Raimund Abraham (1933-2010), who would have turned 79 today, was far from your typical architect. A striking figure – usually sporting a black fedora, thick moustache, and cigar – Abraham was a radical thinker who believed passionately in the sacred importance of architecture.
For Abraham, architecture existed just as legitimately in the mind as on the ground; as he put it: “I don’t need a building to validate my ideas.” In fact, many of his visionary drawings were exhibited as art, including in the MOMA. Although most of his designs were never actually built, those that were gained critical acclaim.
He was best known for the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York City, a 24-story, “guillotine-like” building curiously squeezed onto a plot only 25 feet wide. Architectural historian Kenneth Frampton called it “the most significant modern piece of architecture to be realized in Manhattan since the Seagram Building and the Guggenheim Musuem of 1959.”
To celebrate this great mind, we present you his final work, Musikerhaus (House for Music or Musician’s House), as photographed by Thomas Mayer. The House, a former NATO missile base turned artists’ residence/exhibition gallery (you can see the latest exhibition “The Reality of the Unbuilt” in the photos below), will be completed next year.
More photos & quotes, after the break…
“Architecture is not a profession, it is a discipline.”
“You don’t have to become a slave in a corporate office or groupie of a celebrity architect, because all you need is a piece of paper, a pencil and the desire to make architecture.”
- Raimund Abraham, quoted from Sci-Arc
“What is context in New York?…People love to call New York a collage. But a collage would imply some kind of plan. New York instead resembles much more an anarchic imponderability.“
- Raimund Abraham, quoted from Shift
“As an architect it is very important that you distinguish between different realities. There’s the reality of the drawing and the reality of the building. So one could say, or at least it is the common belief that architecture has to be built; I always denied that, because ultimately it is based on an idea. I don’t ever need a building to verify my idea. Of course, what with a building is more its vanity and actual physical experience. But I anticipate; I wouldn’t even build it if I could not anticipate how it would be.”
- Raimund Abraham, quoted from New York Architecture
“For him, ‘breaking the earth with a plow was the first act of architecture.’ At other times, the implement was a shovel, or a stick. In the same way that such a supposedly simple act was originally accompanied with rituals, prayers, and deep feelings about the troubled bond between the human and the natural, making architecture was, for him, always sacred.”
- Lebbeus Wood, “Tribute to Raimund Abraham.” Quoted from The Architect’s Newspaper.
“While man’s conceptual powers aspire to the infinite, his body is essentially fragile, temporal, a corpus which will be laid waste, like material itself, by the unremitting action of time. If there remains any hope for recreating the iconic in the modern world, then surely this will only come from reinterpretation of the archetypal existence of man.”
- On Architecture, by Raimund Abraham. Quoted from Sci-Arc.