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Understanding What Is Needed To Be A Professional Architectural Photographer

Photography like any visual art takes skill, experience, and a talent. Light is a critical element when an architectural photographer has to consider exterior lighting as well as interior lighting.

Interior lighting can be challenging because light dictates spaces and structure inside the building. That said, interior lighting is a great deal more controllable than exterior lighting. In either case, a photographer has to have control over the lighting in order to get the best shots.

There are certain areas that are more difficult to photograph than others and it can be very frustrating. For instance, in the Midwest of the United States and the city of Chicago, the weather and conditions are unpredictable and cloud formations can develop very quickly due to the lakes in the area. High humidity can lead to gray skies and overall, unpredictable weather can leave a photographer waiting days or even weeks to get the conditions needed to get the best images.

In other areas like Arizona, you might think this is the perfect place to set up shop but think again. Between July and August, the afternoon skies can be very cloudy and there’s always a high probability of rain. You might say, Arizona! I thought Arizona was dry! Well, think again. This is only being brought up because photographers must understand the challenges and parameters in order to capture high-quality images. Unlike a studio environment, architectural photographers must learn how to deal with the unpredictable and uncontrollable circumstances in order to capture the images their client expects.

When photographing exteriors, sunlight is critical and the architectural photographer must be able to control light at all times. This can be a great challenge because the only light source an architectural photographer has to work with is the sun. Controlling the sun can be complex because obviously, you can’t truly control the sun! That said, the photographer must control what he or she can, in order to get the very best photographs and that brings the time of year into the equation. The time of year should also include the time of day and the quality of the light. Directional light is extremely important when the building is being photographed. Therefore, a photographer must wait for the best conditions, the clarity of the light, the condition of the sky, the direction of the sun, and the quality of the light. These are all critical factors when photographing architecture in order to get the best images.

When an architectural photographer is shooting elevations, it’s critical to be able to separate the planes of the structure in order to capture the details and textures of the building. Considering the light in front of the camera or behind the camera is not an acceptable solution. An architectural photographer must choose the time of day when the sun is approximately at a 45-degree angle to the elevation. The best light will be a few hours after sunrise or a few hours before sunset. Of course, this theory will depend on the orientation of the building. Choosing these two times of day, the sun’s low angle will add mood, drama, and warmth to a photograph offering long, deep shadows. Also, this allows for softer sunlight vs harsher sunlight found in the middle of the day. A building facing north can only be photographed in a short period of time during the summer and should be done as close to June 20th as possible, which is the summer solstice. Also, June 20th is the longest day of the year and northern light diminishes with each passing day thereafter. By September 20th, the northern light is gone as the direction has slowly moved south.

Many clients have no idea what goes into creating high-quality photographs or what is the perfect time of day. A professional architectural photographer must show patience, discipline, and learn how to work with weather conditions and the sun in order to control what seems uncontrollable.

Architecture can be an unpredictable business. Many architects spend years planning and creating their masterpiece and then never get the recognition they feel they so rightly deserve. Not all designers are looking for fame and glory but, like anyone else, getting recognition for their work is important. From the very first sketch to the finished structure, the process is without a doubt a labor of love and a great deal of sacrifice is involved. Architects want their work to be noticed and appreciated by their peers. In order to enter the world of architectural magazines and website, professional and amateur architects can submit photographs and articles to various magazines and their peers websites. They will take a few shots and then email them off and hope they will be regarded as the next Frank Lloyd Wright! Unfortunately, magazines and websites might be interested in their design, but they do not want their standard, boring, unprofessional images of the structure. Their photographs are just not capturing texture, tone, or drama because this is not their forte.

In order for an architect to get successful results, they must get the right be people and the right resources. When an architect decides to hire a professional architectural photographer, there are a few factors to take into consideration first. The architect must decide why they want photographs taken and how and where the images will be used. Once that has been determined, they should interview different architectural photographers and make sure they are clear why they want the photographs and what the theme of the building should be.

Professional architectural photographers have a working understanding of architecture and the physical and technical challenges involved. Architects must also understand when the best time should be for photographing the interior of their building, which must be while the building is still brand new. On the other hand, photographing the exterior of their building should take place about a year later so the landscaping has developed and matured.

An architectural photographer understands that the images should reflect the design’s quality, value, and credibility. A good photographer should understand the meaning of the design in order to capture the perfect images. They should understand and retain the personality of the building and then create an amazing work of art. Professional, talented architectural photographers will observe the building, highlight the aesthetics and the functional details of the design and draw attention to various aspects through their images.

