Bernd & Hilla Becher, Basic forms, 2013

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Basic Forms is a brief, handy, visual introduction to the encyclopedic formal canon of industrial buildings in the Western world – and the Bechers devoted their life’s work to documenting it. The book brings together, as its title implies, basic forms of all kinds of industrial structures in a representative selection of 61 photographs. The different forms of the most frequent types of structure are presented like the letters of an alphabet. The Bechers’ repertoire of topics encompasses the following key categories:

  • large-scale containers such as water towers, grain silos, coal bunkers, gas tanks, etc.;
  • building-shaped large plants of the coal and steel industry including furnaces, winding and cooling towers, lime kilns, crushers, processing plants, etc.;
  • details of individual units in the factory halls themselves.

Taken with extreme objectivity and technical precision, as well as the famous shadow-less Becher light, the photos reveal the hidden poetry and aesthetic beauty of the architecture of these functional and utility buildings of our industrial culture. For a long time this strand in human cultural heritage was excluded from the cultural awareness of our society. We have the Bechers to thank for opening our eyes to it – with their marvelous photographs. They did this on their own, with no public commission or external funding. The Bechers’ selfless contribution to the photographic historiography of our age cannot be valued and esteemed highly enough.

Bernd & Hilla Becher, Basic Forms / Grundformen

Schirmer/Mosel, 2014

First published to mark the presentation of the Hasselblad Foundation International Award to Bernd and Hilla Becher on November 20, 2004.

Foreword by Gunilla Knape
Essay by Susanne Lange
25 x 18 cm
160 pages, 61 duotone plates

Hardcover with dust jacket

English, German
ISBN 978-3-8296-0694-3