Photographers Diary: Architecture 01 by Alex Upton

In this new series of posts I will reveal some of my architectural photography taken on recent trips around London and the rest of the UK. While some images will be of commissioned works most are from my personal collection, showing both completed buildings and those still under construction. Notes of interest regarding the buildings, their architects and the conditions under which the photography was taken are provided where appropriate.

Manhattan Loft Gardens by SOM Architects (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill)

Manhattan Loft Gardens by SOM Architects (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill)

Manhattan Loft Gardens, Stratford London.

Experience has taught me there are few positive aspects to waking up at 4:30 am which are able to console the weary, reluctant mind and body into thinking it is doing something perfectly natural and profitable. Yet one such consolation, I have discovered, is the potential to glimpse a rarely seen ephemeral light, one which bathes the sleeping world and its structures in a palette of eccentric, outlandish hues. Leaving Stratford at this unwelcome hour, on my way to Hastings to undertake some interior photography, i was greeted with the above spectacle of the Manhattan Loft Gardens development; it's surface decorated in a transient veil of red and pink, the sky above daubed in barley discernible patches of cloud, the discomfort of being awake, diminished.

About the building:

Manhattan Loft Gardens is a multi-purpose 42-storey tower currently under construction in Stratford, London. When complete the building will contain a 150 room hotel at the lower levels and 34 stories of residential apartments situated above. The tower was designed by International architectural practice SOM Architects (Skidmore Owings Merrill). Standing at 143 meters in hight the building is noitable for its unique cantilevered design which will provide open, green spaces, at several intervals, accessible to the towers residents.

8 Finsbury Circus by WilkinsonEyre Architects.

8 Finsbury Circus by WilkinsonEyre Architects.

8 Finsbury Circus, City of London.

Waiting for the right light to photograph a building in the inclement British summer can be an testing experience. That's why always having a camera at hand can be a beneficial practice in negating the fickle nature of the seasons. Having walked past WilkinsonEyre Architects 8 Finsbury Circus building numerous times on my way to Liverpool Street Station i was on occasion greeted by a beautiful golden light which accented the ornate features of the retained facade.

About the building:

The above photographed captures the retained facade on the buildings north face which dates from the 1920's. The section to the right, which is only partially visible, is also part of the building, although this is an entirely new part of the development. London architectural practice WilkinsonEyre were the team appointed to redevelop the building, formerly known as River Plate House, after a design competition in 2011. The new building, which provides grade A office space has two entrances, one on South Place the other on Finsbury Circus.

Chobham Academy by AHMM Architects

Chobham Academy by AHMM Architects

Chobham Academy, East Village, London

Living only a short distance from Chobham Academy I have been able to observe the building under various lighting conditions over the period of a year. In doing so I have come to understand how different a building can appear on any given day at any given time or season. The range of nuances created by the suns position and its intensity in relation to a building offer endless scope for visualizing architecture through the photographic medium. Unfortunately the practicalities of an indefinite time scale for a photographic shoot limit such scope for experimentation, but its good to know that once a project has been photographed its always possible to return and take a completely unique set of images.

About the building:

Chobham Academy was first utilised as gym and security hub during the 2012 London Olympic Games and has since become an all-age school for over 1300 students. Located in East Village, Stratford the building is notable for its circular, central unit which has a facade covered in protruding vents, as captured in the photograph above. The Academy was designed by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM Architects) for client Lend Lease and was completed in 2012. The building has been creatively broken down into distinct yet coherent sections, with a range of materials and colours put to use to make the site appear smaller than it is, with careful consideration given to the surrounding public realm.

The Sir Ludwig Guttmann Health & Wellbeing Centre by Penoyre & Prasad.

The Sir Ludwig Guttmann Health & Wellbeing Centre by Penoyre & Prasad.

The Sir Ludwig Guttmann Health & Wellbeing Centre, East Village, London

Located less than a five minuet walk from Chobham Academy in East Village, Stratford, The Sir Ludwig Guttmann Health & Wellbeing Centre provides state-of-the-art accommodation for the NHS's primary care service. The RIBA London regional Award winning building was designed Penoyre & Prasad and is easily distinguished within its surroundings due to its sharp angular design. Unfortunately, from a architectural photographers perspective the building is rarely seen without a row of cars lined up outside impairing its visual beauty.

