Assignment Three – Buildings in use

The third assignment of People and Place required me 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. You can choose to include people in the images, or not.

For each building, it is important that you conduct some research beforehand, either archival or personal (or both), so that you 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

 Try to encompass variety in your choice of buildings, including in size and purpose. Write a short statement in your learning log demonstrating your understanding of the function of each building, the way in which it was designed to achieve that, and how well you believe it succeeds. In addition, describe briefly how you initially set about showing the important features of each building photographically, and what you learned during the course of shooting the assignment.”


I have to start out by saying that this assignment did not grab my attention in any way. This precipitated in me procrastinating and taking far to long to finish it. As a result I feel my images lack the spark that I feel are necessary for this module (or any module). The exercises through this part of the module were relatively interesting but the assignment just seemed to be an after thought and I failed to see how it tied in with what I had already done. Looking through various other P&P blogs I can see I was not the only one to have problems with this assignment.

As I say, I had already looked at other blogs for some inspiration. This wasn’t really forthcoming, most of the blogs took a straight photographic approach to what I was already finding quite a mundane exercise. I decided upon going for a montage of each building in the shape of vertical panoramas. I would make the two to four images horizontally and then overlay them in Photoshop to represent the space as I saw it. Clearly, I could have easily used an automated stitching process in Photoshop but I preferred a more organic look by pulling the photos together ‘by hand’ on a blank background. In processing the images (exposure, contrast etc) I also did them individually so they would not exactly match up in the montage/collage.  I felt this gave more contrast to the edges of each individual image. In retrospect this also helped to slightly alleviate the boredom I was trying to combat through the assignment.

I finally settled on some locations to shoot and tried, as per the brief, to vary the types, uses and sizes of building. The following images are the results of this process. I shall annotate as necessary.

Singapore Esplanade - Outdoor Theatre

Singapore Esplanade – Outdoor Theatre. 

This space was designed for bands and performers to perform with the Singapore Marina Bay as the backdrop. It is free entry for anyone passing. The entire area is covered by a dome shaped canopy to shield it’s audience (around a maximum of 450 seated) and performers from the elements and also to create some acoustic control. The vast bank of lighting ion the gantries and huge speakers mean it is a central beacon on the Esplanade and advertises itself when there is an event going on. Having been to numerous performances there I can say the space works well and can be spectacular with the right production, especially with the impressive backdrop of the marina. This photograph attempts to show the backdrop and relevant gantry lighting and speakers plus some of the dome shaped roof.

Suntec Convention Centre, Singapore.

Suntec Convention Centre – Singapore.

I was drawn to the brushed steel and graphic pattern of this building. It is designed to host large and small expositions throughout the year and is quite industrial and workman-like in nature and appearance. Despite it’s age (nearly 20 years, quite old in Singaporean terms) it is still very well maintained and sparkly. Large LCD screens show upcoming and current events taking place. I have included a person on level 2 to give some scale and have shot from floor to roof to emphasise height. The whole centre is very large (given it’s location in crowded central Singapore) and this image shows a small fraction of it. The spaces work well well trying to contain and distribute the thousands of people who attend various major events running alongside each other.

Marina Mandarin Hotel

Marina Mandarin Hotel – Singapore

I chose this hotel specifically for the monumental atrium that greets people as they walk in across the bridge from reception. Again the graphic, somewhat concentric nature of the vertiginous levels made this an attractive muse. The uniformity also conspires to give the most ordered of the montages. Daylight pours in from the top of the atrium filling the somewhat dull interior with natural light. As real estate is sparse and very expensive in Singapore, buildings that want to impress tend to be built upwards with huge amounts of daylight (which is something Singapore does have in spades). This ‘airyness’ defines expensive, statement buildings throughout the country, not just hotels but private businesses and public buildings too. The space works well to impress the uninitiated, but I find it rather bland and predictable as many hotels in Singapore are very similar. In fact, just next door at the Pan Pacific one can find a very similar extravagance.

Odd One Out toilets - Singapore

Odd One Out toilets – Singapore

At the completely opposite end of the spectrum is a toilet that is fairly representative of what one can expect to find on visiting an average restaurant or bar. Again space and real estate cost is the issue which constrains the design of this building. What I was hoping to represent was the constrained space in which you are expected to attend to matters. It is so tight that even with a wide-angle I am barely able to give a discernible representation of the space. It also makes the collage very disrupted in nature. I have left my legs and part of the toilet seat in frame to give perspective and scale. My toes are nearly sticking out under the door (and I am not a tall man). The fluorescent lighting and brown door collude to further the depressing experience with a full stop in the shape of a cigarette burn directly in front of me. Compounding all of this is the usual issue of having to walk to the toilet. When I say walk, I mean a 300 yard stroll out of the bar and down the road to the nearest convenience. In most cases restaurants, shopping malls and bars all share a communal, minuscule toilet, the result of which is set out in front of the viewer here.

I think I have learnt from this assignment is that my imagination for this style of photography is lacking and so is my patience. I felt less than inspired which in turn I feel shows in my final images. Looking at it holistically, if I were shooting commercially I would need to get my thinking cap on or not get paid (however, the incentive of payment is quite a strong one generally).


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