Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Looking for concrete...

I spent some time in Bruhl last week. Beautiful town in Rhineland (Germany), just beside Cologne. I was working there on commercial assignment with one of my frequent clients  (event photography as a part of my Studio AS Photography offer.
A day before, while packing all equipment and getting ready for the trip I was making a big plans in my head. I wanted to visit and explore a few local modernist buildings after work.

My stay in Germany was relatively short but intense. Quite a long trip, over 10 hours of photographing (for client), making ready a part of images almost on the go... These and also very short days in that part of Europe as well as constant cold made me to revisit my ideas quite drastically.  I ended up only with one building. Well, that was three in reality but access to other two was rather difficult if possible at all. 

Sitting in the train from Bruhl to Cologne I had a few minutes to think about possibilities. I wanted to choose the right place to focus on. Everything else would be on my Plan B list... and I made it. The best choice I could make :)
St Johannes XXIII catholic church completed in 1969, designed by Josef Rikus and Heinz Buchmann. Pure, truly impressive brutalism in a very small form.

© Artur Sikora

I always approach such buildings with a big excitement but this time it was something really special. All was so different than previous buildings I had a chance to see. It's like a concrete sculpture which you can use, go inside, look at from the outside. Fully functional sculpture. Beautiful. Similar emotions filled my brain and body when I was entering Berkeley Library, TCD with my cameras in 2011.
This kind of architecture you can only love or hate. There is no other option. That's the fact. And this makes it also so unique :)

Church was open so I could have a look at it from the inside as well. Magnificent simplicity, heavy raw concrete... just brutal. At the same time however very light in a strange way. Entire church looks and feels like levitating over the ground. The additional effect of mentioned lightness is being doubled by beautiful stainless glass windows with pattern matching all structure. 

© Artur Sikora

© Artur Sikora

Illumination inside …another special element. Not very bright interior but at the same time perfectly exposing every single structural detail. It’s kind of dim light penetrating all areas…
Here my digital equipment I was using while working in Bruhl the day before, came handy. Of course I had my beloved Holga with me and also EOS 3 with Tmax 400 loaded but it was too dark for that despite the fact that part of the roll was already exposed at much lower speed. Only with ISO about 12800 I could properly record what I wanted.

© Artur Sikora

© Artur Sikora

I was really happy and felt kind of fulfilled, even if part of the church was covered with scaffolding due to ongoing renovation. 
The same with next building I went to straight after that -  Cologne Opera House…everything was fenced and covered with prefab site offices/rooms for construction workers.  
Here I found only two spots to make an images. This building actually is being renovated for about 7 years …but in my crazy schedule before trip I had no time to check it out … I know it's a shame.

© Artur Sikora

© Artur Sikora

Opera House was designed by Wilhelm Riphan and opened in 1957. It’s a part of bigger art complex which includes also Cologne Playhouse designed and built in 1962 by the same architect. 

It was about midday …I had to keep going as i wanted to see a little bit more also in Dusseldorf where I was flying from back home that evening. Got there some time after 1pm … it was already getting darker… weird feeling. Honestly, living for over 12 years in a different place I forgot how short winter days can be. 
Within about 30 minutes I reached Mannesmann High Rise - 88m high, very simple and elegant structure designed by Shneider-Esleben/Knothe and opened in 1958. 

For this size of the building I really had to cross the river just beside it in order to make a photograph showing its real scale and form. I managed to reach half way of the bridge, made a quick photograph and it was already too late for more and for crossing the river. Windy afternoon, lots of clouds…. 
That was the time when I decided to head off to the airport.

© Artur Sikora

Sitting in the train I was kind of digesting my visual feed from that day. Mostly St Johannes XXIII church which made the biggest impression on me.  
The first thing I wanted to do at the airport was to find a place to sit down with strong coffee and start to write this post, to release all my minds and reflections while they are fresh and still buzzing...

***


Very short but beautiful site seeing. Definitely worth repeating at some stage. Maybe summer when the days will be longer. Germany is a country very rich in a modernist architecture. Until now I was mostly visiting Berlin which I described a few times already on my blog. Still have to come back there to see more... and now this - more cities more architecture, more concrete...

Of course I photographed Bruhl as well. Negatives are almost ready. Will start scanning tonight and will show some images in usual way soon ...Twitter, Instagram and FB