Hélène Binet is a renowned architectural photographer who has photographed the work of contemporary and historic designers. Her diverse portfolio includes work of leading architects such as Daniel Libeskind, Zaha Hadid, Le Corbusier, and Alvar Aalto.
I have chosen to highlight Binet’s portraits of Peter Zumthor’s Bruder Klaus Kapelle, a chapel in Mechernich, Germany. Binet’s incredible images of this structure stand out as a unique achievement among architectural photography. Zumthor’s buildings are a notorious challenge to capture on film. This is because his design theory is based on the phenomenological aspects of the space. Zumthor’s structures are designed to be enjoyed through full sensory experience. The look, feel, and even scent of the materials come together as one moves through the space. This results in a collage of sensory input that manifests as an overwhelming presence of building. How is one to capture this experience in a still image?
Binet met Zumthor’s challenge with vigor. Magically, her work captures the very essence of the Bruder Klaus Kapelle. Through her images, the viewer has a sense of approaching, entering, and leaving the space. I am aware of the weight of the obelisk-like structure as if it loomed above me. I can nearly feel the concrete brush against my arm. I squint at the light in the ceiling to see what lurks in the sky above. Binet lures out the character of Zumthor’s structure and makes it apparent, even when viewed from a mere computer screen.