceded by a guided tour through the virtual exhibition of the Chair of Building Typologies. Anne-Julchen Bernhardt offered an inspiring insight into selected works of 24 students, who in two analytical design seminars subjected as many different buildings of Gottfried Böhm to a monographic analysis. Tool and result are three artifacts each: a photo, a model and a drawing, which in many cases open surprising and insightful new approaches to the architect's work.

Due to the current circumstances, both the study day and the exhibition took place in a completely "unböhmian" way, as they were - since they were carried out purely digitally - non-haptic, non-material, non-physical. But what they were nonetheless: Intensive in content and, last but not least, deeply human. Despite the distance of several thousand kilometers, the participants found themselves closer together than originally expected in discussions that were as exciting as they were profound. After all, they were united by their deep admiration for the life's work of the architect of the century, despite their very different positions on individual aspects. The event came to a special close with a lecture by Jan Pieper, who provided very personal insights into his years as an apprentice to Gottfried Böhm, whose colleague and assistant he had been for many years.

By the way: The website set up for the study day is still online, and soon the recordings of the individual lectures will also be available there in addition to the virtual exhibition.