In Conclusion:

An architect must well be the next Frank Lloyd Wright, but without bringing in a professional architectural photographer they will probably never get the recognition they are looking for. A professional architectural photographer understands lighting, the surrounding conditions, the angles that will best represent a structure, and deliver high-quality photographs to their clients.

As an architect, you have spent years creating your masterpiece. Do not take it upon yourself to capture your work. You do not have the knowledge or understanding to capture images that will best represent your architecture. Interview professional architectural photographers and let them do what they do best – capture the magnificence of your building.

Asian Architecture Is Leading The Way In Eco-Friendly Living

Architectural designs and techniques have always changed throughout history. As of late, Asian architecture is moving forward in their designing, echoing changes in styles, cultures, and civilizations. Asian design has always been intricate as well as minimalist. Between elaborate Chinese architecture and Japanese minimalism, there are Balinese romantic styles.

Asian architectural styles have always been influenced by the Western and European designs. They have taken the modern, contemporary Western cultures and blended it with the laid back culture of the Europeans. Architectures are now creating designs that reflect eco-friendly concepts that have become increasingly popular. Asian architectures have managed to blend their culture into modern homes and other structures. Due to Asia’s rich architectural unique history, you can easily recognize their culture that is deeply embedded in their designs.

 

Traditional and Modern Blended To Perfection

The Japanese have always been leaders in innovative ideas and are showing their skills with the materials and colors they choose which echo contemporary while still keeping their special traditional forms. Steep gable roofs with intricate overhangs and vertical timbered walls will always be a part of their architectural designs.

The Chinese are also toying with blending modern and traditional architecture. In the world of architecture, ancient Chinese architecture is still very important and must be maintained. This includes the use of stone carvings, timber frameworks in buildings and around courtyards. Visiting villages and cities around China still have these marvelous ancient elements but are now sharing their space with modern development. China has clearly shown that traditional and modern can work well together and there is no need to reject what has worked for centuries.

Consumed By Simplicity

The Japanese are consumed with a simplicity which has taken the world by storm. Minimalism has always played a very important role in their heritage from rooms containing only one item to just a cleaner, more simple design in furnishings. Rooms and furnishings, in the Japanese culture, should be functional vs decorative. They have always believed the philosophy that less is more.

Bringing Balance

Irregularity is found everywhere in modern day Chinese architecture from their palaces to their farm houses. The idea of open space has been created with openings in roofs that are replacing large, ancient courtyards.

Irregularity and Balance

Both of these elements are extremely important in Asian architectural designing. This includes the lines and colors of furniture. This concept compliments the traditional culture with a more modern approach to design.

Eco-friendly and Sustainability

Narrow residences are very common place throughout Osaka but these living spaces are offering better insulation and open areas allowing for natural light and air to enter the buildings. This has become a very popular choice of residents.

Singapore is also leading the way in building more eco-friendly buildings throughout the region. Clever designs and energy-efficient technologies are now what modern buildings are representing. Features such as skylights, solar panels, energy efficient elevators, good ventilation systems and carbon dioxide monitoring systems have taken the place of old ideas.

Developing countries, such as the Philippines, are now opting for condo-style homes and wanting more eco-friendly elements. Technologies that allow more natural light and air to flow through their living quarters is extremely important. Large openings in the building facade, three-story openings in the front and the back of the buildings are taking first place.

Without a doubt, Asian architecture is taking more responsibility with green structures that are being regarded as excellent investments.

Natural Materials For Construction

The typical Korean house in Hanok design, speaks clearly of the East Asian architectural trends. With strict Confucian techniques, prefabricated wooden structures are quickly assembled on location. These new homes are 100% natural, biodegradable, and can be easily recycled.

One of the most popular Asian tropical designs is Balinese architecture. These designs are created to be in complete harmony with nature. They are using natural, local materials for homes and buildings including thatch roofs, coconut wood, bamboo poles, bricks, and stone are now a part of the modern Balinese structures. A tropical atmosphere in Balinese architecture is still a strong influence in the modern world while adding romance and poetry to the mix.

Green Steel In Asia

Creating green spaces throughout the continent incorporates sustainable materials including bamboo. Bamboo is referred to as the green steel in Asian architectural design. It’s cheaper, a great deal more flexible, and much more sustainable. Local materials for homes and designer pieces have definitely taken over the architectural scene. You will find bamboo buildings throughout Japan, China, Vietnam, and Malaysia. The Philippines is one of the world’s leading producers of bamboo including the export of furniture and other items.

