Joseph Kleihues

1990s Artists Building Global Move

Allen Turner talks about Joseph Paul Kleiheus, architect of the MCA's current building.

So Josef Kleihues was a very interesting man. He was highly educated, grounded in humanities and philosophy as well as in architecture. And he developed a philosophy called poetic waxonalism, which was what he said he used in designing our building and all his other buildings.

So he was extremely arrogant, but approachable at the same time. He was German, but he also had this little bit of Bavarian in him, even though he wasn't. So he was very friendly. His wife, Sigrid, was very elegant. His children I knew. His son, Jonclai, who carries on the office in Berlin, this extraordinary office, and still builds buildings. 

Josef was thought relevant enough in Berlin, so when the architectural commission was put together to redo all of Berlin, Josef became the head of it, because he was so well respected and was not a person who would impose himself on the whole process, but rather was very good at organizing and guiding it. 

So he was a really lovely person. We were good friends. He came to our house. We went to visit him in Berlin afterwards. Sadly, he passed away. His wife, Sigrid, is still there, who I speak to. Jonclai, who I talked to last year. And his daughter, Ana, another daughter is a doctor. So I know the family.

But it was his intellect, his vision, his ability to be sympathetic to the environment of the museum world we were in and to the actual physical surroundings in which we built the museum, it was an unusual combination. We were really lucky to find Josef. And he loved it. His first building in the United States, so he paid attention. He showed up. I mean, what's better than when your architect shows up?

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