18 May 2020

Hope and Despair on the Seventeenth Floor

18 May 2020 - Written by PhMuseum

Ingmar Björn Nolting's long-term documentary focuses on a historical housing block complex in Göttingen and reveals to us an unexpected reality of this small German town.

Built in the early 1970s the “Iduna-Zentrum” is made up of 17 floors and 407 apartments of reinforced concrete. Back then the apartments of the housing block in the German university city of Göttingen were considered chick, a good location. Lawyers, university staff and young families lived in these luxury apartments. The site was attractive, right between university campus and city centre, equipped with swimming pool and sauna. Over the years, the building has fallen into disrepair and today is seen by many as an “eyesore” and “deprived area”. The prestigious apartments of high earners became the new home for marginalized groups. Most of the numerous housing blocks in Germany have shared the same fate.

My photo-essay deals with the everyday lives, environments and emotional worlds of people who currently live in the residential complex. I built personal relationships with drug addicts, welfare recipients, refugees as well as students and poverty-stricken old age pensioners for the last two and a half years to understand what makes their life in this formerly prestigious building. Therefore I moved into the housing block myself for the last five months. With my long-term project I want to tell about realities of life that do not only exist in the “deprived areas” of larger cities but also right in the middle of smaller wealthy German towns.

Words and Pictures by Ingmar Björn Nolting.


Ingmar Björn Nolting (1995) lives and works as a freelance photographer in Leipzig, Germany. His work focuses on long-term photo essays that deal with issues of social, geopraphical and geopolitical isolation. He is founding member of DOCKS Collective for humanistic photography. Find him on PHmuseum and Instagram.


This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PHmuseum curators.

Selected by


Reading time

2 minutes

Support PhMuseum Journalism

Since 2012 PhMuseum's articles have always been free and without ads. Every year we work to keep you informed and invite you to discover the work of hundreds of photographers. If you enjoy reading us, this can be a nice way to give back and support our independent organisation, granting us more means to increase the quality and number of contents. Thank you!