Konrad Wachsmann

Photograph: Konrad Wachsmann, Architect
Konrad Wachsmann in front of his car, US, presumably photographed by Anna Wachsmann after 1941
© Archiv der Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Baukunst Archiv, Sig: KWA 01-211 F

Konrad Wachsmann

Pioneer of Industrial Construction

Es ist ganz furchtbar, wenn man plötzlich kein Heimatland hat. Der Entschluß, einen Strich zu ziehen, fällt noch leicht. Schwerer wird es, wenn der Termin der Rückkehr nicht abzusehen ist. Natürlich hätte ich nach Deutschland gehen können, um dann wie ein Kretin zu leben und irgendwann doch in einem Lager zu verschwinden. Nur in Deutschland bleiben, hieß auch dulden, akzeptieren. 

[It is quite awful when you suddenly have no homeland. The decision to draw a line is easy enough. It becomes more difficult if the date of return is not in sight. Of course I could have gone to Germany and lived like a cretin and disappeared at some point in a camp. But simply remaining in Germany meant also a toleration, an acceptance of the situation. (ed. trans.)]

Konrad Wachsmann in Der Wachsmannreport, 1985

Bornon 16 May 1901 in Frankfurt (Oder), Deutschland
Diedon 25 November 1980 in Los Angeles, United States of America
ExileItaly, Spain, France, United States of America

The architect Konrad Wachsmann wanted to bring about a "watershed in construction". As chief architect of a timber factory, he designed prefabricated wooden houses and made a name for ​​himself in the 1920s as a pioneer of industrial construction.

In the summer of 1932, Wachsmann received the prestigious scholarship of the German Academy in Rome and in January 1933 began to set up his home and studio there. On 13 May 1933, he gave back the scholarship in protest at the seizure of power by the Nazis. His German citizenship was subsequently revoked.

Wachsmann went to Granada using false papers. In direct response to the change in the political climate in Spain in 1934, he fled to Aix-en-Provence. Some weeks later Wachsmann returned to Italy. He worked until 1938 as a successful architect in Rome. On the occasion of Hitler’s visit in the summer of 1938, Wachsmann, who was of Jewish origin, was arrested. After his release from prison he was able to flee on foot from Italy to France. With the outbreak of the Second World War he was interned as an “enemy alien” in various camps. Wachsmann then joined the French army.

In 1941 Wachsmann received an entry permit for the US, where, together with Walter Gropius, he founded the company for prefabricated buildings “General Panel Corporation”, his biggest project also from an entrepreneurial point of view. Until his retirement Wachsmann taught at several American universities and travelled regularly to Germany to give guest lectures.

Further reading:
Grüning, Michael: Der Wachsmann-Report. Auskünfte eines Architekten. Berlin: Verlag der Nation 1985
Strauch, Dietrich / Högner, Bärbel: Konrad Wachsmann. Stationen eines Architekten. Berlin: Edition Progris 2013
Wachsmann, Konrad: Wendepunkte im Bauen. Dresden: Verlag der Kunst 1989