Photographer, Michael Nguyen has captured Masterpieces of Facade Art by Architects Matthias Sauerbruch and Louisa Hutton, including the Munich Re in Munich, the ADAC Headquarters Munich, the M9 Museum, Venice, the GSW Headquarters, Berlin and the Brandhorst Museum, Munich.

Visual highlights of the urban landscape have emerged here, the details of which Nguyen examines with precision photography, while Prof. Dr. Phil. Rainer Funke, Professor of Design Theory and Founding Dean of the Department of Design at the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences, provides analysis on Nguyen’s images, and their relationship between architecture, urban spaces, and those who inhabit them.

© Michael Nguyen, VG BildKunst, Bonn ADAC Headquarters Munich 1 by Sauerbruch Hutton

Masquerade on the Street Stages

Words by Prof. Dr. Phil. Rainer Funke

Facades are not the faces of buildings, even if we like this metaphor, and the term itself goes back to the Italian “faccia” and the Latin “facies” (face). Almost inextricably linked to their support, building envelopes are usually far too little dynamically linked to the typicity, diversity, and liveliness of the building’s interior to communicate this to the outside, like a face.

Even with glass facades, there is rarely any real transparency due to the numerous reflections and defensive strategies of the users. This is especially true of large buildings, whose closure and opening to the urban space result from the serial arrangement and variation of identical segments. The continuous change of their appearances is mainly brought about by the change of light in the surrounding space and the interiors along the seasons of the day, and also by the specific enforcement of the surrounding air with differently aggregated water and suspended particles.

Not faces, but rather masks surround us on the streets: more or less statically present in front of the supporting structures and the spaces filled with life, to grasp them, frame them, cultivate them, and provide them with an overarching expression, thus creating euphony or also dissonance in the building concert of the urban space as well-defined, virtuously played instruments.


Munich Re Berliner Straße, Munich 

© Michael Nguyen, VG BildKunst, Bonn Facade Munich Re 1 – Berliner Strasse by Sauerbruch Hutton


The  works on the Munich Re building impressively show the interplay of the diverse facial masks with which this building shines on the city stage. Stacked gold ingots seem to frame the Munich Re. In Nguyen’s angled view of a section of the facade, the differently gold-colored cuboids – contrasted by regular geometric black residual forms – appear charged with their power and at the same time recall works of constructivist pictorial art from the early 20th century.

Security, stability, and dynamics are associations that correspond to the claim of an insurance company. Since they are staged here as a work of art, they also refer to the promise of not only pursuing monetary goals with the insurance business but also of contributing to the culture of our society.

In the front view of Munich Re, we are sent in search of the real spatial relationships between the gold ashlars with an alternation of extremely regular, horizontal parallels of blinds suspended on verticals and mirrored spatial width into the sky blue: grandiose orthogonal facade masquerade out of geometric perfection.


© Michael Nguyen, VG BildKunst, Bonn Facade Munich Re 6- Berliner Strasse by Sauerbruch Hutton


“With my architectural photography, I am on the search for the aesthetic qualities of buildings in their urban spatial effect.” ~ Michael Nguyen


© Michael Nguyen, VG BildKunst, Bonn Facade Munich Re 3- Berliner Strasse by Sauerbruch Hutton


The picture of the red-framed glass fronts is completely different, in which the reflections of the unfoliaged surrounding trees form a poetic contrast to the austerity and perfection of the geometric. Here the masking lives from the mirrored nature, well captured and seemingly dominated in the segments of the glass surfaces. The bordering signal red underlines the will to culture with a visual bang.

The image of the blue is different again. Here it is mirrored distorted grid structures whose soft curves seem to be in supple motion. We are reminded of gently moving water in complete purity, gliding and flowing, that finds its counterpart in the succession of numerous shades of blue.

Color gradients from yellow to green to blue are also the theme of another photo of Munich Re. Introduced by a homogeneous blue behind grey horizontal blinds, mediated by a coarser grid of pale blue glass surfaces, a lively melody of numerous hues unfolds.


