F.A.B. on the terrace of his home Lille Ø in Berlin, 1937
Fritz August Breuhaus de Groot
Trying to biographically tackle a phenomenon like Fritz August Breuhaus resembles a tightrope walk. On the one hand, the bare facts of his biography hardly convey the fascination with which clients and other contemporaries describe the architect's winning personality. On the other hand, it's not always easy to bring together the myths and legends spun around Breuhaus by himself and some contemporary writers with the factual traces of his life.
At this point, we would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to F.A.B.'s adoptive son, who very openly reported from his personal memory during numerous interviews, and thus shed more and more light into the darkness.
Friedrich August Breuhaus—called "Fritz August", or even shorter "F.A.B."—was born in Solingen, a steel industry town near Cologne, on February 9 in 1883. His father, Heinrich Hugo Breuhaus (*1859 in Oberhausen, Rhineland) had settled there as a dentist in 1880, and later married Johanne Knipping (*1858) from the nearby town of Wald. Dentistry lead him to bourgeois wealth, which allowed him to move with his family into a freshly built house on Brüderstraße 49 (today: Mummstraße) in Solingen, and to put his son in a renowned private high school for boy's in Oberkassel near Bonn. Note that Heinrich Hugo's grandfather, Tillmann Breuhaus (*1801) had been but a farm hand in rural Leichlingen, whereas his father Johann Friedrich Breuhaus (1831-1902), a trader in Oberhausen, had already made his way into the urban middle class.
From "Breuhaus" to "de Groot"
This appears to be the first legend Fritz August spun around his own origin. From 1929 on, the architect conferred on his name the addition "de Groot", spreading the word of himself being grandson/great-grandson to the reputed Dutch painter dynasty Breuhaus de Groot. With several gaps in the Breuhaus family's genealogy yet to be closed, it is however clear today that Fritz August was in no way a grandson or great-grandson of Amsterdam- and Brussels-based naval painter Frans Arnold Breuhaus de Groot (1824-1872). The latter, however, as well as landscape painter Frans de Groot (1798-1875), has pedigree lines that, with all probability, can be traced back to Franz Arnold Breuhaus, who was born in Höhscheid near Solingen in 1769 and emigrated to the Netherlands at the end of the 18th century. That said, a distant kinship of the architect with the Dutch family line is possible. F.A.B. never had the ennobling addition "de Groot" put on official record.
Architect, against his father's will
The nobilitating name change happened in a period when the architect's myth-powered self-marketing reached its peak, even effecting the information he provided about his professional training: at that time, Breuhaus' C.V. claimed that he had studied at the Technische Hochschulen (technical universities) of Darmstadt and Stuttgart, having been a student of Professor Peter Behrens in Düsseldorf, as well as with J. L. M. Lauweriks in the Netherlands. This part of his biography, too, does sound a lot more impressive than the documents available today suggest. It seems to be certain that Breuhaus concluded his school days in Bonn with graduation. In April 1900, he returned to his parents' home in Solingen, apparently to begin an apprenticeship at the Siegen-Solinger Gußstahl-Aktienverein (a steel founding company): Breuhaus himself reported on several occasions that, in order to please his father, he had undergone training as a mechanical engineer. From October 1901 until September 1902, F.A.B. seemed to have been a resident of Wuppertal-Elberfeld; during this time, he may have visited the Baugewerkschule Barmen-Elberfeld (a building school), an attendance certificate of which appears in the 1903 registration files of the Technische Hochschule Stuttgart. At that time, though, enrolment at a Baugewerkschule required an apprenticeship in the building trade, which hasn't been verified yet. In the winter term of 1902/03, Breuhaus can be traced at the architecture department of the Großherzogl. Hessische Technische Hochschule Darmstadt, sitting in on all eight preliminary classes of the architecture curriculum's first year. One professor in Darmstadt at that time was Peter Behrens, appointed by Grand-Duke Ernst Ludwig to the "artists' colony Mathildenhöhe".
