Medievalist architectural historian. Braunfels' father was the composer Walter Braunfels (1882-1954) and his uncle was the sculptor and theorist Adolf von Hildebrand (1847-1921). Braunfels studied art history and literature history at the universities of Cologne, Paris (under Henri Focillon, q.v.), Florence and finally in Bonn at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität. At Bonn he studied art history under Paul Clemen (q.v.) and literature history the eminent philologist Ernst Robert Curtius (1886-1956). He received his degree in 1937 with a dissertation on the Rococo designer François de Cuvilliés, supervised by Clemen. After graduation, Braunfels made an extended research trip to Italy, working in the archives of Florence and Siena for his habilitation on Tuscan urban building of the middle ages. Publication of this research was interrupted by World War II. After the war, Braunfels was appointed an assistant curator at the Wallraf-Richartz museum in Cologne, 1945. His habilitation was accepted in 1950 (published 1953) via the University of Cologne. In 1953 he was appointed Ordinarius professor of art history at the Technische Hochschule in Aachen, Germany. These years he worked on Caroligian art, publishing exhibition catalogs on Charlemagne, Karl der Grosse: Leben und Nachleben, 1965-1968. He succeeded Hans Sedlmayr (q.v.) at the University in Munich in 1965. In 1969 Braunfels published his Abendländische Klosterbaukunst (Occidental Monasteries), a serious survey of the monasteries as organic functioning assemblages, from the founding of the Cistercian monasteries to Le Corbusier's design. Braunfels retired emeritus from Munich in 1978. His son is the architect Stephan Braunfels (b. 1950). Braunfels' art history is one combining history, sociology, political science, city planning and semantics (Metzler). His Mittelalterliche Stadtbaukunst in der Toskana was the result of years of combing through municiple minutes (in Latin) to glean the workings of city planning and building design. Braunfels theorized the city as a work of art, one created corporately by its citizens.
[complete bibliography:] "Bibliography of W. Braunfels." in Piel, Friedrich, and Traeger, Jörg. Festschrift Wolfgang Braunfels: zum 65. Geburtstag. Tübingen: Wasmuth, 1977, p. 433-439; [dissertation:]François de Cuvilliés: ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der künstlerischen Beziehungen zwischen Deutschland und Frankreich im 18 Jahrhundert. Bonn, 1937 published, Würzburg: R. Mayr, 1938; [habilitation:] Mittelalterliche Stadtbaukunst in der Toskana. Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 1953; and Beumann, Helmut, and Bischoff, Bernhard, and Schnitzler, Hermann, and Schramm, Percy Ernst, eds. Karl der Grosse, Lebenswerk und Nachleben. 5 vols. Düsseldorf: L. Schwann, 1965-1968; Abendländische Klosterbaukunst. Cologne: DuMont Schauberg, 1969, English, Monasteries of Western Europe: the Architecture of the Orders. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1972; Abendländische Stadtbaukunst Herrschaftsform und Baugestalt. Cologne: DuMont Schauberg 1976, English, Urban Design in Western Europe: Regime and Architecture, 900-1900. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988;
Metzler Kunsthistoriker Lexikon: zweihundert Porträts deutschsprachiger Autoren aus vier Jahrhunderten. 2nd ed. Stuttgart: Metzler, 2007, pp. 38-40.