Stapleton House by Architecture PLB by Alex Upton

Stapleton House: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Stapleton House: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

In the closing days of summer 2016, days which possessed a warmth that is now a distant memory, I was commissioned by cladding specialists Taylor Maxwell to photograph Stapleton House, a very large student accommodation building located at a busy junction on Holloway Road, Islington. The building which was designed by Architecture PLB provides 862 bedrooms for students and is strategically located opposite the London Metropolitan University campus so as to mitigate the chances of any excuses made by students for not turning up to lectures on time. The building forms part of The Unite Group’s growing portfolio of London Student housing and like many of these new student living quarters it attempts to embody the diversity and liberal expressions of its youthful inhabitants through its own architectural liberalism, albeit within the constraints of the developers budget.

Stapleton House Facade: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Stapleton House Facade: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

As with many student housing projects, including Byrom Point which I previously photographed, the buildings break down their otherwise large overbearing masses through interspersing a variety of forms, materials and colours. With Stapleton House the buildings external road facing elevation is reconfigured on the external courtyard facing elevation; the same materials are utilised but reassembled and given different levels of prominence in relation to each other. These materials include a variety of brick, stone and red metal cladding which combine to create a vibrant and diverse space. This kind of architecture stands in stark contrast with the monolithic student builds of years gone by where students were uniformly housed in oppressive towers of brown and grey.

Stapleton House: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Stapleton House: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Stapleton House is so large and detailed I could have easily spent all day photographing its many facets, it is one of those buildings that through its contrasts and divisions offers the architectural photographer an overwhelming set of possibilities for framing and composition and requires restraint for each image can necessarily be quite different and equally pleasing. This hints at a level of success on part or the architects, developer and material suppliers as it certainly hasn’t created a building that could be in any sense labeled boring, not in the eyes of an architectural photographer anyway.

Stapleton House: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Stapleton House: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

As well as being gracious in its abundance of detail the building also imparted a sense of nostalgia on me for my days living in university halls - with time generously clouding those moments of utter despair when at 6:00am I was still awake listening through ears muffled by screwed up tissue paper to the monotonous bass produced by a communal kitchen DJ five floors above. Thankfully through the cherry picking of memories I was instead remind of the more positive experiences that come from communal living such as the exchange of ideas, culture and the making of new friends. It is within these more architecturally considered student living spaces that such interactions can be encouraged and take place. With the boom in student numbers accelerating and the ensuing creation of newer more spacious living spaces it is important that the considerations shown in buildings such as Stapleton House aren’t neglected in the rush to profit from rental fees, fortunately, while most student housing developments won’t come close to winning the RIBA’s sterling prize anytime soon, they are starting to show a creative divergence from their older utilitarian counterparts of the 20th century. To see more architectural photographs from my visit to Stapleton House please head to the projects section of my portfolio.

One Tower Bridge by Squire and Partners by Alex Upton

One Tower Bridge: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

One Tower Bridge: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Development: One Tower Bridge
Architect: Squire and Partners
Location: Southwark, London
Developer: Berkeley Homes

As its title not-so-subtly proclaims One Tower Bridge is a luxury residential development situated in close proximity to the historic landmark and Grade I listed Tower Bridge. As if being in the company of one iconic London landmark wasn't enough to enhance its prestige, the development also finds itself sitting parallel to the Tower of London - located just over the river - and slightly west from Foster & Partners’ City Hall and More London. With such distinguished neighbours it comes as no surprise that the apartments on offer here lean towards the more affluent end of the market.

One Tower Bridge: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

One Tower Bridge: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

The development which includes 400 apartments, retail and cultural space is formed from nine architecturally varied and independent blocks, each utilising different materials and forms to break up the potential monotony of such a large site. Sat behind the three eleven-story blocks with projecting stone balconies are two buildings clad in a yellow London stock brick, it was these two buildings - Windsor House and Lancaster House - that I was commissioned to photograph on behalf of the brick supplier Taylor Maxwell.

One Tower Bridge: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

One Tower Bridge: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

This section of the development with its projecting timber balconies and basketweave brickwork references the former warehouses that once lined the riverbank, some surviving examples of which are located not far away along the historic riverside street that is Shad Thames, although these warehouses now also find themselves being utilised as high-end living quarters.