For 1903's summer term, F.A.B. moved to the Technische Hochschule Stuttgart. Against curriculum, he sat in on lectures for the second college year. Apart from lectures on construction science by Prof. Conrad von Dollinger, design-related subjects were his choice, such as "Design" (Prof. Theodor Fischer mit Assistent Paul Bonatz), "Decorative design" (Prof. Gustav Halmhuber), "Watercolor painting" (Prof. Treidler).
Breuhaus own summary of his college days was that he yielded to his father's wish in studying mechanical engineering, plus, on the side, following his own inclinations, art history and architecture. When his father, due to disobedience, refused to further support him, a small inheritance from his grandmother allowed him to continue his studies, from 1904 on at the Kunstgewerbeschule Düsseldorf (an arts and crafts school). It seems as if he was following Peter Behrens, who had been appointed principal of the school in 1903. Johannes Ludovicus Mathieu Lauweriks, appointed by Behrens, was teaching in Düsseldorf between 1904 and 1909, too. Breuhaus' studies in Düsseldorf cannot have lasted more than four months, as in March 1905, he notified the Düsseldorf authorities to be "traveling". His travels didn't go any farther than Hohenasperg, the release slip from the prison there is dated July 1. Convicted for taking part in a duel, Breuhaus served a three-month sentence. The traces of that fight, scars on his cheek and his chin, can be detected even on more recent photographies.
Considering Breuhaus' claims that he worked at several architect's offices after college, as a clerk and later as office manager, and taking into account that he must have done military service, the time of his professional training is reduced even more. Breuhaus the architect may rightly be called an autodidact, as he never made any academic degree.
Early years in the Rhineland
At the age of 22, F.A.B. designed his first building. Together with architect Johann ("Hans") Josef Kunz, born in Munich in 1876, Breuhaus had already opened an office in Moers in the Niederrhein region before 1906. An industrialist's mansion in Solingen was being built from Breuhaus' and Kunz' plans as early as 1905, the same year Kunz married Breuhaus' younger sister, Toni. In 1907, Breuhaus lived with his brother-in-law in Bochum, after that, F.A.B. moved to Düsseldorf for a year. Plans for two other mansions and a row of residential buildings remain from his time in Moers, but the young architect must have seen better opportunities in the big city. His father is said to have contributed six months of support, and F.A.B. was actually quite soon established in Düsseldorf. During the following years, Breuhaus frequently changed associates, among them from around 1908 on Carl Mauve, who was later to work in Berlin, and after 1914 Carl Gustav Bensel (1878-1949), who later became very successful in Hamburg.
His first success—Gartenstadt Meererbusch
F.A.B. at the wheel of his Packard 24/120
Breuhaus' reputation as one of Germany's most outstanding creators of mansions and country houses rooted in his plans for Gartenstadt Meererbusch in Büderich near Düsseldorf. First plans for this colony of country houses were drawn up as early as 1907, to be erected on property owned by Baron Friedrich von der Leyen next to the Forsthaus Meer station of the new railway line Düsseldorf-Krefeld. Since at least 1909, Breuhaus had been involved in the planning of the garden city, and in 1910/11, he built his first own family home here, the Eichenhof (oak manor). Up until 1914, at least a dozen country houses in direct vicinity followed. In a brochure issued 1911, Breuhaus even appears as entrepreneur: "Meererbusch Garden City. Seven hundred acres of wooded park land. Sports facilities and playgrounds. For information about country houses ready for occupancy and real estate sale contact F.A. Breuhaus, architect." This ambitious endeavour was financed by means brought into the marriage by Breuhaus' wife Martha (1884-1962), whose father was an industrialist in Krefeld-Uerdingen: it's no surprise that the wedding and Breuhaus' entering the garden city development both happen in the same year. 1911 also saw the publishing of the architect's first book of works, a luxurious, lavishly illustrated volume printed on handmade paper, proudly presenting to the public F.A.B.'s current plans for mansions in Meerbusch, Solingen, and elsewhere. The success of this enterprise may be measured by the fact, that Breuhaus built an automobile shed along with his Eichenhof—he never had to take advantage of that brand-new railway to Düsseldorf.
