The worker and the light | Antonio S. Río Vázquez

Edmund Lill, central eléctrica de la fábrica Fagus, 1923 (Harvard Art Museums)
Edmund Lill, Fagus Shoe-Last Factory, 1923 (Harvard Art Museums)

At the beginning of 1923 and for order by Walter Gropius, Edmund Lill it realized a photographic article of the factory of molds for shoes Fagus in Alfeld a. d. Leine (Germany) constructed between 1911 and 1913. As Annemarie Jaeggi explains in his book Fagus. Industriekultur zwischen Werkbund und Bauhaus (Jovis Berlin, 1998), treats itself about the second occasion in which the architect requests the services of the photographer, since already it had documented the ending of the work during the year 1912. Both series remained in Gropius’s file.

Between all the images thought by Lill one reaches special relevancy, turning into a symbol of the modern architecture and of the progress. In her we observe the interior of one of the principal buildings of the set, the dedicated one to electric power station. Close to a few big large windows placed on the corner of the photographed enclosure, a seated operative works on a table while the light proceeding from the exterior floods the whole space.

Why it is can photography prove more rewatching than different, taken even for the same photographer, of the facilities of the factory? Lill us is bequeathing here a document that reveals the functional, aesthetic and technical achievements of the new industrial architecture, on having got in a pure and luminous interior, where man and machine coexist in an environment agreeable and rational, very different from the shaded factories of the previous decades.

Even, if we obviate the technological appliance of the first plane, we might be before an archetypal interior of the housing of the Modern Movement: the creation of a bucket of light, the break of the box in his corner or the independence of the structure liberating the front they us send to the Le corbusier´s ateliers and to the industrial levity of the houses of Mies van der Rohe. Nevertheless we are inside a factory, in a company where the donkey-work and manual has been replaced by the weightlessness of the electricity and the precision of the machine. The man remains alone as guide and controller of the process, free of loads and efforts, as the own architecture, to which it grants measure and scale. Even it is allowed give the back to the generators and to the photographer: foreign and serene, he thinks and surrounds itself with the landscape.

The domestic quality of the modern factory put in value by Lill’s photography becomes even more clear at present, where the former electric power station has turned into the Fagus-Gropius-Café, place of meeting and rest of the workers and of the numerous visitors that has the set, specially from his incorporation into the year 2011 into the list of World heritage of the UNESCO. Inside the place, an image in black and white of great format us remembers the machinery that long ago occupied this space, today even more human.

Antonio S. Río Vázquez . PhD arquitecto
A Coruña. November 2016

Antonio S. Río Vázquez

Antonio S. Río Vázquez (A Coruña, 1981) es arquitecto por la E.T.S.A. de A Coruña, master en Urbanismo y doctor por la Universidade da Coruña. Especializado en teoría y diseño, su línea de trabajo se ha centrado en la investigación y divulgación del patrimonio arquitectónico moderno. Ha desarrollado proyectos de modo independiente y ha colaborado con varios estudios de arquitectura. Es socio fundador de Aroe Arquitectura. Es profesor en el Departamento de Proyectos Arquitectónicos, Urbanismo y Composición de la Universidade da Coruña, y ha sido profesor invitado en la Robert Gordon University de Aberdeen (Reino Unido), en la Universidade do Minho (Portugal) y en la Università degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza (Italia). Es miembro de la red UEDXX Urbanism of European Dictatorships during the XXth Century, del Grupo de Investigación en Historia de la Arquitectura IALA y del Grupo de Innovación Educativa en Historia de la Arquitectura. Ha formado parte del proyecto de investigación FAME Fotografía y Arquitectura Moderna en España, 1925-1965. Los resultados de sus investigaciones, tanto personales como conjuntas, han servido como aportación a eventos de debate y difusión científica y han sido publicados en libros y revistas.

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