Monday, June 08, 2009

Windows on The Deep

click photo to enlarge
Will the day come when we lament the passing of the right angle in architecture? The answer to that will surely be, "No, there is too much that is right about the right angle, and too little that is wrong!" I ask the question because for the past couple of decades we've seen an increasing number of buildings whose aesthetic depends on acute and oblique angles (as well as curves.) Architects such as Frank Gehry and Daniel Libeskind through their various cultural buildings have been influential in this trend, a development about which I have very mixed feelings.

It seems to me that buildings such as Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall, Foster's 30 St Mary Axe, Libeskind's Imperial War Museum North, or Future Systems' Selfridges Department Store are expressionistic designs that have arisen for reasons other than being the best solution to the needs of the client. They are "landmark" buildings, structures that are designed to catch the eye, to promote the locality, intended to say "modern" or "the future" to all who look at them. They seem to be buildings whose forms are as they are because they can be: the product of architects who have fully grasped the change that computers and new materials have brought to the profession. They also give the impression of being the work of frustrated sculptors! I won't, however, deny that these buildings can bring focus to a location, can act as a regenerative force, and have great visual appeal. I would say, though, that those qualities should be secondary to the functional purpose of a building, and therein lies my equivocation about such structures: I'm not sure that many of them fulfill that principal objective.

I recently visited The Deep in Kingston upon Hull. This deep water aquarium by Terry Farrell sits at the confluence of the River Hull with theRiver Humber. Its angular, thrusting shape is very eye-catching, and includes few right-angles. Its raison d'etre is to assist with the regeneration and development of the river front of this part of the city. As such it was funded by the National Lottery's Millennium Commission project. It has been successful in achieving its stated aims. However, one has to ask whether the building is this shape, and made of these materials, because it's the most effective way to house the aquariums and the attendant facilities. But, my quibbles aside, there's no denying its "presence" and the use a photographer can make of its origami shape. My photograph shows a detail of the wall and windows on the River Humber elevation. I composed it with a thought to balance, line and colour, and deliberately left a sliver of sky at the top right.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 19mm (38mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/400 seconds
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On