Martha and F.A.B. had four sons: the eldest, Claus (*1910), was to become an engineer. The second, Peter (*1911), was supposed to follow his father's footprints as an architect. In 1919, their third son, Jobst, was born. The birth of the fourth son, Michael, in 1919, took place after Breuhaus' first marriage was divorced. The reasons for the divorce still remain in the dark, but the birth of illegitimate son Peer probably was decisive.
Having served in World War I between 1914 and 1918, Breuhaus came home with the rank of a sergeant. Stationed in France at first, he was later transferred to the eastern front. As a poet, the architect transformed his war experience into a book Der Soldat und der Tod. Gespräch in Versen. (The Soldier and Death. A dialogue in verse.) published in Tilsit in 1917.
While Breuhaus' private life after his return from Russia was struck by disaster—third son Jobst died of pneumonia in 1919, still at infant age; in the same year, the mother of his illegitimate son Peer is said to have died of the flu; 1920 saw the divorce from his pregnant wife Martha—his career picked up momentum again, in spite of the postwar slump in the building business. In the winter of 1919, his architectural drafts were shown in an exposition in Düsseldorf's important Flechtheim gallery. Besides, he built factory structures for his father-in-law's Uerdingen company, and undertook some minor changes of Meererbusch Garden City houses.
Starting anew in Cologne
After his divorce in 1920, F.A.B. moved his residence and office to Cologne, the Eichenhof in Meerbusch was sold in 1922. In Cologne, he associated himself with Regierungsbaumeister Dr.-Ing. Jacob Dondorff (*1881), their office planned mostly co-operative housing projects in Cologne—typical for that period. In October 1921, Breuhaus settled in Bonn. Until 1929, his domicile was an old villa on Coblenzer Straße modified to meet his demands. F.A.B. married again in 1922: his second wife Elisabeth, née Meyer (*1900), was born and raised in Barcelona. It's not surprising that F.A.B. started planning and building villas in Spain right away, in a 1922 publication he even claimed to run a branch office in Barcelona. His Bonn-born daughter is today the architect's only living natural child.
Apparently to quickly increase orders after the war-induced slump, Breuhaus himself published two brochures in 1921 and 1922, showing a large number of country and manor houses already planned before the war, but also several current projects and recently built structures. It was quite a public relations offensive the architect was launching, considering that contemporary architecture magazines featured him more frequently than ever.
Especially Innendekoration and Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration printed articles by and about Breuhaus on a regular basis. Innendekoration's publisher, Hofrat Dr. Alexander Koch from Darmstadt, included numerous interior and furniture designs by Breuhaus in the many volumes of his Handbücher neuzeitlicher Wohnungskultur (Manuals of modern age residential culture). Koch, who had come to prominence in Darmstadt even before Art Nouveau had reached its peak, was at this time not only Breuhaus' most influencial supporter, but also a close friend for many years. The publisher's villa, completed in 1926 after long years of planning and incorporating the sophisticated client's wishes, is the fruit of a relationship that was far more than professional. It's hardly a surprise that publisher and architect presented their astonishing edifice to the public in an elaborate volume—issued, of course, by Koch's company.
As soon as 1922, Breuhaus had entered a partnership with Heinrich Rosskotten (1886-1972). The association lasted until 1927 and received numerous orders for industrial buildings and housing projects out of the ranks of the Rhenish and Westfalian steel and mining industry, orders that probably came out of Rosskotten's good contacts. Both architects later became members of the Düsseldorf industry club, a meeting point for the region's economic leaders.
Arts and crafts—another source of income
In 1923, Breuhaus founded the Mikado-Werkstätten manufacture in Bonn, where fabrics were printed manually following his own designs. His objective was, considering the hard times architects went through in economically troubled, reparation-paying, inflation-struck Germany, to establish himself as a designer. He had to give up fabric printing after a short time, but continued to design furniture, wallpaper, decorative and utilitarian objects (i.e. kitchen stoves).
