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Ferdinand Kramer

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Ferdinand Kramer

*  1898 Frankfurt am Main
† 1985 Frankfurt am Main


Ferdinand Kramer, born in Frankfurt in 1898, who was famous for both his work as an architect of the "Neuen Frankfurt" (New Frankfurt) and as a designer. However, he was teaching at the Bauhaus for a short time only. Architecture training had not been established there by 1919, which is why Ferdinand Kramr went to Munich in order to study at the Technical University under Theodor Fischer. He stayed in close contact with his Weimar friends, quickly getting in touch with the Munich avant-garde, being a good friend of, for instance, Willi Baumeister.
After graduating in 1922 Ferdinand Kramer could at first do hardly any work as an architect, with the exception of the house of the Baron von Waldhausen on Lake Starnberg, especially as the economic situation in those days allowed only few investments into building projects. Ferdinand Kramer, a member of the German Work Federation as of 1920, mostly worked on designs for objects of utility and created an effective slow-burning stove, which was produced as of 1925 and became known as the "Kramer-Ofen". He was hired by the Frankfurt municipal building department the same year, where he became a close colleague of Ernst May. Ferdinand Kramer designed furniture in a functionally-reduced style, for instance for the Weißenhof housing estate in Stuttgart and for the company Thonet, as he was fascinated by their methods of mass production. His interior design also became quite popular, not least because of his participation in the Work Federation's exhibition "Die Wohnung" (The Apartment) in 1927. Most of his objects were combinable systems, inexpensive furniture made of plywood, which showed the role of the social aspect in Kramer's work, especially when comparing it with the more exclusive unique Bauhaus objects that were made at the same time.
He also integrated the social aspect in his work on ground-breaking housing estate projects in Frankfurt - the "Neues Frankfurt" (New Frankfurt). Ferdinand Kramer and Eugen Blank created the houses with an access balcony in the housing estate Westhausen, he also worked on a Jewish retirement home of the Foundation Henry and Emma Budge.
He stopped working for the Frankfurt municipal building department in 1930, in order to focus on his activities as a free-lance architect. He would soon feel the effects of the Hitler regime and was banned from his profession and stigmatized as degenerate. He decided to emigrate to the USA in March 1938, where he worked in several construction companies in New York City, until he finally got his US architect's license in 1940. He continued making furniture designs, that were often thought up as dismountable multi-purpose objects, and were always in line with the latest methods of production and materials.
His most important task in the time after the war would make him relocate to his home town: He became building director at the Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe-University in 1954, a post he kept until 1964. He turned down a call as director of the Hamburg school of fine arts, in order to keep his employment in Frankfurt even beyond the statutory retirement age. Ferdinand Kramer made numerous functional buildings during his time in Frankfurt and shaped the face of the Frankfurt university district.
As his architectural and design oeuvre shows, Ferdinand Kramer had always been a down-to-earth artist with a social mind, who put functionality above everything else, thus attaining a clear, reduced esthetic. Two honorary doctor titles and numerous exhibitions count among Ferdinand Kramer's merits, he died of a severe illness in Frankfurt in 1985.

Cf.: Ferdinand Kramer. Der Charme des Systematischen, Ex. cat. Museum für Gestaltung Zurich, Gießen 1991.