Finsbury Circus House by Fletcher Priest Architects.

Finsbury Circus House by Fletcher Priest Architects.

Finsbury Circus House, City of London.

If you recognise Finsbury Circus House it is because you may have already glimpsed it in the above photograph of 8 Finsbury Circus. This clean, minimalist design, with its large, protruding, reflective glass windows was designed by Fletcher Priest Architects. The building is the redevelopment of a former 1980's office block which originally occupied the site, and like its neighbor it too has a north and south facing entrance. The side here is the more playful of the two, while the other entrance is more restrained and respective of its Edwardian neighbors.

If you are interested in purchasing any of the images featured in this series please contact Alex.

Warwick Hall by Associated Architects by Alex Upton

Warwick Hall by Associated Architects - Photography Copyright © Alex Upton

Warwick Hall by Associated Architects - Photography Copyright © Alex Upton

Location: Warwick Hall, Myton Road, Warwick CV34 6PP
Architect: Associated Architects
Developer: The Warwick School
Client: Forterra

Formerly known as Guy Nelson Hall, the original 1960's building has recently undergone a dramatic transformation into a modern performing arts facility for The Warwick School. In the process it has gained a new name and is now known simply as Warwick Hall - at the expense of poor Guy Nelson, no longer held in regard by histories favour. The building was designed by Birmingham based architectural practice Associated Architects whom have built a reputation in the education sector, having recently completed a number of buildings for Birmingham University.

Warwick Hall Window Detail - Photography Copyright © Alex Upton

Warwick Hall Window Detail - Photography Copyright © Alex Upton

Photographing Warwick Hall

I was commissioned to photograph the building in late winter 2016 for Forterra Building Products, as the building was due to be entered into a brick awards competition later the following year. Arriving in the late afternoon I was greeted with a beautiful golden light and the outstretched shadows of neighbouring trees creeping up the buildings facade.

Warwick Hall Side Elevation - Photography Copyright © Alex Upton

Warwick Hall Side Elevation - Photography Copyright © Alex Upton

The structures design is unique when viewed from each elevation, the two sides and rear are flat with windows that intersect with cuts in the brickwork, while the front is cylindrical, made of glass and punctuated by brick columns. The red brick references the neighbouring Headmaster's House which is a grand historic building.

Warwick Hall Brickwork Detail - Photography Copyright © Alex Upton

Warwick Hall Brickwork Detail - Photography Copyright © Alex Upton

Associated Architects note that flexibility is the key to their design, with the building now containing telescopic theatre seats and a new balcony area which allows the transformation of the school assembly hall into a 1000 seat concert venue. Having not seen the buildings interior i can not comment but externally it is a nice design which sits quietly in its surroundings. A more detailed set of photographs documenting Warwick Hall will be added to my projects at a later date so please check back.

Hercules House Park Plaza Hotel by ESA Architecture by Alex Upton

Hercules House Park Plaza Hotel by ESA Architecture - Copyright © Alex Upton

Hercules House Park Plaza Hotel by ESA Architecture - Copyright © Alex Upton

Architectural Photography of Hercules House, Park Plaza Hotel

Location: Hercules Road, Waterloo, London
Architect: ESA Architecture
Developer: Park Plaza Hotels Europe
Client: Taylor Maxwell

In keeping with the theme of my recent posts, Hercules House is another redevelopment of a former office building, this one originally built in the 1960's, which now finds a new lease of life as a 500 room Park Plaza Hotel. In light of this repeated evidence, it would appear London's tired, forlorn architecture from the later half of the 20th century is everywhere, quietly shedding its drab skin in the manner of a despondent concrete reptile and eagerly sliding into sleek new outfits befitting of the 21st century.

The redevelopment of Hercules House was undertaken by London architectural and design practice ESA Architecture. Its central location, just south of Waterloo and the river bank provides convenient, accessibility to many of London's tourist attractions.

