Friedrich Jacob Kiesler was born on 22 September 1890 in Chernivtsi (then Austria-Hungary, now Ukraine). His father, city councilman Dr. Julius Kiesler, was a civil servant in the employ of the municipality for several decades; he was also the secretary of the Jewish Community. His mother, Rosa Kiesler, née Meisler, died in 1891, thus Kiesler likely grew up in the care of his siblings, brother Emil, 9 years older, and sister Marie, 17 years older.


After graduating from the Greek Orthodox high school in Chernivtsi, Kiesler moved to Vienna for his university education. He applied to the Academy of Fine Arts, but was not accepted. He subsequently registered for the winter semester 1908/09 at the architecture department of the Imperial Royal University of Technology, where he studied architecture for one year. A renewed attempt to pass the Academy’s entrance exam in 1910 proved successful. Kiesler spent a total of six semesters there: two in the school of painting under Rudolf Bacher and four in the special school for copperplate engraving under Ferdinand Schmutzer. In July 1913, Kiesler quit the Academy without having earned a diploma.


Upon the outbreak of the First World War, Kiesler was conscripted into military service. After completing his first year as an enlistee, he was assigned as a Landsturm-infantryman to the Imperial and Royal Infantry Regiment 95 in the military surveying detachment. In September 1917, he transferred to the military press bureau (art group).


On 19 August, Friedrich Kiesler married Stephanie Frischer, who was born in 1897 in Skoczów (Silesia, now Poland), at the Vienna Synagogue.


His first documented commission hailed from Berlin, where the Kieslers on occasion had been spending several weeks at a time since 1921. Friedrich Kiesler undertook the set design of Karel Čapek’s piece R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), which premiered in German as W.U.R. (Werstands Universal Robots) on 29 March 1923 at the Theater am Kurfürstendamm. The electromechanical backdrop and the use of film projections brought him accolades from the international avant-garde assembled in Berlin and led to acquaintanceships with Theo van Doesburg, Hans Richter, and Mies van der Rohe.
Around the turn of the year 1923/24, Kiesler took on responsibility for a further stage set: Eugene O’Neill’s Kaiser Jones [Emperor Jones] at Berlin’s Lustspielhaus, directed by Bertold Viertel.


Commissioned by the Society for the Promotion of Modern Art in Vienna, Friedrich Kiesler organized and designed the International Exhibition of New Theatre Techniques for the Music and Theater Festival of the City of Vienna. He invited representatives of various avant-garde movements—from the Bauhaus and De Stijl to constructivism and futurism—to Vienna’s Konzerthaus and made their concepts known via a spatial presentation system he had developed, the so-called Leger- und Trägersystem [Leger (L) and Träger (T) system]. He was also given the opportunity to build a 1:1 model of the Raumbühne [Space Stage] and to let actors perform on this stage of the future.


In his role as the commissioner of the Austrian pavilion of the Exposition internationale des Arts décoratifs et industriels modernes in Paris, Josef Hoffmann invited Kiesler to design the Austrian theater section. Kiesler again attracted attention through his form of presentation: a room-sized structure in the style of the Dutch neoplasticists. He proceeded to promulgate it as the Raumstadt [City in Space], a model of a free-floating city of the future; he published the accompanying “Manifesto  of Tensionism ‘Organic Building the City in Space Functional Architecture’” in the avant-garde journals De Stijl and G.
During his time in Paris, Kiesler worked on further architecture projects: an automatic theater without actors (the Optophon theater), a horizontal skyscraper, a spiral-shaped department store, as well as plans for a redesign of the Place de la Concorde. He expanded the idea of the Raumbühne [Space Stage] into a spheroidal theater building: the Endless Theatre.


Jane Heap, the editor of the avant-garde magazine The Little Review, invited Kiesler to organize an international theater exhibition with her in New York. On 19 January the Kieslers departed Europe on the ship Leviathan; on 27 February, the International Theatre Exposition opened in the Steinway Building. Kiesler curated the European part of the exhibition and was responsible for the design of the catalog and the poster.
Together with actress Maria Carmi, Kiesler announced the founding of an International Theatre Arts Institute, for which he was planning a double theater in Brooklyn Heights. The project was not realized.


Through the efforts of art collector Katherine Dreier, cofounder of the artists’ organization Société Anonyme Inc., Kiesler briefly joined the architecture firm Helmle, Corbett & Harrison. Dreier also commissioned him to draw up designs for the Société Anonyme Inc.’s museum of modern art, planned as a 14-story high-rise with state-of-the-art lighting and ventilation.
In August, Stefi Kiesler began working at the New York Public Library. In the ensuing years, she quickly ascended through the ranks, became certified as a foreign language specialist librarian, and eventually was appointed head of the German and French language collections at the main building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.


