Architect and Artist, Ludwig Franz Karl Bohnstedt

by Thomas Allen Bohnstedt, California USA
     (the text of this page is my intellectual property. Please do not copy and repost without my written permission)


Portrait of Ludwig Franz Karl Bohnstedt, taken from Architektur im 19.Jahrhundert / Ludwig Bohnstedt, Leben und Werk


Ludwig Franz Karl Bohnstedt may well be the most famous Bohnstedt in the world. As an architect he designed numerous buildings, he created works of art that today are auctioned for thousands of dollars, and a street in Gotha, Germany, was named for him. Ludwig was born Ludwig Franz Karl Eduard Albert Bohnstedt  in 1822, was the eldest son of Ludvig Bohnstedt (hereafter referred to as Ludvig Sr.), and, like his younger brother, Edvard, was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. He married in 1850 in St. Petersburg to Olga van der Vliet, the daughter of a prominent commerce official.


Ludwig Bohnstedt, the Architect

There is extensive information available regarding Ludwig Franz Bohnstedt and his work as an architect, including a book called Architektur im 19.Jahrhundert / Ludwig Bohnstedt, Leben und Werk, written by Dieter Dolgner, in 1979. The book is in German language, but the title translated to English means Architecture in the 19th century / Ludwig Bohnstedt, Life and Work.

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1. Architektur im 19.Jahrhundert / Ludwig Bohnstedt, Leben und Werk
2. Ludwig Bohnstedt with his students (Ludwig is near the right, with a small white "X" on his coat pocket)

The book contains some copies of his architectural drawings on which his name, "L. Bohnstedt", is spelled in Russian:

This seems to be a phonetic spelling of the Bohnstedt name. Pronounced in German, Bohnstedt sounds more like "Bonshtedt", with an "sh" sound. The Cyrillic characters above, translated letter for letter is: L. B-o-n-sh-t-e-d-t-'. (the last character is not a letter but a small apostrophe). Later, this phonetic translation into the Russian alphabet led to yet another phonetic translation of the mineral "Bonshtedtite" back into Latin characters into the spelling seen here.

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1-3. Ludwig Bohnstedt through the years. L-R: 1841, 1855, 1870

Ludwig was a member of the Imperial Art Academy in 1847, and was one of St. Petersburg's city architects. He was private architect in the 1850's to Grand Duchess Helena Pavolvna, and was also a member of the Council and Ministry of Sea and Land Transport and Communications in 1851. He received the title of Professor from the Art Academy in St. Petersburg in 1858. He became a member of the English National Academy in London in 1864, member of the Berlin Art Academy in 1874, and an honorary member of "Maatschappi tot Bevordering der Bonwkunst" in Amsterdam, Holland in 1875.

1.  Bank in Finland, designed by Ludwig Bohnstedt
2-3. Igreja do Mosteiro de Sao Torcato (San Torquato Cathedral) in Guimaraes, Portugal, another of Ludwig Bohnstedt's architectural works

Ludwig designed many buildings including a City Hall, possibly in St. Petersburg, two ministry buildings, the Jussupoff palace in St. Petersburg, the Latvian National Opera House in Riga, a bank building in Helsinki, Finland, German writer Fritz Reuter's villa, the Borchard villa in Baden-Baden, and Wallfahrtskirche, or "Church of Pilgrimage" (the San Torquato cathedral) in Guimaraes, Portugal.

1-2. One of Ludwig Bohnstedt's most spectacular works; the Latvian National Opera House in Riga.

Ludwig's work is well-known enough that numerous references to it can be found on the Internet and in several books. For example Richard Weston writes in Materials, Form, and Architecture:

The German architect Ludvig Bohnstedt could accept that iron would figure in new developments, but doubted if it would lead to a new style. “Our traditional laws of style”, he wrote, “are rooted precisely in our experience with solid material – with stone – and have been made to harmonize with it; those laws determine the fulfillment of all demands, which up to now only stone has been able to satisfy”.

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1. Materials, Form, and Architecture, by Richard Weston, 2003
The Architecture of Historic Hungary By Dora Wiebenson, József Sisa, Pál Lovei, 1998

Because of his reputation Ludwig was often invited to design competitions, competitions in which only the top architects were allowed to participate. According to The Architecture of Historic Hungary:

Soon Budapest determined to emulate Paris and Vienna by erecting a great opera house. In 1873 a limited competition was organized for it's design. Four Hungarians - István Linzbauer, Imre Steindl, Antal Szkainitzky, and Miklós Ybl - and two foreigners - Ludwig Bohnstedt of Gotha [Germany] and Ferdinand Fellner of Vienna - were invited to compete.

One year earlier Ludwig participated in a competition to design one of the most important buildings in Europe at the time; the German Reichstag.


The Reichstag That Almost Was

One of the works for which Ludwig was most famous was a building that was never built; the Reichstag (parliament) building in Germany. According to The Ghosts of Berlin: Confronting German History in the Urban Landscape:

In 1872, the Reichstag held an international architectural competition for it’s building. A winner was chosen – Ludvig Bohnstedt of Gotha ....

