I am to choose five or six buildings and for each produce between two and four images that describe effectively and attractively the way in which these spaces are used. I can choose to include people in the images, or not.
For each building it is important that I conduct some research beforehand, either archival or personal (or both), so that I have:
- a good understanding of how and why it was designed in the way it is
- an opinion on its effectiveness as a usable space.
With the brief in mind, to “try to encompass variety in your choice of buildings, including in size and purpose”. I have selected the following buildings/spaces.
Preston bus station
This exterior image of the building shows the concrete tiers of the car park. The viewer can see straight through the lower floor space demonstrating how little used it is. Brightly coloured double-decker buses line up proudly and in the bottom left corner, gate no. 80 tells us just how big this bus station is. Sadly there are many unoccupied gates.
The huge interior of the bus station on a busy weekday afternoon. This image shows a long stretch of mostly unutilised space. A smattering of passengers/visitors points to the building being counterproductive. The clock (fifteen minutes fast) and the twenty-four hour display shows a mismatch.
I chose this shot of the almost deserted station cafeteria, holding on to its early 1970’s style and colour scheme, because it hints at the fact that twenty-first century passengers are more likely to buy “coffee to go”. This chap was the only customer seated in the cafeteria. Maybe he has memories of a busier, bustling environment. Maybe he just pops in for his daily cuppa to get him out of the house? This is an example of how human activity may not always match the main function of the building.
This shot depicting the dated empty premises within the bus station demonstrates a loss of use and function. The bright poster of a 21st century boy looks down smugly at his outdated surroundings. I feel this image portrays not just an emptiness, but a sense of abandonment.
Photographing this building with its vast, open spaces, capturing the architectural features (internal and external) was without difficulty. Once inside I walked through the building several times, observing at first, then I spent around 45 minutes capturing shots, all the time looking at how the building was being used – or not.
Avenham Park Pavilion, Preston
It was a warm day, so while I was in Preston I went for a walk around one of the lovely parks. As I entered the park I spotted this building. I was able to collect the following information from boards inside the building.
The park has undergone an improvement programme as part of a Heritage Lottery-Funded project. The Pavilion was completed in 2008 to a design by architect Ian McChesney. The striking modern building was designed to reflect the sweeping lines of the Park and the River Ribble. The Pavilion provides a base for the park ranger and houses a fully licensed cafe. The Pavilion can be hired out for conferences and is licensed to host weddings and civil partnership ceremonies.
My first photograph shows how the building is integrated in its setting, on the riverbank within the grounds of Avenham Park. The building’s design is organic and sculptural enhancing the natural surroundings of the park rather than imposing on it.
Inside looking out. My image shows the success of this space. The glass walls and pale wood roof give a light, airy effect offering shelter while at the same time allowing the visitor to enjoy a “brew with a view”. Note how people choose to sit by the window.
Even the functional form and finish of the children’s high-chairs complement and mirror the building’s shape. I took this shot to link the subject to the child running towards the Pavilion.
This shoot was a pleasant surprise, fortunately I always carry my camera with me! I decided to include this building in my project for its modern design and function. I took several photographs inside the Pavilion, I wanted to show the user environment and how it adds value to its setting.
Brockholes Nature Reserve
Brockholes is owned and managed by the Wildlife Trust charity. It is positioned amazingly close to the M6 motorway – an old quarry site, yet it is a haven for a variety of wildlife. Since opening in April 2011 Brockholes has won a long list of prestigious awards. These have been for a wide range of topics, from architectural design to sustainability. Although it is predominantly a nature reserve there are also shops, a play area, cafe and many walking trails.
I shot this image to put the “floating” building in context. Shown is one of two entrances via a draw bridge. I like how the eye is led to consider the gaps between the buildings. The architect Adam Khan describes the arrangement of buildings and spaces as ‘an equivalence of enclosed and open rooms, forming a matrix’. Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus school of art, supported that an object’s design should be dominated by its function – simple forms, clean lines, rationality and, of course, functionality. I feel that Brockholes does just that.
Benches in the exterior spaces indicate the boundaries of the pontoon and opportunities to touch the water. The site is fully accessible for all. My shot addresses my concern is that it is too accessible, the water presents a risk to young children as all the platforms are open-ended leading to the water.
The Welcome and Activity Centre. This shot captures the “room’s” usefulness, the provision of information and activities for curious and inquisitive minds.
Due to the tranquil setting, there is an unnatural silence as one wanders around the buildings. Any sound is pleasingly acoustic thanks to the cleverly designed vaulted roof spaces shown here in my image. Light is provided by the large glass windows and a funnel of light from the central roof-lights.
When photographing Brockholes I wanted to convey the purpose of the build and how it promotes the natural surroundings to educate and inform. I particularly wanted to show the environmental sustainability of the building materials – an additional function.
Connishead Priory – The Buddhist Temple
Set within the grounds of the ancient Conishead Priory, the Buddhist community have built the magnificent Kadampa Temple. Though built according to a traditional design, it is a modern Temple that provides a peaceful respite from our otherwise busy world. Each year, thousands of people visit the Temple to admire its artistic and architectural features and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere. Work began in 1995 on the site of the old priory kitchen garden, completed in 1997 it became the first temple for World Peace.
My first shot shows a Buddhist monk entering the temple via one of the four doorways.
I chose this image because it gives the viewer an impression from the user’s point of view. The practicing monks use the benches and kneeling mats for their meditation. This image shows how the many windows allow light to flood in. This place of worship is in stark contrast to our traditional, dimly lit Christian churches.
Spotted through an open side door – this made me smile. A Buddhist monk chilling out with modern technology!
My final shot was chosen to represent the purpose of the space surrounding the temple. This image could be challenged as depicting a “non-place”. I feel it is a rather special place. Note how the seats are facing outwards to the trees and the sky beyond rather than towards the gardens, temple and other visitors milling around. The function being to enable people to rest peacefully and clear the mind without distraction. I purposefully shot this with an absence of people as I think the impact and meaning is more strongly portrayed.
I specifically wanted to photograph this location for the project because I felt it was something a little different. Aside from the first image, the shots are without people yet clearly convey the usage. Apart from the obvious function of the temple, the peacefulness of the grounds creates a sense of place for reflection, relaxation, fresh air, exercise and a general feeling of well-being.
What I have learnt
I wanted to bring variety to the buildings I chose – a good mix of public spaces, particularly those based on innovative design and function. I have also attempted to show how external factors – economic climate, attitudes, lifestyle, influence the function and use of a building.
This assignment called for careful planning, research and thinking about the space that I was going to photograph, rather than going along and taking lucky shots. I need to get myself more familiar with this kind of thinking, because I often look back at images and wish that I had used a different angle or had focused on something more closely. I think that is because in the moment itself I don’t really force myself to consider what the scene in my viewfinder is telling me. The composition is sort of going through my mind, but not specifically on what it is that I want to portray. Hence, this was a good exercise for me!
I have enjoyed this project immensely. I am interested in architectural styles and their impact on the environment. I now have a greater understanding of how people interact with place and space. I am particularly captivated by how human behaviour is affected by place and space. Which will lead nicely in to the next module “People interacting with place”.