Archive for May, 2013
Meanwhile in Dubai, construction on the crown of SOM’s Infinity Tower has been completed. Just in time for the the building’s inauguration and renaming to Cayan Tower, after the development company underwriting the project.
From a distance across the marina, the curved facades of the building slowly change form as you walk along the water’s edge.
Closer to the base of the tower, the apparent shapes change much more dramatically so that within a few steps, your perception of the form and sense of verticality are kicked all over the place, in a very good way.
Getting some elevation only heightens the contrast between the gently curving lines of the Cayan Tower against the very linear forms of the neighboring towers.
The new Mariinsky II Theatre in St Petersburg has just finished its run of gala opening performances by the Mariinsky’s Opera, Ballet and Orchestra. Designed by Canadian firm Diamond Schmitt Architects Inc., the new theater is located in central St.Petersburg, adjacent to the existing landmark Mariinsky Theatre. While contemporary in design, the height of the masonry base is consistent with the existing buildings of old St. Petersburg, creating a continuous streetscape similar to the streets of the old city.
The new theatre accommodates a 2000 seat opera and ballet house with a very large back of house that includes six stages and rehearsal rooms, amenities for the company’s large staff and other support facilities.
As the last morning of the Palm Springs workshop wrapped us, I bid a hasty farewell to the group and jumped straight in a waiting car bound for the airport a short distance away. From the window of the regional jet I watched the desert stretch out to the horizon as we made our way along Northern Arizona, across southern Utah and over the Rockies into Denver.
I’m always enthralled by the changing geographic forms in the landscape when seen from 35,000 feet. It’s always a treat to recognize some abstract lines in the landscape or the pattern of a city as somewhere you’ve seen at ground level. It puts that earthbound experience in a whole new context. This patch of terrain looked quirky and after a while I picked it as Monument Valley, part of the Navajo Tribal Park right on the northern border of Arizona.
After the heat of late Spring in Palm Springs, the sight of snow on the Rockies kept me entertained for a while.
A quick change of planes to a larger Lufthansa 777 got me started towards Frankfurt and yet another sprawling airport to negotiate.
One last flight crossed the Baltic Sea and landed into St Petersburg where my assignment was to document the New Mariinsky II Theatre for Diamond Schmitt Architects Inc. I’d worked with DSAI on several projects previously including the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto, home of the Canadian Opera Company, and The Esplanade Theatre in Medicine Hat, Alberta.
I’d arrived late on the last of three days of gala events to celebrate the opening of the MariinskyII with performances from the likes of Placido Domingo along with a stellar cast of Russian stars from the opera and ballet companies. Within a few minutes of checking into my hotel in the heart of St Petersburg, I received a cryptic text from the client requesting I get to the Mariinsky straight away to catch the last act of the ballet playing that night. So much for unwinding after the 24 hours of travel.
So at 11.30pm on a beautifully clear St Petersburg evening, I found myself sitting house center, soaking in the delights of the extraordinary Mariinsky Ballet. I couldn’t (and still can’t) quite believe the incredible journey and cultural contrast between the two places I’d been in the space of a day.
In the last few days of April I once again returned to Palm Springs Photo Festival to conduct a three day practical workshop in Architectural Photography. This year’s group came in from far and wide including participants from Columbia, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Canada and several cities around the US. After a brief introduction, we all headed out for a few warm up laps around town, starting at the Albert Frey designed Palm Springs Gas Station, now operating as the Palm Springs Tourist Information Center. Given the rising heat of the California sun, warming up certainly wasn’t a problem and we soon returned to the air-conditioned relief to start on ripping apart various images that the group had offered up for sacrifice.
For me, this is the most interesting part of the workshop as it provides an opportunity for those involved to participate in a very genre specific conversation with a room full of like minded people. As an architectural photographer, one works a lot of the time in isolation. Even when in the company of other general photographers, it’s hard to steer the conversation towards a discussion of the most appealing way to present chairs around a dining table. And trust me, that can be a long conversation! It was most gratifying over the course of our few days together, to see, independent of my involvement, peer to peer conversations springing up around approaches to and solutions within architectural photography.
This year’s locations included one that I had been keen to play with previously but had not been able to access until now. The Frey House II sits on the slopes of the mountains just to the west of Palm Springs Art Museum, which now owns the property after a bequest from Albert Frey. Designed in 1963, the house is a beautifully simple response to the extraordinary site. Residential architecture is by it’s very nature, a smaller, more intimate scale than many of the projects I have to battle with. So it takes some time to adjust to the slower pace, the quieter language, the subtlety of the response.
I found the most enjoyable part of the time on site was to be had sitting either on the interior lounges or perhaps by the pool, admiring the connection with both the immediate landscape and then, beautifully balanced, the broader vista of Palm Springs spreading out across the valley to the east.
Thanks to Andrea Rugg, one of the workshop attendees for sending the images above.
Not wanting to simply rush about grabbing shots of the house, I took the opportunity to demonstrate a few post production techniques used with the larger files from the Alpa MAX / Phase One combination. The Museum co-ordinator who was accompanying us for the day later told me that Frey himself used to sit at the same desk, remonstrating to similar gatherings of students. I must say, it was a most wondrous place to sit and survey the world.
While helping the group work towards documenting every square inch of the place, I wanted to pursue a few specific ideas so pulled out the Alpa kit to hunt around for a result. I still find it a strange experience to have an entourage of people follow you about while explaining, to yourself as much as to anybody else, the process of refining an image to the point where you say…”there, that’s got it”. My thought was to have the house almost disappear, so starting closer to the house, I crept further and further back away from the house, adjusting and readjusting the tripod for the terrain until I felt all the elements were in place. I’d always been ambivalent about the yellow curtains in the place so with the help of some willing hands and a few different exposures, managed to “remove” them from the final version to provide the greatest opportunity to see through the house.