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Born: 5/31/1822, Died: 2/10/1900

Gustav (Gustavus) Runge is a respected architect in his native Germany, but in the United States he is a shadowy figure known primarily as an associate of Napoleon LeBrun on the Academy of Music project (1855-1857). Runge was born in Bremen, the son of grain keepers Hermann and Anna Runge. He studied architecture and engineering at Karlsruhe, and in the 1840s he entered the monthly competitions of the Berlin Architekten Verein, for which his drawings survive.

Runge migrated to the United States in time to be listed in the 1850 census; his first mention as an architect in the Philadelphia city directories is for 1851 at 31 Merchants Exchange, an address he would maintain until 1861/1862, when he is listed at 424 Walnut Street before disappearing from the directories and, presumably, returning to Germany. In 1861 he had signed (as one of 19) the application for a charter for the Pennsylvania Institute of Architects.

In response to a call for designs for an Academy of Music, the building committee received 12 submissions. The committee selected the design of Gustav Runge and his new American partner, Napoleon LeBrun. The cornerstone of the opera house was laid 25 July 1855, and the first public performance was given 26 January 1857. The partnership seems to have lasted through the project, but no other structures are known to have been designed by them.

While Runge spent the balance of his life in Germany, he did maintain a relationship with the United States. In 1873 he became a corresponding member of the American Institute of Architects.

Written by Roger W. Moss.

Clubs and Membership Organizations

  • American Institute of Architects (AIA)
  • Pennsylvania Institute of Architects


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