Frei Otto, pioneering German architect, dies at 89

AP News
Posted: Mar 11, 2015 10:28 AM
Frei Otto, pioneering German architect, dies at 89

BERLIN (AP) — Architect and engineer Frei Otto, who pioneered lightweight and flowing roof designs for stadia and other structures and was to receive this year's prestigious Pritzker Prize, has died in his native Germany, his wife said Wednesday. He was 89.

Ingrid Otto, who lived with her husband in Leonberg near Stuttgart, told the dpa news agency that he died on Monday, two months before his 90th birthday.

Otto had been informed he had won the 2015 Pritzker Architecture Prize, but the award wasn't due to be presented until May 15.

He was perhaps best known for the roofing of the Munich Olympic Park and the West German pavilion at the 1967 Expo in Montreal. The major body of his work focused on using light frames to support thin membranes.

He founded the Institute for Lightweight Structures at the University of Stuttgart in 1964, and headed it until his retirement as a professor in 1991.

The university said Otto's work had "led to many new insights and perspectives" in architecture and design still being used today.

"Frei Otto was a fundamental influence on 20th century architecture," the school said.

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Born in Siegmar, Germany, on May 31, 1925, Otto was called up for military service during World War II and initially went into pilot training before being diverted at the end of the war to serve as a soldier.

His Pritzker Prize citation said his designs were a stark contrast to the "heavy, columned, stone and masonry" architecture preferred by Nazi Germany when he was growing up.

"Otto's work was lightweight, open to nature and natural light, non-hierarchical, democratic, low-cost, energy-efficient, and sometimes designed to be temporary," the citation said.