Frei Otto

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Frei Otto
Frei Paul Otto

(1925-05-31)31 May 1925
Siegmar, Germany
Died9 March 2015(2015-03-09) (aged 89)
Warmbronn, Germany

Frei Paul Otto (German: [ˈfʁaɪ ˈɔtoː] ; 31 May 1925 – 9 March 2015) was a German architect and structural engineer noted for his use of lightweight structures, in particular tensile and membrane structures, including the roof of the Olympic Stadium in Munich for the 1972 Summer Olympics.

Structural engineers analyze, design, plan, and research structural components and structural systems to achieve design goals and ensure the safety and comfort of users or occupants. Their work takes account mainly of safety, technical, economic and environmental concerns, but they may also consider aesthetic and social factors.

Tensile structure construction of elements carrying only tension and no compression or bending

A tensile structure is a construction of elements carrying only tension and no compression or bending. The term tensile should not be confused with tensegrity, which is a structural form with both tension and compression elements. Tensile structures are the most common type of thin-shell structures.

1972 Summer Olympics Games of the XX Olympiad, held in Munich in 1972

The 1972 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XX Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event held in Munich, West Germany, from August 26 to September 11, 1972.


Otto won the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 2006 and was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2015, shortly before his death.

Royal Gold Medal Royal Institute of British Architects award

The Royal Gold Medal for architecture is awarded annually by the Royal Institute of British Architects on behalf of the British monarch, in recognition of an individual's or group's substantial contribution to international architecture. It is given for a distinguished body of work rather than for one building, and is therefore not awarded for merely being currently fashionable.

Pritzker Architecture Prize Architecture prize

The Pritzker Architecture Prize is awarded annually "to honor a living architect or architects whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture". Founded in 1979 by Jay A. Pritzker and his wife Cindy, the award is funded by the Pritzker family and sponsored by the Hyatt Foundation. It is considered to be one of the world's premier architecture prizes, and is often referred to as the Nobel Prize of architecture.

Early life

Otto was born in Siegmar, Germany, and grew up in Berlin. He studied architecture in Berlin before being drafted into the Luftwaffe as a fighter pilot in the last years of World War II. He was interned in a prisoner of war camp near Chartres (France) and with his aviation engineering training and lack of material and an urgent need for housing, began experimenting with tents for shelter. [1] After the war he studied briefly in the US and visited Erich Mendelsohn, Mies van der Rohe, Richard Neutra, and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

Berlin Capital of Germany

Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,748,148 (2018) inhabitants make it the second most populous city proper of the European Union after London. The city is one of Germany's 16 federal states. It is surrounded by the state of Brandenburg, and contiguous with its capital, Potsdam. The two cities are at the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg capital region, which is, with about six million inhabitants and an area of more than 30,000 km², Germany's third-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions.

Architecture both the process and product of planning, designing and construction

Architecture is both the process and the product of planning, designing, and constructing buildings or any other structures. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural symbols and as works of art. Historical civilizations are often identified with their surviving architectural achievements.


1972 Munich Olympic Stadium Olympic park 12.jpg
1972 Munich Olympic Stadium
Interior view, West Germany Pavilion, Expo 67, Montreal Canada Expo 67 Montreal Canada (4).jpg
Interior view, West Germany Pavilion, Expo 67, Montreal Canada
Multihalle in Mannheim Herzogenriedpark Mannheim Multihalle Deckenkonstruktion.jpg
Multihalle in Mannheim

He began a private practice in Germany in 1952. His saddle-shaped cable-net music pavilion at the Bundesgartenschau (Federal Garden Exposition) in Cassel brought him his first significant attention. He earned a doctorate in tensioned constructions in 1954. [1]

Otto specialised in lightweight tensile and membrane structures, and pioneered advances in structural mathematics and civil engineering. [1] He founded the Institute for Lightweight Structures at the University of Stuttgart in 1964 and headed the institute until his retirement as university professor. [1] Major works include the West German Pavilion at the Montreal Expo in 1967 and the roof of the 1972 Munich Olympic Arena. He has lectured worldwide and taught at the Architectural Association School of Architecture, where he also designed some of the research facilities buildings of the school's forest campus in Hooke Park. [2]

Stuttgart Place in Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Stuttgart is the capital and largest city of the German state of Baden-Württemberg. Stuttgart is located on the Neckar river in a fertile valley known locally as the "Stuttgart Cauldron." It lies an hour from the Swabian Jura and the Black Forest. Its urban area has a population of 609,219, making it the sixth largest city in Germany. 2.7 million people live in the city's administrative region and another 5.3 million people in its metropolitan area, making it the fourth largest metropolitan area in Germany. The city and metropolitan area are consistently ranked among the top 20 European metropolitan areas by GDP; Mercer listed Stuttgart as 21st on its 2015 list of cities by quality of living, innovation agency 2thinknow ranked the city 24th globally out of 442 cities and the Globalization and World Cities Research Network ranked the city as a Beta-status world city in their 2014 survey.

