Casting off

From the archive

Summer 1974 - The concrete romantic

Some of the most astonishing buildings to grace Concrete Quarterly in the 1970s came from the imagination of Gottfried Böhm, who died earlier this year. At the time, CQ editor George Perkin could think of no other living architect “who has used concrete in a more romantic manner”, citing the cathedral-like Mariendom (left) in Neviges, North Rhine-Westphalia as Böhm’s masterpiece.

“The church has a nobility and simple dignity about it which is unforgettable and, perhaps, all the more remarkable when one remembers that the whole structure is of exposed in-situ concrete inside and out. Internally a warm buff exposed-aggregate concrete is used, washed over in parts by glowing reflections from the dramatically brilliant stained glass windows of modern designs.

Professor Böhm has in some way managed to use exposed concrete in this building to create an aura of sanctity and even majesty, with the faceted and sculptured walls, ceiling and pulpit left almost entirely unadorned, the textured concrete surfaces being allowed to stand on their own merit.”

Perkin was also impressed with Böhm’s use of roofscape and silhouette – in contrast with the “severe flatness” of other modern buildings – not only on religious architecture but at a domestic scale. At the Bensberg children’s village, for example, the steeply pitched roof surfaces form an extension of the exposed in-situ concrete walls.

“Nobody else, surely, has related roof to wall surfaces in this way.” Above all, Perkin concluded, Böhm had an unwillingness to compromise with concrete. “He uses it boldly and continuously … to give a monolithicity which is the charm of all his buildings.”

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