1. Amassing the archive

    I once sent a camera to a client, with a request that she keep a visual diary of her newly completed house. For a number of months she duly sent me one photograph a day, of whatever caught her attention, and it was fascinating seeing the spaces from her point of view.

    In part it’s simply about amassing the archive, but it’s also about understanding the implications of every design decision and bringing this knowledge to bear on new projects. You have to keep pushing the learning process.

  2. The spaces between things

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    It’s easy to underestimate the significance of the spaces between things…as soon as you frame a section of the view with architecture, the eye has a place to rest and previously invisible details come into focus.

  3. An absence at its centre

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    At first glance, the rocky outcrop reflected so sharply in the still surface of the water looks like the ghostly image of a house. Interestingly, once read this way, the image always seems to have an absence at its centre.

  4. Drawing a frame

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    The panels of tessellating hexagons have been laid to stabilize a path running through what remains of the nave of Rievaulx Abbey. They demonstrate the impact of drawing a frame around anything, even if that frame is nothing more than a plastic cell and the subject an area of grass. I like the way the path simply peters out to either side, with no sharply defined boundaries.

    1. ​White cloth​
  5. Economy of line

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    With a composition as disciplined as this, everywhere you point the lens feels like a natural frame. The visible architecture comprises simply three walls, two benches, and the top of a flight of steps. It is a perfect expression of economy of line, with the dark green backdrop of the trees acting as a foil for the light grey concrete and granite.

  6. The smallness of human life

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    The smallness of human life is graphically expressed in this graveyard, in the low stubs of the headstones dwarfed by the towering tree trunks. Perhaps unexpectedly, the effect of this monumental contrast of scales is a feeling of comfort — the secure tranquility of a final resting place overseen by these massive forms, whose benign nature seems to be underlined by the little wooden nesting box on the central tree.

  7. Attenuation and repetition

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    The distortion here is produced by the movement of a car, on a road near La Ina in Andalusia. My eye is always drawn to attenuation and repetition and the stratified view here exhibits both characteristics to such a degree that the image appears stretched. The extended parallels of the power lines are layered above the repeating arches of the viaduct and the low mass of the roadside barrier.

  8. Cantilevers of bronze

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    Set close to the surface of the water, the visible structure is made of only two materials — vertical cantilevers of bronze set between horizontal treads of dark grey granite.

  9. Of the plainest variety

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    It is unusual to find such mismatched elements on a single facade as this fine stonework coexisting with these stained and rotting shutters, on a house in the fortified town of Feltre, in the northern Italian province of Belluno.

    Where considerable labour lies behind the cutting and fitting of the stone, the timber planks have been left in their raw state, with no paint or carved decoration. Even the iron hinges are of the plainest variety.

  10. Stacking the rails

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    Stacking the rails in an interlocking zigzag configuration creates a self-supporting structure that is easy to repair and to take apart. This traditional construction method also has the advantage of requiring few tools, since no holes have to be dug for posts and there is no requirement for nails.

  11. White walls

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    When people say that white walls are cold and characterless, I wonder whether they have ever stopped to look at one. It’s not just about the drama of light and shadow, although I love the fragment of the ghost chair in this picture, but the way the smallest nuances of texture and tone come alive in certain conditions.

  12. The precise construction of relationships

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    This flight of steps runs up the outside of a Modernist house in Switzerland. What is striking here is the precise construction of relationships. The gaps between steps allow crisp lines of light to fall on the darkly shadowed wall, reinforcing the subtlety of the dialogue between granite and the concrete, which has been bush-hammers to expose the stone aggregates.

  13. In the lee of the sills

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    The first thing you register here is the dramatic inconsistency in the coloration of the timber cladding the house in Haldenstein: the natural hues of the wood survive only in the lee of the sills, like re-growth along the parties of a head of dyed hair. But a second glance takes in the precision of the cuts made to accommodate the window and the fact that the pine is used in seamless lengths.

  14. An Escher-like quality

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    There is an Escher-like quality to these flights of steps, but it is the intricate net of shadows created by the roof structure of this sky-lit sculpture gallery, falling across a succession of vertical planes and reflecting back on the surface of the glass, which commands attention. Slender metal bars set crosswise between the rafters add their own animating rhythm. It all makes for a very complex visual arena in which to view art.

  15. Monumental structures

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    These disused gas cylinders occupy a site on the outskirts of Stockholm. For the first ten years after moving to London, the view west across the train tracks was of a similar pair of monumental structures, transfigured by every sunset. One has since been dismantled to make way for the expanding national and international railway stations.

  16. The character of a light box

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    In certain conditions, the white walls at home take on the character of a light box. In traditional Japanese architecture the intensity of atmosphere has a lot to do with the way natural light is filtered through the shoji paper panels, suffusing the interior spaces with subdued light, calming the spirit and sharpening the senses.