Ralf Schmitz, geschäftsführender Geseölschafter des Familienunternehmens RALF SCHMITZ

Entrepreneur Ralf Schmitz turns 70. STRONG FAMILY TIES: A SOLID BASE

Building culture for almost 160 years: The family firm RALF SCHMITZ stands for the development of outstanding buildings in the country’s metropolises. However, its headquarters remains a small town on the Lower Rhine: In Kempen, the origins and foundations of the company are visible everywhere. On the occasion of Ralf Schmitz’s 70th birthday, we take a look at the history and special relationship of the fami-ly to its place of origin and growth.

Nora Scharer 4. June 2023 · Updated: 19. November 2023 · Reading Time: 5 Minuten

RALF SCHMITZ GmbH has made a name for itself with countless projects in Germany’s major cities. Some may wonder about the company’s headquarters in the tranquil town of Kempen. Such a company and a small town on the Lower Rhine – how does that fit together?

Building for almost 160 YEARS

Youngest son, Axel Martin Schmitz, managing partner and representative of the fifth generation of the family business, puts it in a nutshell: “I don’t know how you can be more connected to a small town.” Because a look at the company history shows: the history of the town and the family are closely interwoven. That leaves its mark.


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We have remained committed to traditional architecture to this day” Ralf Schmitz

Starting with the founding of the Kempen branch in 1906 by Heinrich Schmitz, the family and the construction company are firmly rooted in the town. Numerous monasteries, churches, factories and residential buildings were built in and around the town. The fourth and fifth generations of the family were born in the hospital built by their ancestor in Kempen, the Hospital zum Heiligen Geist. Like their father, Axel Martin Schmitz and his brothers also attended the Thomaeum grammar school (built by their great-grandfather as a royal teachers’ seminary with a Neo-baroque bell tower).

Ralf Schmitz in the archive room of the Kempen headquarter
Ralf Schmitz in front of portraits of his ancestors in the family business
Grachtenpark in Kempen
Grachtenpark, Kempen (2006–2013)
Kempen Donkwall Petersstr
Kempen: Donkwall / Petersstr
Baustelle in Kempen
After the first draft for the building on the city wall was criticized in 2014, Axel Martin Schmitz found a constructive solution to preserve the historically valuable facade of the old building on Peterstraße in an open discussion with historian Hans Kaiser and others
Fabrikgebaeude Girmes in Grefrath
Factory building Johannes Girmes & Co., Grefrath-Oedt (1883–1886)

In Kempen on the Lower Rhine, the origins and foundations of the family business are visible everywhere.

When Ralf Schmitz founded his own company in 1977 and bought his first properties in Kempen, one of them was the house in which his children grew up – after renovating the dilapidated building himself under the strict eyes of his father Hieronymus. Axel Martin Schmitz smiles as he tells of his first part-time job when he was still at school: usher at the Kempen cinema, co-founded and built by his great-grandfather in 1913.

Do they know every building built by an ancestor? Ralf Schmitz nods: “I do recognize what was constructed in Kempen by Schmitz hands. Here and in the surrounding area are really many formative and significant buildings that our family created.” His son agrees: “I’ve experienced it since I was a child: When you walk through the streets here, for quite a lot of the houses there is a story about who in the family had built it or renovated something there. With that comes a certain pride – but above all the responsibility to carry on this heritage properly.”


At the company’s headquarters Villa Brandenburg, the connection with the city’s history is particularly palpable. Acquired by Ralf Schmitz in 1998 in need of rehabilitation and renovated from the ground up, the listed building shows that love of detail, that combination of timeless aesthetics and comfort that always characterizes the buildings of the family business. From the uppermost window under the roof gable, one looks east towards a Kempen landmark: the water tower – built by the family in 1905/06. Four floors below, past detailed models of pioneering projects of prior decades, rows of folders and countless documents, the heart of the house is found in the basement: paintings and photographs of the ancestors adorn a room in which history can be experienced. On the large table in the middle, the last folders full of photographs, documents and newspaper articles about the history of the Schmitz family await being labelled and sorted. On a voluntary basis, in exchange for donations to a Cameroonian orphanage, the renowned Kempen historian Dr. Hans Kaiser carried out this archival work. Complementing the chronicle by Prof. Wolfgang Schäche “Architecture and Craftsmanship; Buildings of the Schmitz Family 1864-2014,” Kaiser sorted through the archive, which today fills 700 folders, and added to the research. Stored in dust-free boxes, meticulously labelled and catalogued, it is now prepared for the future.

Hospital zum Heiligen Geist, Kempen (1914–1917)
The listed Villa Brandenburg, the company’s headquarters since 1998
Cinematograph theater at the Kempen market place (1913)

Preserving Heritage

“It was important to me to tangibly preserve the extensive history of our family for future generations,” says Ralf Schmitz. After all, the archive forms a highly personal basis for the architectural work of the construction company. It is a symbol of a family whose meticulous handwriting characterizes each of its buildings – an immense wealth that has been realized over 160 years. The family consciously recalls this responsibility every time they walk through their native city, as Axel Martin Schmitz makes clear: “We are very fortunate to have been able to contribute a great deal to Kempen’s townscape over several gener-ations. I hope that later generations will also approve of what we have created here – and what we have carried into and will continue to carry into the metropolises of the country.”

Nora Scharer