Friedrich Kiesler designed a series of show windows for retailer Saks Fifth Avenue and in the process availed himself of an entirely new presentation concept.


On 1 February, the Film Guild Cinema, Kiesler’s first realized architectural project in America, opened with a gala attended by prominent guests. The Film Arts Guild’s building in New York’s Greenwich Village was advertised as “The First 100% Cinema”—instead of a curtain, a wall-sized iris diaphragm (“Screen-o-Scope”) covered the screen; the projection could be expanded to the ceiling and side walls.


Kiesler’s book Contemporary Art Applied to the Store and its Display, wherein he synthesized his insights about show window design and the promotion of modern art, was published by Brentano’s. Although Kiesler’s window displays for Saks Fifth Avenue are his best known, he nonetheless continued to accept commissions in this area. In the spring of 1930, he worked on the redesign of the B. Westermann Co., Inc. bookstore.
In March, the exhibition of the AUDAC (American Union of Decorative Artists and Craftsmen) took place in the Grand Central Palace. Kiesler, a member since 1928, took over responsibility for the design and showcased his own furniture concepts, such as the Flying Desk. He founded his own design firm, Planners Institute Inc., which stayed in business until 1945. On 5 March, Kiesler received his official architecture license from the University of the State of New York.
From August to October, Stefi and Friedrich Kiesler sojourned in Paris, on the one hand to cultivate their social contacts within the artistic avant-garde network and on the other to recover their lost personal documents.


In the fall, Kiesler won the competition for a festival theater in Woodstock, New York, with his submission of a flexible cultural center; his competitors included Frank Lloyd Wright. The project was not realized.


In the Modern Architecture: International Exhibition, curated by Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Friedrich Kiesler was represented with photographs of the Film Guild Cinema.


In the summer, Kiesler regularly traveled to Chicago to visit the headquarters of the firm Sears, Roebuck & Co., where he had been involved in negotiations since 1931 about the Nucleus House, a mass-produced, modular single-family home that was to be offered by mail-order. While in Chicago, he also visited the Rembrandt Lamp Corporation, for which he designed lamps.
Kiesler was hired for the redesign of the Modernage Furniture store; in the course of this project, he presented a walk-in model of a single-family home in the large exhibition hall. The Space House was the first Kiesler work to feature biomorphic forms, thus marking a stylistic turning point. He published his programmatic text “The Space-House. Annotations at Random” at the beginning of 1934 in Hound & Horn, wherein he declared his model of the single-family home to be a demonstration of “Time-Space-Architecture.”
In the fall, Kiesler began working at the Juilliard School of Music as a Scenic Director; as a result, he also began working as a teacher at the Opera Theatre Unit/Opera Department. This employment relationship, which guaranteed Kiesler a regular income, was maintained until his retirement in 1956. The first stage set Kiesler designed for the Juilliard School of Music was for the opera Helen Retires (composer: George Antheil, libretto: John Erskine), which premiered in February 1934.


For his redesign of Jay’s Shoes, Kiesler won a prize for the best store design in the city of Buffalo. In September, Friedrich and Stefi Kiesler moved into a penthouse at 56 Seventh Avenue, in which they lived until the end of their lives.


Kiesler designed the interior of Charles und Marguerita Mergentime’s apartment, for which he also created his own furniture designs, such as the Party Lounge, Bed Couch, and the multipartite, kidney-shaped, aluminum Nesting Tables. In December, Friedrich Kiesler became a naturalized American citizen and changed his name to Frederick John Kiesler.


Beginning in February, Kiesler published a series of articles entitled “Design Correlation. A Column on Exhibits, the Theater and the Cinema” in the journal Architectural Record. Topics ranged from Marcel Duchamp’s “The Large Glass” to “Animals and Architecture.”
Frederick Kiesler was invited to teach at Columbia University’s School of Architecture starting in the fall. There, he founded the Laboratory for Design Correlation and served as its director until it was disbanded in 1941. Projects that stemmed from this activity include the Mobile Home Library and the Vision Machine.


The September edition of the Architectural Record included the contribution “On Correalism and Biotechnique. A Definition and Test of a New Approach to Building Design,” one of Kiesler’s most important theoretical texts. A second edition of his book Contemporary Art Applied to the Store and its Display was published.


After the closure of the Laboratory for Design Correlation, Kiesler began to work on two book manuscripts: one was a treatise on Correalism (with different working titles: “On Correalism and Biotechnique,” “The United States of Fine Arts”), the other was entitled “Magic Architecture. Origin and Future. The Story of Human Housing.” Although he continued writing them in the following years, the manuscripts remained unfinished and unpublished.


