Iconic Images: Photography + Architecture

Iwan Baan’s Bibliotheca Espana, Medellin, by Giancarlo Mazzanti

My past two weeks have been devoted almost entirely to students: lots of grading, several big course preps, final reviews of a few theses and thesis proposals (one of which went through three rounds of revision in the course of a week), three weekend class activities or full-day field trips, lots of advising, etc. I found it quite quite funny when, as I was in the midst of a 70-hour work week last week, someone forwarded to me David Levy’s inane Washington Post article “Do College Professors Work Hard Enough?” Why yes, David, most of us do.

One of my course preps was for the architectural photography lesson in my Media + Architecture class. I wasn’t satisfied with my previous lesson, so I decided to start (almost) from scratch. Since there has been a good deal written about architecture (and cities) and photography, and because there have been many exhibitions of city photography, I assumed I’d find some helpful online resources or collections of photographs. Not really. I still had to spend eight or ten hours pulling together material from disparate sources. What follows is the result. I figure it might save some others the effort that I expended in creating it:

MediaArchPhotog_Sp2012

What were some of the early uses to which architectural photography was put?

Architecture was the ideal photographic subject during photography’s early history.

  • Buildings sat still.
  • The photograph captures only what endured – moving objects were not impressed
  • Appealed to a bourgeois population interested in travel.

DOCUMENTATION: Early photographers regarded their work as documentary.

  • Missions Heliographiques: 1851, French government assigned Edouard Baldus, Henri Le Secq, Hippolyte Bayard, O. Mestral, and Gustave Le Gray to document national monuments
  • SLIDE: BALDUS
  • SLIDE: LE SECQ
  • SLIDE: BAYARD
  • SLIDE: LE GRAY & MESTRAL

SLIDE: HAUSSMANIZATION

Before demolition began, city officials commissioned Charles Marville to create photographic records of the existing avenues.

SLIDE: MARVILLE, RUE TIRECHAPPE

Role of these photographic documentation programs in supporting nationalism

Marville purposely took the photographs of Paris’s architecture and streets scenes when it was raining, so that the soft diffused light mixed with the rain on the cobblestone produced a PICTURESQUE image that elicited a feeling of perfection.

SLIDE: MARVILLE, RUE DE BOURDONNAIS
SLIDE: MARVILLE, TEARING DOWN AVE OF OPERA
SLIDE: MARVILLE, LE PERCEMENT DE LA RUE SOUFFLOT

‘AFFORDANCES’ OF ENGRAVINGS VS. PHOTOS

  • Engravings influenced the vantage points – front-on – from which buildings were initially photographed
  • Camera presented limitations not experienced by the draughtsman: couldn’t capture full façade

Photography had an impact on the way architecture was taught and experienced.

DEFINING NEW YORK IN IMAGE

  • SLIDE: ALFRED STEIGLITZ, THE STREET, 1903
  • SLIDE: ALFRED STEIGLITZ, FLATIRON BUIDING, 1903
  • SLIDE: EDWARD STEICHEN, FLATIRON, 1905
  • SLIDE: ALFRED STEIGLITZ, FROM THE BACK WINDOW, 1915
  • SLIDE: BERENICE ABBOTT, COLUMBUS CRICLE, 1938
  • SLIDE: BERENICE ABBOTT, BLOSSOM RESTAURANT, 1935
  • SLIDE: BERENICE ABBOTT, NEWSSTAND, 1935

Photographs provided inspiration for designers and proved instrumental to the birth of the new field of architectural history.

  • Architectural history as a collection of images
  • Typology / Style

Haussmannization: Planning for Vistas //

PHOTOGRAPHY’S IMPACT ON DESIGN

According to Colomina, Le Corbusier sees the house as constructing pictures, or scenes, as about movement through space as the unfolding of a movie or a narrative…. For Le Corbusier, houses built spectacles.

  • SLIDE: CORB, VILLA LA ROCHE JEANNERET
  • SLIDE: CORB, MAISON LA ROCHE JEANNERET
  • SLIDE: CORB, VILLA SAVOYE

“You enter: the architectural spectacle at once offers itself to the eye; you follow an itinerary and the views develop with great variety; you play with the flood of light illuminating the walls or creating half-lights. Large windows open up views on the exterior where you find again the architectural unity…. Here, reborn for our modern eyes, are historic architectural events: pilotis (piers), the horizontal window, the roof garden, the glass façade.” (Privacy & Publicity, 5)

Joseph Tabbi, in review of Privacy/Publicity: “Houses became mechanisms for seeing, as evidenced by design sketches that begin with postcards pasted to the page (the tourist site/sight) and that figure the human by a large eye. The view was crucial to the house, not for light or ventilation (technology could take care of these needs) but for the vision they allowed. This vision, however, became more detached from the humanist observer, as it was modelled on the mechanical eye of the camera…. Architecture is not only photographed for display in books, exhibits, and magazines…, but is itself constructed to recreate the space of a photograph in its rooms and windows.”

