Gottfried Semper

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Gottfried Semper
BirthplaceAltona, Hamburg

Semper, Gottfried


Born Nov. 29, 1803, in Hamburg; died May 15, 1879, in Rome. German architect and art theoretician.

Semper studied in Munich from 1825 to 1826 and in Paris from 1826 to 1828. He was a professor at the Academy of Arts in Dresden from 1834 to 1849. A participant in the Dresden Revolt of 1849, Semper was forced to flee to Paris. He later worked in London (1851), Zurich (1855), and Vienna (1871–76). Semper’s buildings are rationally organized and employ eclectic decorative motifs from Italian Renaissance and baroque art. His buildings in Dresden include the Opera House (1838–41 and 1871–78) and the Semper (picture) Gallery (1847–49). In collaboration with K. von Hasenauer, he designed two museum buildings (1872–81), the Burgtheater (1874–88), and the New Hofburg (1881–1913) in Vienna.

Semper’s theoretical views, influenced by positivism, are expressed in his articles, lectures, and the treatise Style in Technical and Tectonic Art, or Practical Aesthetics (vols. 1–2, 1860–63). Semper criticized the capitalistic division of labor and its consequences. He attributed the decadence of 19th-century architecture and artistic crafts to the separation of art from technology and of decoration from construction. Viewing style as an organic historical phenomenon, he strove to restore the stylistic wholeness of the practical arts. He related laws of form (manifested in symmetry, proportionality, and tectonics) to the materials and techniques employed in creating a work of art and to the work’s ultimate function. Semper’s theory combines the principles of verisimilitude and expedience with an understanding of art as the symbolic “clothing” of constructions and materials. His views influenced many concepts of architecture, artistic crafts, and design at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.


Prakticheskaia estetika. Moscow, 1970, (Translated from German.)


Quitzch, H. Die ästhetischen Anschauungen G. Sempers. Berlin, 1962.


References in periodicals archive ?
There he absorbed the theories of Karl Botticher and of Gottfried Semper, above all the latter's 'cladding theory', that architecture had evolved from structures hung with decorated fabrics.
Designed by Wagner's architect friend, Gottfried Semper, also responsible for the opera house in Dresden, it was to overlook the Isar River, quite close to the site of the Prince Regents Theatre.
Gottfried Semper, architecte allemand de grande renommee, fut designe pour y enseigner l'architecture, conferant au nouvel etablissement une reputation immediate.
For him, this project was a rare opportunity to focus on the themes of architectural representation and decoration, which he relished, having spent time researching the history and significance of the screen in architecture through the writings of Gottfried Semper and Karl Botticher.
That was before architect Gottfried Semper designed the landmark opera house that bears his name, one of the first old public buildings restored under Communist rule to its former glory.
This is what Gottfried Semper found in the primordial knot, and what Paul Klee was seeking when he wrote in his diary in 1903:'I want to find a tiny formal motif, one that I can hold on my pencil, and from this a host of examples will follow.
Gottfried Semper designed a Pompeian theatre to be erected in the main transept at the Crystal Palace which, had it been built, might also have relied on Abbate's talents.
The Semper Opera, one of Germany's most famous and beautiful houses--designed by architect Gottfried Semper as a temple to the art--was restored and reopened in 1985, and the house orchestra, the Staatskapelle Dresden, which can trace its lineage back to 1548, has never lost its status as one of Europe's very best ensembles.
The German architect and theorist, Gottfried Semper (1803-79), designed a few buildings, all in a sumptuous Renaissance Revival style, including the Opera House (1871-8) and Gemaldegalerie (1847-54) in Dresden, and, with Karl von Hasenauer (1833-94), the two museums in the Maria-Theresien-Platz (1872-81), the Burgtheater (1872-86), and the Neue Hofburg (1870-94) in Vienna.
Forty has some favourite sources -- Gottfried Semper, John Ruskin, Louis Sullivan, Aldo Rossi -- but for the most part he maintains a puritanical objectivity and unshakeable scepticism.
But it could well be a pun: a tribute to Gottfried Semper by his most inventive and resourceful disciple, Joze Plecnik, the architect of Prague Castle in the 1920s.
The idea is pursued through 200 years of architectural history, from the Greco-Gothic debates of the early nineteenth century, through the writings of theorists like Viollet-le-Duc and Gottfried Semper, to its manifestation in the work of a selection of twentieth-century architects: Frank Lloyd Wright, Auguste Perret, Mies van der Rohe, Louis Kahn, Jorn Utzon and Carlo Scarpa.