TIPS

Editing your Architectural Travel Film

ICA Travel FilmLast week we covered tips on making a travel film, now we will cover how to edit all those short video clips and make a travel film.  Before you get a head of yourself and just dive into making your travel movie the following are some tips to ensure your movie is as interesting to others as it is to you.

Likely you have all the software you need already on your computer. Software such as iMovie (Mac Computers) and Windows Movie (PC Computers) will stich together individual videos, add music or other sounds and add credits. Open Shot and Light Works are alternate software options.  However consider the following tips before you get started.

Plan

Plan your movie by choosing the theme. There are a number of themes or methods to structure your movie for example your movie can be about one building and it can be set up to duplicate your experience or it can be a compilation of projects in the same city or by the same architect. You could make a series of short movies, each focusing on a different building typology. A long movie can be short snap shots of each building you visited in chronological order. The themes are endless, be creative.

Timeline / Storyboard

Make a timeline and/or storyboard. This sounds cumbersome and overkill however it can be a really basic doodle or point form notes but having a plan will save time in the long run and ensure you are making a concise movie that tells a story and is not just random video clips stitched together.

Movie Length

Determine how long your movie will be before you start. It is advisable to try and keep it under five minutes if you want to send and share your movie online so the file size is still manageable. Deciding the length of the movie also helps know how much to edit and whether you have enough video footage.

Music

Trying adding music to your movie, perhaps a song from the region you traveled or a song you listened to while traveling. Another possibility is to narrate the movie yourself so you are able to speak to the footage with stories or interesting facts. This is another reason why determining the movie length is coordinated to a certain song or narrative.

Narrate

If you like the idea of narrating you can take it a step further and add yourself to the movie by adding clips of yourself explaining the projects or sharing a story of your adventure between your travel footage. This is a great way to be included in the movie since you are normally behind the camera.

Edit

Edit your travel videos. In film production there is a “10 second rule” which means that every 10 seconds something interesting should happen. Any shaky or blurry footage should be cut out and scenes that are boring should be reduced. Try to keep the video concise and interesting for your viewers.

Compress

To make your movie ready to share on social media for a DVD, for your travel blog or sharing it online compress your movie file and name it clearly.

Practice Practice Practice

Lastly, things always look easier than they are so practice.

 

Here is my first attempt at making a travel film, I definitely need more practice.

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Creating an Architectural Travel Film

Create your own travel movie from all your video clips to share is easier than you may think. Video can be the most amazing way to capture, relive and share your architectural experiences. There are a few advantages of video over photography such as the obvious sound, but video also replicates movement and time very differently than photography because it is capable of capturing what comes before and after. When visiting and documenting architecture although the subject matter is likely static the viewer is not and some buildings truly unfold and develop as you move through them, video is a perfect way to capture these experiences.

For the amateur film maker, like myself, your DSLR or point and shoot camera will have a video mode and that will be good enough.

Part 4 - Videos

Here are some tips on how to create your travel videos:

The idea

Have an idea of what you want your travel video(s) to be, for example do you want to create a series of videos of different architectural projects or will you compile a series of short snap shots of different buildings. Your video can take on themes similar to photography:

  • easily recognizable,
  • very objective
  • experimental,
  • detail based
  • snap shot of for comparison,
  • a story
  • artsy

Be sure your video has a beginning, middle and end.

Tripod

Use a tripod when possible, unlike still photography where shutter speeds can be increased to prevent blurry photos a video may be harder to prevent shaky footage. Many times a tripod is not permitted in public buildings so try to keep this in mind and use similar techniques for holding your camera as covered in the photography section.

10 second rule

In film production there is a “10 second rule” which means that every 10 seconds something interesting should happen. When filming architecture it may be difficult to get action is every scene. If your scene is uneventful you can edit the shot in post-production but at least you will have enough footage if you choose to add a fade or narration. An easy way to add action in your architectural film is to include people, they will give scale and show interaction with the space, also use light, the sun moves, and a long video can be speed up in post-production and be very dynamic.

Variety

It is a good idea to vary your scenes; this will keep it interesting and add interest to your travel movie. Try to capture less common vantage points, film the details and overall shots, ensure you have a variety of camera angles such as shooting low and high, on the side or on an angle. Remember, as per photography architecture reads better when photographed and filmed at chest height. All of this variety will help tell the story and keep your viewers interested.

Avoid

Try to avoid zooming in and out which will appear amateur and avoid panning your camera without a tripod since it will be very difficult to do it without shaking.

Separate audio

If you intend on using the audio captured in situ try to use separate audio devise such as your smart phone or tape recorder and leave the recorder running longer. This will let you match the studio to the edited video separately allowing you more control over the sound and no choppy sound bits. Ie: city traffic, people talking, religious chanting etc.

Equipment

Keep in mind that video will use up more space on your memory card and require more battery. It is recommended you buy an extra good quality memory card (they are not all created equal) and test the life of your battery, perhaps investing in an additional battery.

