Hans Nuetzel is one of the Cincinnati’s most notable modern/contemporary architects, but still a bit of a mystery to me because I never had the pleasure of meeting him. I always thought there would be more time. Probably because his prolific Cincinnati career spanned over 6 decades, from one of our favorite modest but perfect MCM homes (Mt. Healthy, 1959) to a $1.76M city & riverview modern masterpiece (Mt. Adams, built posthumously in 2014). He always seemed so… relevant, like he would always be around. And I loved hearing accounts of his visits from friends and clients living in his designs. He passed away in 2013 at age 92.
Legend has it that anyone who built one of the homes from his long and illustrious career – or bought an existing home of his design – became a part of his extended family. He was generous with his advice, and visited homes of new homeowners excited to find out their purchase had his pedigree. He would walk the property with the owners and explain why every detail existed (that clerestory window was to view that particular tree, or the metal sculpture over the fireplace was incorporated from the original owner’s travels to the southwest). He would weigh in on how to make modifications, or how to add a pool, and would assist with material choices. Kind of like working with Stevie Wonder to take one of his mega hits, and tailor it just for you. What a gift.
Nuetzel, of partial Jewish heritage, earned an Architecture degree from the University of Munich but emigrated to the U.S. with his wife and father a few years after World War II ended, in search of work. When he arrived in Cincinnati he spoke five languages but not English; after teaching himself the language he worked first for Carl Strauss and later for GBBN Architects. On the side, he designed homes largely on rolling, wooded lots, more than 30 of which are in Indian Hill. -Lisa Murtha, Cincinnati Magazine, Jan. 15, 2019.
Hans emigrated from Munich, Germany in 1948, and found his way into the modern architecture scene in Cincinnati by working with Carl Strauss & Ray Roush. No doubt his German/Bauhaus heritage played into his decision to work with stark modernists in this country. He built his own modest midcentury home in 1952 on a verdant hillside in Anderson Township right next to Ray’s own house (built in 1953) and they both spent the remainder of their lives there.
He designed several buildings on the Miami University campus and worked a stint at Gartner, Burdick, Bauer-Nilsen (GBBN), but residential architecture was his calling. Unlike many of his contemporaries who saw their residential careers spike in popularity and fade, Hans’ career ebbed and flowed until he became THE residential architect to the Cincinnati rich and famous. He hitched his star to the contemporary train, and evolved his style to meet the changing needs and tastes of his clients until the day he died. It does not seem that retirement was all that appealing to him. Contrary to many ‘cedar contemporary’ builder homes of the 70’s – 90’s, his homes had a distinct ‘form follows function’ purpose and artistry that others tried to copy, but usually fell flat. He was truly one of a kind, as were his designs, and we are thankful we get know him through his work if not in person.
Why he’s interesting: “I came here as an immigrant from Munich in 1949 (after surviving the concentration camps),” says the Anderson Township resident. “I worked for Carl Strauss and designed a lot of buildings at Miami University, as well as the physics building at Xavier University. But my true love has always been residential architecture.”
His philosophy of architecture: “I consider it has to fulfill a purpose; it has to be functional. I don’t care for labels. I try to find the right match for the family. I cannot design for myself.”
What the nominator says: As P&G’s Charlotte Otto put in her nomination, “He’s a real character. … We live in one of Hans’ homes, and have a great fondness and respect for him.”