Found Typologies: Bernd and Hilla Becher’s Photographs of Industrial Architecture

German conceptual artists Bernhard “Bernd” Becher and Hilla Becher, who worked together as a collaborative duo, are perhaps best known for their extensive series of photographic images of industrial buildings and structures. The images were often organized in grids according to a particular “typology,” such as water towers, grain elevators, coke ovens, and warehouses. In displaying what might typically be considered “banal” or lacking in design, the Becher’s elevated industrial architecture to subject worthy of formal aesthetic and artistic consideration. The photographs also bring light to an architectural ecosystem based on the production and transformation of energy that is paradoxically both hidden and ubiquitous. The Bechers would go on to influence generations of documentary photographers and artists as the founders of what has come to be known as the ‘Becher school.’


A New Way of Making Shoes

Here’s something awesome. Eugenia Morpurgo and Juan Montero have come up with a new manufacturing system for shoes. Through laser cutters and 3D printers, they’re able to produce design patterns, and then have those patterns transformed into separate components, which they assemble by hand without the need for stitches or glue. Their idea is to take the process of shoe production and bring it directly to the consumer. So, instead of having your shoes made in England or China, the “factory” would be brought into your local store, where you can choose what you want and have your shoes made within an hour. 

The system at the moment is still more of a novelty than anything practical, but if it develops, it could have a lot of interesting consequences. For example, it could reduce waste and the need for overproduction, as well as the size of storage facilities necessary for producing and selling footwear. This, of course, could greatly lower our environmental impact. It could also blow open the doors for collaboration and customization, as the manufacturing process becomes more digitalized. And, perhaps if these systems become cheap enough, maybe one day you can have one in your own home, so that you can design shoes based off of templates you’ve downloaded from the web. 

You can learn more about the project at Don’t Run (the project’s name) and Domus

How A Used Bottle Becomes A New Bottle

To isolate the glass, a magnet first pulls out metal caps, lids, small tin cans, and other pieces of metal. Today, recycling plants use optical sorting machines. These machines take pictures of all the glass, and then use air jets to blow the clear glass onto a different conveyor belt.

The recycling plant sells the crushed clear glass to bottle manufacturers, like Ardagh Group in Salem, N.J. When we visited, they were making Snapple bottles, Mason jars and Nantucket Nectar bottles. Gary Shears, the general manager, says that they use about 150 tons of clear recycled glass a day.

The recycled glass is mixed with soda ash, sand and limestone, and everything is melted together in a furnace heated to 2,700 degrees.

Shears says they can never get enough recycled glass. Recycled glass melts at a lower temperature than the raw materials used to make glass from scratch. So more recycled glass means huge energy savings. Right now, his bottles are made of about 20-25 percent recycled glass. Shears said he would use two or three times as much, if there was more recycled glass available.

The bright orange molten glass is weighed and cut into pieces called gobs, which are dropped onto molds to create the mouth of the bottles.

Then a glass-blowing machine blows the gobs of molten glass into red-hot bottles. Salem’s newer machines can make about 400 bottles a minute.


Manufacturing Glamour: Inside Milan’s Oldest Sequin Factory

The Energy Issue traveled to Milan this summer to document the history of sequin manufacturing with fashion writer Emily Spivack of Threaded, Sentimental Value, and Worn Stories. Emily is leading a project for The Energy Issue on sequins, so we began by finding the best source for original research. Milan, where some of the earliest sequins were produced and most advanced manufacturing processes discovered, seemed like the obvious choice. During the Renaissance, the city’s fashion-conscious and opulent ruling family, the Sforzas, jump-started the textile and metal industries, and Leonardo da Vinci, who became known as much for his engineering as his art, even drew a sketch of a sequin-making machine while living there. The city has continued to be a global center of fashion and textile manufacturing and is home to a number of the finest da Vinci scholars and fashion historians. Along with interviewing a number of experts in these fields, we visited Milan’s oldest and most well-regarded sequin manufacturer, Andrea Bilics. The company, founded in 1946, has remained family-owned since its inception and produces sequins for the likes of Prada, Donna Karan, and Armani. Mr. Bilics noted that he had designed almost all the machinery himself and maintains tight control over the production process. Indeed, Bilics produces all of its sequins from scratch and mixes all of its proprietary colors in-house. To see more photos from our trip and to continue following Emily’s project, visit us on our Facebook page.