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Breathtaking interiors


Soon after the award of the Pritzker Prize to Sir Norman Foster comes this book on the winner of 13 years ago, still largely unknown to most architects in the UK. Gottfried Bohm's Pritzker Prize citation referred to him as an internationally esteemed, third-generation architect, untainted by fashion, whose extensive and individual oeuvre had anticipated subsequent architectural developments.

Three special issues of the Japanese periodical A+U and a couple of inadequate monographs are the main publications available on Bohm, so this new book - one of Birkhauser's reasonably priced paperback monographs - is more than welcome.

In a very perceptive (and not uncritical) essay, Wolfgang Pehnt describes the work and its development over 40 years. He refers also to the buildings of Bohm's father Dominikus, who was a leading figure of the Roman Catholic new church architecture movement in Germany after the First World War. Gottfried, born in 1920, joined his father's Cologne office in 1947 and took over the practice when his father died in 1955. Two buildings in the early 1960s - the Pilgrimage Church at Neviges and the City Hall at Bensberg - established him as an architect of note. Since then his many designs have included churches, museums, theatres, cultural centres, offices and housing, most of them notable for the uncompromising way in which they integrate old and new work and for their breathtaking main internal spaces, with soaring staircases and bridges heightening the drama.

A selected number of buildings and projects are at the heart of the book, each illustrated with appropriate sharp black-and-white images, some hitherto unknown, although photographs can rarely capture the magic of a Bohm interior. Nor does the book's format allow all aspects of his work to be explored adequately: for instance, his tendency to pick up the paint brush, climb the scaffolding, and decorate his buildings himself, or his drafting medium of evocative charcoal drawings.

I have only one major criticism of the book - the gazetteer of buildings and projects. Although a very comprehensive list, it fails to locate buildings by streets or give any details about access and opening times. In the case of the early churches, there is no indication if they have been re- ordered or spoilt by subsequent religious artefacts. While other Bohm- family buildings may be in the vicinity, they are not mentioned.

Hopefully, however, this publication will draw attention to one of the most significant architects of the post-war era, who is still building in a unique way today with his three architect sons and architect wife. The office now operates under the title Architekturburo Bohm and, with son Peter, Bohm has just completed the very well- received Cologne Arena - as dominant on the city skyline as the Bohms have been on the twentieth- century German architectural scene.

Peter Bareham teaches at Brighton School of Architecture

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