Hercules House, Facade Detail - Copyright © Alex Upton

Hercules House, Facade Detail - Copyright © Alex Upton

The building is composed of two distinct elements; the lower half that fronts the road is adorned with a purple Corium cladding system, supplied by the client Taylor Maxwell and subject of my photography, while the upper half, which sits to the back of the structure rises several storeys higher. The windows on the lower portion are notable for their alternating, diagonal protrusions, which defiantly reject conformity to the structures otherwise flat horizontal plane.

Hercules House, Cladding Detail - Copyright © Alex Upton

Hercules House, Cladding Detail - Copyright © Alex Upton

Notes on the Photography

Like many of the buildings i happen to find myself photographing in London, Hercules House was located on a fairly compact site and offers limited viewing points from which the building, in its entirety, can be shot. It just so often happens, that the ideal position for taking the photograph is in the middle of a precarious road junction, where life and limb have to be risked for the sake of the perfect image, who said architectural photography was a profession for the timid? 

After such adrenalin inducing circumstances it seemed appropriate to return to a state of calm by sampling the delicacies in the Hotels public cafe, which runs along the ground floor of the building, below the rooms with the excited windows. After a rather embarrassing attempt at ordering a Salmon sandwich in the convoluted, suspiciously French sounding nomenclature penned on the surface of a tiny sheet of white card and plunged into the bread on a cocktail stick - like a for sale sign outside a French Mansion - i took a seat in the impressively decorated interior. It was at this point that i felt a little dismayed that i was only there to photograph the exterior as from what I could see the interior was very impressive indeed and merited further exploration.

Hercules House, Front Elevation - Copyright © Alex Upton

Hercules House, Front Elevation - Copyright © Alex Upton

It is hoped Hercules House will be a catalyst to further regeneration in the area. For now it provides a impressive space for tourists visiting London as well as for locals wishing to sample the food on offer in the cafe, bar and restaurant. ESA Architects considered use of colour in the cladding and the separation of the mass into distinct parts provides an nice aesthetic and is a welcome improvement to what was a former, no-descript office building.

Seventy Wilson by Astudio Architects by Alex Upton

Seventy Wilson by Astudio Architects - Copyright © Alex Upton

Seventy Wilson by Astudio Architects - Copyright © Alex Upton

Architectural Photography of Seventy Wilson

Location: 70 Wilson Street, London
Architect: Astudio
Developer: Stanhope / Threadneedle / Low Carbon Workplace Trust

I encountered the small architectural gem that is Seventy Wilson purely by chance, when for reasons which evade memory, I diverged en route from my all to familiar amble back to Liverpool Street Station via Broadgate. The building, designed by London architectural practice Astudio, is located on Wilson Street and replaces a 1980's office development once known as Summit House. Incorporated into the new office is the grade II listed, 4-storey building visible to its left. The fortuitous excursion that led to these architectural photographs of Seventy Wilson was also aided by a momentary break from the rain, the clouds parting just above the building as I walked past, as if inviting me to photograph it in all its rain soaked splendor.

Seventy Wilson Street View - Copyright © Alex Upton

Seventy Wilson Street View - Copyright © Alex Upton

Rather than completely demolishing the original structure the new building is in fact a refurbishment and extension of the original, which, considering its radically divergent appearance is quite an achievement. It also boasts enviromentally friendly credentials, Astudio having worked in collaboration with Low Carbon Workplace to create a highly efficient office space, which achieved a BREEAM Excellent rating based on its low carbon standards.

Seventy Wilson Roof Detail - Copyright © Alex Upton

Seventy Wilson Roof Detail - Copyright © Alex Upton

The building's distinctive roof is just one of its many defining features, with rectangular, glass blocks seemingly pivoted on top of one another at opposing angles. The reflective glass beautifully captures the sky, while panels of pastel red cladding, some perforated, add interest to the facade. The building also incorporates a deceptive feature, as one walks past the refurbished Grade II listed building it at first appears to come to an end, but after a few steps down Worship Street it magically reappears, albeit in a somewhat different form and composition. Unfortunately, by the time I had made this discovery the rain had stubbornly resumed and hence no photographs exist to evidence it.

Seventy Wilson Facade Detail - Copyright © Alex Upton

Seventy Wilson Facade Detail - Copyright © Alex Upton

Seventy Wilson, while possessing a name reminiscent of a 1980's production-line robot, is a wonderful building, which has utilised the existing structure and incorporated the Grade II listed element to great effect. It plays with levels, form and material in a unique way and offers technology companies a generous 71,000 sq ft of energy efficient, modern workspace. It is a great addition to the area and worth returning to, I will therefore endeavor to photograph the other elevation at a later date.