One Tower Bridge: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

One Tower Bridge: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Situated between the two buildings is a new pedestrian route named Duchess Walk, which architects Squire and Partners have positioned to maximise views through the site from Tooley Street to Tower Bridge. Walking down this alley you can see the high quality architectural detailing and spruce potted shrubbery which only such a development can afford. If you crane your neck upwards from the framed view of Tower Bridge towards the projecting balconies which cascade off towards the horizon you may be graced with the presence of a lucky occupant looking down upon you from 'The Tower' also known as building number five.

One Tower Bridge: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

One Tower Bridge: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

This section of the development which rises above all the others is a thin, multistory, mini-edifice which from a distance has the appearance of a fire station drill tower. Fortunately on closer inspection its appearance is much more dignified if not looking somewhat incompatible with the rest of the design. The peak of the tower appears to contain a miniature sky garden and viewing platform which must accommodate great views in all directions.

One Tower Bridge: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

One Tower Bridge: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Squire and Partners’ scheme was not the first proposal for the site, the first being outlined a number of years before by Ian Ritchie Architects, which would have seen a cluster of small Dalek-like residential towers – more in keeping with City Hall, but not Tower Bridge – lining the riverbank. Although initially approved it later met resistance from the London Borough of Southwark and the scheme was eventually terminated. This highlights the difficulties for an architect in addressing such a location, context is paramount and if the building tries to outdo its neighbour – a structure which was also seen as contentious and outlandish upon its conception – then it is inevitably going to be open to heightened criticism, objection and the inevitable refusal. This seems to leave only one option open to both developer and architect; create something which is high quality yet indiscreet, something that contextualises itself within the locations past at the expense of its present. Such token gestures can at times be restrictive and stifle innovation and creativity producing an architecture which is subservient to its surroundings, but such restrictions can also offer a framework to channel new ideas and make sure a project doesn’t submit to the developer’s predisposition to maximise profit and the expense of good architecture. One Tower Bridge seems to settle somewhere in the middle of this predicament, it is undoubtedly of a high quality, with careful attention to detail and utilises materials and elements which reference the sites history, although as a whole, while not even slightly unpleasant it seems somewhat restrained and muted from being what it wants to be. To see more of my architectural photographs of One Tower Bridge please head over to the projects section of my portfolio.

West Croydon Bus Station by Alex Upton

West Croydon Bus Station: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

West Croydon Bus Station: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Development: West Croydon Bus Station
Architect: TFL's In-house Architect
Location: West Croydon, London
Developer: Transport for London

West Croydon Bus Station is a small architectural gem which sits atop a small tarmac island marooned by a sea of red busses and the occasional tram - approximately 150 buses every hour to be more precise. The new station forms part of a continuing £50 million investment into the area with the aim to improve the public realm and transport infrastructure. The new station is designed to cope with a 20 percent increase in passenger capacity and provide a brighter more spacious environment than its predecessor once did. Upon the stations completion in late 2016 I was commissioned by Structura to photograph the development focusing on the Kalwall canopy which illuminates the station.

West Croydon Bus Station: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

West Croydon Bus Station: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Taking long exposure photographs amongst a maelstrom of people, buses and trams requires a heighted sense of awareness, increased agility and a level of patience which would test even the most stoic of architectural photographers. The fact that the winter sun faded around 5:00pm coinciding with the exodus of city workers, shoppers and school children made the mission even more difficult. Yet it is at this time when the station looks its most elegant, with the brick and rust covered supports bathed in the incandescent lighting which emits from below the canopy. The Kalwall panels which form the stations roof structure increase the luminosity offered by these lights and by day allow diffused daylight to naturally light the station.

West Croydon Bus Station: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

West Croydon Bus Station: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

With around eight million passengers expected to use the station each year and more to come it is hoped the station will spark the regeneration of other parts of the town and help maintain the momentum in improving the travel experience for passengers at other strategic infrastructure locations.

The Stations use of natural lighting, earthy colours – which take inspiration from the neighbouring St Michael's Church - and the inclusion of trees and plants means it offers a glimpse of salvation from the grey urbanity that intermittently envelops it – even if that momentary retreat is to wait for the next bus. To see more of my architectural photographs of West Croydon Bus Station please head over to the projects section of my portfolio.

