Archive for November, 2011

Golf Club

Monday, November 21st, 2011

While shooting a series of developments in Dongguan City, I kept seeing this poster for VW Golf’s. When the opportunity arose I couldn’t help but offer some practical advice to the wayward photographer in the jacket. Seems he couldn’t focus accurately with the sunglasses on.

At least he looked cool.

I was explaining the annoying stereotyping of the photographer to my amused Chinese hosts, hoping that they wouldn’t expect to see me the next day in a cream sports jacket.

“And what car do you drive Mr Giff”, they inquired.

“Erm…..,” I mumbled, …… a Golf.

Real Nice

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

When it opened in 2005, Dongguan’s New South China Mall was the biggest shopping mall in the world.  Seven years later it still holds that title though is probably a contender for the loneliest place on Earth as well. In the massive 7.1 million sq ft of lettable space there are slots for 1,500 stores. Of the 386 stores that opened in 2005,  a recent count revealed a total of 30 that were actually operating.

The mall has seven wings, themed on different parts of the world. These include a full size replica of the bell tower of Venice’s St. Mark’s Square, an Arc de Triomphe and various Egyptian motifs. An amusement park buried from view in the center of the mall is called Amazing World and features huge indoor roller coaster (still sitting idle), a multiplex cinema and the essential canals with Venetian gondolas.

The original St Mark’s Square Tower in Venice.

The replica St Mark’s Square Tower at New South China Mall

The full size Arc de Triomphe replica in Dongguan, complete with decorative wreaths commemorating the cities which fell under Napoleon.

Looking closely at the  wreath, one can see the city MOSCOW has been placed upside down by a hapless construction worker. Easy mistake when you think about it.

Elsewhere, the seven year old Egyptian statuary is falling victim to the ravages of time.

The more I looked around the city, the more curious connections to Western icons seemed to pop up. Of course we’ve all read about the volume of cheap Chinese knock-offs when it comes to items like fashion labels and movie titles. But seeing the Haiyatt Hotel I thought, moved things into a much grander scale.

Mist Connection

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Despite my general distrust of advance meteorological knowledge, the forecast low cloud for Shanghai was indeed coming true. Still, it made for some impressive views from the hotel room while waiting for more favorable conditions. Here, the Jin Mao Building and Shanghai World Financial Center dance majestically in and out of the passing clouds.

Skin Care

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

In Shanghai, the taller towers of Pudong are quickly stacking up to form canyons of the once empty boulevards. Narrowing down one’s viewpoint provides some interesting comparisons in the skin details employed by different firms.

From Left to right –

Kohn Pederson Fox / Skidmore Owings & Merrill / Pelli Clarke Pelli

Face for Radio

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Most times, when embroiled in a shoot in a far flung location, one of the only connections to the goings on of the outside world arrives in the form of BBC World News. There’s a certain sense of calm continuity in the presentation that makes a welcome change from the dramatic histrionics of the American news networks.

In recent years, the advent of more portable cameras employing direct satellite upload links from the field has spawned an increase in the amount of jittery, out-of-sync footage that makes it onto our screens. Carefully handled, the immediacy and spontaneity of the delivery outweighs any perceived lack of technical prowess. On the ever growing flat screens in the hotel room though, this lower resolution of these uplinks is magnified and becomes a little jarring before too long.

Most recently, I have noticed several networks pursuing what is obviously the cheapest (and likely most convenient) solution to the expert opinion interview. That is, the use of Skype as a means of direct contact with the subject, without the production hassle of getting them into a studio with actual camera, lights and backgrounds (not to mention stylists). Again, when handled well at both ends, the immediacy of the contact outweighs the technical polish.

When badly handled however, the results can be unsettling.

Mid-CNN broadcast on the large plasma TV, and halfway into yet another Hainan Chicken Rice, I literally recoiled in terror as the screen image flicked from the studio presenter to the field interviewee. In my room, on this huge screen, this guy’s head was almost three feet across!

Rather than this blimp blip becoming the occasional hiccup in any news bulletin, it is if anything, becoming the normal state of things. As screen sizes get larger our attention to detail seems to get correspondingly smaller. Cultivating the ability to discern good composition and good lighting are all but gone as networks rush to embrace the cost saving virtues of new technology.

Surely someone in the production crew cares about the demise of their craft? Though considering this next example, apparently not.

Picture this bursting into your lounge room on a 50+ inch screen.

So as to not be wholly negative, here’s a few possible solutions for the networks to send out with their Skype number.

1. Raise the camera by putting the laptop on some books. Or just lower the desk chair.

2. Turn on some room lights so you’re being lit by more than just the deathly blue light of the screen.

3. Push the laptop away from you.

4. No, further.

5. Think about a career in radio.

Big Red (Taxi)

Monday, November 14th, 2011

“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot” sang the prescient Joni Mitchell in 1970.

Much of the same has been happening in the rapid transformation of Asian cities such as Beijing. What were once smaller clusters of multi-dwelling residential blocks have been razed to make way for exclusive and expensive condominiums.

Until relatively recently, with a few hangers on in residence, this zig-zag design block reminiscent of the 1930’s, sat opposite the sprawling CCTV site in central Beijing. It was demolished during 2008 in the lead up to the Olympic Games.

Any social infrastructure holding the fabric of the community together was dismantled and hauled away, to be replaced by a new vision of paradise.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Xanadu. Life Beyond Imagination.

Or as the locals would no doubt have figured out, Life Beyond Affordability.

Pleats to Meet You

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Thirty minutes by fast train south-east of Beijing is the rapidly expanding city of Tianjin. The tallest building in that city, for the moment at least, is the recently opened Jinta Tower, designed by Skidmore Owings & Merrill. Arriving into the city, the tower looms over the lower scale buildings along the river front.

Also known as The Tianjin World Financial Center, the 75 story tower  is situated in the heart of the city’s historic district.

Clad in a pleated glass exterior wall that recalls the structure and lightness of Chinese paper arts, the tower’s uniquely folded surface catches light and maximizes views for occupants. Given that Tianjin is a center for the production of sheet steel materials, the structure of this super-tall building was based on the use of steel plates. The core was designed as a steel-plated wall system, the columns were designed with steel plate “sections,” and the floor framing was designed with steel beam sections.

The structure is the tallest steel plated shear wall building in the world.

Beam Me Up

Saturday, November 5th, 2011

It’s just a construction mark, right?

APA National Awards

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

At this year’s American Photographic Artists awards, I was pleased to have been presented with both First and Second prizes in the Architecture category. The winning image was part of our documentation of the University of Minnesota Science Teaching and Student Services building.