His activity as a designer came to a peak at the time of the upcoming world economic crisis at the end of the twenties. As an interior decorator, Breuhaus had always been reputed, but the furnishing of luxury liner Bremen's first class made him a star in this field. Now he designed furniture, fabric, wallpaper, lamps, and silverware not only to complete the mansions he planned: just like at the beginning of the decade, he compensated the drop in building orders by supplying designs for companies like Vereinigte Werkstätten, WK-Verband, Württembergische Metallwarenfabrik WMF, the Solingen cutlery manufacturer J. A. Henckels and many others.
Breuhaus and Kultivierte Sachlichkeit
The issue of a bilingual work review within the Neue Werkkunst series in 1929 marks a climax in Breuhaus' career as an architect, and in his artful self-marketing. The series has hardly another volume that contains such a broad and varied range of buildings and projects: Between blueprints and houses in Germany and abroad it presents numerous interior designs, exposition setups, furnishings for passenger ships and railway cars, as well as a blueprint for the Zeppelin airship LZ 128.
In these years, F.A.B. had found his own style: his blueprints combine the modern simplicity of the Neues Bauen with fine materials, luxuriously spaced ground plans and well-balanced colors in a highly elegant manner. For this architectural approach, Breuhaus himself coined the term kultivierte Sachlichkeit (~sophisticated simplicity/functionality).
His taking part in the 1926 exposition Mostra Internationale delle Arti Decorative di Monza as a member of the German section lead by Bruno Paul, earned F.A.B. international attention.
How to become a professor...
In December 1928 already, Breuhaus had been granted the title of a Professor of the Creative Arts by the Bavarian state government. The files reveal that Breuhaus himself had made quite an effort to gain this title. Promising his relocation from Düsseldorf to the Starnberg Lake, he even had his residence at his parent's Starnberg home officially registered in 1928 and tells the Bavarian ministry of economy that he'll give a large share of the Bremen liner furnishing orders to Bavarian companies and artists. With an overall budget of up to 3.5 million Reichsmark, Breuhaus found influencial supporters, like the director of the state-owned Nymphenburg china factory. His—whatsoever fruitless—efforts to bring forward his professorship show how very well the architect knew about the promotional value of an academic title. His plans to build an own house and a colony of villas in Feldafing were never executed. At the end of 1929, F.A.B. is still stalling the ministry of education and culture, saying that the project had come to a standstill due to illness. In fact, Breuhaus didn't give up his Düsseldorf office until he moved to Berlin in 1932, his ambitious Starnberg Lake villas remained blueprints.
Botilla, his third wife, in 1933
The architect, a media phenomenon
Having acquired a certain nobility by adding a distantly related name to his own, "Fritz August Breuhaus de Groot", the newly appointed professor, very charming and socially skilled, soon became a favorite of fashion and glamour magazines. A photograph from that time shows F.A.B. in a fashionable white suit with a hat at the steering wheel of his elegant white Packard coupé in front of the Bremen liner construction site. Breuhaus drives himself, his driver has taken place in the passenger's seat. In those years, Breuhaus very effectively stage-managed himself in an almost perfect way, ensuring his lifelong reputation as a highly talented architect of stately homes, bonvivant, society player and media phenomenon of his era.
Architects aren't and have seldom been objects of glamour-oriented fashion magazines—the "legendary" F.A.B. is an exception. Not without a grain of salt, his former employee Heinz Lüttgen (1898-1977) characterized him in 1925 as an architectural erotomaniac. But at that time, Breuhaus was an impressive person, a good-looking man, charming, brilliant and sympathetic at social occasions. And Breuhaus' appearance seldom failed to have an impact—on the ladies, especially, as his adoptive son still remembers today.
The Berlin years
F.A.B. and Botilla, 1935
F.A.B. used the height of the media buzz around himself to make the jump out of the provincial Rhineland to the Reich's capital Berlin, inarguably the center of German culture and society. His private life had undergone some change shortly before: the marriage with his second wife Elisabeth had been divorced in 1931. Once again, it may well have been F.A.B.'s fascination with the ladies, and his not-to-be-underestimated effect on them, that lead to the break-up.
