Architect and urban planner
Rudolf Fraenkel’s career highlights several aspects of the life of an émigré in architecture and city planning. He successfully managed to adapt to three different national work environments, but also endured many setbacks during his career due to the ongoing relocation process.
Rudolf Fraenkel (originally Fränkel, sometimes Frankel) was born in 1901 into a wealthy Jewish-German family. He studied architecture in Berlin and Munich after World War I. During this period, he was influenced by Richard Riemerschmid, a founding member of the Werkbund and famous Jugendstil architect. The Werkbund, an association of architects, artists and designers founded in 1907, was central for the development of modern architecture in Germany.
Fraenkel joined the Werkbund in 1926, shortly after he began working as an independent architect in Berlin. Fraenkel’s first large commission was a housing and entertainment complex named “Gartenstadt Atlantic,” which is recognized as a prime example of Neues Bauen, the particular form of modern architecture developing mainly in German-speaking Europe during the interwar period. The Gartenstadt and Fraenkel’s later works in Berlin and Frankfurt were widely publicized in the German and international architectural press. His buildings received additional attention in professional circles due to the work of Max Krajewsky, who photographed many of Fraenkel’s buildings.
Fraenkel’s career in Germany ended in 1933, when the Nazis forced him to stop working. From 1933 to 1936, Fraenkel worked in Bucharest, Romania. In his new environment, he designed a number of commercial, industrial, and residential buildings, which form an important part of Bucharest’s modern architectural heritage.
With the advent of World War II and the increasing influence of Nazi Germany in Europe, Fraenkel had to leave Romania. He went to London, where he designed several modern industrial and residential buildings and also engaged in two large town planning projects. He worked in London until spring 1950, when he immigrated to the United States to find a university teaching position. He joined the faculty of Miami University at Oxford, Ohio, later that year. In the United States, Fraenkel focused almost exclusively on city planning and teaching. He created the urban design program at Miami University, became Ohio’s Planner-in-Charge, and worked as consultant for the Public Housing Administration.