Architecture being part of the Städelschule portfolio dates back to the founding of the Städelschule in 1817. Baumeister Heinrich Hübsch was employed as its first teacher in 1824. Throughout the 19th century the architectural education at Städelschule (at the time known as “Baukunst”, that is “the art of building”) was an important contributor to the training of architects in Germany. During the last part of that century and the beginning of the 20th, Oskar Sommer and Wilhelm Manchot, both pupils of Gottfried Semper, led the school into Modernity.
In the 1920s, through the roles of Ernst May, the renown architect and city planner, and Fritz Wichert as well as a strong cultural policy of the municipal authorities, Städelschule forged strong ties with the city government, a relation that led to extraordinary architectural achievements.
With the Nazi takeover in Germany in the 1930s, several of the programme's staff members, among them Franz Schuster, were soon removed. The architect Walter Loeffler, who had been an assistant of Tessenow in Berlin, was hired as a new teacher in 1933. While a member of the Nazi party, he was soon exposed as a Communist and resistance fighter who had helped political refugees to flee. While attempting to escape himself, his passport was confiscated. He and his wife committed suicide in a forest nearby Frankfurt to avoid the pending arrest and retribution by Gestapo.
GÜNTER BOCK AND AFTER
The Städelschule was damaged from the bomb raids during the war but immediately rebuilt when the war ended. In the post-war period, a series of prominent figures led and taught in the programme, but its internationalisation only began when Günter Bock took over the Architecture Class in 1970. Bock remained in charge till 1984 and initiated close contacts to, amongst other schools, the Architectural Association in London.
After Bock, the English architect Sir Peter Cook and, subsequently, the Spanish architect Enric Miralles led the Architecture Class. They continued to lead the programme in Bock's spirit and, in turn, gave it a strong international profile.
In 2001 the Dutch architect Ben van Berkel was elected professor to lead the Architecture Class. He called in the Norwegian architect, Johan Bettum, to work with him. Subsequently, the Städelschule Architecture Class was transformed from being a non-accredited diploma programme to an officially accredited postgraduate Master of Arts in Architecture programme awarding a Master of Arts in Architecture degree in 2006. The structure and content of the master programme built upon the previous diploma programme and offered a single study, 'Advanced Architectural Design.' Prof. Ben van Berkel decided to leave the Architecture Class in 2016 after 15 years.
In 2010 the programme was re-accredited and introduced new thematic specialisations in the second, thesis year. The specilised Master studios have been conceived as complimentary to one another and together to make for a holistic approach to contemporary architectural design.
With the changes to the programme since 2006, SAC has seen an increased number of students in each year, having around 40 but also up to 60 students each year. The programme is structured to host 10-12 students within each of the Master studios. The increased number of students has led to a heightened output of work of very fine quality. The gradual restructuring of SAC's programme has been concomitant to a stronger and clearer emphasis on research oriented and advanced investigations into the realm of architectural design.