Archive for May, 2010

Salt Sheikher

Monday, May 24th, 2010

As some readers will have noted, I like to figure out the days shoot around the café table, using whatever props may be at hand to create some three dimensional representation of the project. This process somehow reduces even the largest of problems into more manageable, dare I say it, bite size chunks.

Replicating the awe-inspiring engineering prowess of the Burj Khalifa was a challenge in itself but as some say in Dubai. nothing is impossible. The three entrance lobbies, hitherto known as Strawberry, Apricot and Marmalade echoed the Residential, Hotel and Commercial entrances. The colour  and finishes in each providing a different sensory experience to those passing through.

Pane Relief

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

After shooting several less than satisfactory snaps out through the dusty windows of my hotel, a few dangling ropes the following day signaled that perhaps some relief was on the way.

Indeed this proved to be the case and I waved gratefully as my sudsy saviour slipped slowly out of sight to bring a little more sunshine into the lives of those on the floor below. And the floor below that. And the floor below that.

No Picnic Out There

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

Perhaps the hardest thing to explain to people about photographing architecture is the notion of one being entirely at the mercy of the prevailing elements. There’s none of this taking your time, adjusting the lighting between caramel latte’s in the studio, opening the morning’s mail and then maybe finishing up after a sit down lunch.

On location, everything is in flux. From before the sun is up until well after it is down, the shadows are moving, the conditions are changing around you, requiring an engaged and spontaneous response to capture images that will serve to tell the story at hand. In my experience, assuming you’ve understood the brief, one generally knows what the end result needs to be, just not the exact path you will take to get there.

Most times, the commercial preference is to photograph a project in pristine conditions which in most regions of the world, except perhaps for parts of Europe, would be considered blue skies, crisp sunshine and maybe a few “Simpson’s” clouds to keep it sweet. In Germany, if the much-lauded Dusseldorf school’s output is anything to go by, an ideal day would be flat, shadowless overcast. I mean, shadows are just so subversively opinionated, don’t you think?….. But I digress.

On a clear day, especially in places like California, you know exactly what will happen and while this is certainly good for commercial productivity, it can be limiting creatively as there is always a known, predictable, expected outcome, often well before the images are captured.

My feeling is that unless you are prepared to put yourself out into conditions that are less than optimal, you will never get rewarded with something special, something unique, something unexpected. This somewhat opportunistic approach still requires a deep understanding of the subject, still requires a technical precision and respect for craft, but all in order to respond on a more instinctual level to the unfolding scene before you.

While I’ve long ago given up on the idea that I might manipulate the forces of nature, I’m certainly open to getting out there and mixing it up a bit when the opportunity presents itself. Of course, the majority of what I shoot on assignment is done to show the building in its best light.

Sometimes though, I would argue that it takes the worst light to do that.

Build and They Will Come

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Though not necessarily in that order.

For the past several years, the morning rush hour traffic in Dubai has consisted mainly of the ubiquitous white buses used to transport the army foreign workers from their modest camps out onto the city’s building sites.

Though obviously slowed a little by the stalling of new developments, there are still a huge number of sites running at full speed. Even after officially opening in January, the Burj Khalifa is still inhaling thousands of workers every morning via an ant’s trail of blue, beige and yellow overalls, snaking out of the carpark entrance and across several intersections to the drop off point a few blocks away. By 7.00am, all the hired help is inside at work, the traffic changes to upscale sedans and shiny 4WD’s, all carrying the suits and ties of corporate Dubai.

Secret to Glowing Skin

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

In Dubai, the amazing Burj Khalifa is locked in a constant battle against the endless coating of dust that blows in from neighbouring construction sites. Lower levels around the Armani hotel and the private apartments seem to have taken precedence on the cleaning roster for the moment. At certain times, the crisp reflections from the glass and stainless steel take on a voluptuous, milky glow.


Ready for Your Close Up, Your Highness..

Further away from the tower, the silky reflections help define the shaping of the stacked forms. adding to the overall feeling of verticality.

It is only when you get close up to the base of the tower that you can really appreciate the complexity and richness of detail in the facade. The individual reflections off the stainless steel elements and their reflection in the glazing, all contributing to an almost liquid appearance as the sun clips the horizon.

Just finishing up around the base of the tower are the 11 story office building to the west and residential clubhouse to the east. These smaller buildings, shaped to fit within the swirling geometry of the site plan, are enlivened by the addition of delicate sunscreens.

Watch Tower

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Midway along the densely populated Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, Skidmore Owings & Merrill’s 61 story Rolex Tower has just been completed. At dusk, the animated facade lighting performs a subtly captivating dance while the crown lights up to create a new glowing beacon along the busy thoroughfare.


Monday, May 17th, 2010

Oscar Party

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Now that the madness surrounding the movie industry’s awards season has well and truly subsided, there’s time for all those golden statues to take a break, go hang by the pool and work on their chiseled physiques. These guys, seen cavorting around the fountains of the Dubai Mall, were clearly in need of time at the tanning salon before reporting back to work.

Win Win

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

The AIA San Francisco Chapter has announced the 2010 winners in their annual design program. Congratulations are in order for several of our clients who received accolades for their recent work.

Excellence in Architecture

Merit   UC Merced Science + Engineering Building   EHDD

Merit   Poly International Plaza, Guangzhou     SOM

Merit   2010 Post Street     Kennerley Architects

Citation   Tea Houses    Swatt I Miers

Citation   Mission Bay Block 27 Parking Structure    WRNS Studio

Historic Rehabilitation

Merit    Piers 1,3 and 5    Tom Eliot Fisch

Interior Architecture

Merit    Honighaus   Ogrydziak/Prillinger

Gloom with a View

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

“Would you like a high floor?” the front desk clerk politely asked.

“Erm… is that a question” I replied, puzzled by the idea that anyone would prefer the lower option.

After all, I’d chosen this particular hotel in Hong Kong for the sole reason that it offered a rather splendid view down the fragrant harbour towards two of my favourite charges. The International Finance Centre by Pelli Clarke Pelli in Central and across in Kowloon, Kohn Pedersen Fox’s International Commerce Centre.

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t quite what I had hoped but rather mundanely, more what I had expected. Still, a little ray of sunshine managed to creep down along the waterfront, shifting the tones in my favour on an otherwise gloomy outlook.