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1. The Ghosts of Berlin: Confronting German History in the Urban Landscape by Brian Ladd, 1998
Imperial Culture in Germany, 1871-1918 by Matthew Jefferies, 2003
Calatrava Public Buildings, by S.V. Moos A. Tischhauser and Anthony Tischhauser, 1998

Matthew Jefferies goes into more detail about the competition in Imperial Culture in Germany, 1871 - 1918:

The competition jury was divided between those who favoured a Gothic solution, such as the Catholic politician and publicist August Reichensperger (1808-95) and those who wanted a building in the Prussian Classical tradition, built by a Berlin architect. The jury’s deliberations were never made public, but in the third round of voting a design by the Gotha architect Ludvig Bohnstedt (1822-85) won by a single vote.

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1. The Reichstag: the parliament building, by Bernhard Schulz, 1999
2. Reichstag building designed by Ludwig Bohnstedt, winner of the 1872 competition. The image was found by
Martin Bohnstedt

But the new Reichstag building designed by Ludwig Bohnstedt was never built. Why? In Calatrava Public Buildings, authors / editors Moos and Tischhauser state that

In June 1991, in spite of the move to a new building complex only two years before, the German Bundestag decided to relocate the German Parliament from Bonn back to it’s former seat in Berlin – the Reichstag. The initial design for the Reichstag building was by Bohnstedt, the winner of the first ever competition. However, this scheme remained unbuilt; the architect’s foreign origins did not appeal to everyone in Berlin.

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1-2. Two more views of the Reichstag building designed by Ludwig Bohnstedt

The architect's foreign origins? While it is true that Ludwig Bohnstedt had been born in Russia, he lived in Gotha and was of German ancestry. But there were actually more direct and practical reasons for the delay in starting construction. Count Raczynski, the owner of the land where the new Reichstag was to be built, was unwilling to give away his property. Berhard Schulz, in The Reichstag, states that

The architectural competition for the Reichstag building was held in 1872. It is worth stressing that this competition was an international one: no fewer than fifteen architects from England alone participated, and the second prize was awarded to Sir Gilbert Scott, the leading representative of the Neo-Gothic style and architect of numerous churches. With the declaration of Ludwig Bohnstedt as the winner, all that was necessary was for work to begin was that the site should be made available. But Count Raczynski, whose permission had not been sought, refused to hand over his property and all work ground to a halt.

According to The Ghosts of Berlin:

... symptomatic of the Reichstag’s [political] weakness was its inability to acquire the proposed site on Königsplatz, meaning the entire competition had been for naught.

And in Imperial Culture in Germany:

It quickly became apparent, however, that there was little likelihood of it [the Reichstag building] being built.  The issue of the land remained unresolved, and the commission reported back to the Reichstag that none of the prizewinning entries could be built without substantial alterations...

Another view of the Reichstag designed by Ludwig Bohnstedt

Debates and legal maneuvering went on for several years, and by the time the issue was settled, it was decided to hold a new competition. This time the winner was German architect Paul Wallot. Had the issue been settled sooner, the German parliament building might have been designed and built by Ludwig Franz Karl Bohnstedt. On the other hand, it would also have been destroyed by Nazi saboteurs in 1933.


Ludwig Bohnstedt, the Artist

Besides being a gifted architect, Ludwig Bohnstedt was also a talented artist. He painted several works during his lifetime.  To view a selection of Ludwig Bohnstedt's paintings, go to the next page.

Click on the image above, or go to the next page to view a gallery of Ludwig Bohnstedt's artistic works.


Bohnstedtstrasze in Gotha

There is a street in Gotha, Germany named Bohnstedtstraße, or Bohnstedtstrasze (literally, "Bohnstedt Street"). The street was named for Ludwig Bohnstedt, who had resettled to Gotha sometime between 1858 and 1865.

1-3. Bohnstedtstrasze in Gotha, Germany. Photos taken by
Martin Bohnstedt

I have not seen specific paper documentation that indicates that this street was named for architect Ludwig Bohnstedt. However, given the fact that such a prominent citizen as Ludwig Bohnstedt had made his home there, and given the fact that he also designed three bank buildings and several villas in Gotha, it seems extremely unlikely that the street could have been named for anyone else.


1. Bohnstedtstrasze in Gotha, Germany.. Photos taken by
Martin Bohnstedt
2-3. Maps of Gotha, Germany, showing the location of Bohnstedtstrasze


Ludwig Bohnstedt, the Family Man

Ludwig and Olga's first child, a son named Ernst Jacob, was born in 1851 in St. Petersburg. Ludwig and and Olga had at least six more children. We know for certain that at least three of them were born in St. Petersburg: Alfred; born 1853, Olga; born 1856, and Ida; born 1858. We don't know of any children born to these three. In fact the only one whose life we know anything about is Alfred. He seems to have followed in his father's footsteps somewhat and pursued a career for a time in building design, or perhaps construction.

Another portrait of Ludwig Bohnstedt

Ludwig and his wife then had two more children, Emma and Otto. However, it is uncertain where these two children were born. We do know that they died very young. It appears that Emma died the same year she was born (1860), as did Otto (1862).

