Ritchie Studio

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Stefan Polónyi (1930-2021)

We are very sad to hear that structural engineer and university lecturer Stefan Polónyi died on April 9, 2021, at the age of 90 in Cologne where he had worked as a freelance engineer since 1957. Born in 1930 in Gyula, Hungary, he received his education at the Technical University of Budapest. He gained fame primarily for his folded-frame, shell and arched structures. Stefan was also active as an author, publishing articles, essays and reviews as well as theoretical works. From 1965 to 1972 he taught structural engineering at the TU Berlin, after which he was a professor at the University of Dortmund until 1995. He received honorary doctorates from the TU Budapest, the University of Kassel and the TU Berlin.

In 1992 we led the design of The Glass Hall of the Leipzig Trade Fair (1992) and Ian and Henning Rambow, iRAL’s project architect,  thoroughly enjoyed working with him, Volkwin Marg and Hubert Nienhoff of gmp, HLTechnik and I’RW. Its structure represents a highlight in his work on arched structures.

The vaulted steel grid-shell structure supports 25,000 square meters of glass up to a height of 30 meters and encloses an adaptable social space for events and exhibitions and is the world’s largest all-glass hall. Its transparency is exceptional and has been compared to the 1851 London Crystal Palace and created an iconic image for Leipzig. Realised only a few years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it represented a radical new departure. Compared to many functionally designed exhibition halls, a visit to the light-flooded vaulted space is still an architectural delight today.

Ian met him regularly at the Berlin Akademie der Künste, during the last few years where he was also a member, and fondly recalls his dignity, gentleness and smile.