hubert blanz

The Fifth Face
c-print, diasec on dibond, Hubert Blanz, 2013

The Fifth Face – Chicago / New York

Barabara Egger

The view from above has become a dominant feature of Hubert Blanz’s work, whether from original or manipulated photographs and satellite images. This perspective provides a unique overview of a whole situation while permitting specific observations that, due to the physical distance, assert a claim to objectivity. In architecture, the fifth face refers to the roof of a building designed to represent a fifth facade. However, in many cases, and especially in the case of skyscrapers, the fifth face is often neglected in terms of its aesthetic design. Historically, it has predominantly been used for practical purposes such as ventilation, heating or cooling devices, and even as parking spaces. However, in recent years the roof has gained prominence as a versatile and attractive space. The fifth face is increasingly designed as luxurious terraces with spectacular views, sports facilities and recreational areas, gardens and vegetable plots belonging to gourmet restaurants. In many cities there exists a dichotomy between neglect and luxury when it comes to the fifth face.

These spaces can feel disconnected from the urban and human context as a result of their elevated position overlooking the city. The view from above distorts and distances the photographer from his subjects below. Hubert Blanz has sought to capture this sensation in his images, recreating and exaggerating the effect. Accessing the luxury spaces Blanz turned his lens on the neglected spaces of Chicago’s inner circle from various perspectives.

Combining single images into a collage Blanz creates a new view of the city. One without a single perspective and that recalls the pictorial language of cubism. Blanz produced this fifth face series during a residency in Chicago. Both the methodology and subject matter of this project have greatly influenced his subsequent works, and we can see the continuation of these themes in his London Homeseekers series.