Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Modernism in Berlin - concrete sculpture and spaceship...

…Going back to my first day of documenting Berlin modernism. As you remember from my post related to galleries/museums it started pretty early… Sunday 5am beside U-bahn station, waiting for the train with coffee in one hand and cigarette in the other. Glorious weather and beautiful morning light. 
Timing was crucial and I wanted to do as much as possible in one day. I was expecting rain all next day…which actually happened. 

Before 7am I was already on my first location… 

Benjamin Franklin Campus - Charite 

It’s a one of the biggest in Europe university Hospital with institutes, clinics and lecture halls. Building is located in Steglitz, southwest of Berlin - beautiful place with lots of green areas and mostly residential houses. CBF, huge concrete 'sculpture' full of amazing details was designed by Curtis, Arthur Q. Davis (from New Orleans) and Franz Mocken as contact architect.
I would like to add also that Franz Mocken was together with Werner Düttmann the contact architect of Hugh Stubbins for building in 1956-57 for the Interbau (Hansaviertel) the Kongreßhalle. 
Hospital was constructed in 1959-1968 with financial help of USA as ‘evidence of the American interest in the future of Berlin’. That’s why in honour of the American support original name ‘Klinikum Steglitz’ was changed over a years.

The Internationales Congress Centrum Berlin located in Westend. My second building.
This closed now since 2014 structure, designed by Ralf Schüler and Ursulina Schüler-Witte was completed in 1979. As one of the largest conference centres in the world It was used for conventions, theatrical productions, and concerts.

I'd say It was the most challenging building. Massive, spaceship-like structure surrounded by roads with heavy traffic, railway, fences and other urban elements. All of it makes it impossible to set large format camera and frame it in an interesting way. There is obviously no space for that. After moving all equipment around it a few times I thought I will leave without photographs which would be really bad for the project. I had to do something. ICC is a unique structure.
After while I realised that there is a narrow footpath along one to the busy roads just beside ICC. Also this elevation as the only one was beautifully illuminated by the sunlight. I decided to give it a go. Close distance, very tall building and fence in between the road and my subject…  Photographing some details with a little bit distorted view was the only chance to do it ... and I must say I really like the effect.

ICC © Artur Sikora
ICC © Artur Sikora
The job was done. Next on the list was Corbusier House ...


This article closing my presentation of modernism in Berlin documented within 2 days at the end of April. Very busy two days but also exciting (as my subjects) and very satisfying.

T the end here is the list of all related articles if you missed it before or if you would you like to read it again:

- Modernism in Berlin - concrete sculpture and spaceship...

Thank you!  

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Modernism in Berlin - space for living...

Modernist movement was massively popular and very strong especially after Second World War. Destroyed cities, housing problems and poverty… a good solution was needed to resolve all these issues. 
And here came creators, 'designers of a better world' - architects and their modern ideas. 
Have a look please at this brilliant short article. It’s explains very clearly what was it all about: 'The rise and fall of modernist architecture'  ...and how it ended up.

Buildings with the widest representation among all modernist structures are buildings related to everyday life, objects built for living. This is what I will show it this article. 


Unité d'Habitation of Berlin designed by Le Corbusier called also Corbusier house /1957/.
Le Corbusier was the one who came up with idea of using reinforced concrete as a structural frame for affordable prefabricated housing. Open space floor plans, simple structure with  support poles, free facade, horizontal windows and roof gardens - this is what he was implementing in most of his projects. All linear, practical and functional design.
Corbusier built 5 mentioned above buildings. Four of them in France and one exactly in Berlin. German version was slightly different due to local building regulations. It forced to abandon the proportions given by the Modulor and increase one meter in height between the floors comparing to the famous Marseille version. 

It is important to mention that Unité d'Habitation of Berlin is a part of International Building Exhibition 'Interbau'. Its intention was to show the modernization and reconstruction of Germany and also implementing a new build techniques. 
The main exhibition was located in Hansaviertel, east of the city of Berlin. 
Site beside the Olympic Stadium on the edge of Grunewald Forest however was selected for Corbusier building due to its size.

Unité d'Habitation of Berlin ©Artur Sikora

Building consist of 530 apartments on 17 floors. Each apartment with between one and five rooms. 
On the ground floor, there is large store and washhouse, which serves as a cinema and the club apartment, which is used to hold exhibitions.