New Ludgate by Fletcher Priest & Sauerbruch Hutton Architects by Alex Upton

One New Ludgate: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

One New Ludgate: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Development: 1 & 2 New Ludgate
Architects: Fletcher Priest & Sauerbruch Hutton Architects
Location: New Ludgate, City of London
Developer: Land Securities

The winter months can be both cruel and kind to the architectural photographer. With the sun reclining lower in the sky early afternoons can provide some of the year’s best light for photographing buildings, with golden hues and dynamic shadows tracing their every surface illuminating them in a manner to which the summer sun does not cater. Yet in the absence of these infrequent conditions a stubbornly persistent smudge of impenetrable, uniform grey often hangs over the city leading to many rescheduled shoots. On such days it seems appropriate to catch up on some neglected updates from projects I photographed earlier in the year, one such project is the New Ludgate development in the City of London.

One New Ludgate: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

One New Ludgate: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

New Ludgate is a mixed use development by Land Securities combining both office, retail and restaurant space within two distinct yet complimentary buildings. Situated in the City of London just a short walk from St Paul’s Cathedral the site was once home to the 15th century Belle Sauvage public house and coaching inn. The master plan for the site was drawn up by Fletcher Priest Architects and takes into account the sites sensitive location; their building – One New Ludgate – steps back from the protected view of St Paul’s reinstating the streets curvature which was used by Wren to show his building to full effect. 

Two New Ludgate: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Two New Ludgate: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

The Portland Stone façade of One New Ludgate stands in contrast with the colourful amber glass façade of it’s neighbour - Two New Ludgate - designed by Sauerbruch Hutton Architects. The fact that both buildings utilise a grid like structure to cover the façade brings about a convergence in their design which would otherwise have been lost. From an architectural photographers point of view it is these glass shutters and external masonry which make for some of the most interesting images.

New Ludgate Public Realm: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

New Ludgate Public Realm: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Although the site is essentially restrained by its relatively small footprint and the need to maximise floor space there is still adequate attention given to the public realm which offers stone seating to the city workers on their lunch breaks and trees which return a bit of nature to densely urban part of the city. The surrounding paving is made up of quadrilateral polygons of different shades which when hit by the light reflecting of the buildings create a nice interplay of light and form.

One New Ludgate: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

One New Ludgate: Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Collaborative efforts in architecture can often be fraught with competing visions and a sense that one needs to outdo the other, but on this site both buildings are addressed in a sensible and restrained manner leading to a distinct yet harmonious outcome. As both buildings retreat from the views of their iconic neighbour they become slightly more animated and playful yet still retain their dignity in the presence of their elders. To see more of my architectural photographs of New Ludgate please head over to the projects section of my portfolio.

1 Undershaft (Aviva Tower) by OAG by Alex Upton

1 Undershaft - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

1 Undershaft - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

1 Undershaft, also know as both St Helen's and Aviva Tower recently underwent a internal and external renovation spanning the first and second floor lobby area. Bespoke glazing specialists OAG commissioned the following set of images to document their contribution to the site.

1 Undershaft - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

1 Undershaft - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

The 23 storey tower, home to insurance giant Aviva was originally completed in 1969 by architects Gollins Melvin Ward. With its restrained modernist styling 1 Undershaft can appear austere in the company of Norman Foster's 30 St Mary Axe and Richard Rogers 122 Leadenhall, yet its simplicity and rigid geometry offer a somewhat calming presence not offered by its flamboyant neighbours.

1 Undershaft - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

1 Undershaft - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

With the need to bring the buildings interior and entry level space into the 21st century OAG working with COMO have introduce 7.6 metre high glass fins, weighing in at just under a tonne each to create a impressive transparent facade. Internally with the assistance and digital expertise of Light Lab OAG have transformed the space into a technical haven with LED back lit panels surrounding the entrance and projecting feature pods which add colour and depth to the surface.

1 Undershaft - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

1 Undershaft - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Internally a giant display projects various data streams to passers by, at the time of photographing the building the Olympic Games were being televised with seating outside for the weary office workers to lay back in, relax and recuperate. Undoubtedly there are some Deleuzian theoretical gems waiting to be extracted from the notion of city workers sitting watching other city works through a screen like facade which in itself contains another screen - insights relating to levels of opacity in financial markets, multi layered screens and work / leisure time divisions abound, but I will leave such endeavours to those more qualified. 

1 Undershaft - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

1 Undershaft - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Occupied by over 3000 office workers the transformations to 1 Undeshaft were carried out with little disturbance to the buildings daily functioning. What could have simply been a functional facade has become and interactive, dynamic space, which is both impressive for its scale, quality, innovation and bold style. Inviting the public to engage with the building does away with the notion that the facade should be a barrier between those on the inside and those on the outside. For further photographs documenting the renovation head over to 1 Undershaft listed in my projects gallery.   

