Ferdinand Kramer

Ferdinand Kramer ( born January 22, 1898 in Frankfurt am Main, † November 4, 1985 ) was a German architect and designer of functionalism. His work was mainly limited Frankfurt am Main, where he worked in the 1920s as an employee Ernst May in shaping the new Frankfurt. After his emigration to the U.S., he returned to Frankfurt and was Planning Director, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, for which he designed a number of institute building.


Kramer's father was the owner of the famous Frankfurt Hutgeschäftes (whose decor and facade Kramer in the twenties redesigned - it used Kramer a font that is very similar to Paul Renner's Futura, so that Kramer, who knew Renner, at least a spiritual co-authorship of this document is said ). 1916, immediately after finishing school, Kramer was drafted for military service and remained until the end of World War I soldier. The following year he began his three-year study of architecture in Munich under Theodor Fischer. In 1919 he went to the Bauhaus and abandoned it after a few months dissatisfied, because at that time was not a regular architectural education. He completed his studies in 1922 at the Technical University Munich.

During the period of inflation without jobs in Frankfurt, Kramer initially designed small furniture and utensils of metal, including the well-known " Kramer- oven", a multi-burner, which was produced by the company Buderus since 1925.

He was married three decades with Beate Kramer, born Feith. A divorce under pressure from the Nazis, he refused, and after exclusion of the Reich Chamber of Fine Arts and work ban in 1937, he followed her in 1938 in emigration to the United States. In 1952 he returned to Frankfurt and later married Lore Kramer, nee Koehn, a professor at the Offenbach School of Design. From this marriage three daughters.

New Frankfurt

1925 prompted Ernst May, the appointing Kramers in the Department of typing of urban building department in Frankfurt am Main, which he retained until departure Mays from Frankfurt in 1930. During this time, Kramer designed mainly combinable furniture, who adapted to the reduced floor plans, as well as utilitarian objects: lights, seat bathtubs, door handles, normalized plywood doors, window sills, etc., which were affordable because of low production costs for low-income earners.

As an architect, Kramer was only involved in a settlement project of the New Frankfurt: the Laubenganghäuser, heating plant and laundry room in the settlement of West Hausen were built according to his plans in collaboration with Eugene Blanck. In addition to his work in the building department drafted Kramer furniture, among other things for Thonet, whose mass industrial production methods fascinated him. His admiration for the simple, sensible constructed Thonet furniture he shared with the great architect Adolf Loos, which he visited both in Vienna and received in Frankfurt and its famous text " Ornament and Crime " on Kramer's initiative for the first time in Germany was published.

In 1927, Ferdinand Kramer was responsible for the interior design of the model homes in the Weißenhofsiedlung in Stuttgart.


Kramer went - unlike most of his colleagues in Frankfurt - not together with Ernst May in the Soviet Union; he remained as an independent architect in Frankfurt. 1931, the site of the planned by him and still existing house Erlenbach in the Hans -Sachs -Strasse 6 was shut down because of " defacing the area" by a flat roof and a modern form during the work of the competent authorities, so that the construction only after a one-year break could be completed on the intervention of the provincial government of Hesse- Nassau. 1992 Erlenbach was declared a National Monument.

1933 Kramer left in protest against the readily accomplished Gleichschaltung of the German Werkbund, which he had held since 1924. Until his emigration beginning of 1938 he was mainly concerned with the reconstruction and the establishment of private dwellings, the Café Bauer and shop fittings. After the expulsion from the Reich Chamber of Fine Arts, prohibition (see above) and an exhibition of his works as " Degenerate architecture" Kramer decided to emigrate to the United States, where he settled down in New York.

There, he worked for renowned architectural and design offices, until he was admitted as an architect in 1940. The previously emigrated Institute for Social Research called Kramer as director of two housing associations ( Kramer was a friend of Theodor W. Adorno). In the vicinity of New York, the Institute had huge estates for which Kramer two detached houses ( one simple, the other more expensive ) planned and marketed. Especially Kramer worked as a designer in the U.S.: He designed the so-called " knock-down " furniture, stackable, variable furniture assemble by the users, such as the principle of today's IKEA furniture. He also designed garden furniture, for example, the Eleanor Roosevelt liked ( she designed the garden of the White House so that from ); a mobile mini-kitchen and a new sales system that allowed by new department store facilities, improved visual presentation of the goods. Famous (though not rich ), he was charged with "Rain Belle ", the disposable umbrella, which consisted of a cleverly folded sheet of paper and are available in several colors was.

University of Frankfurt

1952 Kramer returned to Frankfurt ( as it is called, at the request of Max Horkheimer ) and took over the office of the Planning Director, the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, which he held until 1964.

