The Shape of Space – photo book by IOER and BBSR shows facets of land use

Germany's landscapes are diverse and constantly changing. Growing cities, wind turbines and solar fields, high-voltage lines, new traffic routes, agricultural industry and increasing technology are changing the landscape faster and faster. The photo book "The Shape of Space - Landscapes of Germany as Images of Society" makes this change visible with diverse aerial photographs. The Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development (IOER) published it in collaboration with the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR). The landscape photographs are now touring Germany as a travelling exhibition.

The coffee-table book “The Shape of Space - Landscapes in Germany as Images of Society” documents the way society deals with landscape in Germany. Our spatial foundations of life are constantly changing. Land use is an expression of social demands, economic activities, cultural influences, natural features and historical developments. It is also a result of spatial planning at different levels that manage changes and try to balance land use conflicts. Compared to European neighbours, the result is usually clearly structured settlements and often beautiful cultural landscapes, but in many places also urban sprawl, landscape fragmentation, and soil and forest degradation.

Using a large number of aerial photographs, the photo book impressively shows different facets of land use in Germany: settlement structures ranging from densely populated inner cities to suburban locations and urban green spaces, transport infrastructures as well as industrial and energy landscapes, agricultural areas ranging from cleared post-mining and agro-industrial landscapes to organic farming, forest stands and recreational landscapes. The images, taken by a photocopter and an airship from a height of up to 100 meters, provide a new and sometimes surprising view of mostly small-scale structured, ordered and used landscapes.

Travelling exhibition presents the photo book
A travelling exhibition of the same name has been created to accompany the coffee-table book “The Shape of Space”. It shows selected photographs from the book and provides background information in a compact form. From mid to the end of June, the exhibition will be on display as part of the show “Unfinished Metropolis - Urban planning for Greater Berlin” (Unvollendete Metropole – Städtebau für Groß-Berlin) in the Behrensbau in Berlin-Oberschöneweide (Ostendestraße 1-4). After that, it will tour other German cities. Interested municipalities, organisations or institutions can also request the exhibition from the organisers to show it on their premises.

Information on the photo book (published in German)
Wendelin Strubelt, Fabian Dosch, Gotthard Meinel (eds.): "Die Gestalt des Raumes. Landschaften Deutschlands als Abbilder der Gesellschaft" with photos by Jürgen Hohmuth and Marcus Fehse (, Berlin) as well as articles by various authors. Wasmuth & Zohlen Verlag, 2021.
ISBN: 978 3 8030 2224 0

Scientific contact at the IOER
Dr. Gotthard Meinel, e-Mail:


The Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development is jointly funded by the federal government and the federal states.

FS Sachsen

This measure is co-financed by tax funds on the basis of the budget approved by the Saxon State Parliament.