about this book
Bertram Kober’s fascinating photographs make a decisive contribution to the travelling exhibition »Industrial Architecture in Saxony: preserving – experiencing – remembering«. This exhibition has been on the move since autumn 2011 – starting in the Industrial Museum of Chemnitz and also shown in Crimmitschau, Dresden, Freiberg, Leipzig, Oelsnitz/Erzgeb., Radeberg, Wurzen and Zittau.
The initial spark for the project, and at the same time its fundamental referential text, was the book published in 2010, »Industriearchitektur in Sachsen. Erhalten durch neue Nutzung« (Industrial Architecture in Saxony. Conservation through New Usages) by Bernd Sikora, who had already persuaded the photographer Bertram Kober to take part. In the meantime, new photographs have been taken, as each exhibition venue added an important regional facet to the whole project.
The primary aim of this book is to maintain the impact of Bertram Kober’s images beyond the bounds of the exhibition and thereby promote an appreciation of industrial architecture and encourage a broadly-based commitment to save it. Architectural photography has played an important role in the copious work of this internationally acclaimed Leipzig artist for a long time. Bertram Kober studied at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst Leipzig in the 1980s and was tutored by Evelyn Richter and Arno Fischer. He is a co-founder of the photographic agency PUNCTUM. His focus on these buildings, which are often in urgent need of maintenance, lends them new power and dignity. His pictures achieve a skilful balance between objectivity and emotive presence.
The intentions and experiences that informed the work of this artist and photographer with industrial architecture in Saxony are revealed in an interview between Bertram Kober and Thomas Bille included in this publication.
The exhibition format, which is ideal for furthering cultural outreach and enlivening public discussion, was curated by the author Bernd Sikora in partnership with the Landesstelle für Museumswesen (State Office for Museum), and is accompanied by numerous conferences and events. Bernd Sikora’s exhibition texts, evolved in collaboration with the participating museums and institutions to accompany the show, along with information about the individual buildings further enhance the opulent series of pictures. An important aim of this emphasis on new usages was, and is, to point to the value of preserving historical buildings and Saxony’s industrial history for the urban and regional populations. Attention is also deliberately paid to various other aspects of industrial culture extending beyond the pure production plants, starting with the factory itself and moving on to the entrepreneur’s villa nearby, the workers’ housing estates and the cultural buildings and social facilities.
The purposeful maintenance and innovative usage of the industrial architectural heritage demand a continuous collaborative effort by actors from the fields of science and research, architecture, town planning and monument preservation, culture and tourism as well as business and industry. Successful projects are by no means isolated cases. It is a great shame, nonetheless, that this exhibition has not succeeded in saving buildings that could have been restored from being demolished. Salient examples are the ALWO building in Meerane and also the elongated Lautex building in Ebersbach-Neugersdorf.
It will be crucial for the long-term preservation of industrial buildings and their impact on the urban landscape to foster effective and timely strategies to secure them temporarily and, where appropriate, develop intermediate usages. This would be a turn away from the all-or-nothing approach, which leads to the extremes of demolition or preservation on the one hand, and perfectionist restoration aspirations on the other, with attendant skyrocketing costs. Interdisciplinary attempts are needed to create new procedures to counter the simple calculation of low-cost demolition and new build, including an ecological energy assessment as well as an overall evaluation of the urban-cultural, historical and aesthetic aspects of the before and after.
Identity, townscape and urban aesthetics pay off in the long-term but can rarely be precisely calculated. What is imperative is an open-mindedness towards the new ideas of the future generations who are to receive these buildings in an acceptable condition.
Katja Margarethe Mieth
Sächsische Landesstelle für Museumswesen/Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
(Office for Museums Affairs of Saxony/Dresden State Art Collections)
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