Archive for March, 2012

Going for Green

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

According to Wikipedia, “Sustainability is the capacity to endure. For humans, sustainability is the long-term maintenance of responsibility, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of stewardship, the responsible management of resource use. In ecology, sustainability describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time, a necessary precondition for the well-being of humans and other organisms.

Human sustainability interfaces with economics through the voluntary trade consequences of economic activity. Moving towards sustainability is also a social challenge that entails, among other factors, international and national law, urban planning and transport, local and individual lifestyles and ethical consumerism. Ways of living more sustainably can take many forms from controlling living conditions (e.g., ecovillages, eco-municipalities and sustainable cities), to reappraising work practices (e.g., using permaculture, green building, sustainable agriculture), or developing new technologies that reduce the consumption of resources.”

I’ve lost count of the requests I get from magazines seeking to educate and inform the public on the popular topic of sustainable architecture. We simply love your images but as “we’re a not-for-profit publication” I’m afraid we don’t have a budget for licensing content we publish. So can you just give them to us for nothing? Of course we’d like you to sign this release to allow us use of the images for our printed edition, our electronic edition and also for the downloadable subscription edition archived on our website. Then there’s our Flickr pool, our Facebook page and our Twitter feed. We’ll even credit you!

So tell me, I ask, do you get your electricity for free, did the telephone company just hook up the line you’re calling me from, does the printer donate the paper and his time, does the delivery guy get by on fresh air? Are you working there for nothing? (awkward sound of crickets chirping on the end of the line…)

Because that is exactly what you’re asking me to do.

Like any business, photographers have operating costs too. We’re not making any profit until we meet those basic operating costs. Sending out our work for use by others, particularly when that use generates income (whether directly through sales, or indirectly through advertising click throughs) for somebody else, is tantamount to financial suicide. Strangely, a photo credit doesn’t curry much favour with my banker.

In a practical sense, I wonder how this business model would be greeted at the local grocery store?

Publisher – “I’ll have that carton of milk please”

Grocer – “That’ll be $2.50 thanks.”

Publisher – “Tell you what… I’ll just take it for nothing, shall I? But rest assured, I’ll tell everyone I meet where I got the milk. It’ll be such great exposure for you”

Grocer – “Are you out of your fu%#@*g mind?”

By way of illustration, I was recently forwarded this book cover by an architect client, asking if I’d licensed this usage. Neither the architect or the project, which was photographed seven years ago, had been credited and he was quite understandably bothered by this omission. While I had been credited with the image, I’d not been contacted about the use and of course, had received no compensation for the use on the cover. Further investigation revealed that the image had been passed from one publisher to another (and possibly to another). My feeling is that the architect may have signed a release for a single use several years ago that has somehow been exploited by the original publisher.

Private Residence, Inverness, California             Studios Architecture

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for supporting the notion of green technology, of environmentally responsible design, of a better and mutually beneficial world. I just don’t think I should be the only one subsidizing it. So when people tell me that they are pursuing the idea of sustainable architecture, I’ve taken to responding that I’m pursuing the idea of sustainable architectural photography.

In my own modest way, I too, am going for green.

Cut Above

Monday, March 5th, 2012

There’s something reassuring about being in the right place, at the right time, with the right equipment. Despite the easy temptation to whip out the Canon and simply bash away at the unfolding scene, the slower process of setting the Alpa, tethering to a laptop and really looking at a composition imbues the resulting images with a sense of careful deliberation. Not to suggest that this approach diminishes the opportunity to respond spontaneously to the changing conditions. It is more a feeling of knowing that the results will be worth the added effort.

At 1,354 feet tall, the SOM designed Al Hamra Firdous Tower is the tallest building in Kuwait City. On three sides, the glazed facades offer views of the Gulf to the north, east and west. The south face appears to have been sliced vertically down its entire length, loosening the cloak-like edges to majestically billow in the breeze. These reinforced concrete extensions provide varying degrees of shade onto the revealed stone facade throughout the day.

Cornering the Market

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

In the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, Studio Pei Zhu has completed the OCT Creative Exhibition Center. Located within the ambitious OCT Harbor development, the dynamic forms, both externally and internally, make a great starting point for whatever interpretation each new exhibition will generate. With no overbearing corners demanding attention, one’s eyes are free to gently slide over the the surfaces.

From the architect

“The fluid and energetic form of the museum brings people into the site while still standing alone as a unique building. The cantilever and overhang allow people to pass underneath and around the building to experience the project from all directions. This natural shape and flowing movement reflect back to the water drop as inspiration for the design.

Reflection is an important aspect for the design. A light metal coating is applied to the natural form to reflect the surrounding activity and energy. As the gateway into the rest of the site, the museum reflects the energy, youth, and enthusiasm of the city of Shenzhen. The museum becomes a fluid mirror to the rest of the site and entertainment functions, allowing people to experience the building’s presence and also notice their own engagement with the museum. This reflection allows for people to connect with both the architecture and their own lives.

During the daytime the triangular windows and skylights perforate the naturally inspired surface in a seemingly random pattern that evokes the scattered reflections of light from a surface of water. At night these openings produce scattered light towards the outside. The light splashes from the building like water fireworks for people to enjoy.

The organic form allows for maximum flexibility in the use of the interior. While experiencing the fluid forms and circulation coupled with soft motion and speckled natural lighting throughout the inside of the building, a person is quietly reminded of the smooth water and the harbor beyond the building. This strong connection to the water is experienced whether inside or outside the building.”