Art collector Peggy Guggenheim commissioned Kiesler with redesigning two former tailor workshops into gallery space. The museum gallery Art of This Century comprised four sections: “Surrealist Gallery,” “Abstract Gallery,” “Daylight Gallery,” and “Kinetic Gallery.” Kiesler was able to test out insights from his research in the Laboratory for Design Correlation in practice, particularly as regarded the Vision Machine.


Frederick Kiesler worked on two exhibition designs: an Ecology Exhibition in the American Museum of Natural History and a segment for the U.S. Housing in War and Peace presentation of the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship Inc., which was intended to be shown in the Soviet Union to foster intercultural exchange. Both concepts remained unrealized.


André Breton requested Kiesler to design a layout for his publication Ode á Charles Fourier.


Kiesler got an assignment from the Off-Broadway scene, taking on responsibility for the set and lighting design of John Huston’s production of Jean-Paul Sartre’s three-person play Huis Clos [No Exit] at the Biltmore Theatre. He recorded his deliberations in the text “A Theatre for the Poet.”


In February, the magazine Architectural Forum published an extensive portrait about Kiesler under the title “Design’s Bad Boy.”
During this year, Kiesler was significantly involved in the design of two surrealist exhibitions. The show Bloodflames 1947, curated by Nicolas Calas, opened on 3 March in the Hugo Gallery in New York. Kiesler’s design concept staged the artworks—Arshile Gorky, David Hare, Wifredo Lam, and Isamu Noguchi were among the participants—on the one hand through their positioning (on the floor, on the ceiling, placed obliquely) and on the other through colorfully painted exhibition rooms.
Kiesler spent May through September in Paris, where the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme initiated by André Breton and Marcel Duchamp opened at the Galerie Maeght on 7 July. He was the architect responsible for the design of two areas (Salle de Pluie, Le Dédale); for the third, the Salle de Superstition [Room of superstitions], he also conceived the content. Kiesler leveraged the opportunity to visualize the unity of the arts (architecture, painting, sculpture) and created a Gesamtkunstwerk on the topic of superstition with the involvement of Roberto Matta, Joan Miró, and Yves Tanguy, among others. More detailed explications about the unity of the arts he was proclaiming followed in Kiesler’s trailblazing “Manifeste du Corréalisme,” which appeared two years later in a special edition of the magazine L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui.
Kiesler’s stay in Paris marked the beginning of his autonomous work in painting and sculpture. In the years to follow, he would create portraits of numerous artist friends, including Marcel Duchamp, Hans Arp, and Wifredo Lam, works he designated as Galaxial Portraits.


The interplay between architecture, painting, and sculpture was also the central theme of the exhibition The Muralist and the Modern Architect, which opened on 3 October in the Kootz Gallery in New York: One architect and one representative of the fine arts, respectively, worked on a project, among them Walter Gropius, Robert Motherwell, and Marcel Breuer. Kiesler’s first clay model of an Endless House was presented in conjunction with a sculpture by David Hare. In its November edition, the magazine Interiors printed Kiesler’s richly illustrated article “The Endless House and its Psychological Lighting.”


In Fifteen Americans, the Museum of Modern Art in New York featured Kiesler alongside positions like Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and William Baziotes. His sculptural Galaxy, a construction out of wooden boards and tree roots, had already been on view in 1948 as part of the stage set for The Poor Sailor (composer: Darius Milhaud, libretto: Jean Cocteau) at the Juilliard School of Music. Conceived for the opera as a simple fisherman’s hut, the organic forms evoked fish bones and skeletons; the influence of surrealism was clearly visible here. In its May issue, Life Magazine published an article entitled “Meant To Be Lived In” accompanied by a large photo of Kiesler with his sculpture.
Kiesler conceived a similar wooden Galaxy for architect Philip Johnson. It was installed in front of the latter’s iconic Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, was already destroyed, however, in 1956 by a lightning strike.
In the fall, the Museum of Modern Art in New York dedicated an entire show to Frederick Kiesler’s and Richard Buckminster-Fuller’s innovative architectural concepts. In Two Houses: New Ways to Build, the Endless House was placed beside Fuller’s Geodesic Dome—both became icons.


In New York’s Sidney Janis Gallery, Kiesler presented a series of painted Galaxies (27 September to 19 October). A similar selection was shown in early 1955 in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.


For the newly founded Empire State Music Festival in Ellenville, New York, Kiesler built a temporary summer theater as a circus tent. This weathered even a severe summer storm undamaged; Kiesler employed driftwood washed up by the storm as the scenic design for Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
In the summer, Kiesler spent several weeks in Vallauris, France, where he met often with Pablo Picasso and fashioned ceramic sculptures. Indeed, most of the sculptures he created from the mid-1950s onward he had cast in bronze, such as, for example, Cup of Prometheus and Arch as a Rainbow of Shells.


