Gesche Würfel


Oppressive Architecture explores and documents the relationship between architecture and oppression in different historical moments - American slavery and German Nazism. These two countries were selected as the artist is from Germany and now lives in North Carolina, USA.

Oppressive architectural structures are being photographed in a cross-section of places in both countries. The project examines similarities and differences in the inhumane ways that prisoners were forced to live and labor on southern plantations and in German concentration, labor, and death camps as represented by their architecture. These structures continue to influence the contemporary landscape, its inhabitants, and our understanding of history.  The project’s contribution is its documentation of a wide range of remaining physical structures of oppression. It also recognizes their historic value and raises questions about how architecture can be used to commemorate and reconcile a country’s past.


A trained artist, urban planner, and visual sociologist, Gesche Würfel is based in Chapel Hill, NC, USA. She is a Lecturer in Photography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally; venues include Blue Sky Gallery, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tate Modern, Goldsmiths, Cornerhouse Manchester, Kokerei Zollverein, CAM Raleigh.

She is a recipient of grants from Urban Buzz (HEFCE), Center for the Study of the American South at UNC-CH, Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance, and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

She is the author of Basement Sanctuaries (Schilt Publishing 2014) that has been featured among others in The New York Times, The Guardian, Slate, and WIRED.

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