Architect Friedrich Kurrent died: The interpreter of space – culture

“Friedrich Kurrent”, said the other Friedrich from Austria, the Achleitner Friedrich, who has significance for the building world far beyond Vienna, just like Kurrent Friedrich, “is a moralist of the incorruptible, but also strenuous and uncomfortable kind, who cannot be forgiven for being right most of the time.” The Austrian architect Kurrent has now died at the age of 90 – and if one may call out something after him, then please this: Professor, you were right.

By which? For example with what he said about the former Hertie skyscraper in Schwabing. That was in his “leaving lecture” in 1996. Kurrent was not just a great architect (who built very little), a great theorist (who had already thought through almost everything), a great teacher (who didn’t like the small things in academics), but he was also at least as malicious a satirist as Karl Kraus (whom Kurrent, who came from near Salzburg but had become a professional Munich citizen and honorary Viennese, admired). The large physics lecture hall at the Technical University of Munich, where he taught, was completely occupied when he said of the Hertie high-rise building in Schwabing: “The first mistake was the construction. The second mistake was the demolition.”

“Munich remains Munich – and that’s not a threat”

Nevertheless, Kurrent, interpreting Munich from his apartment on Habsburgerstrasse, where else, came to the following conclusion: “Munich remains Munich – and that’s not a threat.”

At that time you heard something about sacred architecture from him. So to speak. Because he managed to lecture on interior art in churches for a whole year without even using the word “sacred” once. Nevertheless, for Kurrent the sacred building was the actual core of building and architecture, not for reasons of belief, but rather for reasons of knowledge: Kurrent actually knew everything about the question of what comes out of a space, which is initially just the simplest physics doing something magical. If it succeeds: something wonderful. Kurrent didn’t actually teach architecture, but how to see and understand spaces. So basically the craft of miracles. And he was the best and most influential architecture teacher that one can remember.

Once, on a student excursion that also led to the Wotruba Church in the southwest of Vienna, built from 150 concrete blocks according to plans by the sculptor Fritz Wotruba and the architect Fritz Gerhard Mayr, Friedrich Kurrent was asked a question about the room, which he answered like this: ” You really have to figure that out yourself.” Many years later, Kurrent sent a card from Vienna. It only read: “Did you think of it?”

If you answer “yes” to that today, it’s because you had a teacher like him, who only ever took his students to the threshold of spatial art and then let them enter themselves. Friedrich Kurrent hated guiding isms, despised fashions, humiliated braggarts, annoyed formalists, laughed at spectacles and was all in all a modernist who had overcome the modernist aspect of modernity without becoming a traditionalist. And if it does, then to someone who has also been able to leave tradition behind. Kurrent was a space interpreter beyond the ciphers of space. And an architecture enabler who, as a student of Clemens Holzmeister, became the founder of Austrian post-war modernism. In “Working Group 4” together with Wilhelm Holzbauer, Otto Leitner and Johannes Spalt. In Austrian architecture it was the Beatles the fifties.

He built very little himself. But that is striking

He pointed the way to the modern, but he also defended the traditional. Adolf Loos, of course: Viennese, he was particularly fond of quoting in this context: “Changes that are not improvements are deteriorations.” Building only for the sake of building, but not for the sake of people and cities: nothing seemed more foolish, vain and superfluous to Kurrent.

He built very little himself. But that is striking. The Segenskirche in Aschheim near Munich, a pure wooden construction that can be read both inside and out, which would be en vogue today, back in the 1990s, but still had to be considered a pioneering achievement, is reminiscent of pagoda construction and is not just a (Protestant) church interior, but unmistakably also the quintessence of a church and a primal hut in one.

He once described himself as follows: “I’m not just a current tenant, I’m also my own competitor. A frustrated architect. Because there isn’t much that I could build. Only a few houses, churches and the like.” For this purpose he has created various spaces for thinking and the like – without number and without equal. The latter is a word he would have liked, as it describes phenomena of such a nature that nothing compares to them. Friedrich Kurrent was such a phenomenon as an architect, teacher and spatial interpreter.

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