Architect Raimund Abraham dies in LA car crash
Architect Raimund Abraham died in a car crash early Thursday morning in downtown Los Angeles, hours after delivering an inspiring lecture at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, where he was currently teaching. He was 76.
Though he had built very little, with his most notable building being the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York, a building that was critically acclaimed by the architecture historian Kenneth Frampton as being “the best building in New York since the Seagram building,” Abraham long held that it was the architecture of ideas that interested him, not buildings. I don’t need a building to validate my ideas”, said Abraham. “ All I need is a pencil and piece of paper”. It was this conviction in the primacy of the architectural drawing that informed his life’s work and teachings.
Born in Lienz, Tyrol in 1933, Abraham studied architecture in Graz and had an architecture studio in Vienna in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He emigrated from Austria to the United States in 1964, eventually settling in New York, where he taught at the Cooper Union for more than 30 years and became one of that school’s most influential voices. “He and John Hedjuk were the most important teachers there”, said Lebbeus Woods, a colleague and long time friend who called Abraham “one of the great architects of our time”. In addition to his teachings, Abraham left behind an extraordinary body of drawn work, as evidenced in his 1996 monograph [Un] built. Of his drawings Woods said, “I was struck by their density and mysterious quality that seemed to speak of another idea of architecture than any I had seen."
Since retiring from Cooper in 2002, Abraham had been splitting his time between New York and Mexico and resumed teaching at SCI-arc, where he had been a visiting faculty member. “SCI-arc was a place where he was comfortable…where he could say what he wanted”, said Eric Owen Moss, SCI-arc's Director and the person who tapped Abraham to teach there. Abraham was “a complicated guy who loved architecture… a unique voice who created his own frame of reference. He was a point of view." In a positive way, (with Raimund) it was architecture as a definition of one’s life, said Moss. Adding that Abraham was “not old, not young but someone who was engaged in the moment.” And in saying so he implied that the architect had great currency and much, much more to say.
SCI-arc held a memorial service for Abraham this past Friday to celebrate the architect's life and work.
Abraham is survived by a daughter, Una, who lives in Vienna.