In 1932 already, F.A.B. married for the third time: Botilla (née Nielsen, widowed Beyer) was born in Rodekrug, Northern Schleswig (now: Rødekro in Southern Denmark), in 1895, and brought a seven-year-old son into the marriage, who was adopted by Breuhaus within the same year. At first, the family resided next to the Landwehrkanal on Königin-Augusta-Straße (now: Reichpietschufer) in a spacious apartment furnished using F.A.B.'s own designs. Like the industrialist W.'s house in Stuttgart, this apartment conveys a very accurate vision of the Breuhausian style kultivierte Sachlichkeit.
Breuhaus soon managed to establish himself in Berlin's society. His 1931/32 guestbook contains notable names, next to those of fellow artists Emil Orlik and Walter Trier, one reads names like Richthofen, von Arenberg, Roechling, von Bentheim und Steinfurt, Huldschinsky, Gerstel and many others.
Before the economy picked up momentum after the world economic crisis, finally enabling corporate and private clients to build, Breuhaus once again turned to craft industry in order to make ends meet. In addition, he founded a private arts and craft school: Contempora—Lehrateliers für neue Werkkunst, a name that apparently refers to Lucian Bernhard's (1883-1972) New York studio for advertising graphics und interior design. The school's premises were in the same house on Emser Straße as the Breuhaus architect's office. As headmaster of the school, Breuhaus taught classes like interior art and textile design. For fashion graphics and graphic design, he hired the painter Otto Arpke (1886-1943). Erich Balg held classes on the subjects of photography, advertising and news report, and young architect Cäsar F. Pinnau (1906-1988), who had joined the Breuhaus office in 1930, taught interior design. The most famous student of this private school was Elisabeth Noelle (*1916), later to become head of the Institut für Demoskopie in Allensbach.
Breuhaus' adoptive son recalls that, according to vicious rumour, F.A.B. had founded the school only to get in contact with young ladies more easily. In fact, the art school provided at least a welcome source of income, before building orders increased again around 1934.
A "little island"
Boccia with his adopted son at Lille Ø
Lille Ø (Danish for: little island), the house Breuhaus built for himself and his family in 1934 on a plot of land in Schmargendorf cut out of the real estate property of the Wertheim family, is one of the most outstanding buildings in Breuhaus' oevre, defining the Breuhausian theory of functional simplicity and sophistication almost like a manifesto of style, which was to stay the backbone of his work even after WWII. The building surrounded an intimate yard from three sides and was much talked about at the time, and it did add to F.A.B.'s celebrity status. Until the end of the thirties, Breuhaus erected at least 50 family homes, country houses and mansions, big and small, in Berlin's upper-class suburbs. His clients at that time included freelancers as well as managers and industry leaders, members of nobility and celebrity artists. One important feature in Breuhaus' works is pointed out by his adoptive son: Breuhaus never accepted a building order when the client planned to move his antique furniture into the new house. Known for high standards, F.A.B. designed houses either with a furnishing custom-tailored for the client—or not at all.
Not only houses...
Two notable fields of work, aside from family homes of all sizes, stand out from Breuhaus activities in the first half of the thirties: The fact that F.A.B. was commissioned to do the interior design for more than a dozen ships even before 1933—mostly battleships and training vessels for Germany's re-arming navy—must be seen as a consequence of his highly appreciated work for civil shipbuilding. In his role as a "ship architect", Breuhaus may be compared to a contemporary, Italian architect Gustavo Pulitzer-Finali (1887-1967), who, trained by Theodor Fischer in Munich, designed the interiors of more than twenty passenger ships and battleships in Triest during the twenties and thirties.