There was one more child born to Ludwig and Olga; a daughter they named Ella. She was born in 1865 in Gotha Germany, indicating that the family had left Russia and moved to Germany sometime in the seven year period between 1858 and 1865. Unlike her two siblings before her, Ella survived her birth and infancy, and lived to the age of 80 years. During her life she was an artist, a talent that she may have inherited from her father.

Ludwig and Olga's eldest child, Ernst Jacob, did return to Russia and was married in St. Petersburg in 1882 to Henriette Junker. It is unclear whether he met Henriette (from a German family) in Germany, or whether her family were transplants to Russia like many other German families of their time. Ernst and his wife had one adopted daughter, Anna, and so did not carry on the Bohnstedt name in Russia.

We have no record of any children for Ernst's brother, Alfred. At any rate, it appears that Alfred stayed in Germany, and even if he'd had children, they would have perpetuated another German Bohnstedt line. Ludwig's third son, Otto died in infancy, and the rest of his children were daughters. Therefore the Bohnstedt name was not carried in in Russia, at least not from Ludwig. It was however, carried on from Ludwig's younger brother, Edvard Ludwig (Louis) Bohnstedt.

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1. Painting by Ludwig's daughter, Ida Bohnstedt: Szene aus der römischen Campagna, 1870
2. Tombstone of Ludwig Bohnstedt in the Hauptfriedhof Gotha ("Main Cemetery" in Gotha)

Alfred followed his father's footsteps to some degree in the architecture and building profession. He studied building and construction and was known as the builder of the industrial palace in Frankfurt am Main. He also accompanied another well-known architect, Max von Weber, on a trip to America. But there is no record of a marriage or children for Alfred.

A painting done by Ida Bohnstedt turned up on an Internet art auction website. As Ludwig's son, Alfred, followed his father's profession of architecture, Ludwig's daughter, Ida turned out to be a talented artist just like her father.

For someone who reads German Architektur im 19.Jahrhundert / Ludwig Bohnstedt, Leben und Werk will no doubt yield more details about Ludwig's personal and professional life.

Architektur im 19.Jahrhundert / Ludwig Bohnstedt, Leben und Werk ("Architecture in the 19th century / Ludwig Bohnstedt, Life and Work"), 1979

One final note: There is some confusion as to Ludwig"s full name; the Ny Svensk Släktbok gives Ludwig"s full name as "Ludvig Franz Karl Maria Bohnstedt", but Architektur im 19.Jahrhundert / Ludwig Bohnstedt, Leben und Werk gives his name as "Ludwig Franz Carl Eduard Albert Bohnstedt". But written and printed works sometimes present information in error; for example, one book on architecture; Calatrava, by Philip Jodidio (not to be confused with Calatrava Public Buildings by Moos and Tischhauser) refers to Ludwig as "Friedrich Bohnstedt". The information in this book pertaining to this Bohnstedt architect certainly matches architect Ludwig Bohnstedt, so how the author derived the given name of Friedrich is puzzling. However, most sources agree on Ludwig's full name as Ludwig (or Ludvig) Franz Karl Bohnstedt.


Book References:
- Dolgner, Dieter.
Architektur im 19.Jahrhundert / Ludwig Bohnstedt, Leben und Werk ("Architecture in the 19th century / Ludwig Bohnstedt, Life and Work") Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger. 1979
- Weston, Richard. Materials, Form, and Architecture. Yale University Press. 2003 (ISBN 0300095791)
- Wiebenson, Dora, Sisa, József, and Lovei, Pál. The Architecture of Historic Hungary. MIT Press. 1998 (ISBN 0262231921)
- Ladd, Brian. The Ghosts of Berlin : Confronting German History in the Urban Landscape. University Of Chicago Press. 1998 (ISBN 0226467627)
- Jefferies, Matthew. Imperial Culture in Germany, 1871-1918. Palgrave Macmillan. 2003 (ISBN 1403904219)
- Moos, S.V., Tischhauser, Anthony. Calatrava - Public Buildings. Birkhauser. 1998 (ISBN 3764356278)

- Schulz, Bernhard. The Reichstag: the parliament building. Prestel. New York. 1999 (ISBN 3791321536)


See Also:
1-12 /
The First Bohnstedts in Russia
1-14 / Gallery: The Artistic Works of Ludwig Franz Karl Bohnstedt
1-40 /
Genealogy 1-4: Russia
5-4 /
Appendix D: Ny Svensk Släktbok
5-14 /
Appendix M: Architektur im 19.Jahrhundert / Ludwig Bohnstedt, Leben und Werk


Online Resources
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Bohnstedt (Deutsche/German)
https://de.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Bohnstedt (Deutsche/German, mobile site)
Ludwig Bohnstedt, Wikipedia (Русский/Russian)
Ludwig Bohnstedt, Wikipedia (Русский/Russian, mobile site)
https://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Bohnstedt (Svensk/Swedish)
https://sv.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Bohnstedt (Svensk/Swedish, mobile site)


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