103-109 Wardour Street by Sheppard Robson by Alex Upton

103-109 Wardour Street, Soho by Sheppard Robson -  Copyright © Alex Upton

103-109 Wardour Street, Soho by Sheppard Robson -  Copyright © Alex Upton

Architectural Photography of 103-109 Wardour Street

Location: 103-109 Wardour Street, Soho, London.
Architect / Client: Sheppard Robson
Developer: Legal & General Investment Management

103-109 Wardour Street, once home to Pathé Films has been transformed by Sheppard Robson Architects and their interior division ID:SR Interiors into 13 luxury apartments, a gym and two duplex penthouses. I was recently commissioned by Sheppard Robson to photograph the road side elevation which features the beautifully restored Portland Stone Edwardian facade. This was not the first intervention to give the early 1900's building a new lease of life, in 1996 all but the frontage had been removed and replaced with a structure of somewhat lesser design quality. Sheppard Robson's approach has been to create a more coherent rapport between the facade and the rest of the building, maintaining a consistency of quality while still being unabashedly modern in its approach.   

103-109 Wardour Street Facade Detail -  Copyright © Alex Upton

103-109 Wardour Street Facade Detail -  Copyright © Alex Upton

Notes on the Photography

The building is located in the vibrant district of Soho along a dense stretch of narrow road. The window for photographing the building under the ideal lighting conditions was narrow and coincided with the early morning deliveries being made to replenish the local cafes and bistros. With several parking spaces inconveniently acting as magnets for delivery vans and other four wheeled obstructions, it was no easy task to photograph, especially when compounded by its proximity to the adjacent buildings. Timing, agility and awareness were once again pushed to their limits, which led to a spontaneously choreographed performance between photographer, impatient van driver and, don't block my way, i'm late for work, city worker.

103-109 Wardour Street Arched Window Detail -  Copyright © Alex Upton

103-109 Wardour Street Arched Window Detail -  Copyright © Alex Upton

The original detailing on the facade, from the stone-work to the intricate lead spacers between the window panels is now harmonious with the opulence of the newly created interior. In addition to its aesthetic qualities the building also offers high sustainability credentials, achieving BREEAM Eco-homes Excellent for the refurbished elements. With the respectful marriage of classic and modern elements architects Sheppard Robson have created a high quality space which will no doubt be a highly desirable place to live.

Belmont House Refurbishment by TP Bennett by Alex Upton

Belmont House, Uxbridge by TP Bennett -  Copyright © Alex Upton

Belmont House, Uxbridge by TP Bennett -  Copyright © Alex Upton

Architectural Photography of Belmont House

Location: Belmont Road, Uxbridge, London.
Architect: TP Bennett
Developer: Aviva Investors
Clinet: Taylor Maxwell

As winter was drawing to a close i received a commission by client Taylor Maxwell to photograph Belmont House, located in Uxbridge Town Centre, West London. Upon my arrival i experienced a flashback to one of my previous architectural photography jobs: West Croydon Bus Station. Again i found myself confronted with a building situated amidst a busy transport juncture. Each time as I carefully composed my shot and the decisive moment approached, I would be confronted by a blur of red as an unconcerned bus driver divided the space between my camera and the building. Fortunately my brief was to focus on the facade, which mitigated some of the frustration and prevented an architectural photographer having a tantrum by the road side.

Belmont House Roadside Elevation, Uxbridge by TP Bennett -  Copyright © Alex Upton

Belmont House Roadside Elevation, Uxbridge by TP Bennett -  Copyright © Alex Upton

The site on which Belmont House stands was formally home to a 1980's office block, rather than completely demolishing the existing building developers Aviva Investors commissioned London architectural practice TP Bennett to design and undertake an extensive refurbishment of the original structure. Stripping back the building to its concrete frame the architects then set out to modernise the space to cater for contemporary office requirements. At the rear of the building an additional floor was added, taking it to 5-soreys in total providing 145,000 Sq Ft of office space. The Grade A redevelopment cost a total of £30 million.