Observe

Pay attention when you are watching movies and film, there is architecture in most of them; notice how the camera angles are setup how the building is presented even if it is a backdrop. Often we do not notice the nuances of a craft until we try it ourselves.

This all sounds like a lot of work while in situ however a few seconds of film here and there can make for a fantastic short video but I would recommend some practicing at home or around your neighbourhood the first few times to become familiar with video if it is new to you.

Editing your Travel Film Blog post coming soon…

 

 

10 Architectural Photoshop Tips

Post production photo editing is fairly common, particularly if you plan to use the photography in your home, share it with friends and family or put it in a photo album.  I do all my post production in Adobe Photoshop but there is similar software available which will do many of the following tips.  If you shoot with RAW images you will have more ability to adjust the photo, these tips are applicable for standard JPEGs.

1.  Save as

Before I start any photo editing it is a good idea to save the photo with a different name so you can always go back to the original if you need it in the future.  Normally I just add a letter to the end of the photo name this way it is filed next to the original and I can easily find which photo is the original.

2.  Rotate

Sometimes your photo may need slight rotation because the strong lines of the building are too straight.  It is a good idea to make use of the guides to check on the alignment with the photo’s edge, just click on the rulers and drag.   Another method of adjusting the alignment is using the ruler tool.   Rotate – make sure the horizon is correct or vertical is perfect.

Drag the ruler along the line you wish to be vertical > Image Menu > Image Rotation > Arbitrary
Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba
image, Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba Spain, slight rotation counter-clockwise.  

3.  Crop

Composition is arguably the most important element of architectural photography.  I recommend cropping immediately so you are only working on and looking at the final photograph size and content.  Be careful to crop to a size that is proportional to what the photo will be used for, in other words, if you plan to print 4×6 photos the cropping should be in proportion or if you plan to upload to Instagram your photo needs to be a square proportion.

Spertus Museum

image, Spertus Museum Chicago, cropped into a square for instagram

 

4.  Defog

I only recently discovered this feature, which will save you lots of time mucking around with the curves and levels.  This function will remove the fog and haze in your photo and can make a big difference.  Below if the suggested amounts however sometimes the percentage needs to increase.

Filter Menu > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask > Enter Amount 14%, Radius 40 pixels, and Threshold 0 levels

Stone wall in Turkey

image, stone wall Turkey, unsharpen mask set to 40%/40/0

5.  Contrast

The Brightness/Contrast allows for changes to the tonal range of the entire photo. The brightness slider expands or decreases the highlights or shadows while the contrast slider expands or decreases the tonal values in the overall image.

Layer Menu > New adjustment layer > Brightness/Contrast > Click OK

Prudential (Guaranty) Building

image, Prudential (Guaranty) Building Buffalo, brightness decreased and contrast increased

6.  Hue and Saturation

This tool is easily fine tunes the hue and saturation your photos.  The Hue slider will alter the entire photos range of colour, this is good for effects such as adjusting the photo from colour to black and white or effects such as sepia.  The saturation slider is great for making your photos more vivid or muted.

Layer Menu > New adjustment layer > Hue/Saturation  > Click OK

Scottsdale Arabian Library

image, Scottsdale Arabian Library Arizona, saturation was decreased and hue adjusted slightly

7.  Levels

The levels tool uses the histogram of the photo to adjust the tonal range of its brightness and contrast which is accomplished by selecting the black, white and midtones will be on the histogram.  A rule of thumb is the histogram should typically extend the entire width of the graph; however the image should be previewed while making adjustments.

Layer Menu > New adjustment layer > Levels > Click OK

Museum of Civilization

image, Museum of Civilization Ottawa, slider was taken in for both the white and black based on histogram 

8.  Curves

Curves are an intimidating tool however it is one of the most powerful tools for adjusting your photography’s tonal range.  The graph begins with a straight diagonal line which represents the image’s tonality, the upper right are the highlights, the lower-left are the shadows.  Adjusting the RGB can be done in several ways, I encourage playing around with the tool to practice how it can be utilized.  I typically use this when photographing white interiors; it is sometimes difficult to achieve a crisp white when the majority of the content is white.

Layer Menu > New adjustment layer > Curves > Click OK

Guggenheim Museum

image, Guggenheim Museum New York City, curve adjusted to increase the highlights and make building more white

9.  Shadows / Highlights

Unlike many of the other tools in photoshop the Shadows / Highlight tool will adjust strong backlighting or areas washed out from over exposure separate from the rest of the picture.  Practice adjusting the different slider options to see how they will affect your photo.  Be sure to click on ‘Show more options’ to get full use of the tool.  Be careful to use this tool lightly since it can easily result in an artificial

Filter Menu > Convert for Smart Filters > Click OK > Image Menu > Adjustments > Shadows / Highlights

The Beekman

image, The Beekman New York City, the shadows and highlight sliders were adjusted to suit (some deletion of adjacent buildings using the clone tool)

10.  Correct Morie Effect

Moiré pattern typically occurs when a repetitive lines or dots occur in a tight pattern and thus create a third pattern.  for example, horizontal or vertical wood slats, frit patterns on glass, sun shades, fences, and so on, the repetition exceeds the camera’s sensor resolution.  How much morie effect you will encounter in your photography has a lot to do with your camera and lens design, it is a common issue with digital SLRs.   A few tips to avoid the issue while shooting is to increase the pixels per square inch, shoot in RAW,  change the angle or distance you are shooting from.  If morie effect still occurs it can be corrected or reduced in post production.

