David Georges Emmerich

Architect (1925 - 1996)

An architect and engineer, David Georges Emmerich took the lead in France in the field of research on structural morphology, developed elsewhere by Robert Le Ricolais, Konrad Wachsmann and Buckminster Fuller. In the early 1950s he began exploring the laws underlying the development of architectural form through morphogenesis. He considered forms as self-organizing “geometric beings in space” created according to their own laws, very much like structures in nature. Keenly aware of the issues and challenges of self-construction, growth and mobility, Emmerich aimed to blend architecture and engineering in a way that would allow for the creation of dwellings that were convertible, multi-purpose and organically expandable, thanks to possible combinations of standardized elements. His principles of self-construction were especially intended for emergency housing projects, which he went on to actually build with his students, notably in Morocco (1970).  Emmerich’s structural research led to the development of radically new architectonic conformations which were light, and designed to totally disappear. These structures had a major impact on the inflatable architecture of the 1960s and 1970s. “By increasing the number of facets, curves and other elements, we are pushing toward a limit: the one of immateriality” (D.G. Emmerich).

Originally from Hungary, David Georges Emmerich was deported to Auschwitz in 1944, and then to Flossenburg, Dachau and finally Esslinger. After the liberation of the camp, he went on to study architecture at the Budapest Polytechnic University, and continued in Israel with Yona Friedman. He settled in France in 1953 and completed his education at the École des Beaux-Arts de Paris. In 1956, he participated in the 10th International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM) in Dubrovnik and then in the creation of the Groupe d’Etudes d’Architecture Mobile (GEAM) in 1957. His research led him to develop “exercises in self-construction,” which he then presented at seminars in the U.S., England, Morocco and Israel. Appointed professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1960, and then at the Ecole de la Villette in 1970 where he taught until his retirement in 1990, Emmerich also published numerous articles in many magazines on architecture (L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui, Techniques & Architecture) and on structural morphology (Le Carré bleu).

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