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Inside Berlin’s Secret Brick Museum

German bricklayers, 1925. Time Life Photos/Mansell/The LIFE Image Assortment/Getty Pictures
Karl-Ludwig Lange is a German photographer recognized for his black-and-white images of Berlin. Beginning within the late 1960s, he made a reputation for himself as a stressed flaneur with a digicam, capturing the structure and road lifetime of Germany’s capital. Over the many years, he has documented the town’s political and cultural shifts. However Lange is greater than a distinguished photographer—he’s additionally one of many greatest brick collectors on the planet.
Sixty-nine-year-old Lange has been stockpiling bricks for nearly 30 years now. He says he owns greater than 1,800 distinctive bricks, weighing an excellent 14,000 kilos. Every one of many artifacts in Lange’s mammoth assortment bears its personal design and stamp and resides on specifically constructed, floor-to-ceiling picket cabinets in his residence in Marriage ceremony, a district in Northwest Berlin.
Regine Schulz, a brickmaker in Glindow, photographed by Karl-Ludwig Lange in 1990 (left); Karl-Ludwig Lange in entrance of his brick assortment (proper). Ⓒ Jordan Todorov
The standard chunk of baked clay first captured his consideration after an opportunity encounter in 1990, when he acquired an task with the architectural journal Bauwelt to {photograph} an previous brick furnace, in-built 1868, which sat 22 miles west of Berlin within the state of Brandenburg.
“It’s the one faithfully preserved ring furnace in Europe, constructed after plans by the good inventor Friedrich Eduard Hoffmann,” says Lange. “The German authorities had determined to reserve it and to make use of it to make facade bricks for reconstruction of church buildings and different public buildings in Berlin.”
The journal revealed Lange’s images in early 1991. Quickly after, he realized that in Freiwalde, one other city in Brandenburg, about 41 miles south of Berlin, there was one other working brick manufacturing unit. “That’s what actually acquired me began,” says Lange.
A dummy of a ebook about brickmaking round Berlin, ready by Karl-Ludwig Lange. Ⓒ Jordan Todorov
Lange grew to become so obsessive about the historical past of bricks and brick-making round Berlin that within the years that adopted, he managed to find the ruins of tons of of factories. He did so utilizing greater than 250 Prussian army maps from the mid-19th century, basically turning himself into an industrial archaeologist.
The trigonometric maps Lange used are amazingly correct. They have been ready with the usage of the triangulation technique, which makes use of three factors to find out a desired location. Loads of church buildings and brick factories have been used as “trig factors,” as usually these have been the one strong buildings in an in any other case predominantly agricultural area. Lange likens the Prussian army maps, with their huge quantity of element, to the Domesday E book, a complete file of landholding from 11th-century England.
“I discovered 150-year previous bushes marked on the maps that have been nonetheless there—we’re speaking about that degree of element!” remembers Lange.
Many of the bricks made within the Brandenburg space have been stamped with the brand of the brickyard that made them. Ⓒ Karl-Ludwig Lange
All in all, over three many years, Lange says he has visited greater than 1,300 brick factories in round 350 cities and villages within the neighborhood of Berlin. Solely eight of the brick factories have been nonetheless working when he arrived.
Lange took images and picked up brick samples at each web site. A number of the artifacts in his huge assortment date from as early because the 11th century. Along with this, Lange produced an intensive library-like catalog for every merchandise in his assortment. Every brick is described on a single card, with {a photograph} and details about its age and maker, in addition to the place and date it was discovered. Lange has additionally amassed a library of uncommon books about bricks and brick-making, a few of which date again to 1765.
However why bricks? In accordance with Lange, that is one of the best ways to grasp how cities, and Berlin, specifically, developed. Like most medieval European cities, the early secular buildings within the German capital have been crudely constructed, usually utilizing flammable supplies together with wooden and straw. This modified round 1820 when the brick trade began flourishing.
Brickmaking instruments from a 1765 brickmaking handbook, the oldest ebook in Lange’s assortment. Ⓒ Jordan Todorov
“Because of the giant clay deposits within the Brandenburg space, a vibrant brick trade emerged within the early 19th century,” says Lange, including that “the historical past of brick-making round Brandenburg is actually the story of people that constructed Berlin.” And this story isn’t a contented one. For instance, a male employee within the late 19th century would produce as much as 8,000 bricks a day, working for 16 exhausting hours. Girls and youngsters have been additionally employed within the trade, however not like males, feminine staff would produce about 250 bricks in an eight-hour workday.
“Naturally, a lot of the brickmakers died fairly younger, round 45 years of age, as a result of onerous work and dangerous residing situations,” says Lange.
By 1900, Berlin used about three billion bricks per 12 months, which have been transported to the town through its 120 miles of waterways. Most of these blocks have been made by hand in additional than 1,500 brickyards inside a radius of 55 miles across the metropolis. Bigger buildings, resembling the previous railway terminus Anhalter Bahnhof, wanted 16 million bricks, and the Reichstag required 30 million. In accordance with the German historian Matthias Roch, between 12 and 15 billion bricks have been delivered to Berlin between 1850 and the First World Battle, a time by which Berlin grew quickly.
Inserting uncooked bricks in a hoop furnace within the early 20th century. © SLUB / Deutsche Fotothek / Franz Stoedtner (Lichtbildverlag)
At present only some brickyards may be discovered within the Brandenburg space. After the First World Battle, concrete from Higher Silesia (in immediately’s Poland and Czechia) and Westphalia (in Northwestern Germany) grew to become extra generally used than bricks due to its cheaper price. Concrete has a bigger compressive energy than bricks and may be bolstered with metal, giving it greater tensile energy as nicely. Concrete might be poured into giant molds on web site, making building quicker, whereas brick constructions might solely be constructed one row at a time. Ultimately, the close by brickyards misplaced their financial base and the concrete gained.
Lange’s obsession has linked him with different like-minded individuals throughout Germany. Actually, he’s the chief of an unique membership of about one dozen self-described brick addicts often known as the Brick Hunters. The group fashioned 15 years in the past and its members meet two occasions a 12 months at Lange’s residence, the place they discuss bricks, structure, metropolis planning, and extra over a cup of espresso and a few German cake known as kuchen. Generally the Brick Hunters set up exhibitions, maintain talks, and publish books on their favourite subject.
Every brick in Lange’s assortment bears its personal design and stamp and resides on specifically constructed picket cabinets. Ⓒ Jordan Todorov
Lange’s uncommon assortment at present fills two rooms in his modest residence, which had miraculously survived the Second World Battle air raids. The house has picket ground beams, so the bricks are positioned round its load-bearing partitions. Simply strolling into the rooms with partitions lined in bricks is overwhelming. Sadly, his assortment stays largely unseen by the broader public. Lange’s efforts to acquire funding from the German state and discover a everlasting place for it have thus far been unsuccessful.
“I wished to have a personal museum and I acquired one. However I’m practically 70 years previous, so what ought to I do with my brick assortment?” Lange asks rhetorically.
In accordance with Lange, the reply to this query may come from Carl Andre, an American minimalist artist recognized for his artworks involving bricks. Lange says Andre had beforehand expressed curiosity in shopping for the gathering and shifting it to the U.S. Nonetheless, Andre himself says that he has no recollection of this. So whereas it stays a essentially personal affair, Lange—a self-described “loopy man accumulating bricks”—continues his tireless efforts to advertise his uncommon assortment.