Le Corbusier: staged photos of his work, appropriated advertising imagery

  • SLIDE: CORB, VILLA SAVOYE INTERIOR

Corb: “We are following somebody, the traces of his existence presented to us in the form of a series of photographs of the interior” – Colomina – voyeurism – gendered spaces

How was Corb using these photos? As documentation, technical and celebratory? As promotion? As a record of occupancy, consumption, lifestyle?

ONTOLOGICAL RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN PHOTOGRAPH & BUILDING?

Mies Van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion

SLIDE: BARCELONA PAVILION 1929

  • Existed for less than a year – 1929 – exists instead, and has achieved its status, through the photographs
  • Presents building as objet d’art – user is irrelevant

SLIDE: BARCELONA PAVILION REBUILT

  • For 56 years, the building existed only in photographs
  • Pavilion rebuilt, using old photographs, in 1986

DEFINING MODERNISM THROUGH ITS IMAGERY

  • SLIDE: BILL ENGDAHL (of Hedrich-Blessing), MIES, 1956
  • SLIDE: BILL ENGDALH, FEDERAL CENTER, 1964 (SHADOWS, PALIMPSESTS)
  • SLIDE: BILL ENGDAHL, MARINA CITY, 1963
  • SLIDE: EZRA STOLLER (Esto), DULLES, 1964
  • SLIDE: EZRA STOLLER, TWA Terminal
  • SLIDE: EZRA STOLLER, GUGGENHEIM, 1959
  • SLIDE: KEN HEDRICH, FLW, 1937
  • SLIDE: BILL HEDRICH, FALLINWATER, 1937
  • SLIDE: EZRA STOLLER, MIAMI PARKING GARAGE, ROBERT LAW WEED, 1949
  • SLIDE: EZRA STOLLER, SALK INSTITUTE, LOUIS KAHN, 1977
  • SLIDE: EZRA STOLLER, UNION CARBIDE OFFICE, 1960
  • SLIDE: GIOVANNI SUTER, LIBBY OWENS FORD, 1938

AUDIENCES FOR & PURPOSES OF ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAPHS

Targeted at architects: “analytical, abstract, emphatically editorial and self-referential” – function to “describe and catalogue the geometry of a structure; to inform peers of the latest advances in the discipline; to reinforce the professional identity of designers…; to set normative benchmarks in the value judgment of a particular scheme; to establish paradigmatic norms of spatial representation” – tends to obey representational principles of arch drawings (Serraino 127)

Targeted toward consumers: settings become displays of objects of desire; space is staged to appeal to middle- and upper-class taste

CASE STUDY HOUSE PROGRAM

  • SLIDE: ARTS & ARCH

(via) In the mid-1940s, as the United States faced the postwar challenge of housing three million returning soldiers, a few architects in Southern California rejected the idea of identical houses in suburban developments. The “Case Study House Program” initiated in 1945 by Arts and Architecture magazine, enlisted the talents of eight architects including Richard Neutra and Eero Saarinen, Charles & Ray Eames.

The program called for the design of eight houses that would demonstrate modern alternatives to tract housing.

The Case Study House Program embraced, first of all, a belief that the modernist ideals could be part of the postwar home. Second, there was a sense that all the new technologies and materials of the war effort could be used to do something besides harm people. Third, and most important, was the name itself: each house would be a “case study” of the needs of a particular client. It would solve the problems of the client, but in as universal a way as possible. Each client would be understood to represent a different type of homeowner, so instead of fetishizing the client’s needs, architects participating in the program would try to achieve the broadest possible solution.

Architectural Photographers’ Rhetorical Choices 
Julius Shulman: How does he use light, props, people? Underlying ideologies in these images?

    • SLIDE: JULIUS SHULMAN, CSH20 (RICHARD NEUTRA)
    • SLIDE: CSH21 (PIERRE KOENIG)
    • SLIDE: CSH22 (PIERRE KOENIG)
    • SLIDE: ALTERNATIVE CSH22


“Architectural photography prepares you only for the optimum condition, the best time of day, best position, the standard view, the authorized take, the truth against which all other views will seem irredeemably poor approximations” (Janet Abrams)

THE VERNACULAR

  • SLIDE: BILL HEDRICH, NORTH POLE ICE CREAM, 1938
  • SLIDE: ED RUSCHA, MONTAGE
  • SLIDE: ED RUSCHA, STANDARD, WILLIAMS, AZ, 1962
  • SLIDE: ED RUSCHA, FRANCE, 1961
  • SLIDE: BOB THALL, SCHAUMBURG, 1991
  • SLIDE: BOB THALL, GOLF ROAD, SCHAUMBURG, 1995
  • SLIDE: BOB THALL, ELK GROVE VILLAGE, IL, 1995
  • SLIDE: TODD HIDO, SUBURBIA
  • SLIDE: ANDREAS GURSKY, MONTPARNASSE, 1999
  • SLIDE: MICHAEL WOLF
  • SLIDE: IWAN BAAN
  • SLIDE: UNHAPPY HIPSTERS

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Iconic Images: Photography + Architecture by Shannon Mattern, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.