During this time he designed together with its dedicated employees 23 university buildings. Kramer planned while the interior layout to the smallest detail: In addition to furniture, which he designed himself, he gave up all other fixtures and fittings with objects before (eg the font Futura, were made with the labels). This Kramer spread to objects from his collaboration on " New Frankfurt " back (eg the already mentioned plywood doors with steel frames ). Typical of Kramer's architecture is its straightforwardness and the use of relatively simple materials: So there are almost all the buildings at the University of a reinforced concrete skeleton, which is infilled with brick. The skeleton structure means that no load-bearing walls inside the building are present, so that the layout can be flexible. Common features of the Kramer- buildings include a guest room or faculty apartments, which are now, however, mostly used as offices.

He also drew up in 1952 a master plan for the university, which was again revised in 1955. The construction of the university library, he led after his retirement as a private architect to an end. Also planned by him Hörsaalgebäude II, the Geographical Institute at the Senckenberganlage and the Mathematical Institute II at the Robert- Mayer-Straße were built or completed until after his term.

Kramer began his work at the University with a programmatic bang: In order to increase the already to the emergence of time much too narrow entrance of the Jügel - house ( the main building of the university), he had the only recently been restored neo-baroque portal, together with columns and allegorical figures refuse (thus in a very short time the reputation of a smooth -maker acquired ) and expand to a width of seven meters. Not only that, he moved even the Rector to the ground floor, so to speak " at the level of the people", and is separated from it only by a wall of glass blocks. This new entrance to symbolize the opening of the University for all levels of society. The design language introduced by Kramer also followed Paul Friedrich Posenenske in his buildings for the University.


Public received recognition Kramer until the early eighties when awarded him two universities almost simultaneously an honorary doctorate and the Bauhaus Archive in Berlin documented his life's work in an exhibition - which would have been almost not shown in Frankfurt since powers long way in the magistrate and was shuffled around and thus there were no urban rooms. The exhibition was finally shown as a private initiative in the U.S. House. He received the Wilhelm-Leuschner- Medal of the State of Hesse, and shortly after his death in Frankfurt (West Hausen ) named on the initiative of the residents a street after him.

The future of the buildings designed by Kramer is uncertain, as the university will give up the campus Bock 's home in the coming years. Previously part of the plans to sell the land in Bock home and to be financed from the proceeds of new buildings at the other sites (Westend / Riedenberg ). Among the buildings that are sold almost all of Kramer include designed. It is only certain of the preservation of the old main building, designed by the Kramer foyer / entrance area and the former rectory. 2007, the building Senckenberganlage were 32-36 ( Geological- Paleontological Institute from 1954, Department of Geography in 1964, and the Earth Sciences Lecture Hall 1967 ) demolished, as will enlarge the adjacent Bank for Reconstruction in this area. As larger and more complex functional nor are the five buildings of the Biological Institute, which were built starting in 1954/55 and today the approximately 8 acres of Biology Campus account together with the integrated Botanical Garden of the University at the end of Siesmayerstraße.



  • Laubenganghäuser in the settlement of West Hausen, Frankfurt, 1929/30,
  • Furniture for Thonet, ca 1925-1930
  • Lights for Bünte & Remmler, Frankfurt, ca 1925-1930
  • Doorknobs for the firm Ernst Schönau 1925 ( reproduced from today TECNOLUMEN )
  • Interior design of Weißenhofsiedlung, Stuttgart, 1927
  • Erlenbach, Hans Sachs -Strasse 6, Frankfurt, 1931
  • Settlements Grey Rock Park and Alden Estates, Port Chester, NY, USA 1939/40,
  • Pictogram of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt, 1952
  • District heating plant, Gräfstraße, Frankfurt, 1953
  • Amerika-Institut/Englisches seminar, Kettenhofweg 130, Frankfurt 1953 / 54th Since 2012, sold to a private investor, planned demolition.
  • Biological Institutes and outbuildings including means Siesmayerstraße 70-72, Frankfurt, in 1954/55
  • Institute building for pharmacy, food chemistry and food Municipal Research Office with lecture hall and passageway means including, Georg -Voigt - Straße 14-16, Frankfurt, 1954-1957. In 2011, renovation work for further use by the Senckenberg Museum in progress. Meanwhile, the BiK -F is in this, interior completely renovated building.
  • Dorm Bockenheimer including waiting facility, 1956. Since 2004 is planning to demolish the house.
  • Center for nuclear physics, including experimental reactor in the August Euler Straße ( now demolished), 1956-1958
  • Department of Philosophy building steel-frame construction, including means ( Steel Furniture " kd " program ), 1959/60 since 2004. Planned a demolition of the building.
  • Walter -Kolb- student residence, including means ( " Sponti Villa " ), 1960/61,
  • City and University Library, including means ( private commission ), 1959-1964. By 2017, a use is provided by the library. After an outline is possible.
  • Department of Geography, Senckenberganlage 36, 1964. Demolished, there is now a building of the Reconstruction Loan Corporation (KfW).
  • Geological- Paleontological Institute, Senckenberganlage 32, 1954 Demolished: . KfW new building.
  • Comoedienhaus Hanau- Wilhelmsbad ( conversion and cultivation of small Rococo Theatre ), 1969
  • Haus Kramer, Frankfurt, 1969
  • Several houses in Germany and in Switzerland 1970-1972
  • Journalistic work to 1985