What should a grain silo look like?

April 21, 2009

Grain silos (1984)

Should form equal function? If something is to work well it often must, but that tells you less about what it should look like than you’d think.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the amazing photography of Bernd and Hilla Becher, a German artist couple who spent the last fifty years taking pictures of industrial architecture:

The Bechers first collaborated on photographing and documenting the disappearing German industrial architecture in 1959, and had their first Gallery exhibition in 1963 at the Galerie Ruth Nohl in Siegen. They were fascinated by the similar shapes in which certain buildings were designed. In addition, they were intrigued by the fact that so many of these industrial buildings seemed to have been built with a great deal of attention toward design. Together, the Bechers went out with a large format camera and photographed these buildings from a number of different angles, but always with a straightforward “objective” point of view. The images of structures with similar functions were then displayed side by side to invite viewers to compare their forms and designs. These structures included barns, water towers, storage silos, and warehouses. (from Wikipedia)

Looking at these pictures it’s fascinating to watch different shapes emerge in the designs of each type of building. Even though they are utterly functional and mostly have the same constraints, they still vary considerably. More evidence that, as with the Chords Bridge, creativity can be born out of thinking not outside but *inside* the box.

Here are a few pictures of their works. More here (from their book Typologies) and in exhibitions worldwide.

Gravel Plants (2006)

Gravel Plants (2006)

Framework Houses (1970)

Grain Elevators (1985)
Grain Elevators (1985)

Winding towers (1983)
Winding Towers (1983)

Cooling Towers (1976)
Cooling Towers (1976)

Bonus for photography lovers: the photography of Edward Weston.


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