Kiesler was brought into two architecture projects to rework existing plans: an office building (Stifel Building) and a residential complex (Washington Square Village Project). At first glance, the designs appear to be comparatively pragmatic, but a more detailed examination reveals Kiesler’s visionary approaches.
In the course of the year, Kiesler started gathering together notes on projects, acquaintances, and travels under the working title “An Architect’s Diary.” By the time of his death, a plethora of materials, also comprising poems and drawings, had been accumulated. The book was published posthumously in 1966 by Simon and Schuster as Inside the Endless House: Art, People and Architecture. A Journal.


Under contract to entrepreneur and art collector Herbert Mayer, Kiesler, together with Armand Bartos, designed gallery rooms in New York’s Carlyle Hotel. The World House Galleries, specializing in art of classical modernism, opened on 22 January with the show The Struggle for New Form curated by Kiesler and Bartos. In the course of the year, two visually appealing articles describing Kiesler’s design were published: “Design in Continuity” in Architectural Forum and “The Art of Architecture for Art” in Art News.
In May, Frederick Kiesler and Armand Bartos founded the two-man architecture firm “Kiesler and Bartos Architects.” They worked on, inter alia, a beach house for Karl Robbins in West Palm Beach and a university hospital. Their most important project was the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem, a repository for Old Testament scrolls found in the Qumran Caves near the Dead Sea. In autumn 1957, Kiesler and Bartos flew to Israel for initial discussions; this was followed by laborious planning work.
In July, after more than two decades and about 50 stage sets, Frederick Kiesler ended his career at the Juilliard School of Music and entered retirement.


The Museum of Modern Art gave Kiesler the long-awaited chance to implement his concept of an Endless House in practice, namely as a life-sized model in the museum’s garden. In the ensuing years, in addition to draft drawings and plans, a total of four three-dimensional studies of various sizes came into being. In the end, the 1:1 model would not be realized, but Kiesler’s studies would be presented at the Visionary Architecture exhibition towards the end of 1960.
Kiesler was to design a summer theater for the Caramoor International Music Festival in Katonah, New York. For this, clients Walter and Lucie Rosen made available an imported Venetian pillared colonnade from the Renaissance, which could be arranged into a stage space.


In September Kiesler traveled to Brazil for the Congress of Art and Architecture, visited Brasília, and viewed the Biennale in São Paulo.
He received a stipend from the Ford Foundation for the design of an Ideal Theatre, for which he took up and continued developing his earlier idea of a double theater. The Universal was intended to offer maximal flexibility and to be augmented with a ten-story high-rise with offices, radio stations, and galleries. Between January 1962 and January 1964, Kiesler’s plans and his aluminum model were presented along with seven other concepts in the traveling exhibition The Ideal Theatre: Eight Concepts, organized by the American Federation of Arts.


On 20 March, the TV station CBS dedicated a half-hour segment to Frederick Kiesler on the program “Camera Three.”


In his gallery, Leo Castelli showed the exhibition Shell Sculptures and Galaxies with paintings, sculptures, and various Kiesler Endless House studies.
Kiesler entered into negotiations with Mary Sisler about the construction of an Endless House in Palm Beach, Florida.
In its July edition, the magazine Progressive Architecture published a detailed interview conducted by Thomas Creighton with Frederick Kiesler.


Kiesler wrote a series of poems, which he collected under the title “Thirsty Paper,” but did not publish.
After the creation of Shell Sculptures around 1960, Kiesler was now occupied with the group of works called Landscape Sculptures (Earth Finger, The Marriage of Heaven and Earth, The Saviour has Risen).
By 31 December, the architectural office with Armand Bartos was officially dossolved. The two continued to work separately on the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem.


For client Jane Blaffer Owen, Frederick Kiesler drew up plans for a Grotto for Meditation (also: Cave of the New Being) for the New Harmony Community in Indiana.
Stefi Kiesler died on 3 September.


Frederick Kiesler suffered a heart attack in March. On 26 March he married his former assistant and long-term confidante Lillian Olinsey, 21 years his junior, as Stefi Kiesler had advised him to do while she was still living,.
From May to June, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum showed the exhibition Frederick Kiesler. Environmental Sculpture. Kiesler worked on a sculptural environment entitled Us, You, Me, as well as on a massive sculpture named Bucephalus after Alexander the Great’s horse.


In April 1965, the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem was ceremonially inaugurated and earned Kiesler and Bartos the “Gold Medal of Honor in Design and Craftsmanship” awarded by the Architectural League of New York.
Frederick Kiesler died in New York on 27 December 1965. Speakers at his funeral included René d’Harnoncourt, director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, und composer Virgil Thomson, among others. The Juilliard String Quartet played an Arnold Schönberg composition. Robert Rauschenberg rolled a car tire through the church nave and, next to the coffin, painted it blue, yellow, green, white, and red.