Ferdinand Kramer


The architect and designer Ferdinand Kramer was born in 1898 in Frankfurt am Main. One of his earliest documented architectural works is the interior design for the Frankfurter Hof of 1924.

With his profile-perdu counters, black horsehair benches, linked soffit lamps and a clock without digits he caused such an uproar that he attracted the attention of Ernst May, Frankfurt’s City Planning Officer.

In 1925 Ferdinand Kramer was appointed to the Structural Engineering Department of the City of Frankfurt am Main. Like his colleague Grete Schütte-Lihotzky, he worked in the office for style and planning. Whereas new building was the job of Ernst May and others, Ferdinand Kramer, Schütte-Lihotzky and colleagues were responsible for new living. They planned and designed the interior fitting of dwellings through to basic equipment. The rationalization and standardization of production processes were aspects that flowed above all into their work. Kramer’s design for a »people’s stove« (Kramerofen) stems from this period, likewise the so-called minimal stairway. During the years 1925 to 1930 he was involved with the planning and furnishing of the large residential complexes on the edge of the city. This project, in which seven Frankfurt satellite towns were built, including the Römerstadt, served to alleviate the housing shortage caused by the War and was familiar way beyond Frankfurt. A further outstanding example of Kramer’s work is the fitting of model dwellings of the Bauhaus masters Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and J.J.P. Oud at the Werkbundausstellung at Weissenhof in Stuttgart in 1927 – an exhibition of European avant-garde architecture that attracted worldwide attention.

In 1937 Kramer was barred from the State Chamber of Visual Arts, an exhibition of his work as »degenerate architecture« and a professional ban followed. After his subsequent emigration to America, where he above all planned and built department stores, Kramer returned to Germany in 1952. Upon the recommendation of Max Horkheimer he was appointed Building Director for the reconstruction of Frankfurt University. Up to 1964 he developed and built 23 institutes and the Municipal and University Library. Kramer died in 1985 in Frankfurt am Main.

Several pieces of the furnishings of the University buildings designed by Kramer were integrated in the design collection of the Bergische University in Wuppertal, which now has the largest collection of objects by the architect and designer Ferdinand Kramer.