Photographing houses, houses for photographers

The Shortlist for the sterling prize was recently released. The list has a diversity of projects from a University campus to Hastings pier to the British Museum Conservation and Exhibitions centre. One project that I thought was interesting was the RIBA London Award 2017 and RIBA London Building of the Year 2017 Award which went to the photography studio and house for Juergen Teller by 6a architects.

The architects describe the project as “The project expertly exploits a typically London condition. Constrained by a long and narrow industrial plot at the rougher edge of Ladbroke Grove; its only face nestles between cheap developer housing, an industrial estate and the hinterland of the Westway.”

This poises a question, what should a house for a photographer look like. Or should a photographers house reflect their equipment, their culture , their influence.

From the photographs shown the project seems blank out the context. The project forms two courtyards that protect the studios from the outside. Is there a metaphor of some sort in the planning. It seems that the main accommodation is like a gatehouse over the entrance to the studio. So in this model of housing? The work is placed at the figurative  and literal centre of the plan. Is this a message to the world? from Teller. Maybe! To celebrate the completion Juergen presented a self portrait in the space! The man at work!

Recent winners of the sterling prize such as David Chipperfield could inform this view. Chipperfield won the prize in 2007 for The Museum of Modern Literature in Marbach am Neckar, Germany. His private house in Richmond for Nick Knight in 1998-2001 is an essay in cool articulation of a suburban dwelling. It masks the original form of the house build by Knights father. The impression created is distant from the flamboyant anarchy of Knights photography. The connection between what knight creates at and his house seem distant.

One aspect of the house that appeals to me is the concession to the clients profession in the use of a “framing portal” .The portal connects elements of the architectural composition together. It also “frames” a view of the garden from the interiors. The frame acknowledges what the photographer does without making a literal translation of a camera.

In both projects the aesthetics are quite similar; In situ concrete, plaster, block-work , a subdued palette of tones, rigid geometry. The outcomes are quite different. Tellers house, places him a “hero” with his work at the centre of the world. Nick Knights house seems more to be a refuge from which to view the world.

The RIBA Stirling List

Comments are closed.