Saturday, November 14, 2009

Canary Wharf distortions

click photo to enlarge
When I tell people that I'm interested in church architecture there is an asumption in the minds of many that I abhor modern architecture. Nothing could be futher from the truth. In fact I'm genuinely puzzled why the one is thought to be incompatible with the other. Maybe it's because people see the architecture of churches as essentially decorative, and modern architecture as primarily functional. However, that too is a misreading of what is actually the case: Gothic buildings are wonderful examples of form following function (with added ornament), a point I made in this earlier post, and much modern building is functional, though increasingly the external appearance is important.

Today's photograph shows the reflection of another building's windows in the windows of a tower at Canary Wharf, London. Seen in its totality this building isn't anything special. It has an overall grid of glazing divided by black metal bars, brown vertical panels that accent edges and set-backs, and pediment-like structures at the top - a small version, if you will, of Mies van der Rohe meets Philip Johnson. Any aesthetic force that the building has comes from its overall shape and from the way it reflects its surroundings. Since the advent of reflective glass in curtain walls this device has been deployed with varying degrees of success across the world, to the point where it has now become a cliche. As I photographed this building I wondered if its architect had intended the decorative feature that caught my eye: that is to say, the way the glass (presumably under tension) had distorted what it was reflecting. I'd guess not. Yet, from my point of view this was not only the structure's most attractive feature, it was also the one that differentiated it from its neighbours - a sort of Mondrian meets Cy Twombly, if you will! I composed my image with only two dimensions in mind, and tried to achieve asymmetrical balance across the frame.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 110mm (220mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/200
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On