London

Photographers Diary: Architecture 03 by Alex Upton

Architecture and a Sense of Scale

Below are a selection of photographs I shot over the past few months which aim convey a sense of architectural scale between building and individual. In some instances there is a genuine attempt to express the relationship between the two, while in others i have endeavoured to exaggerated the scale through various approaches to framing the subject and building, hinting at a different interpretation entirely. The individuals depicted are mostly isolated from the default hustle and bustle of their busy locations, with the intention to permit the viewer to interpret their thoughts and imagine their journeys against these architectural backdrops.

 Royal National Theatre - South Bank, London Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Royal National Theatre - South Bank, London Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Royal National Theatre

Architect Denys Lasdun's National theater on South Bank is an impressive Brutalist mass of concrete. It is wonderful to photograph on a sunny day when its sharp, angular form casts deep, dynamic shadows over its surface. Trying to isolate a subject in this busy area is no easy feat. Fortunately, after a protracted, impatient wait I was rewarded by this lone passerby, who can be seen dragging his reluctant, outstretched shadow along with him as he goes about is business. The additional shadow of a bird in flight also momentarily graces the Theaters facade.

 Tate Modern, The Blavatnik Building - London. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Tate Modern, The Blavatnik Building - London. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

The Blavatnik Building

At the point where the old and new brick of the Tate Modern meet in a distinct yet reverent embrace, a rear entrance can be found over-scored by a panel of bright orange announcing 'welcome'! Having visited the gallery a number of times I already have a fair number of photographs piled up on my hard-drive awaiting a distant day of editing. On this occasion the artist collective SUPERFLEX had installed a complex structure of grey and orange painted steel frames, bearing fruit in the form of countless swings. In this photograph i was lucky to capture an appropriately orange clad visitor entering the building just at the decisive moment.

 V&A Extension, London. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

V&A Extension, London. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

V&A Museum Exhibition Road Quarter

As if the Victoria & Albert Museum didn't already have enough space to display their many wares, they commissioned British, Stirling Prize-winning, architect Amanda Levete to openup the ground beneath the existing building and insert a new gallery space to accommodate their headline exhibitions. I happened to be working on a job close by at Imperial Collage London and decided to pop into the new cafe and take a look around. The sun was almost, but not quite, in the perfect position as i came out and with no time to spare I captured the above image of an lone visitor, more engrossed in his phone display than the monumental architecture surrounding him.

 Seven Pancras Square - King's Cross, London Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Seven Pancras Square - King's Cross, London Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Seven Pancras Square

Exiting the rear of St. Pancras Station you are confronted by Studio Downie Architects new build office which wraps around the existing Grade II Listed Stanley Building. In this busy vicinity it's low, tapering wall plays the presumably unintended role of a perch for those recuperating after a long and most likely delayed journey, or for workers looking for a momentary escape. Isolating the individuals and building like this adds a sense of wonder and intrigue directed at both the building, location and human subjects.

  Library of Birmingham. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

 Library of Birmingham. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

The Library of Birmingham

While photographing another project in Birmingham's Arena Central development area i felt compelled to take advantage of a rare cloudless, blue sky. Out on the decks of Mecanoo Architect's new Library of Birmingham were a number of sightseers, gazing and pointing, no doubt at the vast up-earthed portions of the city which are undergoing a massive phase of regeneration. Isolated like this the building appears to my eyes an enormous vessel in flight, the passengers in awe as they make their voyage to unknown territories. 

Muswell Hill by pH+ Architects by Alex Upton

 Muswell Hill by pH+ Architects 2017. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Muswell Hill by pH+ Architects 2017. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Location: Muswell Hill, Haringey, Barnet, London
Contractor / Client: Gilbert Ash / Jamm Living
Photography Client: Taylor Maxwell
Architect: pH+ Architects (Puncher Hamilton Plus)

Photographed in late 2017, Muswell Hill by pH+ Architects is a mixed-use, luxury development located in the affluent North London suburb of the same name. The scheme comprises 22 new apartments, 6 houses, commercial space and a community centre.

 Muswell Hill by pH+ Architects 2017.

Muswell Hill by pH+ Architects 2017.

The development is located at the apex of one of London's highest hills - a fact that I can attest to after unwittingly driving past the site, which recedes from view of the main road, and subsequently having to ascend its acute gradient on foot, with camera gear mounted to my back like a season mountaineer. Arriving, I was greeted by a beautiful golden autumn light which bathed the architecture in a resplendent glow, accenting the multi-coloured brickwork and already golden facade panels that surround the glazing.

 Muswell Hill by pH+ Architects 2017

Muswell Hill by pH+ Architects 2017

The scheme was delivered by London developers Jamm Living, whose vision along with that of the architects was to create a contemporary interpretation of traditional Edwardian Housing. The residential element, which has been split into three distinct sections, follows the steeply stepping contours of the land. The distinctly modern, yet restrained facade, has been broken down into alternating sequences of brick, stone, metal and glazing.

 Muswell Hill by pH+ Architects 2017.

Muswell Hill by pH+ Architects 2017.

Muswell Hill is a wonderful development, one which I would have unlikely encountered had I not been commissioned to photograph it for the client Taylor Maxwell. For the residents its concealed setting is likely a desirable feature, but for architecture enthusiasts it means it will potentially go quietly unobserved. Hopefully these photos, more of which can be found in my portfolio, will give some exposure to this well considered scheme.

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.

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.