Saturday, May 01, 2010

Reflecting the streets

click photo to enlarge
I've said elsewhere in this blog that I think mirror wall buildings can be an architectural "cop out": an easy way of dealing with the exterior elevations of a building. One can see why they became popular. Once modernism had got rid of external decoration applied like icing on a cake, then architects either de-emphassed their elevations or confronted the more difficult task of using the structure's massing and functional elements in a way that offered pleasing qualities to the world.

The architecture of the twentieth century offers countless examples of buildings where architects failed in this regard, as well as many fine and successful works that have stood the test of time. So, it seems to me that some architects eagerly seized the mirror wall as a way of avoiding the harder task. Having said that, I generally find that a plain, unimaginative, mirrored exterior is usually better than a routine exterior using more traditional methods to achieve its effect. Of course, the interest of what is reflected comes into play with mirror walls, and can make or break its success. One of my earlier blog posts shows a medieval church reflected in an early (for the UK) essay with this approach. Moreover, I have to admit that my photography contains more than a few images that use reflections in one way or another, so there is a tendency for me to be drawn to mirror wall buildings for images even if I'm often unenthusiastic about the actual example that is depicted.

Today's photograph of a building on one of the streets behind London's South Bank is a case in point. Its all over grid of thin frames, each filled with identical mirror glass, could hardly be more repetitive, and the mirrored entrance, while it breaks the grid, hardly stands out from its surrounds. And yet, and yet... on a spring afternoon, with a clear blue sky, deeply shadowed buildings, trees, passing people, and advertising hoardings reflected in it, the structure offers something I find attractive; a sort of collage of the local environment, writ large and constantly changing. Whether it would look as interesting on a dull, damp day in December is quite another matter of course.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 7.4mm (35mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f4
Shutter Speed: 1/640
ISO: 80
Exposure Compensation: -0.66 EV
Image Stabilisation: On