The Source for Richmond Architecture and Design Information

Current: In Memory of Ulrich Franzen

Noted architect Ulrich Franzen died on October 6th at the age of 91. He was born in Dusseldorf Germany but emigrated to the United States when he was 15. Franzen attended the Harvard Graduate School of Design where he met architects such as Philip Johnson, Paul Rudolph, and I.M. Pei who he worked for following graduation. Soon thereafter, he established Ulrich Franzen and Associates. Richmond is fortunate enough to be home to two works designed by Franzen.

The First Unitarian Universalist Church is one. Located near the Carillon in the leafy Byrd Park neighborhood, the structure is a single story composed of broad rectangular piers supporting a low slung roof. Walls are either floor to ceiling glass or concrete block with angled clerestory strips providing atmospheric lighting. The distinctive massing of the church relates to his residential work.

Franzen’s other mark on Richmond is a building on Philip Morris’ campus. Easily seen from I-95 south of Richmond, the materials are a warm chocolate brick and black reflective curtain wall. Franzen is well known for designing Philip Morris’ former headquarters, a 28 story tower in Midtown Manhattan.

From residences to offices to university buildings, each of Franzen’s projects had a different sensibility making it difficult to label him. On the whole, he could be most accurately characterized as a Brutalist which might explain the waning of his popularity in recent years. While his works in Richmond are not his most well known, Ulrich Franzen had an impact on the city and, indeed, architecture itself over the course of his career.


Image of Franzen courtesy of the Houston Chronicle, image of Franzen’s Philip Morris Tower courtesy of


  • John J Accordino

    Thanks for that nice little piece!

  • va M O D E R N

    The church he did at Byrd Park is one of his best designs. So few people know about that building, but it is a quiet and timeless example of modern architecture tucked within a vintage neighborhood. I picked up a book of his at Chop Suey Books in Richmond about 10 years ago.
    -Josh McCullar, vaMODERN

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