A smaller, but no less notable field of work were Breuhaus' interior designs for airplanes, among them a mail carrier for the Deutsche Lufthansa, and Reichsluftfahrtminister Hermann Göring's official plane. Comparable colleagues are: in Berlin, Otto Firle (1889-1966), who in 1918 designed Lufthansa's crane trademark and furnished airplanes during the 1930s; in the US, architects Henry Dreyfuss (1904-1972), Norman Bel Geddes (1893-1958), and designer Raymond Loewy (1893-1986), who worked for US airlines at the time.
The Dandy at the Alps, 1934
Turkey is calling
The early thirties also saw some tall planning orders for Breuhaus from Turkey. The Turkish parliament had decided in 1925 to built state-owned sugar refineries. On 12-5-1933, the Türkiye Seker Fabrikalari A.S. in Eskisehir, Anatolia, was opened, on 10-19-1934 another plant in Turhal followed. F.A.B. planned not only factory structures, but also administration buildings, housing for the workers, director's villas, casinos, hospitals, and other facilities. In 1934, he won the first prize in the competition for an Ankara bank building of the Sümerbank, founded in 1933, but the order went to Munich architect Martin Elsaesser. Several times, Breuhaus published his proud claim to have erected a palace in Edirne for Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey. The execution of this ambitious plan, including modern urban development of historic Adrianopel, could not be verified to this day. In 1936, F.A.B. was even considered as successor to Hans Poelzig (1869-1936), who had passed away shortly before taking over the chair of architecture at the Kunstakademie Istanbul. But Berlin's former municipal building commissioner, Martin Wagner (1885-1957), who had been teaching in Istanbul since 1935 and had suggested Poelzig in the first place, managed to get Bruno Taut (1880-1938) appointed, who had emigrated to Japan after the nazis' rise to power.
Two years after World War II, F.A.B. gave the idea of teaching at the academy in Istanbul a second look. He asked Paul Bonatz (1877-1956), professor in Istanbul between 1946 and 1953, wether the expected income would allow to keep up "a certain, not too humble standard of living (...) with a car". An insulted Bonatz replied that only those deserved to come to such a paradise, who came for the sake of the task.
F.A.B. and National Socialism
Zarah Leander in "her" home Lille Ø in Berlin, after 1941
But back to the thirties. His adoptive son recalls that Breuhaus became more and more opposed to the ruling nazi regime from 1935 on. Also, F.A.B.'s wife Botilla helped Jewish families flee from Germany. In 1953, even a high-ranking Israeli official confirmed this to the adoptive son.
Among F.A.B.'s post-1935 projects known today are still a few commissioned directly or indirectly by state or party authorities, for example a blueprint for a German embassy in Washington D.C., developed after winning a competition and worked on until the war started. Then there's a competition blueprint for a regional party headquarter (Gauforum) in Frankfurt/Oder 1937-38, a blueprint for an Imperial Japanese Embassy in Berlin, participation in a competition for an UFA Film City in Potsdam-Babelsberg, plans for an ambassador's palace in Sofia prior to 1940, as well as competition blueprints for the facade of an administration building on the North-South-Axis of Albert Speer's Germania-masterplan.
In the year of 1941, says Breuhaus' adoptive son, Reichspropagandaminister Joseph Goebbels specifically banned F.A.B. from his profession and personally confiscated his house Lille Ø in order to accomodate actress/singer Zarah Leander, best-paid film star of the Third Reich. A contemporary photograph shows la Leander "at home" in the yard of the architect's house. Breuhaus and his family moved to the village of Garitz near Bad Kissingen, on the 1st of April 1941, actually.
Suspiciously observed by the local party big shots and condemned to professional inactivity, the energetic architect started to paint in oils, but his products were, as he admitted in an interview in the early fifties, of little interest. His only "building project" during that time was a shed for pigs, chickens and rabbits in the garden of their Garitz country house—livestock that was to guarantee the family's survival until after the war.
The greatest hardship for the familiy during those years was the death of all three sons, Claus, Peter and Michael: they were killed at the Eastern front within three years.
