June 21: chileburger

2012/06/21 § Leave a comment

On this day in 1949  Johann Friedrich (Fritz) Höger died.

There’s no really compelling reason for you to know Höger unless you are (1) really into bricky Expressionism or (2) one of those Germans trying to make amends for (or distract us from) other things that happened over there the early twentieth century.

Well, as Loki would say, I guess that’s worth a look.  Indeed it is: take in this huge crazy thing.  It’s the Chilehaus, a big, ten-story office building constructed by Höger in 1922 for a local businessman, Henry B. Sloman, who made his fortune in trade with Chile–thus the name of the building.  It is a tremendous pile, all jagged and dynamic (except for those horrible windows on the top floor: what was he thinking of?)  Iconic images (like the one above) show the building at its best advantage, as Höger could totally out-shard Mies who did something very similar in 1922; you decide if this jagged thing looks better in brick or glass (keeping in mind that Mies couldn’t find a client to build his).

Höger was no one-hit wonder, although people outside of Germany are hard-pressed to name anything besides the Chilehaus (if they can even name that, since Expressionism is so woefully excluded from most architectural history courses).  Many of his other works slip between a kind of reasonable Functionalist drumbeat others slip into a kind of Teutonic dreamland.  But then there are also some really compelling things: behold this church and this apartment block.

Nein, Höger ist kein einer-hit wunder.  Höger is just one of those many, many architects whose histories have been drowned out by more famous figures who seem to always make it to the Top 100 list, no matter what.  He deserves to show up more significantly on architecture’s radar; but as he sadly fails to do so, we’ll give him the honor of being architecture’s Falco.  And really, maybe it’s not so bad to ride to your Walhalla on the wings of Der Kommissar or Das Chilehaus.

Image: the Chilehaus (from this source)

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