Lens on!

Photography as a design tool in the invention of modern architecture

The network focuses on the widely overlooked desideratum within architectural research: the use of analogue photography in architectural design processes of the 20th century. Although recent years have seen significant progress and a growing scholarly awareness of the importance of research into architectural media both for the design and presentation of architecture, photography has never been studied as a design tool for architecture and its potential as a practice for generating knowledge has been neglected thus far. Therefore, the members of the network are interested in studying photography’s innate potentials for the production of knowledge in the context of the creation of modern architecture. Our shared hypothesis is that photography can be regarded as a medium of greater complexity than merely a representative reproduction or an objective documentation of architecture. Instead, we suggest that analogue photography - through its specific characteristics and potentials - actively intervened in the design of architectural projects.

Research into design processes and techniques is currently a widely debated topic that extends beyond the boundaries of architectural history and theory. Workflows within architectural offices have changed rapidly over the past two decades based on the introduction of computer programs. The repercussions of these changes are likely to affect all of us for decades to come because they are altering the production architecture radically. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to shift our scholarly focus towards design tools and media in architecture and to study their potentials in order to understand how they influence architecture on a grander scale. By choosing a timeframe that precedes the invention of digital tools, we are proposing to unearth their origins as part of a media archaeology that will provide a solid scholarly basis for today’s developments: not disconnected from the history of architectural media but following a long historical trajectory.

Supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) - FA 1658/1-1

Project leaders:
Teresa Fankhänel, Architekturmuseum der TUM
Ralf Liptau, TU Vienna
Sarine Waltenspül, ZHdK, Zurich

Members of the Network:
Tobias Becker, Cologne
Cornelia Escher, Kunstakademie Düsseldorf
Dennis Jelonnek, FU Berlin
Esther Stutz, Universität Basel
Sara Hillnhütter, HU Berlin