Unité d'Habitation of Berlin ©Artur Sikora

I would like to come back now to mentioned Hansaviertel. After war Berlin was almost completely destroyed. One of the most dev­ast­ated places was Hansavier­tel. 
It gave the planers opportunity to built all area from scratch. 
In 1953 was arranged an inter­na­tional com­pet­i­tion  - The Inter­bau 57 as a part of a series of archi­tec­tural exhib­i­tions. Some of the most important architects were invited to design and built new homes/apartments according to modern architecture standards. 
Just to mention Wal­ter Gropius, Alvar Aalto, Arne Jac­ob­sen or Oscar Niemeyer.
Perfectly located Hansaviertel is a beautiful area full of trees and green spaces. 
Very hard to photograph of course which I already said before ;)

Being there a few times already I stayed with only one building, designed by Oscar Niemeyer. Incredibly beautiful. All block called Niemeyer House contains 78 apartments. Its structure is lifted off the ground floor in Le Corbusier style to open up the outside public area. Also one entire floor is dedicated to community activities.

Hansaviertel ©Artur Sikora
Hansaviertel ©Artur Sikora
Hansaviertel ©Artur Sikora

The last very interesting place I would like to show in this article it is Pallasseum, designed and built by Jürgen Sawade in 1977. Pallasseum called until 2001 Sozialpalast is located close to Potsdamer Straße and area with buildings described in my previous blog post /click HERE please/.

Pallasseum ©Artur Sikora

It is a massive complex consist of 514 apartments. Truly impressive size and amount of concrete. All internal area wasn't possible to access at least on the day I was there which obviously allowed me to leave with only one photograph. 

There is another article on the way. This time it will be related to some public buildings. It will be also the last one about Berlin. I will try show some other photographs I took during those few days which will be presented on my FB website.

Thank you!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Modernism in Berlin - along the Landwehrkanal...

Architecture and Architectural photography always had a special place in my work. Looking through the ground glass of a camera and contemplating materials, texture, form, light and shadows is truly inspiring.
Architecture is a form of art where the final work can be not only admired  but also touched and used depends on its function. 
In my researches I am focused mostly on one and the only modernism with its fascinating simplicity, beautiful minimalistic form and raw materials. 
Creation of genuine designers. Creation with magic power of attraction. 
At the same time I am absolutely aware of the fact that for me it is almost like an obsession…and I am not afraid of using this word.
Once I know what I will be working with it sticks in my head for good. When I started my adventure with photography I thought it is just a temporary feeling and my mind will get cleared once I press the shutter but no, it stays…stays until I process negatives and then until I print them or just scan…and even after that. 

This is exactly what happened on my recent challenge - modernist architecture in Berlin.
It’s all started once I left the airport and got into the train. 
Late evening in the hotel. Couple of hours for preparation. Checking of all equipment, packing it in the best possible way, last look at the notes related to plans... what, where, when and how... and off to bed. 
…And of course I woke up 2.30am... There was no chance to get back to sleep. The plan for the day was too exciting. Looking at the ceiling I survived until about 5am and just left hotel. 
The sun was already there. Cafe over the corner open 24/7 helped me to get more energy. Coffee and cigarette… and a few minutes later I was sitting in the train going to my first location.

As I mentioned in my previous article (Modernism in Berlin - prologue) there was not much time for detailed photography of each object. Too much to see, too much to feel… 
The over all idea was to show the simple beauty of photographed buildings and places, their versatility and diversity.
What I will present in this particular article is a few photographs I made actually at the very end of the second day, the last day.

Two buildings created for similar purpose. Both located very close to each other and both equally amazing:

The Neue Nationalgalerie

A classic example of modernist structure. Creation of  the master Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
'(...) a temple to art on a man-made acropolis
/David Spaeth. Mies Van Der Rohe. London: The Architectural Press, 1985. p176/.

Gallery was opened in 1968. It was built on sloping terrain and consist of two levels where the top one is the open space entrance level and major exhibition hall. The lower one fits office, storage space, shop, cafe and smaller gallery. 
Main hall and the most important part of the building is covered by floating roof plane with only two columns on each side. Truly beautiful and simple.

The Neue Nationalgalerie ©Artur Sikora

The Neue Nationalgalerie ©Artur Sikora

When I was planning this project I had an idea to photograph Gallery at night with its internal light to emphasise the beauty of the space and overall structure. I did it about 6 years ago but wasn't really happy with the result. 
I visited Gallery back then to see extraordinary Paul Klee exhibition 'The Klee Universe'. 
My plan however wasn't possible to fulfil this time. Gallery has been closed for several years due to ongoing renovation after over 40 years of constant use. The major work will be handled by David Chipperfield (!) .

There was also large construction site on the other side of the road where I decided to set my camera. Not much space left but with help of smaller than LF camera, Hasselblad and wide angle lens I did what I wanted.

Building across the road with mentioned construction site around it's the Staatsbibliothek (Berlin State Library) which was also on my list and suppose to be one of the most important element of my trip. It was designed by Hans Scharoun and Edgar Wisniewski and opened in 1978. I visited it also in 2009. Absolutely amazing building which was shown so well in masterpiece 'Wings of desire' by Wim Wenders. Unfortunately after several requests for permission to photograph Interior of this treasure, permission was not granted for some reason.


