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Artisan and artist in one person

This year marks the centenary of an architect who, in his day, influenced the face of Munich like no other: Alexander Freiherr von Branca. He was born on January 11, 1919 in Munich-Schwabing, son of an officer and diplomat (Wilhelm Freiherr von Branca) and painter. His mother had made a name in his subject under the name of Hedwig Branca-Kent and had probably inherited his talent for painting and drawing.

He used this gift, visited evening classes in a school of design and architecture during the Second World War, and studied at the Technische Hochschule (TH) in Munich, then at the Ecole Polytechnique. Federal Council of Zurich. Architecture. Subsequently, he started his own business in Munich and played a major role in the construction process and the image of the city for more than half a century.

Alexander von Branca left a huge job. His estate, which is preserved in the archives of the architecture museum of the Technische Universität München (TUM), includes more than 370 architectural and urban development plans and competitions. More than 30 sacred buildings, about 45 residential buildings and a dozen schools have come out of its enclosure, as well as banks, hotels, castles, universities and museums, as well as numerous additions and conversions in all the imaginable domains of public life.

A heart for religious buildings

Although Branca's portfolio includes just about everything you can build, his heart belonged to the sacred buildings. This was probably due to his spirituality and strong faith – baptized Protestant, he converted to Catholicism in the Nazi era, which allowed him to survive the arrest of the Gestapo, for which he had come following critical statements by the regime.
As a convinced Munich, the diligent architect concentrated his work on the capital of Bavaria. Its traces are ubiquitous here, even while waiting for the metro, you will encounter Branca's writing: the Marienplatz, Prinzregentenplatz and Theresienwiese metro stations are built according to his designs. However, his most notable and well-known works in Munich include the Herz-Jesu-Kirche (in cooperation with Herbert Groethuysen), the Neue Pinakothek and the reconstruction of the Residenztheater.

Branca regularly received orders from other cities of the Free State, such as Regensburg (central library and university cafeteria) or Würzburg (library, central space and refectory of the University; Hertie department store). On occasion, he also worked throughout Europe, building in Madrid, for example, the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Embassy in Saint -Sie in Rome, a building located on a hillside in a green environment, similar to a villa.

During his long career in architecture, Branca has received numerous awards and distinctions, and several of his buildings have been inscribed on the list of monuments. But not always there was only praise. Although his main work, the Neue Pinakothek, was considered extremely successful in terms of layout and lighting, the facade was strongly criticized for its pseudo-historical ornaments. Asked during an interview to find out if he wanted to rebuild the Neue Pinakothek today, he answered a few years before his death: "If I walked around again, I could leave some arches behind."

Spirituality and beauty

Branca understood himself as both a craftsman and an artist. His conception of aesthetics was based on spirituality and beauty, ideal to which he remained faithful throughout his life. He rejected the principle postulated by the Bauhaus School "the form follows the function" and formulated his own maxim: "Das Wesen Architecture must make a statement beyond the purely practical that touches the human being. What seems so elitist is a problem that even a simple architectural firm can not avoid in his work. "

Branca's work is characterized by his affinity for Italian architecture, the monumental architecture of the Staufer era in Puglia and Sicily, which served as a model throughout his life. The harmonious proportions, the large-scale wall elements and the clever use of light, which should be transcendental or, in his words, "create places of condensation", are also features of a "real Branca" ".

As for building materials, the construction of concrete, steel and glass was an option for him, but his particular preference was for natural stone. Thus, some churches and the German embassy in Madrid are entirely built from this structure. The concrete structure of the Neue Pinakothek is covered with natural stone. The privileged use of natural materials and physical presence on the one hand, but also the careful integration into the landscape or the urban environment characterize the buildings of Branca.

Although Branca was in great demand as a sought-after architect, this did not prevent him from practicing his honorary position as district doctor for 16 years (1972-1988) in Munich. As such, he has closely examined major construction and conversion projects.

According to the research of his former superior, Franz Graf von Stillfried, Branca made about 3500 statements during 344 sessions of several hours as part of his volunteer work and spent about 170 afternoons at the Commission for Urban Development. which he also belonged to. Hard work, but Munich, native, was the face of his city, his way into the modern era, but also the preservation of their historically developed identity.

At the age of 83, the master of his craft completed his last work in a chapel in the Saarland before retiring to the family farm on his farm near Miesbach. This was his retirement for decades, where he found the peace necessary to work without being disturbed or to devote himself to watercolor painting, his second passion. On March 21, 2011, he passed away at the age of 92. Last spring, Alexander Freiherr von Branca justified this spring the Architekturmuseum Schwaben to present an exhibition presenting projects selected by the famous architect Munich. At present, the Augsburg Dependence of the Architecture Museum of the Technical University of Munich has also published a small catalog of exhibitions that presents a brief portrait of Brancas and a selection of his buildings the most famous with sketches, illustrations and informative accompanying text. The book is available at the Architekturmuseum Schwaben under ams (at) architekturmuseum.de. (Monika Judah)

(Church of the Sacred Heart in Munich – Photo: Alexander Rotter, Central Library of the University of Regensburg – Photo: TUM Architecture Museum, archives, Embassy of Germany near the Holy See in Rome – Photo: Embassy of Germany to the Holy See