German architect Gottfried Böhm, 101, best known for his brutalist design of the Church of the Pilgrimage in Neviges, Germany, has passed away.

Born in Offenbach-am-Main, near Frankfurt in 1920, Böhm was a third-generation architect who joined the family business in Cologne after studying architecture at the Technical University in Munich, and went on to create a lasting legacy of over 60 churches that he designed in his unique expressionist style across Germany.

While Böhm built his reputation on designing churches, he also worked on a broad range of municipal buildings, town halls, housing estates, museums and department stores. However, the monumental Church of the Pilgrimage in Neviges remains his most important work. Called the Mariendom, the church is a marvel in concrete design with twisted pointy peaks atop the colossal structure mimicking the jagged profile of a mountain range.

Böhm married Elisabeth Haggenmüller, also an architect in 1948, with the couple working together on several projects including housing estates and public buildings. He was also deeply involved in Cologne’s post-war reconstruction. He took over the family studio in Cologne following his father’s death in 1955.

Some of the highlights of his long and much-celebrated professional career include Bensberg City Hall; Christi Auferstehung Church, Cologne; Diocesan Museum, Paderborn; Hans Otto Theater, Potsdam; St Kolumba Church, Cologne, and Züblin administrative building among many more.

Böhm was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1985, the eighth winner of the prestigious architecture award and the first German architect to achieve the singular honour. The citation read, “His highly evocative handiwork combines much that we have inherited from our ancestors with much that we have but newly acquired – an uncanny and exhilarating marriage, to which the Pritzker Architecture Prize is happy to pay honour.”

The Böhm legacy lives on through the celebrated architect’s sons, three of whom continue the family business.

Photo: Elke Wetzig