German architect Gottfried Böhm, who was famous for his concrete brutalist-style church buildings, has died at 101.
Boehm, who was born in Offenbach in central Germany in 1920, built more than 50 churches, many of them in his signature concrete style.
“Churches have something of that as well,” Böhm said. “You feel a relationship with a higher, more distant realm.”
He was one of the most famous postwar architects in the country and in 1986 became the first German to receive the renowned Pritzker Architecture Prize.
Böhm was born on Jan. 23, 1920, in the river city of Offenbach-am-Main, near Frankfurt, the youngest of three sons of Dominikus and Maria Böhm.
Like his father, the expressionist architect Dominikus Böhm (1880-1955), he was highly regarded as a builder 4of churches.
His first, completed in 1949, was Madonna in the Ruins, a chapel that is now part of the Kolumba museum complex in Cologne, a city whose postwar reconstruction he was particularly involved in.
Böhm built the chapel on the site of an early medieval parish church, dating to the year 980, that was destroyed by Allied bombs in 1943.
His design incorporated the church’s few surviving elements, including the exterior walls, the northeast pillar of the main nave and the 15th-century life-size statue of the Virgin Mary that lent the reconsecrated church its name.
“Mountains of rubble flowered beautifully there,” Mr. Böhm said of postwar Cologne in a 2014 documentary film, “Concrete Love — The Böhm Family.” “It was a mountain world. It fascinated me.”
One of his most best-known sacral buildings is the Catholic pilgrimage church Mary, Queen of Peace, in Neviges near the western city of Duesseldorf.
Built-in the brutalist style and consecrated in 1968, the church became famous for its irregular roof and forum-like interior.
Boehm also created other buildings such as the city hall of Bensberg near Cologne, a glass-and-steel fronted theater in Potsdam, and a pyramid-shaped public library in Ulm.
He was drafted into the Wehrmacht in 1939 and served until being wounded during the Russian campaign in 1942 and sent back to Germany.
“My task was to shoot,” he said. “We were mountaineers. There was a murderous hail of bullets, and we suffered many losses. Right next to me. Right in front of me.”
While he worked primarily in Germany, he also designed buildings and development projects worldwide, including in Los Angeles, Boston, Tokyo and Turin, Italy.
Böhm continued working well into his 90s.
A later project of his, from 2006, in collaboration with his son Paul’s firm, is the Hans-Otto Theater in Potsdam, close to Berlin, whose glass foyer is capped by a fiery red sculptural crown.