June 21: Chileburger

2016/06/21 § Leave a comment

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

Why know about this guy? We all could know a bit more about bricky Expressionism and he built one of its greats.  Look at this huge crazy thing.  It’s the Chilehaus, a 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 imagined something very similar, but glassy (and unbuildable), 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). (Overall, Mies was not so elegant in brick, but we digress, tho it is hard not to look at Herr MVDR when you come to the early 20th c. in Germany)

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 (as we see in lots of young mods at the time).  But then there are also some really compelling things: behold this church and this apartment block (which you’re not going to find in the portfolio of your average Bauhausler).

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, and drowned by historians who prefer a tidy obvious line of stylistic/technological “progression” rather than wrestle with fitting the weird, creative, inspiring outliers into the story. Höger 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.

Image: the Chilehaus


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You are currently reading June 21: Chileburger at Clio’s Calendar: Daily Musings on Architectural History.


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