HOLL, Elias I
(b. 1573, Augsburg, d. 1646, Augsburg)

Biography

German architect, part of a family of masons, builders and architects. He was the great-grandson of Jakob Holl (1413-1487), grandson of Sebastian Holl (1482-1545) and one of the four sons of Johannes Holl I (1512-1594), all master masons. The sons of Elias Holl I became painters, goldsmiths and cabinetmakers. Of his siblings, Elias Holl I attained the greatest eminence. His talent, industry and skill were employed at a time when a considerable number of important new public buildings were being constructed in Augsburg, the capital city of Swabia.

By the age of 13 Elias was already working on one of his father's projects, and two years later, in 1588, he collaborated with him on the Stenglinhaus. He finished his mason's apprenticeship under his father's tutelage, but did not obtain his mastership until 1596. At the end of that year Holl was already working with six journeymen, an indication that he was being kept busy with commissions. Besides extensions and rebuilding projects for patrician families in Augsburg, he was also occupied with schemes outside the city. Holl also participated ex officio in the planning of projects that were abandoned.

In 1602, Holl was appointed the new Civic Architect. In this capacity, he was responsible for all municipal building plans in preparation, for calculations, administration, acquisition of materials and execution.

Holl's greatest achievement is undoubtedly the Augsburg Rathaus (1615-20), a work with all traces of the Gothic eliminated. The nine-storey east front, divided into three vertical ranges, is articulated, save for two cornices, by the fenestration alone.

On 14 January 1631 Holl was dismissed from his post on religious grounds; he was reinstated in 1632 during the Swedish occupation of Augsburg and entrusted with work on the construction of fortifications, but he was dismissed again in 1635. For the last 11 years of his life he did little architectural work, although he still wrote reports and continued to produce his study of geometry and measurement, intended as a practical guide for prospective directors of building work.

Holl is credited with giving shape to the new Italian forms of the High Renaissance or early Baroque that his humanistically educated clients desired, to the best of his ability and on the basis of long-standing artisan tradition in Augsburg. He was the architect of one of the most superb and homogeneous town centres in Central Europe, built within two decades. For this task he made his own tools, developed new building techniques, drew up reliable structural calculations, prepared working drawings and planned and administered the execution of all building work. The 'new' architecture executed by Holl already incorporated features that are now termed early Baroque, but which were not further developed until long after the end of the Thirty Years War (1618-48).