For threadbare reasons, Breuhaus' private art school Contempora was shut down in 1941 and incorporated into the state-controlled Hochschule für bildende Künste Berlin. Breuhaus' former school assistant and head of office, Cäsar F. Pinnau, received the honor of being appointed professor a year later. From 1937 on, Pinnau had played an important part in the planning and interior decoration of numerous high-level state building projects, among them Hitler's Neue Reichskanzlei in Berlin.
Back to the Rhineland
F.A.B. at his office in Cologne, after 1950
Breuhaus stayed a resident of Bad Kissingen for some time after the war. From 1947/48 on, the architect started again building mansions and country houses in Rhineland and Westfalia, picking up the career he had to abandon in 1941. In 1950, he established an office in the old part of Cologne, but he and Botilla didn't move to the Rhineland until 1952.
As soon as 1950, F.A.B. had submitted for approval the first blueprints for an own residence in Bad Honnef-Rhöndorf, but only after many changes and legal struggle with the authorities could the couple, on Botilla's birthday in 1952, move into their new home. The large living room is opened by a panorama window—electrical, of course—to the sloped garden overlooking the Rhine valley. The name Lille Brøndegaard (Danish: little fountain yard) refers to the little yard in the center of the house. At it's side lay a Bocchia ground, where F.A.B. used to spend relaxed early evenings with guests or friends—just like in his Berlin days.
The house is only a few hundred yards away from Konrad Adenauer's residence. It is said that Breuhaus did try to get in contact with the young Bundesrepublik's first chancellor, other stories note that the gruff and down-to-earth chancellor always stayed more than reserved towards his unusual neighbour.
"Little Fountain Yard"
Lille Brøndegaard is a perfect example of how Breuhaus found a new interpretation of his idea of living in cultivated functionality, adapted to the altered circumstances and standards of the postwar era. The center of the house still is a spaciously designed living-room, connected to a large terrace by windows stretching right down to the floor. Equipped with a fireplace, a workplace, bookshelves and a minibar, this room now served private, as well as representative purposes: here, receptions with dozens of guests could be held, but daily work and family life also took place. Next to the living-room a typically Breuhausian circular dining-room accomodates 12 persons. The other rooms, two bedrooms with dressing-room and bath, hallway and kitchen (as well as a driver's room next to the Garage, and a maid's room in the cellar) are humbly sized, but thanks to sophisticated decoration, furnishing and lighting, they still look spacious and friendly.
With its street side completely guarded from view, the one-storey house shows an exceptionally modern face towards the garden: the flat roof above the living-hall serves as a roof terrace, which in a wide semicircle, supported by a simple, mushroom-shaped pillar, floats above the main terrace, giving shelter to an open-air fireplace. With a dynamic sweep typical of the period, a spiral staircase leaned against the outdoor chimney leads to the roof terrace.
Shortly after moving into his Rhöndorf home, F.A.B. gave an astonishing interview in a Sunday magazine, presenting himself as a late follower of—moderately—modern architecture: he dates the beginning of his career in the year 1928, when, for the first time, he could build the way he had imagined to during many years before. Furthermore, he is cited:
"But if I built today the way they'll build in ten years, or the way I wished to build—I wouldn't get a single order. Today, the buildings of the future would be called primitive. But simplicity and functionality are all but primitive! The residential buildings of the future have to become a housewife's paradise. Because houswives do very hard work for bad pay. And women know, what's beautiful, practical, and comfortable. (...) An architect needs to be a psychologist: he has to give his time and attention to the client. Besides, a house should fit into the landscape. I never developped a style of my own, because the landscape and my client's wishes keep inspiring me."
An "architect for tomorrow", on himself
Hieronymus Tatzelwurm, the Bobtail
In the same article it is maintained that F.A.B. built more than 400 houses of all types since 1928, this will have to be verified. The number of all buildings and blueprints since 1905 known today already amounts to over 450. However, F.A.B.'s claim to have built as many as fourteen houses for himself doesn't seem probable. Up until 1952, Breuhaus had lived under more than a dozen verifiable addresses, but most of them aren't new houses, but older buildings slightly modified or re-decorated.
