Article by Graham Haught in Berlin; Tuesday, Mar. 25, 2014
The current exhibition at the Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, New Architecture! Modern Architecture in Images and Books, focuses on the production and display of architectural images in publication with a particular concentration on Walter Müller-Wulckow’s ingenious editorial vision. Art historian Müller-Wulckow developed a foundation for contemporary 20th century German architecture through the Blauen Bücher (The Blue Books) series, published from 1925-1930. His strict formatting standards and theories on display led the Blue Books series to be widely read by art-enthusiasts, architects, and the general public alike.
The exhibition showcases Müller-Wulckow’s extensive papers and notes on architecture to reveal his Miltonian drive to not only extensively catalog early 20th century contemporary German architecture, but to do so in way that set the precedent for architecture publications and methods of display. The illustrated Blue Book series, Bauten der Arbeit und des Verkehrs (Construction Work and Traffic) (1925), Wohnbauten und Siedlungen (Residential buildings and settlements) (1928), Bauten der Gemeinschaft (Buildings in the community) (1928), and Die Deutsche Wohnung (The German housing of the present) (1930) organizes buildings by type and provides an account on architecture in German-speaking countries throughout the first third of the twentieth century — without clumping buildings into a limited genre or specific region. In a sense, the Blue Book series developed a new range of objectivity in the treatment of each building for what it is (a building) rather than contextualizing it within its situated placement or style.
One wall in the exhibition is full of hundreds of cutouts of newspaper, journal, and magazine reviews on Deutsche Baukunst der Gegenwart (Contemporary German Architecture) between 1925 and 1936. The publisher, Karl Robert Langewiesche, and Müller-Wulckow displayed these cutout reviews in a similar way during the publication process of the book series. At the time, the number of reviews on the series (420) was an indication that Müller-Wulckow’s decisive objective treatment of buildings allowed for a more national and global audience to interact and respond with the work. Since then, other publications have followed suit and reproduced this form of treatment in their methods of display.
A large section of the exhibition is dedicated to Lucia Moholy‘s powerful photographs of Dessau, displayed in small frames over an entire wall. Moholy’s photographs created the initial and standardized representations of the Bauhaus, making an impact on the “avant-garde school’s successful self-presentation.” Moholy’s photographs coupled with Müller-Wulckow’s ingenious system of pairing images made room for editorial freedom in the representation of each building throughout the Blue Book series. The subtle way each building is represented with geographical anonymity allows for the same building to be reproduced (from different perspectives) throughout a single volume without notice. These experimental and visually seamless publication methods reconfigured the architecture (and art) publication world.
The photographs from the Blue Book series are complimented with their theoretical impetus on one display board. The essential concept for the photographs in the series is to present architecture in a way that is freed from the constraints of time and space; in a sense, a more aesthetic or artistic treatment of each building. In the exhibition, the photographs from the series are small and displayed in a simple arrangement. One may even see this method of display as bleak, but the simple eloquence, power, and resilience of each photograph is heightened and made into a work of art through the removal of distractions or unusual perspectives. Rather, the buildings are presented from normal vantage points. In this way, each building becomes more unique and accessible.
“New Architecture! Modern Architecture in Images and Books”
Exhibition: Mar. 12 – Jun. 2, 2014
Klingelhöferstraße 14 (click here for map)
Graham Haught is an artist and writer originally from California, now based in Berlin.grahamhaught.com