While Sep Ruf’s Bogenhausen Church of St. John Capistran is very well known and is featured in almost every architectural guide for Munich, probably few know the first church, Ruf built in Munich: Zu den heiligen zwölf Aposteln in Laim. On the same spot, there already was a “Notkirche” which had been erected in 1928. Then in 1936 there had been a competition for a church building, that had been stopped by the National Socialist building authority. The project was revived in 1951 after the new city parish had been created. Ruf won this competition with a modest, white plastered brick building in simple geometric forms reflecting the frugal character of post-war Germany.
Zwölf Aposteln is a single-nave hall church with a semi-circular apsis (relief of Last Supper and Last Judgment by Karl Knappe) with a quite chunky belfry in the North and vicarage in the South.
And here’s a quick glance at this church’s ring of bells I found on YouTube:
If you’ve ever been to Munich, then chances are very good that you have walked past this building. But chances are also very good that you did not pay notice to this building (the right building on the picture below) and would not connect this with Sep Ruf. But this department store exactly opposite the Jesuit church St. Michael in Munich’s pedestrian area (”Fußgängerzone”) has been designed by the Bavarian architect 1961-63 and is a major work of the German post-war modernity in Munich. Since 1998 it is under historical preservation protection.
The building is supported by a steel framework, so that the sales floors do not need any supporting pillars. The floors are aligned as split-floors around an atrium crossing the whole building. Unfortunately this uncompromisingly modern store has been modified: the roof has been extended, the first floor lost its balcony and the layout of the stairs is no longer in its original state.
This very impressive post office in the picturesque health resort Dießen am Ammersee from 1924 doesn’t have too many modernist features. It can be located far on the Heimatstil end of the architectural spectrum of the Bavarian Postbauschule. Unlike the more modern buildings of Robert Vorhoelzer, the main principle is symmetry: The entrance is exactly in the middle of the cube with three window axes on both sides. There are almost no hints to the function of the building - it could as well be a schoolhouse. But it fits the context well, being situated opposite of the old Ammerseebahn-train station from 1901.
Although Robert Vorhoelzer seems to have supervised this building, the main architects responsible for this building were Alfred Bramigk and Guido Harbers (1897-1977). The latter is known for the overall direction of the explementary settlement Ramersdorf (Mustersiedlung Ramersdorf, 1933-34), a contribution to the German Settlement Exhibition, and the Maikäfersiedlung in Munich (1935-37).
This ensemble of buildings from the late 1930s in Munich-Allach could be seen as Sep Ruf’s darkest hour. While his single-family houses in Gräfelfing and Lochham have many modernist details like cubist shapes, pronounced horizontal windows that seem like ribbon glazings and of course rounded balconies, his Allach buildings are as far from Sep Ruf’s other buildings as possible. The ensemble consists of a primary school (Volksschule) built from 1936 to 1940, a 1937/38 built hostel for the League of German Girls (Bund Deutscher Mädels), the female branch of the Nazi party youth movement, a nursery and the “Hochlandheim”, a Hitler Youth hostel (Hitlerjugend-Heim) from 1938/39 that even won prizes on an exhibition for Nazi architecture.
One could argue that the buildings might be a hint too little monumental for official Nazi buildings, that they have a few windows too much compared with other educational facilities of the late 1930s - but all in all these buildings are not modern and have nothing in common with the Sep Ruf of the 1950s that became one of the most internationally acclaimed architects in Germany. These buildings were built as physical manifestations of Nazi ideology. Perhaps the only way for Sep Ruf, who had not been a member of the National Socialist party, to stay in business. But still this is conformism. I find myself asking, what these buildings do to the children visiting the kindergarten and school today. Is democratic education possible in Nazi surroundings?
Here are another building by German modernist architect Sep Ruf, that is not as well known as for example his Neue-Max-Burg buildings or the bungalows above Tegernsee. It’s an five story apartment house on Heßstraße in Munich-Maxvorstadt. While it does not appear as floating or weightless as many of his other buildings, it still embraces the idea of openness as is clearly stated by the large balcony. And with its narrow windows (unfortunately replaced with noise reduction windows that compromise the overall impression a bit) so typical for Ruf’s architecture, it does carry a certain elegance. The house had been constructed in 1952 for the co-owners of the property.
In the 16th century, William V, Duke of Bavaria, built a new palace near the Michaelskirche and the Jesuit monastery on Neuhauserstraße. In 17th century this residence became known as “Herzog-Max-Burg” because of duke and regent Maximilian Philipp choosing this building as domicile.
During Second World War the Max-Burg had been destroyed almost completely. Only the tower remained more or less intact. From 1954 to 1957 Sep Ruf (1908-82; see also here and here) and Theo Pabst (1905-79; see also his department store) constructed a new building complex on this historical location: the “Neue Max-Burg”. The building had been used as a juridical building and is internationally acclaimed for the intelligent and innovative combination of old and new. Ruf and Pabst modeled the raster and color of the facade after the appearance of the renaissance tower. But they did this without any hint of historicism: the ferro-concrete construction remains visible. Another highlight is the freely suspended canopy above the entrance.
While architectural critics praised the Neue Max-Burg as one of the most interesting modern buildings in architecturally conservative Munich, the population needed much time to adapt to this building.
Two days before the Sep Ruf exhibition at Munich’s architectural museum will open, here’s another characteristic building of this architect: A seven storey apartment building in Schwabing that Ruf built in 1951-53. Although quite large for the surroundings, the façade does not appear in the least bulky or clumsy. The vertical line is very beautifully accentuated by the elegant white frames. At the top of the building had been Ruf’s own studio.
A few days ago, I wrote about Sep Ruf’s wonderful bungalows above the Tegernsee. Those bungalows are widely known for their 1950s elegance. But few know that Ruf had also had found his final resting place on the Bergfriedhof in Gmund, a few meters away from the former Chancellor Ludwig Erhard.
But while Erhard’s grave looks well-kept, it took me some time to recognize Ruf’s grave. The grave of one of the most important architects of the 1950s in Germany was completely overgrown.