Lost and (re)founded: When architecture tells a story

3 min read

Historical objects fascinate because of their history. They embody something mystical and, moreover, durable. Everyone who keeps their great-grandmother's porcelain service in the cupboard and puts it on for special occasions knows this. It is similar with architecture: If a building receives a new function, it is exciting to see how old and new are linked and interwoven and how it survives in the future. But what about abandoned buildings? Especially when they are left to themselves and thus to their constant decay?

Lost Places
Similar to this old industrial hall, the former factory of the Arzberg porcelain company also generates fascination.

Factories generate fascination

Old factory buildings exert a great attraction on people. They provide insights into a piece of history and convey a backward busyness, which in its imposed standstill is being reclaimed step by step by nature. This is also the case with the former factory of the renowned family-owned porcelain manufacturing company Arzberg. For more than 130 years, the brand – now under the umbrella of Rosenthal GmbH – has been characterized for quality made in Germany, and for 90 years now, their most famous set, "Form 1382," has graced not only German dining tables. Dr. Hermann Gretsch's collection is one of the national and international porcelain classics and, according to its creator, is intended to provide consumers with ongoing, timeless and practical pleasure.

This intention can still be felt in the old production facility in Arzberg, Upper Franconia. The brand's factory had already been shut down just over ten years ago. Old machines and tools, casting molds and remnants of porcelain have remained on site and now seem at home and abandoned at the same time at this location. The coarse ambience with its impressive machines and spacious halls seems contrary to the filigree and fragile end product that was manufactured there. The still lingering hustle and the dimension of the manufactured product assortment faces the detailed manufacturing. An intermediate space is created for interpretations and curiosities that want to be satisfied.

Image © Bastian Frank, coffee pot arzberg 1382, CC BY-SA 3.0

Abandoned does not mean forgotten

Thus, abandoned halls of this type do not necessarily fall into oblivion. If they are not given a new function, but are not demolished either, they develop in many places into sites for photo shoots and exhibitions. The new and modern shines all the more clearly in front of a historical background, and the actual motif in front of former bustle all the more expressive. An exciting play of contrasts develops here. Tension is also another essential keyword. Through the appearance of the "sudden" leaving behind, the imagination is stimulated at this point: What led to the departure? How can I imagine the everyday life that was left behind? What kind of people with their fates worked in this place? How did the everyday life at that time differ from the current work structures? The human being tries – similar to a riddle – to draw parallels and uncover differences, literally to look behind the surface. On the one hand, this fascination can be seen in the scene of conquerors, which is becoming increasingly established. Equipped only with a camera, these photographers gain access to vacant buildings, sometimes without permission, in order to literally bring their current condition back into the focus of society. On the other hand, the offer of guided tours as well as temporary rental options of historic architectures of this kind shows their attraction. Even if you can't score with luxuriousness and pomposity, as it is the case with other famous buildings, they impress with their historical ordinariness and their marvelous condition, which in turn seems to develop and embody a life of its own. A dynamic in the static.

Porcelain worker at work, drawing decor lines on a tea pot
Porcelain worker at work, forming a teapot

Historical photographs © Rosenthal GmbH

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