Belmont House Facade, Uxbridge by TP Bennett -  Copyright © Alex Upton

Belmont House Facade, Uxbridge by TP Bennett -  Copyright © Alex Upton

The buildings facade, which i was commissioned to photograph, utilities Taylor Maxwell's innovative CORIUM cladding system. Where time and site restrictions may prevent the use of traditional masonry the CORIUM panels, which are formed of genuine facing brick, slide into place on a frame attached to the structure. Belmont House is distinctive for its use of irregular-shaped windows which divide the space between these brick panels. Arriving at the site at just the right time, with the sun hanging low in the sky, it generously scattered a beautiful array of colour over the buildings facade.

Belmont House Roof Terrace, Uxbridge by TP Bennett -  Copyright © Alex Upton

Belmont House Roof Terrace, Uxbridge by TP Bennett -  Copyright © Alex Upton

With refurbishments its understandable how an existing structure could lead to restrictions in the creative process, but with Belmont House architects TP Bennett have created a distinctive space which utilises a restrained set of materials to great effect. The building manifests no signs of its former life and makes a great addition to Uxbridge's Town Centre. To see more of my architectural photographs of Belmont House please head to the projects section of my portfolio.  

Archinect UK In Focus Feature by Alex Upton

Alex Upton Architectural Photographer Archinect Interview

Archinect UK Interview with Architectural Photographer Alex Upton

I am proud to announce that kind people at Archinect UK recently interviewed me as part of their ongoing In Focus features; an editorial space where they profile the work of architectural photographers giving exposure to their work and seeing what it is that motivates and inspires them. Please do head over to their wonderful site and read the interview where I talk about why i got into architectural photography, what my favorite aspects of the job are and what informs my practice when photographing buildings. You can also see some selected images of my work and one bonus shot of me in action.

Friday Five: Architecture Up-close by Alex Upton

Ok its no longer Friday! but lets not allow dates to get in the way of a catchy name. Being an architectural photographer living in London there's never a short supply of wonderful buildings to shoot and such abundance has led to several hard-drives worth of images. Rather than adding them directly to my portfolio i'll begin to share some exclusively here adapting a theme where possible. So here's the first five with this weeks theme focusing on up-close geometries in architecture.

5 Broadgate -  Copyright © Alex Upton

5 Broadgate -  Copyright © Alex Upton

5 Broadgate

Located in the City of London, Make Architects' 5 Broadgate building, home to Swiss Bank UBS, is a giant aluminium-clad office building which looks like it has descended from outer-space. The facade features a series of intersecting windows which appear as cuts in its ultra-modern surface. The irregular detailing makes for great close-up compositions. 

10 Upper Bank Street -  Copyright © Alex Upton

10 Upper Bank Street -  Copyright © Alex Upton

10 Upper Bank Street

This KPF Architects (Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates) designed tower in Canary Wharf inconspicuously blends in with the neighboring skyscrapers. What distinguishes it is the numerous white fins that run vertically down its facade 32-storey facade, up-close these can be contrasted with the lower glazed portion of the building as photographed here.

R7 Handyside Facade

R7 Handyside

Injecting some colour into the already diverse, yet harmonious, architectural landscape of King's Cross is Duggan Morris Architects' R7 Handyside building. The building's metal-clad facade is composed of red and pink sections which contrast nicely breaking down the buildings large mass.

One Pancras Square Facade

One Pancras Square

Another building forming part of the King's Cross masterplan is David Chipperfield's One Pancras Square. Its distinctive 396 cast iron columns recall traditional materials and structures and the woven patterns which adorn them are a "reminder of the site’s industrial past and a nod to Gottfried Semper’s theory about the role of weaving in the evolution of man-made structures." Here the structure is contrasted with some of the more traditional brick buildings which surround it.

The Francis Crick Institute Facade

The Francis Crick Institute

Staying in King's Cross here we have HOK Architects' Francis Crick Institute, home to one of Europe’s largest biomedical research centers. The building viewed from above is shaped like a giant X shaped chromosome. Here the fins stretching across the glass portion of the facade create some wonderful patterns when isolated from the rest of the building.

For image sales or prints of any of these photographs please contact me.