Does German architecture inspire typologists?

by Leslie Hossack

House at Number 4, Zehlendorf, Berlin 2010

© Leslie Hossack

Today’s image, House at Number 4, Zehlendorf, Berlin 2010, is very similar to the photographs in my three previous posts: House at Number 26, House at Number 5, and House at Number 31. Perhaps there is something about German architecture that makes photographers want to create a series of images of similar structures.

Celebrated German artists Bernd and Hilla Becher are well-known for their typologies, i.e. their extensive series of photographs of buildings and industrial structures. In photography, the term typology refers to an approach that focuses on a group of similar objects. Generally, typological photographs are identified by an empirical, straight-forward appearance, with great detail and clarity in the prints. They are often displayed or reproduced in a series.

It was the Bechers who introduced the term “typology” into photography. Their images of frame houses, blast furnaces, water towers, and other industrial structures (usually presented in sequences or grids) are certainly the most famous examples of typological photography.

This week, the photographs posted on Haute Vitrine feature historic homes located in Berlin. They were built by Hitler’s National Socialist regime for SS officers and their families. These detached, semi-detached and terraced houses were allocated to SS officers according to rank. They are situated in an idyllic forest setting along the shores of a lake. This tranquil neighbourhood is now known as Waldsiedlung Krumme Lanke.

So this begs the question. Is this current series of houses in Zehlendorf a random collection of cookie cutter cottages? Or is it a typological series of photographs as defined by the Bechers? Interestingly, their first book was Framework Houses of the Siegen Industrial Region (1977) which presented a series of photographs of simple German houses.

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