German architect. A pupil of Schinkel (who demonstrated his confidence in the young man by supporting his appointment (1833) as Dombaumeister (Cathedral Architect) for the then unfinished medieval Cathedral of Cologne in the Rhineland), he carried out major works of restoration there. Building on preliminary research by Boisserée, he prepared designs for the Cathedral's completion before the momentous decision was taken to do so in 1842, and thus was in an excellent position to realize what was to be his greatest achievement. His proposals were published in Cásar Daly's Revue Générale (1856), although the building was not completed until 1888 (under the aegis of Vincent (or Vincenz) Statz (1819–98) and others). He also designed several important new structures, including the Gothic Church on the St Apollinarisberg, near Remagen (1839–43), the Drachenfels Monument (1857), and the Cologne Synagogue (1859–61—before its destruction one of the finest essays in Moorish Byzantine Rundbogenstil of C19). Several of his other churches were in a Rhenish Romanesque style.
Zwirner argued for the accurate reproduction of Gothic detail, and was a key figure in the German Gothic Revival not only because of the exemplary nature of his own work, but because he trained several successful practitioners, including Statz (who became Diocesan Architect of Cologne in 1863) and Friedrich von Schmidt. Zwirner was called in to advise on the competition to design the Nikolaikirche (Church of St Nicholas), Hamburg (1844). He recommended that George Gilbert Scott's design (placed third by the jury, with schemes by Semper and Strack winning first and second places respectively) should be declared the winner, and that Scott should be appointed architect. As this is what happened, it is clear that his views carried considerable weight. He published Vergangenheit und Zukunft des Kölner Dombaues (Past and Future of Cologne Cathedral—1842) and contributed regular reports on progress in Kölner Domblatt which were published in translation in The Ecclesiologist, and thus aroused considerable interest in Great Britain and the USA.
Borger (ed.) (1980);Germann (1972);Hoster & Mann (eds.) (1973);Mann & Weyres (1968);Rheinische Lebensbilder, iii (1968), 173–89;Zwirner (1842)