Formalismus is the music that architects can bring to buildings: Paul Eis

Eis is a German architectural student and photographer who reimagines dull grey cityscapes to be filled with whimsical, colourful buildings with his Formalismus series.

by Jincy IypePublished on : Apr 06, 2021

Pastel palettes, fluid fantasies, boxes that are outside the box and cubes that defy geometry and geography turn the landscapes in German photographer Paul Eis’s work into surreal stories straight out of urban fairytales. One look, and you are instantly transported into a quirky plethora of digital buildings that revel in vibrant colour schemes assuming the form of art.

Back in 2015, Eis began injecting bright tones to existing and imagined structures to respond (in his own way) to the current architectural aesthetic, which he believes has reached a point of monotony, where the built has forgotten to take on a vibrant, emotive personality.

  • One of the imagined buildings with foliage in balconies lined in yolk yellow | Formalismus series by Paul Eis | STIRworld
    One of the imagined buildings with foliage in balconies lined in yolk yellow Image: Paul Eis
  • Axonometric | Formalismus series by Paul Eis | STIRworld
    Axonometric Image: Paul Eis

With his latest series, Formalismus series, he proposes housing towers with pale white exteriors punctured with playful geometric openings, inlaid with dollops of colour and greenery. This fictional architecture aims to emphasise how colour can brighten up the uniform dullness of existing cityscapes, to reject the mass of grey that dominates most of urban architecture. “Formalismus can be the music architects bring into their buildings,” says the 23-year-old.

  • Towers of pink inlaid arches | Formalismus series by Paul Eis | STIRworld
    Towers of pink inlaid arches Image: Paul Eis
  • Detail of the arched towers | Formalismus series by Paul Eis | STIRworld
    Detail of the arched towers Image: Paul Eis
  • Axonometric | Formalismus series by Paul Eis | STIRworld
    Axonometric Image: Paul Eis

“Powerful aesthetics, vis-à-vis colours and a play of proportions keep getting pushed to the background of emotionless, concrete grey walls, massive glass windows and a few potted plants,” says the Berlin-based architecture student. “I started designing digital structures, which consist of rational architectural elements, with bands and pockets of colour; these cannot be viewed as complete buildings because they are not functional in design; they are simply a study of form, a source of design inspiration, a visual treat,” he adds.   

  • A yellow staircase of a concrete building | Formalismus series by Paul Eis | STIRworld
    A yellow staircase of a concrete building Image: Paul Eis
  • This structure has asymmetric corridors with sunny yellow interiors | Formalismus series by Paul Eis | STIRworld
    This structure has asymmetric corridors with sunny yellow interiors Image: Paul Eis
  • Axonometric | Formalismus series by Paul Eis | STIRworld
    Axonometric Image: Paul Eis

The brutalist and postmodernist architecture of the 20th century, which was created as a rejection to the slick post-war-modernist architecture, inspired this series, along with all the influences Eis has had, from studying and seeing centuries of built architecture - the good, the bad, and the ugly. The name of the series, Formalismus, (German for Formalism), refers to an “excessive adherence to prescribed forms,” and takes on an ironic nature.

  • Candy pink openings and a foliage lined roof | Formalismus series by Paul Eis | STIRworld
    Candy pink openings and a foliage lined roof Image: Paul Eis
  • Cubed windows jut out of a white concrete structure | Formalismus series by Paul Eis | STIRworld
    Cubed windows jut out of a white concrete structure Image: Paul Eis
  • Axonometric | Formalismus series by Paul Eis | STIRworld
    Axonometric Image: Paul Eis

Formalismus is abound with buildings with white concrete skins placed in a sunny setting, paired with palm trees and planters that emerge from candy pink and yolk yellow interiors that shout through arches, jutted windows, and asymmetrical corridors.

These whimsical dreamscapes imbibe joyous accents to emit a gentle, pop contrast against the sky and the rough concrete materiality of the building. “Plants are introduced to put the viewer in a holiday mood,” he chuckles. “This combination of structure, colour and emotion is to bring the viewer to a positive, colour filled environment,” he continues.

  • Formalismus envisions whimsical structures that revel in pop colours | Formalismus series by Paul Eis | STIRworld
    Formalismus envisions whimsical structures that revel in pop colours Image: Paul Eis
  • Plants are introduced to put viewers in a ‘holiday mood’ | Formalismus series by Paul Eis | STIRworld
    Plants are introduced to put viewers in a ‘holiday mood’ Image: Paul Eis
  • Axonometric | Formalismus series by Paul Eis | STIRworld
    Axonometric Image: Paul Eis

To kickstart the formal concept, Eis begins with some hand sketches. These are then translated into a 3D model on Rhino, where they take form; daylight is adjusted, and greens are added before the final render. “Usually, it takes about two to six hours for each structure, with three images each - a total perspective, a close perspective with the main element in focus and a simple axonometric,” says Eis, explaining the format of the series.

An initial sketch for Formalismus | Formalismus series by Paul Eis | STIRworld
An initial sketch for Formalismus Image: Paul Eis

Formalismus differs from his other series by virtue of Eis not transforming real, existing buildings, and visualising completely new ones. “Compared to my architectural practice and my education, the series liberates the ideas and ethos taught to us, which become slightly restricting when we plan functional spaces. It is purely about imagining forms that spark emotion, gives the built a cheerful, friendlier persona,” he says.

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