Of Objects and Images

photographs by Philipp Schaerer 
written by Jesús Vassallo




Philipp Schaerer is a Swiss architect who became a visual artist. His first job out of the architecture school was as a designer for the office of Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron in Basel. During his stint at the firm, he produced many of the spectacular visualizations and digital renderings used in their competition entries. He also doubled up as an archivist — knowledge manager was the term preferred by the office — a job for which he started to use a media database software in order to keep track of the thousands of images and documents that he had to manage on a daily basis.

Interestingly enough, upon leaving the firm in 2007 to establish his own practice, Schaerer’s first self-initiated work was a reflection on his dual role at Herzog & de Meuron: he decided to explore his database, which at that point had become a massive personal diary, in search of fragments with which to create new images. His series Bildbauten (2007-2009), that brought him immediate international attention, was a series of portraits of imaginary buildings, composed in the frontality language of Bernd and Hilla Becher, and manufactured directly in postproduction software, out of fragments of anonymous constructions mined from his collection.