Paper proposal

Update: Paper accepted

Yesterday I submitted a proposal for a paper on the mediation of Architecture by photography for the Space and Place: Exploring Critical Issues conference at Oxford University in September:

The great architectural swindle: The mediation of architecture via architectural photography.

In 1979 Tom Picton dismissed the contemporary architectural photograph as,

…the craven image, a lifeless piece of flattering deception foisted on an unsuspecting public by an unholy alliance of architect, photographer and art editor’ (Elwall 1991).

Thirty-five years later little has altered: buildings are routinely represented as lifeless, pristine sculptures; forms without functions; structures in isolation from neighbouring buildings and the spaces in between. Architecture is seen through photography, in a stifled form, thereby failing its audience. This paper challenges the convention that architecture should be mediated through photography as empty shells.

Many critics (e.g. Elwall, Meireis, Carullo) have called for architecture to be represented more realistically, as ‘an experience of a slice of time in the life of a building’ (Elwall 2004). Digital technology was expected to lead to an integration of architectural photography with its design (Soar, 2004; Green and Lowry, 2006); expectations that have so far failed to materialise.

Paradoxically, digital technology facilitates ever more realistic ‘artists impressions’ of planned new buildings, populated by imaginary customers. In stark contrast, the photographic equivalent freezes the building for posterity at the moment of its completion, tidied of imperfections in post-production, lit by an ever-shining sun.

My practice-led, doctoral research seeks an alternative viewpoint, based on the lived-experience of architecture as a temporal accumulation of encounters. Drawing ideas and techniques from my professional practice, fine art and digital technologies, I represent spaces within and between buildings, over time: Spaces that are populated by the people who perform the very functions that the architecture was designed for.

The outcomes of my research cross the indistinct boundary between still and moving images depicting (implied) temporality and movement in single frames. Resultant images are expected to inform architectural design, research and education.

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