Tropical

The most popular design in Asian condo buildings is tropical. Homes are being built with a double purpose. A place to call home or a serene getaway. It’s like having a home that serves as a holiday retreat. The homes have a resort atmosphere within the living features with beautifully landscaped lush gardens and Koi ponds. While Balinese designing has a very tropical atmosphere, Singapore is opting for sky habitats and greenery vs their common concrete designs of the past. Visitors have a sense of the tropics in a very urbanized country. The entire design gives people a place to escape to which is becoming very important in an overly modern world.

Zen

Peace, serenity, and zen come to mind when viewing this new Asian architectural design. You enter and find immediate calmness. Listen to the gentle sound of a waterfall or the air wafting with incense. Zen is everywhere.

Alcoves, natural fiber, oriental items, and organic colors are now becoming a strong influence in Western architecture. Everything is moving way too fast in this day and age, people are reaching out to find some peace and tranquility. What better way than through zen designs that are becoming very high in demand. Architectural innovations are echoing throughout regions from homes to other buildings. The use of stone, wood and clean lines with subdued colors and geometric accents are simple and organic.

Asian architectural designs have always had a blend of tradition and culture. They have always been greatly influenced by their rich history, but that does not mean they are not moving forward with new ideas and eco-friendly ideas. Asian architecture now incorporates modern technologies that blend with nature. They have become the world leaders in green living and eco-friendly constructions that will definitely make important statements for generations to come. The Asians have found the perfect balance of modern living along with their very special culture still intact.

Western cultures are finally jumping on board with designs that are environmentally friendly and using materials that are sustainable and cost efficient. People, worldwide are looking for cleaner living alternatives and a special place to escape the hustle and bustle of modern and life and find a little tranquility.

Paying closer attention to Asian architecture, western architects are designing in a new fashion that everyone is looking for.

In Light of Grenfell Tower: Changes Must Be Made Within The Construction Industry

We are constantly discovering deplorable actions by developers and design-and-build contractors due to their insatiable greed. There seems to be an increase in lack of responsibility or even concern about the safety of others due to their poor practices.

Architects that are licensed professionals have a responsibility to protect the interests of the building occupants, the general public, and the environment. This is something that these people within the construction industry have little to no concern about. Quite honestly, their lack of concern and poor skills should be regarded as criminal negligence. The total absence of skills in the UK construction industry is a result of people in power with responsibilities turning a blind eye and not regulating systems that will protect people.

The perfect example is the tragedy at the Grenfell Tower that caused lives and enormous destruction. There have been countless stories of many complaints by residents concerning their fears of insufficient fire safety. By all reports, there seems to be more than one malpractice that led to the horrific tragedy and there are probably many more stories from those who survived. It does seem that there were multiple failures on the part of the construction industry that must be addressed. I applaud the RIBA President’s demand for a meaningful public inquiry to get to the bottom of this catastrophe. Let’s hope these demands are not toothless.

It’s imperative that an investigation looks into all actions that were taken within the system that, if done properly, could have prevented this tragedy. The Prime Minister made a decision to implement actions that should have been learned from past fires in tall residential buildings over the years and find out if recommendations implemented from these fires were enforced at Grenfell Tower. This also includes implementing or improving avenues to get out of a building in the event of a fire. With proper guidelines, the loss of life would have been significantly lower. Also, did the local authorities read the reports endorsed by Sir Eric Pickles that were sent to them regarding the recommendations to place sprinkler systems in all tall buildings, both in new construction and existing construction? If these recommendations had been adhered to, chances are the fire would have been contained, the loss of life and serious injuries would have been prevented.

There are serious questions that should have asked regarding the reasons for renovating Grenfell Tower. It might be a bit cynical to believe the sole reason was to improve its appearance and thereby increase its market value in the area: Why was funding provided for re-cladding but not for a sprinkler system?

There have been reports that the fire may have been caused by faulty appliances. In the UK, housing landlords do not normally provide appliances such as ovens, washers, and dryers. The tenants in many of these buildings are very poor but are expected to have their own appliances and install them. Most of these appliances are old, second-hand, and not in good working condition The idea that a tenant should install their own gas cooker is not only appalling but a terrifying thought! Many of these people are disabled, in poor health, and do not have the expertise to install them safely. This is a requirement that should be placed on the landlord to provide and install all appliances before the tenants move in. This is a major requirement in other countries such as 
Germany.

