05 April 2012
Let me know which photograph from this series is your favorite.
Sometime you want to kick yourself for waiting, putting off that photo shoot. Finally, I took my camera and telephoto lens to explore the architectural elements of a building under construction at my alma mater.
It’s a massive science research lab, which covers almost an entire block. The building’s skeleton creates an image of great work to be invented and completed, of people sifting through a maze of classrooms, of labs and lecture halls, of faculty and students being fully electrified by the discovery process and the unknown.
I was drawn to this particular structure, because of the colorful array of materials. As construction progressed over months and months, the interior elements seemed aesthetically rendered. This re-creation of an architect’s plan provides an inner foundation that will hide itself, but also holds a key to the building’s totality.
Historically, photographers and photojournalists have been documenting cityscapes and partially-constructed sites for centuries. While most are known for their perspectives on the final construction, others followed a project’s evolution from ground breaking to completion.
Architectural photography is part of the archives of what we create, our habitats, our public spaces, our private dwellings. It details an epic tale of our metamorphosis as humans animals. It also demonstrates our cleverness and inventiveness. Our rise to glory as creative creatures.
Many known, not-so-well-known and anonymous photographers took their turn at architectural photography. Think: Lewis Hine, Balthazar Korab, Julius Shulman, Eric Stoller, Andrew George. Here are examples:
These photographers document not only the architecture of human creativity, but also record the history of material culture. These materials are the stuff of our existence, giving us a timeline about our ability to alter the spaces around us (for the good and the destructive).
When a commercial, private or public space is built, a number of phenomenon transpires. Each stage of the building’s progression witnesses a composition and a layering. Among the agents of change is a continual play of light and shadows, which is especially apparent in my photographs 1, 2, 5, 8 and 9 in the Lens section.
One of the results of the photograph’s job is its ability to give a 2-D impression of a 3-D design. Photographs are still images as schema for the buzz of life. It’s a strange combination of the visual through innovation, interpretation, observation, tradition, technology, and documentation.
But there is so much more to the narrative of the newly built. It exudes a redefinition of the physical space, and the project over time gives onlookers a chance to adjust or protest. In an economy gone sour, a partial construction can hang in the lurch. Then the space is defined by a structure’s incompleteness upon the landscape; its interior shell telling yet another story.
With their Pantone-colored walls and gleaming pipes the raw materials, which compose the grid and guts of the interior, are eventually covered and sealed from view. They are place holders for our culture’s history. But they also bare more than the usual descriptors for the functional and utilitarian. Often they exude a silent design element that borders on something more than they seem: a certain kind of beauty is their name, and I’m sticking to my opinion.
Note: As always I welcome any comment about this post or any part of this blog. If you want to read a few fabulous architectural magazines, do get Dwell and Metropolis. They make your senses dance with joy.