A systematic approach to living and loving
by Adeline Seidel | Nov 24, 2015
Auditorium of the Goethe University Frankfurt. Photo © Norbert Miguletz 2015

In Digne Meller Marcovicz’s TV film collage “Ferdi gegen Frankfurt”, broadcast for the first time in 1983, Alexander Kluge describes the architect who masterminded the Frankfurt University campus as someone who had a duplicate key made to sneak into his institutional buildings by himself during the night so that he could enjoy the rooms in tranquil sobriety. Though Kramer (1898-1985) was keen to point out that his buildings were strictly a product of their time, Kluge nonetheless describes how the architect was unable to let go of them. Accordingly, in 1929 Kramer wrote in “Die Wohnung für das Existenzminimum” (The dwelling for people on minimum wages): “It’s possible that a building that we still regard as comfortable today will place a strain on the next generation.”

And even if the City of Frankfurt has not yet bid farewell (and thankfully so) to all of Ferdinand Kramer’s output, the continued existence of his legacy is a long-time subject of debate. This affects specifically the buildings he realized between 1952 and 1964 in his capacity as Building Director of Frankfurt’s Goethe University. Though most undogmatic in style and infused with architectural lightness, there is no denying that the functional structures have aged over the years and no longer meet today’s requirements of space and function.

Of course Kramer designed more than just university buildings, as Deutsches Architekturmuseum in Frankfurt/Main demonstrates in its show “Line Form Function – the buildings of Ferdinand Kramer”, which starts on November 28. Indeed, this is the first exhibition to explore the magnum opus of Ferdinand Kramer the architect in its entirety – and the first to present Kramer’s architectural legacy in the Rhine/Main region (which may sound strange considering that he built the bulk of his architectural output in this region).

The exhibition juxtaposes plans, historical photographs and architectural models with contemporary images by Norbert Miguletz, which depict selected Kramer buildings in their current condition. The catalog to the exhibition, on the other hand, not only documents the buildings in their entirety but presents different perspectives on Kramer’s architectural style. The reason: Ferdinand Kramer was not only a designer with an astute intellect and a systematic mindset, but a reflective personality too, who sought to enhance people’s lives and society with his buildings and furniture – whether this involved dwellings for people on minimum wages, practical and functional furniture or sophisticated utilization programs, such as demonstrated by the library building he designed for the Goethe University, in which he sought to bring together books and people. In an interview with Matthias Schirren Alexander Kluge describes Kramer’s reasoning as follows: “He believed that it was necessary to install so-called ‘cubicals’, in other words, places to sleep and carrels for study, between the stacks of books. Of the quality that one could receive a lover there. But likewise designed such that one could work and read right beside it. The closer one brings these two elements together, he was convinced, the more human the books will become – and the more intelligent, in other words, the more book-like, the minds.”

Line Form Function – The buildings of Ferdinand Kramer
Deutsches Architekturmuseum (D.A.M.), Frankfurt/Main
November 28, 2015 thru May 1, 2016
Opening: November 27, 7 p.m.
Tues, Thurs to Sun 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wed 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The catalog accompanying the exhibition:
The Buildings of Ferdinand Kramer
edited by Wolfgang Voigt, Philipp Sturm, Peter Körner, Peter Cachola-Schmal
176 pages, hardback, German/English
Ernst Wasmuth Verlag, Tübingen, 2016
ISBN 978 3 8030 0797 1
38 euros

Ferdinand Kramer. Photo © Privatarchiv Kramer, Horst Trebor Kratzmann, 1970