Architectural Association School of Architecture independent school of architecture in the UK

The Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, commonly referred to as the AA, is the oldest independent school of architecture in the UK and one of the most prestigious and competitive in the world. Its wide-ranging programme of exhibitions, lectures, symposia and publications have given it a central position in global discussions and developments within contemporary architectural culture.

Until his death, Otto remained active as an architect and engineer, and as consultant to his protégé Mahmoud Bodo Rasch for a number of projects in the Middle East. One of his more recent projects was his work with Shigeru Ban on the Japanese Pavilion at Expo 2000 with a roof structure made entirely of paper, and together with SL Rasch GmbH Special and Lightweight Structures he designed a convertible roof for the Venezuelan Pavilion. [2] In an effort to memorialise the September 11 attacks and its victims as early as 2002, Otto envisioned the two footprints of the World Trade Center buildings covered with water and surrounded by trees; his plan includes a world map embedded in the park with countries at war marked with lights and a continuously updated board announcing the number of people killed in war from 11 September 2001, onward. [3]

Mentorship guidance relationship

Mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The mentor may be older or younger than the person being mentored, but he or she must have a certain area of expertise. It is a learning and development partnership between someone with vast experience and someone who wants to learn. Interaction with an expert may also be necessary to gain proficiency with/in cultural tools. Mentorship experience and relationship structure affect the "amount of psychosocial support, career guidance, role modeling, and communication that occurs in the mentoring relationships in which the protégés and mentors engaged."

Mahmoud Bodo Rasch German architect

Mahmoud Bodo Rasch is a German architect who specializes in the construction of large convertible umbrellas and lightweight structures. He is founder and owner of SL Rasch GmbH Special and Lightweight Structures with branches in Leinfelden-Echterdingen, Jeddah, Mecca and Medina.

Shigeru Ban Japanese architect

Shigeru Ban is a Japanese architect, known for his innovative work with paper, particularly recycled cardboard tubes used to quickly and efficiently house disaster victims. He was profiled by Time magazine in their projection of 21st-century innovators in the field of architecture and design.

Otto died on 9 March 2015; he was to be publicly announced as the winner of the 2015 Pritzker Prize on 23 March but his death meant the committee announced his award on 10 March. [4] [5] Otto himself had been told earlier that he had won the prize by the executive director of the Pritzker Prize, Martha Thorne. He was reported to have said, "I’ve never done anything to gain this prize. Prize winning is not the goal of my life. I try to help poor people, but what shall I say here — I'm very happy." [5]

List of buildings

This is a partial list of buildings designed by Otto: [5]

Awards (selected)

See also

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Tuwaiq Palace or Towaiq Palace is a building in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which hosts government functions, state receptions, and cultural festivals that introduce Saudi arts and customs to the international community. It was built in 1985 by OHO Joint Venture, a team composed of Frei Otto, Buro Happold, and Omrania. Tuwaiq Palace won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture for the design in 1998.

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  1. 1 2 3 4 "Biography: Frei Otto". The Hyatt Foundation. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 "Frei Otto". Praemium Imperiale. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  3. Fong, Mei (11 January 2002). "From Parks to Twisted Towers, Designs for a Memorial Multiply". Wall Street Journal .
  4. 1 2 "Frei Otto, 2015 Laureate". Pritzker Architecture Prize. 10 March 2015. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Pritzker Prize for Frei Otto, German Architect, Announced After His Death, Robin Pogrebin, The New York Times , 10 March 2015
  6. Cramer, James P.; Yankopolus, Jennifer Evans (2005). Almanac of Architecture & Design 2006. Greenway Communications. p. 720. ISBN   9780975565421.
  7. 1 2 Barnes, Michael; DIckson, Michael (1 November 2000). Widespan Roof Structures. ICE Publishing. p. 19. ISBN   978-0727728777.
  8. The man with the golden pen,, 2005 issue 08

Further reading