By Thomas Edelmann.
In memory of Jörg Stürzebecher.
Jörg Stürzebecher has passed away. As an academic and publicist, he incorporated far-reaching fields of knowledge – rather than disciplines as such – into his research and publications. Both unique and banal objects served as practical resources for his own studies. Later on, students also benefited from his approach. He worked as a lecturer and visiting professor at numerous institutions of higher education throughout Germany, from Kassel and Karlsruhe to Coburg and Konstanz, and from Schwäbisch Gmünd and Schwäbisch Hall to Ulm, Darmstadt and Stuttgart. He was also in demand as a teacher and speaker at design colleges and workshops, such as in Ravensburg and Weingarten. Using original artefacts, he was able to explain proportions and details to his listeners. He was an avid collector of books and objects, but he was also a lender and generous giver, always searching for the right home for his finds. He wanted them to go to trustworthy organisations and people so that they would once again prove fruitful.
In Frankfurt, he regularly visited the German Design Council from 1987 onwards, also voicing criticism and advising the council on events and activities. His freelance work with the organisation ended in the mid 2000s, when controversial views on a number of specific projects led him and the council to part ways. He kept working for designreport, however, having been a permanent member of the magazine team since its inception. The theory and history of both visual communication and product design were among his chosen subjects. Jörg Stürzebecher often shone a light on the fringes of design, such as constructivism, concrete art and poetry. His extensive bibliography includes major research on Richard Paul Lohse, Anton Stankowski and Max Bill. He wrote pieces for anthologies, exhibition catalogues, magazines and a radio feature. As well as researching the life and work of well-known modern-day protagonists, he also studied supposedly minor figures, such as the painter, graphic artist, designer and teacher Max Burchhartz, to whom he dedicated a large monographic exhibition: “max ist endlich auf dem richtigen weg” was shown at the Deutscher Werkbund in Frankfurt in 1993, accompanied by a catalogue and lavish reprints. Stürzebecher’s discoveries often led to “the handed-down history of art being corrected”, says publisher Lars Müller, adding that he had a “wonderful eye for gems”. “We agreed that not everything is valuable, but it nevertheless has worth.”
One of many examples is Jörg Stürzebecher’s rediscovery and interpretation of the young adult book “Hannelore erlebt die Großstadt – Eine vorzügliche Geschichte von den heutigen Schwaben” written in 1931/32, which he presented at length in designreport (issue 3/2007, pp. 58–61). Written in letter form by Clara Hohrath, the novel introduces readers to a Stuttgart where “new architecture is accepted as a matter of course; where the promise of tomorrow has arrived today”.
In an obituary for Michael Schneider, the long-standing director of the Institut für Neue Technische Form (Institute for New Technical Design, INTEF) in 2016, Jörg Stürzebecher recalled his understanding of equality and liberty which he believed that Schneider had at times made a reality at his institute. He commented that the INTEF was “a place for everyone: for casual acquaintances, school friends, researchers, the temporarily homeless, the working, middle and upper classes, outsiders, children and dogs. Michael was delighted to see them all and, at openings and other occasions, his INTEF was a place where people spent time together instead of existing side by side – a place where people laughed, drank and climbed trees.”
Jörg Stürzebecher died in Frankfurt on 16 August. He was 58.
Portrait: Jörg Stürzebecher in Rüsselsheim, Germany, 2019. Photo: Simon Malz.