DAM – the beginnings and its growth

DAM owes the enormous success of its first few years to the personality of its founder Heinrich Klotz and the mood of new departure in Frankfurt, which at the time was looking for a new image – away from “Mainhattan” to “Frankfurt. The City”. To this end Frankfurt rejuvenated culture, art and architecture and laid out the Museumsufer, the row of museums lining the banks of the River Main. The museum’s first few years were characterized by heated debates about Postmodernism, the decided criticism of “Classic Modernism”, which was followed by a new worldwide trend towards more individuality and pluralism in architecture. Heinrich Klotz spearheaded this discussion, and by means of exhibitions and publications made DAM a focal point for inspiration and criticism. During this period DAM emerged as an institution that was known the world over.

Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani, who followed Heinrich Klotz in 1990 as director, started off by initiating two highly regarded competitions for ideas: “Berlin tomorrow. Ideas for the Heart of a Metropolis” and the transformation of Frankfurt’s East Harbor area into a commercial and residential district. The list of major exhibitions also included those on the architects Heinrich Tessenow and Antonio Sant’ Elia, as well as on landscape gardener Peter Lenné, and exhibitions on Hong Kong and Barcelona. The trilogy about 20th-century German architecture, which put forward a new interpretation of recent German architecture, received a great deal of public attention.

Lampugnani’s successor Wilfried Wang, director from 1995-2000, gave greater depth to the topic of national architectural vistas and in a series of exhibitions showcased 20th-century architecture in individual European countries. Exhibitions on Mart Stam, Eileen Gray and Heinz Bienefeld paid homage to important representatives of Modernism. With his “Film Architecture” show, Wang started to focus on inter-disciplinary themes. The series of work reports by European architects and the extensive discussions on international architecture and urban planning also attracted a great deal of attention.

Ingeborg Flagge, the director from 2000-5, succeeded in putting DAM on a secure financial footing and giving it a broader public appeal, not least by the opening of a café in the entrance area. The 100,000 visitors in 2004 represented a genuine visitor record. For the first time there were solo exhibitions devoted to living architects - Thomas Herzog, Kisho Kurokawa, Oskar Niemeyer and Rob Krier - as well as to civil engineers such as Jörg Schlaich. Nor did the director shy away from populist topics such as “Friedensreich Hundertwasser. A Sunday Architect”. Ingeborg Flagge introduced two internationally renowned architecture prizes at DAM: the Architecture and Technology Award and the International Highrise Award, which was awarded for the first time in 2004 in Frankfurt’s Paulskirche.

Since April 2006, architect and architectural critic Peter Cachola Schmal has been at the helm of DAM, where he has worked as a curator since 2000.

DAM today

DAM – national center for architectural debate
DAM is not just one of the many museums in the City of Frankfurt, is it also the “German Architecture Museum”, with a national claim. Nowadays all our European neighbours have their own national centers that address the country’s building culture. DAM is today increasingly taking up the challenge this entails, and it is something Heinrich Klotz had in mind when he founded the museum, and not only with its exhibitions, but also with conventions, symposia, and lectures, is fostering the debate on current and future architectural and urban design issues. DAM also continues to focus on current topics relating to Frankfurt. The “Pecha Kucha Night”, a series of events based on the successful idea as realized in Tokyo, is regularly held at locations outside the DAM and provides a relaxed interdisciplinary platform for the young community inspired by architecture and design. (www.pechakuchanight.de).

The DAM is proud to have represented Germany at the 7th International Architecture Bieniial São Paulo in November 2007. General Commissioner Peter Cachola Schmal and co-curator Anna Hesse presented selected projects by 16 architectural offices under the motto of “Ready For Take-Off. New German Export Architecture” – they were exhibited in an unusual manner at the Biennal Pavilion designed by Oscar Niemeyer and went on show at the DAM in Summer 2008.

DAM – an exhibition venue
DAM functions in large part as an exhibition hall. Each year, several major and numerous smaller exhibitions highlight issues in architectural history and current topics in architecture and urban design. During the Frankfurt Book Fair, architectural exhibitions featuring the relevant Guest of Honor at the fair are staged, for example in recent years on Korea, on Catalonia, and on Turkey, with the focus being on China in 2009 and on Argentina in 2010. An extensive accompanying program including special guided tours, excursions and conventions aims to provide more in-depth information about the exhibitions, thereby rousing the interest not only of experts in that particular field but also of lay members of the public, thus making touring exhibitions more accessible. Increased collaboration with the architecture class at the neighboring Frankfurt Städel Academy of Art is aimed at giving the future of architecture design research a strong place in DAM’s work.

DAM – an internationally networked partner
We have intensified DAM’s collaboration with similarly aligned institutions in Europe and overseas, not only with bodies such as ICAM (International Confederation of Architectural Museums), which Heinrich Klotz co-founded and which celebrated its 30th anniversary in Helsinki in 2009. This is involving greater interaction and ultimately the joint staging and financing of exhibitions. There is now an increasing number of international tours by DAM exhibitions and this strategy has been put on a more professional footing. In 2009, the Korean exhibition on “Megacities Network” traveled onto Tallinn, Barcelona, and Seoul; while the Turkish exhibition on “Becoming Istanbul” was shown in Berlin, Bahrain, Bordeaux, and Istanbul. Our “Gaudi Unseen” exhibition traveled onto Stockholm and Kolding. The “Gottfried Böhm” show likewise toured, from Cologne to Burgau. And the “Jean Prouvé” exhibition has now been moving around the world for several years, most recently visiting Vienna and Seoul.

DAM – an educational institution
Architecture is not self-explanatory. The importance of architecture requires interpretation and commentary. Quality in architecture is not identical with spectacular building; so in order to sharpen our senses in this context DAM organizes an extensive program for children and youngsters featuring guided tours, workshops and holiday activities, as well as a diversified educational program for schools.

DAM – a collections venue
As a museum, DAM is constantly moving its tradition to date of collecting and preserving architectural drawings, sketches, models and bequeathals forwards. The collection, which was founded by Heinrich Klotz not only provides future generations with an overview of architectural developments in Germany since the early 20th century, it is also an important source for research and exhibitions. Together with other international institutions DAM is channeling tremendous into identifying the best solution for archiving digital material.

DAM – its publications and architecture prizes
In addition to the extensive catalogues that accompany temporary exhibitions the DAM Yearbook has been appearing for almost twenty years now. It presents the best buildings in Germany for that year and has therefore been renamed “German Architecture Yearbook”. All the projects mentioned in the Yearbook are showcased in our “The Best Buildings from Germany” exhibition series, which is held in the building-inside-the-building on the 3rd floor; they include the winner of the DAM Prize for Architecture in Germany, bestowed for the first time in 2008 – the awards ceremony is incorporated into the exhibition private view and hinges on a special lecture by the winner. Moreover, the DAM plays a strong part in organizing the famed International High-Rise Award, which was bestowed for the fourth time in November 2010, as well as in the European Architectural Photography Prize and the European Union Mies van der Rohe Prize.


Herausgeber: © Deutsches Architekturmuseum Frankfurt a.M., Schaumainkai 43, 17.02.2019