Erich Schelling (1904–1986)
The name of the foundation is supposed to be a reminiscence of the founder’s Trude Schelling-Karrer’s late husband. As many of his colleagues, Erich Schelling worked as an architect also during the time of National Socialism. Due to the fact that not only his practice as an architect but particularly his membership in the NSDAP and SA have provoked public controversies regarding mission and relevance of the foundation, the current situation of research in Schelling’s CV is presented here and will be deepened by further research in order to reveal the degree of his involvement in the NS regime.
Erich Schelling was born in Wiesloch near Heidelberg on Nov. 9th 1904. He attended school in Karlsruhe, where he studied at the then State Technical College, later the Fachhochschule (FH) from 1924 to 1928. Before that, Schelling had passed the exams as a technical draughtsman and had worked in a building goods store. The proximity to the building trades and the newest technical developments shaped his entire work as an architect, not least the design of his best known work: the Schwarzwald Halle in Karlsruhe, famous for its shell construction, a masterpiece of engineering in post war modernism.
After the state diploma and following his first experience as a freelance architect, Schelling took his general qualification for university entrance in 1930 in order to undertake a second university degree at the Technical University (TH), today the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, which he completed with distinction in May 1933. In 1933 he joined Nazi organisations, including the SA, and became the head of the architectural practice of Hermann Alker. In 1937 he founded his own office. In the same year he became professor for architecture at the Karlsruhe State Polytechnic and a member of the NSDAP. In 1942, Schelling was given leave of absence from his teaching assignments to undertake planning and design work for German occupied Alsatia. During this time a second architecture office is founded in Strasbourg. Part of his commissions included the new construction of an administrative building and the redesign of the Senate Council Chamber of the University Strasbourg.
Preceeding Schelling’s designs for the occupied Alsatia during World War II was the neo-classical conversion of a commercial building in Karlsruhe, with which the clients were pleased. It accommodated the publishing house of the National-Socialist daily newspaper “Der Führer” (not “Der Stürmer”, as has been erroneously asserted elsewhere; today the Badische Neueste Nachrichten). Together with sevon other architects, Schelling was called in 1941 to submit a competition entry for the new design of Strasbourg, which was to take the place of Karlsruhe as the Gau-capital and which was to dominate the region as the new centre. Schelling’s design, which has been recorded in a few photographs of the model, followed the prescribed axial schema, linking the town of Kehl on the right side of the Rhine via an east-west street. The dominant high-rises give an indication of the buildings that influenced Schelling, who lacked the experience with buildings of this dimension. In the case of Schelling’s design for the “Gauhalle”, he took clues from Wilhelm Kreis’ design for the Hall of the Soldier in Berlin. One of the public squares is reminiscent of the “Idealform” of 1934 developed Otto Ernst Schweitzer, whose student and assistant Schelling had been. The Opera, planned for this site as a configuration of three stacked cylindrical discs, shows similarities with Hans Poelzig’s unbuilt Congress Hall. Two other designs by Schelling for Strasbourg concerned a few halls of Strasbourg University’s central college building. Schelling’s archive contains coloured sketches, which are carried out in the rapid style of Max Läuger, another teacher of Schelling. Besides this, Schelling received the commission to convert a residential building of a Gau training college. Neither of his projects were realized, nor any by the other competitors for Strasbourg’s redesign. Even until the end of the occupation of Alsatia, there was no order to the competition entries.
Towards the end of the war, both of Schelling’s offices had to be closed in January 1945, though soon after he began to practice as an architect again. In 1949 he received his first large commission from industry: the reconstruction of the FAG Kugelfischer factories in Schweinfurt. Until 1960 numerous buildings for administration, production and so forth were realized according to Schelling’s plans.
In collaboration with the engineer Ulrich Finsterwalder, Erich Schelling wrote architectural history with the Schwarzwaldhalle (1953), which was designed and constructed in all of eight months. This hall is the first hanging parabolic paraboloid roof in reinforced concrete that was constructed in Europe and is a paradigm case in the correct use of materials, clear and simple design while at the same time being an aesthetically ambitious document of post-war architecture, which shaped the constructional image of the young republic often by subtle means.
From 1955, Schelling was in charge of the general plan and development of Karlsruhe’s nuclear research centre, for which he subsequently realized many buildings, including the research reactor, the central administrative building, the college of nuclear technology, the information centre, the security headquarter as well as a variet of workshops and laboratories, right up to his death.
With his buildings, Schelling shaped the image of Karlsruhe. The list of buildings document these. Thus, for instance, the extension of the Federal Law Courts, the high-rise for the State Insurance Institution and the Nancy Hall are amongst this list. it also includes the construction of the Theatre in Schweinfurt as well as the French Research Centre with the Max von Laue – Paul Langevin Institute and the fast breeder reactor in Grenoble.
Some of these buildings, such as the Theatre in Schweinfurt, the Chamber of Crafts and Trades and the high-rise for the State Insurance Institution in Karlrsuhe have since been renovated in an exemplary manner. Beyond that, some of Schelling’s buildings, such as the Schwarzwaldhalle, the Nancy Hall, the Chamber of Crafts and Trades and the State Insurance Institute, have been listed as cultural monuments in the city of Karlsruhe.
Erich Schelling’s biography on the Stadt Karlsruhe website > hier
- Erich Schelling – Architekt 1904–1986. Prefaced by Heinrich Klotz. München 1994, ISBN 3-920041-42-9
- Ingrid Ehrhardt: Erich A. Schelling (1904-1986): ein Architekt zwischen Traditionalismus und Moderne. Frankfurt a. M. 1997 (also: München/New York 1999, ISBN 3_8267-2637-5)
- Wolfgang Voigt: Deutsche Architekten im Elsass 1940-1944. Tübingen / Berlin 2012, ISBN 978 3 8030 07551