1 Undershaft - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

1 Undershaft - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Afterword: The future of 1 Undershaft 

After suffering heavy damages in the 1992 baltic exchange bombing the Towers continued existence looks under threat once again with the emergence of plans for its replacement by a 72 storey tower set to be the City of London's tallest building if completed. This eventuality is still yet to be approved and remains as of now a distant prospect, so for time being at least the towers occupants, and the passing public can enjoy its hi-tech renovation. 

Byrom Point by Falconer Chester Hall Architects by Alex Upton

Development: Byrom Point Student Accommodation
Architects: Falconer Chester Hall Architects
Location: Great Crosshall Street, Liverpool
Client: Taylor Maxwell

Byrom Point - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Byrom Point - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Byrom Point Student Accommodation is a mixed used scheme which contains 398 bed spaces for students and 361 sqm of retail at street level. The building is located at the crossroads of Byrom Street and Great Crosshall Street in Liverpool and was designed by Falconer Chester Hall Architects. I was recently commissioned by Taylor Maxwell to photograph the stone cladding they provided for the buildings exterior.

Byrom Point - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Byrom Point - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

The buildings facade makes good use of both colour and materials in order to create divisions between the buildings faces, this reduces it's bulky form and makes it a colourful addition to the surrounding landscape. The pale stone cladding sits nicely in contrast with the bolder elements surrounding the windows and gives the building a high quality finish. 

Byrom Point - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Byrom Point - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

The building is now nearing completion with the first students expected to arrive in September, currently there are still minor works taking place around the base of the tower to make way for the retail section.

Byrom Point - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Byrom Point - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Falconer Chester Hall, the architects behind this scheme have delivered a number of student accommodation projects around the country, and unlike many student accommodation buildings which too often appear value engineered and lacking in any creative verve, their buildings tend to make clever and considered use of materials, form and colour to enhance the students living spaces.

Byrom Point - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Byrom Point - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

A more detailed selection of photographs documenting Byrom Point can be found in the projects section of my portfolio.

Newport Street Gallery by Caruso St John by Alex Upton

Development: Newport Street Gallery
Architects: Caruso St John
Location: Newport Street, London

Newport Street Gallery - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Newport Street Gallery - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Newport Street Gallery located in Vauxhall, London opened its doors to the public in early 2015. Ever since the inaugural exhibition of work by Sheffield-born abstract painter John Hoyland last year I have been meaning to return and photograph the buildings impressive interior and exterior spaces. The recent exhibition of work by artist Jeff Koons provided such an opportunity.

Newport Street Gallery - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Newport Street Gallery - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

The gallery is comprised of several former theatre warehouses which have been converted by London architecture studio Caruso St John to house Damien Hirst’s growing collection of contemporary art which consists of some 3000 or so pieces. The 3,400 square-meter gallery, although large, isn't incapable of such a feat, but still provides ample space for individual artist shows and contains a cafe and bookshop.

Newport Street Gallery - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Newport Street Gallery - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

The galleries close proximity to the adjacent train line make it almost impossible to photograph the building’s exterior in its entirety which is unfortunate for the changes in brickwork and external details can only truly be appreciated in contrast to one another.

The interiors spaces are bright and spacious as would be expected of a modern gallery with high ceilings so as to accommodate large sculptures and other installations - Jeff Koons’s giant stainless steel sculpture of a balloon-shaped dog currently occupying one of the spaces is testament to this. 

Newport Street Gallery - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Newport Street Gallery - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

One of the nicest architectural features inside the gallery are the spiral staircases which provide access to the galleries second floor of exhibition spaces. The stairs themselves are surrounded by a white engineered brick which follows their curvature all the way to the top of the building. 

Newport Street Gallery - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Newport Street Gallery - Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Newport Street Gallery is an incredibly successful piece of architecture, it manages to be subtle yet captivating, the more elaborate and expressive parts of the building are restricted to the stairwells and exterior while the artworks are allowed to take centre stage in the exhibition spaces. This careful balance of creating a beautifully detailed building which fails to overshadow the artwork is quite an achievement and something which is often neglected in many new-build art galleries. Here artwork and architecture exist in harmony, so whether you are going to appreciate the artwork, architecture or both, you will no doubt be impressed by at least one of them. To see more of my architectural photographs of Newport Street Gallery please head over to the projects section of my portfolio.