Günter Behnisch (12 June 1922 – 12 July 2010) was a German architect, born in Lockwitz, near Dresden. During the Second World War he became one of Germany’s youngest submarine commanders. Subsequently, Behnisch became one of the most prominent architects representing deconstructivism.
The firm’s breakthrough was winning the competition for the Munich Olympics at the zenith of West Germany’s economic miracle in 1968. The design was dominated by cable roofs on which Frei Otto was engaged as consultant, but less visible was the reworked landscape underneath, which swallowed the technical necessities yet remained a delightful informal park for the people of Munich.
The firm gained several large and long-running projects, most famously the rebuilt German Parliament at Bonn, which involved decades of design, and with its round egalitarian chamber and open view to the Rhine was more radical than Foster’s replacement in Berlin. Another nationally important work, the Post Museum in Frankfurt, was an extraordinary essay in combining new and old and exploiting a difficult site.
The assistants were the lifeblood: for decades the firm was filled with young people fresh from architecture school, full of ideals and open-minded about technique. They account for the continuous inventiveness of the firm’s work and also for its variety, which conservative critics sometimes found bewildering, but they were steered and protected by Behnisch himself, allowed great freedom if also keenly criticised. These young architects would stay three or four years before moving on elsewhere or founding offices of their own, and several major German offices splintered off Behnisch.
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