Petrol stations play a subordinate role in our consciousness. Few people pay attention to them unless the petrol tank is nearly empty. At best they are used as a point of reference to guide the way: "Turn left after the petrol station!" This inconspicuous appearance contrasts with the size of the building and the intrusive neon-lit canopy. The petrol station that at first glance gives the impression of being identical everywhere is apparently easy to be overlooked. The petrol station has a short history. Before the second world war a building was rarely assigned to a petrol pump. Mostly the pump just stood by the kerb or in a yard. But when the petrol pump became a petrol station every effort was made to ensure it became a piece of attention grabbing architecture. Initially that trend continued in the first post-war years, when the station quickly became an everyday appearance. The heyday of the petrol station as an architectural landmark ended in the sixties when the laws of uniform house brand styles were enacted. From that moment on it was no longer the expressive form that made the petrol station recognizable, but the colors and logos that accentuated the distinction between the different brands. Since this period the petrol station can hardly be seen as architecture. To paraphrase the American design historian Thomas Hine: If architecture can be called frozen music, the petrol station is a frozen jingle. The architecture is thereby reduced from a means to carry the message to the message itself and the shape has continuously eroded until finally the indestructible core of canopy, pump and kiosk remained; the ABC of universal petrol station architecture. While in time most building types show an increasing variety and complexity, the petrol station traveled the opposite way in the direction of simplicity and uniformity. Despite this, it is astonishing how many differences and nuances there are in the design of a petrol station. As one word can have many meanings, depending on the context in which it is used and at which intonation it is pronounced, every petrol station in the photographs of Nico Bick has its own identity. National differences are reflected in the different brands, Agip in Italy, Elf in France and Aral in Germany, but also within a brand, the French petrol stations of Shell, for instance, are different from the Italian and Dutch stations. Moreover, each house brand style is constantly changing: other pumps, an adaptation of the logo, a different shape and structure of the canopy, slightly different colors. The turnover rate of styling of a petrol station is – not coincidentally – as fast as the cars that contantly stop there. The photographs of Nico Bick focus on these objects that are so familiar that they are hardly noticed. Separately one might consider these photographs as landscapes and townscapes in which a petrol station happens to be. Together they show that the architectural ABC of canopy, pump and kiosk can be varied inexhaustibly, just like the petrol station that is always identical, is always different. Hans Ibelings.