The Henry Ford Building was originally designed on the American model as the main building of a large university campus for up to 10,000 students. The U.S.-American Ford Foundation covererd the cost of construction in the amount of 8.1 million West German marks.
There were 28 submissions to the tendered design competition in 1951. The commission was given to the architects Franz Heinrich Sobotka and Gustav Müller, who after the Second World War were among the most influential architects in West Berlin. Their task was among other things to design the new building to fit in with the residential character and landscape of its surroundings. Sobotka and Müller succeeded in designing a building that in spite of a total area of 200,000 square feet does not give the impression of being monumental. By constructing the entire length of the foyer in glass, the architects created a lightness that almost completely negates the actual mass of the building.
In line with the motto “democracy as client” the architecture of this building suffused with light epitomizes freedom, openness, and transparency – values that Freie Universität has stood for since its founding in December, 1948. After two years of construction, the Henry Ford Building was officially opened on June 19, 1954.