Otto Bartning began his career in 1902 with architecture studies at the Technical University in Berlin. After an extended trip around the world in 1904–1905, he continued his studies at the Technical University of Karlsruhe and discontinued them in 1907. He already received the commission to build a Protestant church in Peggau/Styria in 1905, which is why he opened his own architecture studio in Berlin. This was followed by more church buildings for diaspora congregations in other countries, as well as the construction of some residential buildings in Berlin.
In 1918, Bartning became a member of Work Council for Art and chaired the instruction committee on 'Recommendations on a Curriculum for Craftsmen, Architects and Fine Artists', among other positions. Together with Walter Gropius, Bartning developed the basic features of the pedagogical programmes – which Gropius then implemented with the Bauhaus in Weimar. In addition, Bartning was involved in the November Group, on the board of the German Werkbund and in the Der Ring (The Ring) architect association. With the publication of New Church Architecture (1919), Bartning demonstrated his continued interest in the theoretical and practical issues of modern sacral architecture. This reached its preliminary climax in 1922 with the design of a fourteen-ray star church. He celebrated his breakthrough as an architect in 1928 with a two-tower steel church on the occasion of the Pressa Exhibition in Cologne.
After the expulsion of the Bauhaus from Weimar in 1925, Bartning was commissioned with the construction of a successor institute called the State Technical University of Architecture and Civil Engineering. He was its director from 1926 to its closing in 1930 at the instigation of the National Socialists.
After his return to Berlin, he once again dedicated himself more intensely to the issues of residential and church construction as the founding member of the Reich’s Research Society for Economy in Building and Housing. From 1941 to 1948, Bartning was in charge of the builders’ hut of the Church of the Holy Spirit and the St. Peter’s Church in Heidelberg. This is where he also became chairman of the local German Werkbund group in 1947. During this period, he also developed the prototype programme for the construction of makeshift churches (1946–1951) and community centres or diaspora chapels (1948–1953). In 1950, Bartning was appointed as the vice-president of the German Werkbund and elected as the president of the Association of German Architects. He held this office until his death. Bartning had a decisive influence as the head of the Technical Commission for the Reconstruction of Helgoland and as the presidium member of the Council for Design in 1952. From 1953 to 1957, he played a leading role on the committee of the International Building Exhibition (Interbau). Within this context, the Berlin Hansa quarter was built. Starting in 1955, Bartning worked in Berlin as a consultant for issues of urban planning. He made an important contribution to designs for the German Pavilion at the World Exhibition in Brussels in 1958.
Otto Bartning created outstanding works in the area of constructing Protestant churches. His major accomplishments include the Round Church in Essen (1929–1930), the Gustav Adolf Church in Berlin-Charlottenburg (1932–1934) and the Christ Church in Bad Godesberg (1953), as well as his contribution to the building of the Berlin-Siemensstadt and Haselhorst housing estates.
The awards conferred upon him range from his appointment as an honorary doctor of theology at the University of Königsberg in 1924 to his honorary membership in the West German P.E.N. in 1956 to the Grand Cross of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1953 and the Star for the Grand Cross in 1958.
- Evangelische Gustav-Adolf-Kirchengemeinde in Berlin-Charlottenburg mit der Otto Bartning-Arbeitsgemeinschaft Kirchenbau (OBAK) (2009): Die Gustav-Adolf-Kirche in Berlin-Charlottenburg und ihr Architekt Otto Bartning. Festschrift zum 75. Jahrestag der Einweihung, Gifhorn.
- Gerbing, Chris (2001): Die Auferstehungskirche in Pforzheim (1945–1948). Otto Bartnings Kirchenbau im Spannungsfeld zwischen Moderne und Traditionalismus, Regensburg.
- Günter, Roland (2009): Der Deutsche Werkbund und seine Mitglieder 1907 bis 2007, Essen.
- Nicolaisen, Dörte für das Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin (1996): Das andere Bauhaus. Otto Bartning und die Staatliche Bauhochschule Weimar 1926–1930, Berlin.
- Quiring, Claudia et al. (2013): Neue Baukunst. Architektur der Moderne in Bild und Buch, Bielefeld.
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