Ruth Hallensleben: Cologne viewed from inside 'Haus der Rheinischen Heimat', pre 1939
The building Ruth Hallensleben used as her vantage point for this photograph no longer exists. What can be seen here on the Deutz banks of the Rhine is the former cuirassier barracks, which the architect Adolf Abel began renovating in 1927 to give it a more modern feel. He achieved this by adding elements like larger windows and stairwells. The building was earmarked for the Rheinisches Landesmuseum and renamed “Haus der Rheinischen Heimat” by the National Socialists. It was partially destroyed in the Second World War and eventually demolished in 1956.
The vantage point Ruth Hallensleben chose for her photograph was inside one of the newly created stairwells. Two high windows offer unimpeded views of the Rhine panorama and the city’s famous landmark, Cologne Cathedral. The windows form a rigid vertical framework, which contrasts with the curving lines of the stairwell, complete with swirling patterns on the bannisters. Sunlight falls through the windows, leaving a clear pattern of light and shade on the stairs. In this photograph, Ruth Hallensleben accentuates the innovative and contemporary style of the architecture, and the formal austerity of the composition is also reminiscent of the constructivist approach to the visual arts. Openness and light, indoor/outdoor connections, clear forms and linear structures are creative principles that reappear in Neuen Bauen in many ways and to varying degrees. No hint of the former function of the building as a barracks is discernible in this photograph by Ruth Hallensleben.
Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln