Ulrich Franzen (1921 – 2012) German-born American architect and designer

Ulrich Franzen, the German-born American architect, was a leading figure in the first post-war generation of American architects; including Paul Rudolph, Harry Cobb, John Maclane Johansen, and Philip Johnson. 

Early Years

Franzen immigrated to the United States with his family in 1936. Franzen was born in Düsseldorf, Germany, in 1921. He always wanted to be an artist, but his mother, who was part of a family of artists, took him to an area that she thought promised more profit.


During the 1940s, Franzen served three years in Europe with US Army intelligence during the Second World War and then studied architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. His architectural training and experience were shaped by modernists: Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer, his instructors at Harvard.

Collage architecture

Franzen described his work as “collage architecture”: designs that combine diverse forms and qualities. He felt that the first building condition was the “simultaneous solution of opposites” (Alvar Aalto defined architecture). He learned from the work of Mies van der Rohe the discipline of precision and exact proportion. Louis Kahn’s architecture offered the concept of served and servant spaces.

Ulrich Franzen with his tractor stool


One of Franzen’s early projects as head of his practice was the Mies-style house he designed for himself in Rye, New York, in 1956. Featuring a prominent, cantilevered “double-diamond” roof, the building was the first “Record House,” an annual award for innovative residential design by the Architectural Record.

Franzen’s own home—in Rye, New York


Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Otto, C. (2011, June 02). Franzen, Ulrich. Grove Art Online. Retrieved 26 Jan. 2021, from https://www-oxfordartonline-com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/groveart/view/10.1093/gao/9781884446054.001.0001/oao-9781884446054-e-7002094253.

Vitello, P. (2012, October 14). Ulrich Franzen, architect; used fortress mentality in designs – The Boston Globe. BostonGlobe.com. https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/obituaries/2012/10/13/ulrich-franzen-architect-whose-buildings-reflected-fortress-mentality/TpRo05rwViLHJnmA8NFruM/story.html.

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    1. Author

      No I didn’t, I think it will be awhile before I get to the United States again. I looked at the link, it would be a museum that I would love to go to.
      We have an international travel ban here in Sydney. I am not sure when they will open the borders again.Take care.

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