Typography from Typology: Bernd and Hilla Becher

Photographer couple Bernd and Hilla Becher, cheap born in the 30s, dedicated their life to creating a visual taxonomy of the world’s industrial structures. Armed with a large-format camera, they traveled together for over 40 years to photograph and catalogue man-made constructions from every corner of the globe. Among their subjects were gas holders, blast furnaces, mineheads and water towers, whose monolithic portraits were arranged by the couple into “Typologies”; families of images that showcase the uniformity of these buildings, in context of each other, as they come together from all over the world. If you look at any of these images by itself, it’s meaningless – but if you look at them together, each picture’s power is multiplied by the ones around it.

Seeing prints of these (or similar ones) at MOMA, my friend remarked to me, “these look like alphabets.” It’s true; as I looked at these I began to see a grid, stems, serifs, ligatures, bowls… slowly, letterforms began to emerge from the stoic architecture. Back in LA, I got to work: scanning, cutting and rearranging, I’ve been able to come up with several letters. Below are “C” and “U”. Would any designers/typographers out there be interested in collaborating on this? If so, drop me a line!

4 Responses to “Typography from Typology: Bernd and Hilla Becher”

  1. chaoflux Says:

    … NT?

  2. Terra Trouvé Says:

    These are fantastic.
    The artist, Idris Khan, created a set of images as a sort of laudation to the Bechers. He superimposed every picture of each set of gasholders on top of each other.
    The end result is a beautiful image showing all the subtle similarities that the Bechers were trying to catalogue.
    There’s also a bizarre sense of spinning in each one that just looks amazing.

    “every…Bernd and Hilla Becher Prison type Gasholders” Idris Khan 2004.

    “every…Bernd and Hilla Becher Spherical type Gasholders” Idris Khan 2004.

  3. Alice Says:

    These are just stunning. Maybe I can reference this building/letter project in an upcoming design class…hmmm…

  4. Shay Says:

    Ha, why am I not surprised googling Bernd and Hill Becher I’d find a coilhouse post :)