I packed everything and moved towards the last building from my list…
Before that however on the way there is another very interesting structure - the Shell-House designed by Emil Fahrenkamp and finished in 1932. It is another absolutely classic example of modernist architecture. 
Its complicated (for equipment I was working with that day) location however and limited time made it impossible to photograph it in the way I would love to. 

Time to move on.

It was very cloudy with showers every now and then and weather was getting even worse. 
After 20 minutes I managed to set camera in the front of the destination building before getting wet.

Bauhaus Archive

Bauhaus was in the early 20th century modernist aesthetic movement and educational philosophy. It was founded as a school by Walter Gropius in Weimar. Bauhaus members include mentioned before Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Oskar Schlemmer and Lyonel Feininger. 

Bauhaus Archiv ©Artur Sikora
Bauhaus Archive is a documentation centre and exhibition space which was founded in 1960 and opened in 1961 in Darmstadt. After political decision of moving it to Berlin, original building designed by Walter Gropius in 1964 was redesigned according to new site and built by Gropius associate Alec Cvijanovic in cooperation with local architect Hans Bandel.
Only characteristic roof remained from original Gropius design.

Bauhaus Archiv ©Artur Sikora

I believe some of you who share my interest for architecture understand the overwhelming amount of history in described places, collection of unique and fascinating forms.
I would love to spend at least a day with each building to be able to show its real meaning.
Maybe one day...

Soon In another couple of articles I will present here more photographs of other buildings and places I visited.
Full information about mentioned architects and buildings they designed are widely available online. Just follow attached links please.

Also any comments or questions are more than welcome. 

Thank you!

Monday, 11 May 2015

Modernism in Berlin - prologue

It is almost two weeks since I am back from my long planned short trip to Berlin. Very spacial place for everyone who loves architecture and its history. Place where you can admire creations of all masters …Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Gropius, Niemeyer, Aalto and many others.
Being in Berlin a few times before I always wanted to visit this great city with proper cameras and focus only on architecture which I love. 
It was truly amazing and very emotional few days. Only me, my cameras and modernist treasures. 
I had actually only two full days for photography. Not too much which makes me traveling from place to place for over 12h a day with about 20kg of equipment  on my back. An hour after hour my bag and tripod was heavier and heavier. Possibility of fulfilling the plan however was so exciting that I realised how challenging it was only after coming back home, to Dublin. 

Here is the list of buildings/places I photographed:

  • The Internationales Congress Centrum Berlin by Ralf Schüler, Ursulina Schüler-Witte /1979/
  • Campus Benjamin Franklin /1959-69/
  • Unité d'Habitation of Berlin by Le Corbusier /1957/
  • Hansaviertel /1957-61/
  • The Neue Nationalgalerie by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe /1968/
  • Bauhaus Archive Museum by Alex Cvijanovic and Hans Bandel /1979/
  • Alexander Platz
  • Pallaseum by Jürgen Sawade /1977/

All these places, the fact that I photographed them for the first time using my specific film cameras and the way I wanted to do it teaches me a lot. Never ending learning curve... 
Apparently this is a big difference photographing modernist architecture (and architecture at all) in Dublin and in Berlin. The first and the most important thing is the hight of the buildings. Most of these in Germany are very tall and located in high density urban areas with heavy traffic around.
I used two cameras - MPP mk VI 4x5 technical camera and Hasselblad 500cm. For obvious reason I wanted to make most of images with large format camera. Here rising of the front element almost to its limits, shifts and sometimes swings and also perspective correction using rear element movements was a must. All of it due to mentioned limited space around objects. Unfortunately I couldn't use wide angle lens which seriously caused lots of problems. It was impossible to focus with 90mm lens and use all necessary movements. I was forced to use standard 150mm lens.
In such situation Hasselblad was also completely useless. This camera however with its wide and super sharp 50mm lens found its own place within the trip of course. Especially when building was relatively small. 
Any other limitations? Well, some ridiculous... like helicopter landing and going off just beside my back ;) or when I needed literally 50cm space behind me and I couldn't step back as there was a construction site fence or lots of beautiful trees around buildings which was truly amazing but completely ruined photographical aspect of the buildings ;) and so on and so on…

When I came back I had to work on a few jobs related to my Darkroom Service but luckily managed to process all negatives from the trip so I will start to present all listed above buildings soon on this blog. 
I am very happy I managed to visit so many places (only fraction of what is really there). It would be amazing to have more time to explore all these objects in details but we can’t have everything. Can we? ;)

Please watch this space and also or maybe first of all my FB website for updates. I am starting scanning very soon. Thanks!