Architectural Photography

London Aquatics Centre by Zaha Hadid by Alex Upton

London Aquatics Centre by Zaha Hadid 2012. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

London Aquatics Centre by Zaha Hadid 2012. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Ok, so i'm six year late to the party, but Zaha Hadid's London Aquatics Centre has matured like a fine wine and is still a elegant structure to photograph. Completed for the 2012 London Olympics the building has since undergone several external face-lifts. Long gone are the wing like structures that once protruded from the east and west elevation - providing increased seating capacity for the events - and now in their place are aqua blue panes of glazing.

London Aquatics Centre by Zaha Hadid 2012.

London Aquatics Centre by Zaha Hadid 2012.

These glass panels once afforded the public a blurry view to the inner sanctum where sweeping concrete forms, enveloping the amphibious inhabitants, could just about be discerned. Alas in one final transition to exclude all but those intent on getting wet from seeing this amazing structure an opaque film of aqua blue now lines the windows.

London Aquatics Centre by Zaha Hadid 2012.

London Aquatics Centre by Zaha Hadid 2012.

One of the most favorable changes to the exterior, whether intentional or simply a sign of neglect, is the revealing of the natural wooded surface under the once grey panels which form the sweeping, wave like structure of the roof. They now give the building the appearance that it is slowly succumbing to rust. Given its intended use and the allusions to waves that the roof suggests this is a fitting turn of events.

I currently have many new architectural photography projects to reveal on my site in the coming months so please keep checking back or follow me on social media to stay up to date.

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. 

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.

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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.