Mrs. May’s comment “If there are lessons to be learned…” “If” is not a particularly good question as it’s obvious there are lessons that must be learned. Even if it’s too early in the investigation stage, it is believed that public investigations must be implemented quickly and the authorities should be ready with answers. The entire construction industry should be ready to get on board with proper changes which include the professional body and RIBA which managed to stay silent on the subject until they were pressured.

RIBA’s response, to date, has been far from adequate and seems to be extremely insensitive to this horrible incident. We believe that directly after this disaster, RIBA showed incredible insensitivity by issuing a tweet! The tweet was not related to the disaster but instead “clay brick and concrete Mexican house is set around a cactus tree.” Someone, please explain what that comment has to do with the Grenfell Tower tragedy!

Grenfell Tower was renovated by means of a contractor-led “design-and-build” contract. Through short-term financial savings and cutting back on skills within the local authority organisations, these public people have become even more reliant on outsourcing to the lowest bidder. This should leave everyone questioning whether the lowest bidder has the ability and skills to implement the same standards as one should expect from a public works project. This is a short-term mentality that is very lazy, leading to the construction industry being taken over by this incompetent form of procurement. Government agencies and developers are jumping on board even though they know there is an immense shortfall in skilled labor.

We have been pointing out, for some time now, that we have received reports from reliable sources that there is criminal negligence taking place within the construction industry. Uncaring and greedy contractors are only looking to make short-term profits at the cost of everyone else’s safety. That said, overall scrutiny has dramatically dropped due to the use of privatised checking agencies that just happen to be employed by contractors. Without a doubt, this is a huge conflict of interest when it comes to providing certificates that the contractor needs.

We spoke with a senior council building control officer regarding the potential for corruption within the building control services. Private companies are now taking on these roles to compete with publicly funded building control. They are paid by the contractor by providing certificates that pass inspection. The RBKC Building Control was directly involved in inspecting Grenfell Tower. That said, there should be questions regarding the opportunities that these inspectors have to understand in order to pickup flaws in defective design or construction. There seems to be a lack of understanding due to under funding for the role of inspectors. They do not have the opportunity to collaborate with an independent professional architect that is normal practice in traditional building contracts.

With the depletion of independent architects, there is an incredible loss of the key components of quality control. If a contractor hires an architect to check the construction of a building but has no legal power to issue contract instructions, there is an obvious lack of control over the operation which, in turn, leads to another conflict of interest.

In order to maintain an adequate level of quality control, there should be a highly-skilled, professional designer to implement contracts in a traditional way. They should have the power to implement changes when they find flawed work. Unfortunately, the Thatcher government managed to put professionals in handcuffs and place the reins in the hands of contractors. This practice has never changed since then.

Thanks to the power held by contractors regarding design-and-build contracts, architects have lost all abilities to instruct the contractors. It amazes us that the government has accepted that contractors are in charge, hiring architects and giving them instructions or totally shutting them down if they do not agree. Architects are continually feeling powerless but go along with this government approved the practice. We have never gotten involved in design-and-build contracts and do not plan on doing so. We have gone out of our way to convince our clients to stay away from this practice as well as managing to get local authorities to allow us to control the quality of detailing in the designs because we have shown them the benefits of traditional contracts in order to deliver the very best quality assurance from the start of construction through to the completed project.

I strongly believe that it’s time for the RIBA to take back control and leadership in this matter. They must start developing a RIBA report that will help the government bring about needed changes. The government must start putting people’s lives ahead of a contractor’s profits.

That is not to say that architects have never made mistakes because that is just not true. Everyone makes mistakes because no one is perfect and that is precisely why we need a system that will prevent or find problems before they escalate, creating a serious situation. We do not believe that design-and-build contracts offer any form of checks and balances. Sadly, design-and-build contracts have taken away many safeguards providing a high-level of risk to the public and the environment by incorporating poor quality and unscrupulous practices by contractors.

The fact remains many people and organisations willingly participate in rushing to get the job done to decrease the costs which result in poor quality, value, and removes safety factors in order to get the most out of their financial investments. These practices are deplorable and should be stopped!

From the time we first started our architectural practice, we have witnessed many traditional construction firms disappearing, replaced by financial organisations led by managers who do not have the skills or expertise for these projects. These managers are only brought in to complete a certain level of construction in order to supply contractors with excellent profits. We have spoken to many highly qualified subcontractors who are not even being paid for their work!

