Home » Exhibitions » Exhibition Review : Constructing Worlds at the Barbican Art Gallery, 25 Sept 2014 – 11 Jan 2015

Exhibition Review : Constructing Worlds at the Barbican Art Gallery, 25 Sept 2014 – 11 Jan 2015

Installation Of Constructing Worlds: Photography And Architecture In The Modern Age

Constructing Worlds :Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age
Installation images,Barbican Art Gallery
25 Sept 2014 – 11 Jan 2015 © Chris Jackson / Getty Images

Photographing architecture is as old as the photography medium itself, however the Barbican Art Gallery exhibition Constructing Worlds: Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age explores how the photography of architecture can reveal wider narratives about societies and the world we live in.

The exhibition brings together over 250 works – some rarely seen and many shown in the UK for the first time – by 18 leading photographers from the 1930s to the present.

Installation Of Constructing Worlds: Photography And Architecture In The Modern Age

Constructing Worlds :Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age
Installation images,Barbican Art Gallery
25 Sept 2014 – 11 Jan 2015 © Chris Jackson / Getty Images

Organised both chronologically and thematically, the exhibition opens with Berenice Abbott’s photograph project Changing New York (1935-1939) that captured the transformation of New York City and contrasts the building of skyscrapers with the destruction of many of the older buildings.

Installation Of Constructing Worlds: Photography And Architecture In The Modern Age

Constructing Worlds :Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age
Lucien Hervé ,Installation images,Barbican Art Gallery
25 Sept 2014 – 11 Jan 2015 © Chris Jackson / Getty Images

In a completely different culture, Lucien Herve explores similar themes with his photographic record of  Le Corbusier’s  architectural vision of Chandigarh in India in the 1950s.

Installation Of Constructing Worlds: Photography And Architecture In The Modern Age

Constructing Worlds :Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age
Ed Ruscha ,Installation images,Barbican Art Gallery
25 Sept 2014 – 11 Jan 2015 © Chris Jackson / Getty Images

The different architectural styles in the cities and small towns in United States were often transformed in the 1960s and 1970s into a less diverse image of modern America , this allowed many photographers to reflect on the repetition and banality of modernity. Ruscha’s photobooks Some Los Angeles Apartments (1965) and Thirtyfour Parking Lots (1967) ,  and Stephen Shore’s  colour photographs from Uncommon Places (1973 – 79) and Greetings from Amarillo, “Tall in Texas” (1971)  illustrate parts of the modern ‘American Dream’.

Installation Of Constructing Worlds: Photography And Architecture In The Modern Age

Constructing Worlds :Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age
Guy Tillim ,Installation images,Barbican Art Gallery
25 Sept 2014 – 11 Jan 2015 © Chris Jackson / Getty Images

Some of the most striking photographs in the exhibition chart the effects of building modernist structures with little consideration of the local environment and culture. Guy Tillim ’s exposé of modern structures in Angola, Congo, and Mozambique in the series Avenue Patrice Lumumba (2008), Nadav Kander’s portrayal of the impact of colossal modern construction in China and Bas Princen’s documentation of the urban transformation in the Middle East in Refuge, Five Cities (2009) all provide visual evidence of a world undergoing dramatic changes.

Installation Of Constructing Worlds: Photography And Architecture In The Modern Age

Constructing Worlds :Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age
Bas Princen,Installation images,Barbican Art Gallery
25 Sept 2014 – 11 Jan 2015 © Chris Jackson / Getty Images

Although most of the photographs in the exhibition are documentary in a sense, other photographers use architecture as a subject matter to be manipulated to offer different interpretations, most notably in the exhibition shown by the  deliberately blurred photographs by Hiroshi Sugimoto , the Ruhr water towers  by Hilla & Bernd Becher and Luigi Ghirri’s  imaginative response to Aldo Rossi’s architecture.

Installation Of Constructing Worlds: Photography And Architecture In The Modern Age

Constructing Worlds :Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age
Hiroshi Sugimoto ,Installation images,Barbican Art Gallery
25 Sept 2014 – 11 Jan 2015 © Chris Jackson / Getty Images

The exhibition graphically illustrates that photographers can provide many different narrative threads when documenting the rise and fall of architectural projects from all over the world.  In many ways the exhibition can be seen as a timeline of urbanisation and a changing industrial landscape over the last eighty years. It also reflects the rise and fall of particular ideologies and cultures  that often use monumental structures as an indication of their standing in the world.  One of the most striking aspects of many of the photographs is that as buildings and structures have got bigger , the individual person has diminished or disappeared altogether , perhaps indicating that little thought is often given to the  people who have live in the environment.

This exhibition will appeal to those who are interested in how the relationship between photography and architecture  has grown over the modern age. As the diversity of the photographs illustrate, the relationship  is constantly moving and evolving over time.

But in many ways the exhibition as a wider appeal to anyone who is interested how buildings and structures can be used to promote visions of ourselves and the societies we live in.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

If you would like to find out more about the exhibition or book tickets, visit the Barbican website here

Ticket Prices
Standard: £12
Concessions: £10
Student rate: £8
13-17 yrs: £8
Art Fund members: £8
Under 12s: free

This exhibition is part of the Barbican’s Constructing Worlds Season.

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