Stacked: Sterile And The Subjective

A Fresh And Touching Portrayal Of Berlin’s Post-War Housing

Aesthetically clean, blocks of flats meet blocks of colour, in Stacked: a remixed interpretation of German architecture to show the slightly lighter, artistic, side of post-war housing estates in berlin. The series is named as such due to the nature of living conditions in the buildings photographed, with people literally stacked on top of one another, to make the most of space.


Proof that beauty can be found in anything if you take the time to find it, this series by self-taught photographer Malte Brandenburg manages to make the ordinary more visually pleasing. Sterile, symmetrical lines catch the eye at first glance but on further inspection the variation, and signs of life, found in the images present a softer side to the housing solution for the masses. Even in identical rooms, and windows, there is individual identity to be seen and it is this stark juxtaposition that makes this series so mesmerising.


Though initially built as a practical solution to affordable housing, the middle-classes eventually migrated to the expanse of the suburbs leaving the economically burdened to take root instead. In recent years the government has tried to elevate the living conditions in these urban ‘eye-sores’, primarily by painting the drab architecture and ‘Stacked’ explores this social experiment from afar.


The Plus: What first drew you to want to capture a different side to the post-war housing blocks in Berlin?
Malte Brandenburg:
I noticed that all buildings were constructed in a slightly different way with slightly different features. In Berlin you had a lack of housing space on a larger scale after the war, so buildings had to be cheap, functional and easy to construct. But you can see that the architects still spent time on rather decorative aspects, despite the limits. I found that very interesting and started to dig deeper into the subject.


TP: Did you ever speak to any of the residents about their personal feelings toward being ‘stacked’?
Not in the sense of a concerted series of interviews, but I had the occasional chat. Every time people looked at me curiously I would start a conversation and some of them even approached me on their own, as they were interested in what I was doing there. Many of them do not see this form of living as something strange or even negative, in fact it’s rather the other way around. They are happy about the elevator and that they have a nice view from their balcony.


TP: The photos almost appear to be illustrations, they blur the line between what’s real and what’s painted, was this the intention?
I wanted the images to mimic illustrations. For one I am a convinced minimalist, in my view less is always more. The other reason is that this is exactly what I wanted to do with my project: illustrate this urban live form from past decades in form of a visual study.


TP: How do you feel about experimental modernist architecture in general?
I think it’s a very interesting subject. It’s the clash of seemingly endless possibilities of science and engineering with the human element. We can build great cities, but are they actually liveable? I think architecture plays an important role here.


TP: What do you want people to feel when they look at this series of photographs?
I hope people like what they see of course, but I also want them to think about how society can improve live for itself and how each of us can contribute to that.


TP: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I don’t take many pictures, I’m more the type who does a lot of thinking and planning before I start shooting. I must admit that the very act of capturing a photograph is not very interesting in my view. I am rather interested in the image and what I can show or tell with it.


TP: What next?
I already started to work on a new project here in Copenhagen which goes in a similar direction. Lately a lot of tower blocks pop up among the rather small residential buildings. It’s fascinating to see how it changes the urban landscape and my plan is to turn that into my next project. But it is challenging after such a great experience with Stacked. I hope I can continue in the same way and that I can refine my visual language even more.