Unfortunately, architecture is now a business of opportunity, not a community service. These firms are looking to make as much money as possible regardless of the moral issue, no longer representing what or who they are supposed to be. They have become the puppets of the construction industry. Young, up-and-coming architects need to learn the details involved in building construction but it seems to be a lost trade.

There were many complaints filed about the Grenfell Tower before the disaster ever happened. Many of these complaints were directed at the organisation that decided to privatise the council’s maintenance and procurement departments. There were many other complaints regarding how the construction was carried out, including gas pipes that were not properly encased to protect them in the event of a fire. It’s very hard to believe that these pipes were not encased properly, considering the numerous complaints that were filed. Even though there were numerous complaints, why was a flammable cladding material used on the facades? Also, was there ever any consideration given to fire breaks to stop a fire from spreading to the cladding?

We have constantly spoken up about the poor practice of creating a ventilated cavity between the building’s structure and its external insulation. This practice renders the insulation totally useless and creates an avenue for the fire to spread and intensify!

It really bothers us to witness this kind of installation is applied to buildings and nothing is being done about it. On one occasion we contacted the Authority Building Control Department to place a complaint. Eventually, we spoke with someone who informed us that the building was being overseen by a private building control company. When asked if this was his project, would he consider it an acceptable practice? His only comment was he didn’t know, explaining that he is only a building control manager, not a building control officer. On two different occasions, we tried to contact the private building control company as well as the people in charge of regulating the building control requirements, on both occasions we got nowhere! It seems, that no one is in a position to be held responsible.

Continued complaints regarding the Grenfell Tower and blatant warnings were filed from many different sources including the high-risk of a fire. As for Teresa May’s comment about lessons learned, this is a clear indication of just how out of touch she and the government truly are. The construction company’s response was that the project met all required regulations and was handed over when the completion notice was issued by the Department of Building Control, despite what happened.

Quite honestly, architects and the RIBA need to stop making excuses for a really bad system. RIBA should stop remaining silent and start making significant changes before another tragedy happens. Tweeting about the President’s remarks followed by other insignificant tweets is not only insensitive but leaves the door open for another disaster to take place. One official in RIBA did comment about reading an article in the German media that states very clearly that fire safety regulations in Germany prohibits the use of inflammable insulation materials for buildings higher than 22m but is obviously not the case in either the UK or France.

Regarding evacuation from tall buildings, there should be two separate stairways that are completely separate mechanically, electrically, and structurally in order to prevent smoke from entering the stairway and allowing people to get out safely. In all fairness, this might not be possible in older buildings.

We do not know if regulations in the UK have similar requirements but are just not as strict or whether the regulations are just being ignored. Someone needs to address the RIBA and find out if they have anyone in place to research these regulations and make a meaningful statement in the very near future. We are not holding our breath that this will ever happen. There is no forum on RIBA’s website for debate leaving us to believe that professional architects that are members of RIBA really don’t care.

Everyone should be extremely angry about this horrible disaster and the unnecessary loss of life. We should be angry about those injured and think about the pain and suffering felt by families who lost their loved ones. It’s time we all stood up and put pressure on those in charge to bring about change so this kind of tragedy never happens again!

In all honesty, we do not believe that the public is going to just stand by and let this kind of conduct continue. The public is not going to be happy with anything less than significant change!

In Conclusion

The tragedy that took place at Grenfell Tower should never have happened. This fire, along with many others, could have been prevented once and for all if new regulations and restrictions were in place. From the Prime Minister to those in charge of building codes must step up and demand ethical conduct from the construction industry. If they refuse and continue to drag their feet, how can they get up in the morning and look at themselves in the mirror?

Innocent people died or were seriously injured in this horrific fire because of poor, greedy practices. The people living at Grenfell Tower were poor, do you think officials would turn a blind eye if this happened in Knightsbridge or 10 Downing Street? It’s time that the UK gives control back to architects who have the expertise and understanding to ensure buildings are meeting proper codes for the safety of the public.

Control should be taken out of the hands of contractors and their design-and-build contracts. Are the images of this fire embedded in the minds of our government, the Department of Building Control, and all other departments that have been involved in shady practices? Maybe or maybe not, but it certainly is embedded in the minds of the public and their voices will be heard through elections and the replacement of those people within departments that let this tragedy happen.

Here’s hoping things will change and innocent people will not be harmed any longer due to greed and the bottom line.