In 2010, the German town of Baden-Baden began the process of securing UNESCO World Heritage status for one of its iconic landmarks: the Lichtentaler Allee, a historic park and arboretum along the west bank of the Oos River. In 2018, Baden-Baden joined ten other European towns – across Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, and Great Britain – in applying to be named one of UNESCO’s Great Spa Towns of Europe. Until that point, Baden-Baden made use of a series of non-professional travel and lifestyle photos that they had on hand. With this new aspiration, the town needed high-quality photographs to best represent its historical claim. Baden-Baden reached out to local architectural photographer Torben Beeg to help capture the town’s prominent landmarks as part of its application.
The comprehensive submission to UNESCO was made in January 2019. In 2021, Baden-Baden was accepted as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Great Spa Towns of Europe. The project did not stop there for Torben, who maintains an ongoing collaboration with the town. He contributes to its store of architectural photos, as part of its larger tourism and marketing efforts.
My journey into professional photography began in 2018, closely paralleling the establishment of the Great Spa Towns of Europe association. My initiation into this field involved reaching out to friends and acquaintances to share my newfound career path. One of them provided me with the contact information for a prominent senior partner within a local advertising and marketing agency. This pivotal connection led to my introduction to the city of Baden-Baden and this inaugural collaboration, an association that persists to this day.
As an architectural photographer, my specialized skills perfectly aligned with their needs. Furthermore, my preference for capturing images during the early morning hours coincided with their vision of obtaining photos of the buildings without any undesirable harsh shadows.
Torben collaborated with The World Heritage Department team for preplanning and location scouting, leaving no detail untended.
The World Heritage Department’s team had a clear and specific vision regarding their requirements in terms of the number and type of shots they needed, which they communicated to me. I was really struck by their collaborative spirit and enthusiasm. I dedicated about a week to meticulous preplanning, ensuring I would be in the right place at the right time. This involved on-site visits, as well as utilizing the PhotoPills app for remote planning, aiding in determining sunrise times and sun movement throughout the day.
Regarding the interior shots, the city facilitated access to the locations for scouting purposes, allowing me to understand the environment and determine the necessary equipment for the task. Their support ‘opened doors’ for me in every sense of the phrase.
The goal of these images served dual purposes and timeframes, in terms of the historic town’s brand and desired representation.
Primarily, Baden-Baden boasts two well-defined brand personas. One serves the purpose of conveying and promoting tourism, while the other is carefully tailored to meet the requirements of the UNESCO application and to position the city as a recognized UNESCO World Heritage site.
The brand representation for the heritage sector maintains a sharp, clear-cut aesthetic, characterized by natural lighting and a focus on architectural elements rather than lifestyle aspects.
The locations of the photoshoots were throughout the town of Baden-Baden. Torben photographed the exteriors working without an assistant, which kept the scheduling flexible. Although the town organized the required permissions, his access to the interiors was often subject to the management’s schedules or the opening hours of the location.
For the interiors photoshoots, on set, I had the company of Mrs. Lisa Poetschki, or another team member from the World Heritage Department. This collaboration enabled us to work together in refining each shot for the desired outcome.
I was pleasantly surprised by the level of access I was granted to the interior spaces of these historic buildings. This enabled me to capture unique angles and perspectives that truly showcased their architectural intricacies.
In hindsight, Torben views the challenges encountered throughout this ongoing series as a service of the project and his body of work.
One significant creative challenge was capturing the unique character and essence of each landmark while adhering to the brand identity that the city of Baden-Baden required. Balancing this visual consistency with showcasing the individuality of each site demanded a delicate touch.
Budget considerations played a role in selecting equipment and tools. I needed to make sure my photography gear was suitable for capturing the intricate details and grandeur of the landmarks. Fortunately, my existing equipment was well-suited for the task.
This project has left a lasting personal impact on Torben, not only as a resident of Baden-Baden but also in a larger sense as an architectural photographer – and the cultural richness and history of the buildings he photographs.
Undertaking substantial projects like this one underscores the importance of time and the indispensable role of patience. Furthermore, the realization has grown on me that preserving architectural heritage is not just an option, but a necessity. Architectural marvels are enduring testaments to history and cultural identity. Unlike contemporary architecture, historical structures possess a tangible connection to their surroundings, firmly rooted in the context and spirit of their respective towns and spaces.
Overall, it’s been a rewarding experience. I’ve developed a deeper appreciation for the intricate relationship between heritage, architecture, and the city’s identity.
See more of Torben’s work on his website.
World Heritage Coordinator, Site Manager World Heritage and Urban Design: Lisa Poetschki
Public Relations & Mediation: Julia Bischoff
Research Associate: Smirti Pant
Senior Partner of J • G & Partner: Hans-J. Güntzlaf
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