© Michael Nguyen, VG BildKunst, Bonn Facade Munich Re 5 – Berliner Strasse by Sauerbruch Hutton


“Above all, I am interested in the visual richness of detail in its compositional diversity and its strangeness.” ~ Michael Nguyen


ADAC Headquarters, Munich

© Michael Nguyen, VG BildKunst, Bonn ADAC Headquarters Munich 2 by Sauerbruch Hutton


The ADAC headquarters in Munich is also a virtuoso on this stage. Michael Nguyen shows us how elegant sweeps and large flat grid surfaces correspond with each other. Color contrasts between grey, yellow, violet, and green also provide melodic rhythms here. The rediscovery of the ornament, born out of the geometry of modern building methods, creates cheerful animation. And again we are reminded of the classics of modernism, especially when the photographer places us in the ideal vantage point in front of a 91-segment section of the facade and shows us the sophistication of the color combination in the sequence of the basic forms, each consisting of 5 partial elements. Here, too, an enchanting rhythm emerges from the variation. Melodic rhythms, geometric ornamentation, a play of color, and cheerful dynamics, we also find all of these in the other pictures of Nguyen’s Sauerbruch Hutton buildings.


GSW Headquarters, Berlin

© Michael Nguyen, VG BildKunst, Bonn GSW Headquarters 1 , Berlin by Sauerbruch Hutton


The GSW building is charmingly purple and turns towards the street with a slight curve. The orthogonal-vertical sunsail flags in metallic frames create a play of hues from pink to violet at different angles. Nguyen’s photographic paintings ask us to look at the details: variety in mass, shades of color arranged as if in a paint box, and canopied by something enigmatically stretched textile. We become curious about what’s going on inside the building, but the photographer denies us such insights. So it remains a doll’s house without dolls, pure aesthetic combinatorics.


Brandhorst Museum, Munich

© Michael Nguyen, VG BildKunst, Bonn Brandhorst Museum 1, Munich by Sauerbruch Hutton


The Munich Brandhorst Museum captivates with its massive, intensely colored vertical structure and contrasting backgrounds. The facades are delicately pastel on one hand and boldly oriented towards primary colors on the other. It’s funny how the windows and supporting structure peek out from behind the color grids. Nguyen pointed out this detail to us.



M9 Museum District, Venice-Mestre

© Michael Nguyen, VG BildKunst, Bonn M9 Museum District, Venice-Mestre 2 by Sauerbruch Hutton


The “clinker” theme characterizes the facade of the M9 Museum in Venice, but it’s alienated by the colorful toy building blocks of the elements. These elements may remind us of screen phenomena or fabric patterns, dominated by signal red and white.

In the city of masquerades, we encounter a furious color spectacle that wants to pull us along in one direction or another with its horizontal flow. Despite the loudness of the colors, one can also feel reminded of driftwood.

One picture deviates from the purely artistic photographic collection of masks: three young men eating in front of the raw concrete of the basement of the Venetian M9 Museum (featured image), walking from right to left towards a cellar entrance. A narrow strip of the colorful facade hovers above them, breaking the distance and abstraction. We become aware that the photographed façades are components of living buildings, in and with which people go about their trivial occupations.

The masked ball is, in fact, a celebration of everyday life.



Prof. Dr. Rainer Funke – In 1992, Rainer Funke was appointed to Potsdam as the founding dean of the Department of Design at the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences. He researches and publishes on design-theoretical issues from a semiotic, cultural-theoretical and philosophical perspective and works as a design consultant for companies. He teaches design theory at the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences. 

Michael Nguyen is a multi award winning photo artist and documentary photographer living near Munich, Germany. In his photography he focuses on architectural details and urban landscapes. In his artworks Michael Nguyen shows a wide range of styles such as photo paintings and experimental photography. Michael Nguyen is member of FREELENS – Professional Association of Photojournalists.