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Nikolaus Haviland "Klaus" Ritter

Nikolaus (Klaus) Haviland Ritter Klaus Ritter, Architectural Engineer, age 75, died on October, 25, 2009, in Berlin Germany, at the Virchow Medical School Hospital after an extended illness caused from Morbus Wegener, an autoimmune disease. Mr. Ritter was born in New York City on December 21, 1933, to Mary Aurora Evans Ritter from White Oak, Alabama and Nikolaus Adolf Fritz Ritter of Verden-an-der-Aller, Germany. While still in his infancy, his parents moved their family to Germany where they resided until 1946, after WWII, when they returned to the U.S. They settled in Tallahassee where he entered Sealey Elementary School and consequently graduated from Leon High School in 1952. Mr. Ritter attended Georgia Institute of Technology on a co-op schedule with Bell Telephone Company and graduated in Electrical Engineering in 1957. After graduation he was employed by Texas Instruments, Inc. in Dallas as Production-Engineer for silicon diode rectifiers. In late 1959, he was called into the military and was assigned as Measurement Engineer for experimental nuclear detonation for Ballistic Research Laboratories in Baltimore, Eniwetok (Micronesia), and Nevada Proving Grounds. In 1960, after his release, until 1963, Mr. Ritter was employed as engineer for the Particle Accelerator Laboratory at Florida State University while simultaneously studying art under the influence of the Berlin born Prof. Karl Zerbe. While at FSU, he won the competition to build a stained glass window, several glass panels, and a sculpture. The window was built on the stair landing of the Physics Department at FSU. In 1961, he married a German student, Gabriele Helge Hilpert, from Berlin and in 1964 they moved to Germany where Mr. Ritter entered the Berlin Art Academy's School of Architecture. He graduated in 1967 as Werkarchitekt and began his career while continuing study towards a doctorate equivalency in architecture. In 1972, he graduated as Diplom-Ingenieur, Architekt. Among his most unusual accomplishments was his design of a planetary pavilion in a school courtyard that was shadowed by towering buildings. Mr. Ritter won the competition by directing mirrored panels to deflect the sun's rays into the exercise area. For another recreational park he designed a two-story high windmill in the shape of a flower blossom to capture wind energy for a wind powered carousel. His unique work was displayed in various art and design shows including the "American Artists in Berlin" exhibit. He was active in organizing art exhibits and participated in the post WWII "Blank Wall" projects to camouflage and beautify rubble walls with sculptures, greenery and paint. Mr. Ritter excelled in designs that expressed play, humor and color. He had many contracts for private homes, shops, flats, loft, bars, cafés, and courtyards. His style tended to reflected old world charm using natural materials, rounded arches and cozy nooks. His "Pinball Machine Environment" submission for the International Congress Center in Berlin was honored with the first prize. A studio in the spacious Artist House Bethanien was made available to him for two years to work out the design details. Besides his career in architecture, he and his wife were contributing editors to three editions of the Berlin Stattbuch (city directory) for privately owned and operated small businesses. In 1986 Mr. Ritter and his wife bought an abandoned stone cottage from the city of Cortona, Italy. It was situated high on a mountainside with free running water and enough land for limited farming and an olive grove. With start-up money from the Italian government for building a solar collector he and his wife cleared land and renovated the structure intended for their second home. He continued to design small architectural projects for friends while in Italy, but was not licensed in Italy and after a five-year hiatus felt the professional and emotional need to return to Berlin. Berlin was his home. He lived on Nollendorf Street for 40 years and the inhabitants were his family. He returned to the United States only to visit relatives. Mr. Ritter is survived by his wife of 48 years; his sister, Katharine Ritter Wallace of McLean, Va.; a nephew, Raymond Wallace, III of Springfield, Va.; and his niece, Mary Haviland Wallace Steele of Oakton, Va. Other relatives include a grand-niece and two grand-nephews plus many cousins in the U.S., and two cousins and a half-sister in Germany. Among his most significant life achievements was his genuine love of people and his ease in making and nurturing many devoted and loyal friends. His remains are buried in the century-old cemetery of Südwestkirchhof (www.suedwestkirchhof.de) of the Protestant Church of Berlin. The spacious park-like cemetery features forests as well as sculptured burial areas. Mr. Ritter requested to be buried under a large tree with music from excerpts of his favorite opera, Wagner's Tristan and Isolde. His family selected a double-trunk birch tree for his resting place, signifying his appreciation for his American heritage and love of Germany. A memory monument will also be placed in the Perkins-Evans family cemetery White Oak, next to his mother, and his Tallahassee relatives have planted a magnolia tree in the memory of Nikolaus Haviland Ritter at Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy. Mr. Ritter inhaled the mysteries of life and related to the quote by Michelangelo: "I am not dead. I'm only changing rooms. I live in each of you and continue through your dreams." His blueprints live on.
Published in Tallahassee Democrat on Feb. 7, 2010
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