The Sunday magazine also allows its readers an "intimate" glimpse at the day-to-day life and work of an "architect for tomorrow": photographs show F.A.B. and his wife Botilla bent over a table full of blueprints, persian cat Maja and poodle Penny in the foreground:
"The idea for a house won't let me sleep. I get up at four o'clock in the morning and start drawing and designing. A yoghurt is my first breakfast. And cigarettes are crucial for working. Besides, I need peaceful and cultured surroundings. That's why I seldom design at the office; I mostly work at home. (...)"
"This is how it often begins: the client draws the desired house on a napkin! Now, the architect has to transform it and take it to the site. (...)"
"I don't use a drawing board, I just draw free-handed on graph paper. The drawing board forces you into rectangular shapes. I oppose all symmetry. No rigid form, that's my principle. I like to live nicely and comfortably, as an architect should, I guess, if he wants to build nice homes for others. My profession takes up all my time. (...)"
"My wife checks my blueprints very critically. She helps me understand the clients' wishes and gives advice. I don't just build houses. I've designed handrails, doors and lamps as well as furniture, vases, tableware, cigarette cases, cutlery—it's all part of it. There's nothing minor in a cultured house. I've written novels and painted pictures, too. The novels were lousy! And my wife says, so are the paintings."
Botilla Breuhaus—sunlight and shadow
F.A.B. and Botilla, 1955
The adoptive son remembers the bond between F.A.B. and his wife called "Tilla" to be close—and to include matters of work. She was not only legendary hostess of many a dinner party, but also helped her husband with advice and drew designs for decorative objects herself. After Breuhaus died, she lead the office—together with F.A.B.'s last associate Artur Gérard—and in collaboration with a well-known Cologne furnishing company, she kept doing interior decorations until she died in 1988.
In spite of Breuhaus' life-long fascination with the ladies, the couple remained together until the architect died—the adoptive son quotes his mother on this apparently controversial issue: "Where there's sunlight—there's shadow."
The last years in Hahnwald
After a short interim stay in a rented apartment in Lindenthal, Cologne, the couple moved to their last own home Tre Brønde (Danish: three fountains) in Cologne's celebrity suburb Hahnwald in 1956. Designed in a noticably decorative style, this modern country house is one of the biggest Breuhaus ever planned for himself.
During the 1950s, Breuhaus managed to repeat his pre-war success, as three illustrated books reveal that the architect published in 1953, 1957, and 1961 (the last one was issued after his death). Besides his own domiciles in Rhöndorf and Hahnwald, the volumes show a wide variety of F.A.B.'s creative output in the times of the Economic Miracle: country houses and mansions in Germany and elsewhere form the biggest part. But more than ever before, administration and business buildings, as well as furnishings for shops, restaurants and hotels are presented. Many of his clients in this work period, so it seems today, are to be found among the leaders of Cologne's economy and society.
F.A.B. and his american dream
Farewell of his adopted son, who was leaving to the States, 1956
All his life, Breuhaus planned and built in various European countries, in the Middle East as well as in Central and South America, at times arousing great international interest. But all his life, he stayed in Germany. However, he was always fascinated with the United States, having been there during the Bremen's maiden voyage. Breuhaus adoptive son, after working for the US army in post-war Germany and later for an American automobile company, emigrated to the US in 1956 and started an astonishing career in investment banking there. He never knew how deep his father's desire was until their goodbye in Rotterdam: "Tears were running down his face, as he told me: I know it's going to be tough for you—I envy you, you can go and live in the country I always dreamed of." The supposed reason why he didn't dare to go there—even during the nazi years, when Botilla was arranging emigration to California for Jewish friends—was that he had no talent for languages.
As the adoptive son recalls, during the early fifties, the great American architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1869-1959) tried to invite F.A.B. to meet him in San Francisco, saying he always wondered why Breuhaus' clients accepted higher fees than his. Back in the twenties, Breuhaus had already been able to note proudly: "My bills aren't bound by any fee regulations."...