Neue Baukunst: Architektur der Moderne in Bild und Buch [New architecture: Modernist Architecture in Picture and Book], Claudia Quiring, Andreas Rothaus and Rainer Stamm (eds), Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschicte Oldenburg/Kerber, Oldenburg, 2013.
Neue Baukunst accompanies the exhibition of the same name held first at the Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschicte in Oldenburg and now on at the Bauhaus Archiv, in Berlin. The exhibition focuses on the images collected by Walter Müller-Wulckow for his four volumes of photography of ‘Contemporary German Architecture’ (the Blauen Bücher series which catalogued contemporary architecture according to type: Bauten der Arbeit und des Verkehrs (1925), Wohnbauten und Siedlungen (1928), Bauten der Gemeinschaft (1928) and Die Deutsche Wohnung (1930)). The book reproduces the many striking photographs of early twentieth century architecture in Germany and Austria featured in the exhibition, as well as offering insights into how and where they were originally published. The usual suspects are here of course – Taut, Mendelsohn, Gropius et al – but so too are some of the less frequently referred to architects of this period, such as Thilo Schoder, Curt von Brocke, Emil Fahrenkamp and Fritz Höger. The composure, clarity and formal precision of much of the photography featured here – by Reinhold Lissner, Arthur Köster, Arthur von der Trappen, Gerbrüder Dransfeld, Hugo Schmölz and others – appears empathetic to its expressionist, neue sachlichkeit and modernist subject matter. Many of the images reproduce the symmetry found within the architectural subject matter so as to achieve a kind of architectural portraiture, an identificatory aesthetic well suited to Müller-Wulckow’s typological exercises. Other compositional strategies serve to underline the drama of expressionist building through perspectival emphasis, or to respond in kind to modernist architecture’s formal play of counterweight and counterbalance, as if the photographers found themselves somehow compelled to invent an aesthetic adequate to these new modes of spatial production and experience.