Warburg Models. Buildings as Bilderfahrzeuge

Tim Anstey and Mari Lending

Architecture, interiors and technological systems were crucial for how Aby Warburg and his followers interrogated culture and memory. Between 1923 and 1958 this lead to a continuous process of architectural commissioning: two buildings in Hamburg before the Warburg Institute’s forced migration from Germany in 1933, and a series of projects in London, including projects by the avant-garde architectural group Tecton and the construction of the Institute’s present home at Woburn Square, Bloomsbury in 1958. “Warburg Models: Buildings as Bilderfahrzeuge” unravels the connection between the architectural spaces that the Warburg scholars occupied and the intellectual landscape they created. Warburg’s thinking was deeply architectural but in ways little studied. An attentiveness to the spatial settings of artistic works, and the overlap between the architectural organisation of its library and the intellectual structures the library generated, underwrite the Warburg Institute’s system of cultural analysis.

The project to date has produced two masters seminar courses during 2020–2021 as well as academic articles and essays. Its main product, the exhibition Warburg Models, was first shown at Guttormgaards Arkiv, Blaker in May 2021 and will travel to the Warburg Haus in Hamburg and the Warburg Institute in London in 2023–24, accompanied by a book, Warburg Models. Buildings as Bilderfarhzeuge, to be published by Hatje Cantz, Berlin in 2023. The exhibition gathers together hyper-detailed models of the Warburg building projects, built from archival material at 1:75 scale. Individually they emphasizes interior and exterior qualities of the building portrayed; together they adopt the Modernist palette of colours used to identify themes and subjects among books in the Warburg Library.

Masters seminar participants and model builders: Pernille Ahlgren, Christian Berg, Amalie Elvegård, Nora Kilstad, Anne Lise Ladegård, Pål Sanchez-Paredes, Silje Seim, Cathrine Sundem, Maximilian Svendsen, Karina Tang, and Mara Trübenbach.

Collaborators: Bill Sherman, director Warburg Institute, London; Dr. Claudia Wedepohl, Archivist, Warburg Institute, London; Uwe Fleckner, director Warburg-Haus, Hamburg; Elizabeth Seers, Professor, University of Michigan; Dag Erik Elgin, artist, Oslo.


Originally posted Jul 7, 2017. Latest revision Nov 10, 2022.

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