Use the Lasso tool to select the morie pattern > Filter Menu > Blur > Gaussian Blur (do not to use the defog tool it will likely more the morie pattern worse)

New Amsterdam Pavilion

image, New Amsterdam Pavilion New York City, increased Gaussian blur to 1.4 pixels

 

These tools all have their place in post production photography but it is important to to learn when each tool is needed, you will not need to use all of them.  It is also best to spend time to perfect your photographing skills to reduce the amount of post production work necessary,  No Photoshop work is the goal.  So do not over do it and try to use these tools to subtly help improve your photography not drastically alter it.

 

A few ways architecture can come to you.

There are many reasons why traveling to visit architecture in distant cities can be difficult, the cost of travel has gone up significantly, it is hard to get time off work, you have obligations, you just don’t like to travel or you can’t afford it.  In my case I recently had a baby thus realizing this is going to change how I travel and how much I travel as much as I didn’t want to believe it before.  So I have been thinking about all the ways I can still get my architecture fix without travel and possibly without even leaving my house.  Here are my suggestions:

Books

 

I love books, let me clarify, I love big coffee table books.  There are thousands of beautiful modern architecture books available with amazing photos and lots of information about architecture and their architects.  Many books are compilation of architecture projects, Phaidon Press always creates awesome modern architecture books.  My favorite recent book is The Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture which features more than 1000 of the finest architecture completed since the year 2000 from around the world.  And now that I think about it you don’t need to leave your house for books anymore either.

Click here for some more book suggestions.

 

 

Magazines

For those who like to stay in the know regarding new architectural projects, awards, news, and events magazines are just the thing. They are also idea for flipping through while having your morning coffee, they are easy to digest, portable and not precious objects so they can be recycled when you are done.  You can also subscribe to magazines so you don’t even need to think about it.  Here are some good ones.

           

Digital Books and Magazines

Although there is nothing like a tangible book I am very fond of all things digital.  If you have a Kobo, Kindle, or tablet you can purchase digital architecture books or magazines so if you are the type that doesn’t like a lot of stuff or don’t have a lot of space this is perfect.  Plus you can order them anytime of day and get it instantly.

Architecture Documentaries

I always say that because architecture is three dimensional it should be viewed in person to understand the true space and to grasp the real nature of the architecture HOWEVER the next best thing is film.  There are some outstanding Documentaries about architecture where you can learn about a series of projects by one architect or learn a ton about one building.  Click here for a link to a bunch of architecture documentaries worth getting.

               

Lectures

Check out your local architecture college / university they often run architectural lecture series through the school year bringing in some really fascinating architects to speak about their work.  I have seen Elizabeth Diller, Tadao Ando, Craig Dykers from Snohetta, Kazuyo Sejima from SANNA,and so forth.  Listening to the architect speak of the challenges, the inspiration and reasoning is priceless and I have found very inspiring.  Other places to learn about lectures or events is in magazines, also check you local architecture associations website there is usually a list of events.

Youtube

Youtube is not new but I feel like I have only recently realized its true value when it comes to architecture.   There are countless interviews with architects and short documentaries about buildings on youtube, they vary in length and context but they are similar to lectures in that you can get the real scoop on process and design, challenges and my favourite is seeing how different the office environments are.  I have a few blog posts that have several youtube links, see below, or you can just search youtube for whatever or whomever you are interested in.

Learn more about Bjarke Ingels (B.I.G)

Interviews with Zaha Hadid

Websites

There are lots of great architecture websites.  I list a bunch in this blog post:

 12 awesome ARCHITECTURE websites

 

These are a few ways to have architecture come to you.

Architectural travel on the cheap

From the plane

Gone are the days of cheap travel, I cannot believe how expensive flights and hotels have become.  Not long ago we could get half-way around the world for what now seems like peanuts.  But for us curious explorers we cannot stop traveling and visiting our favorite architectural landmarks so we must find other ways to save. 

Here are my travel budget tips to offset the costs of traveling.

(from a float plane on my way Salmon fishing in the Queen Charlotte Islands, BC)

Do the Research

Before you leave be sure to research the architecture, monuments, museums and towers you plan to visit, jot down the entry fees and compare it to your budget.  If the entry fees are adding up you may need to prioritize (also see 5 TIPS FOR VISITING ARCHITECTURE).  This will be important to help find savings in the tips below.

The Budget

Budgets aren’t my favorite thing either but here is a quick and easy formula:

  1. Start with how much you want or can afford to spend on you trip I would start with that
  2. Subtract all your transportation costs (flights, trains tickets, bus ticket etc.)
  3. Calculate how many days you will need accommodation and do a quick estimate of your average accommodation budget is
  4. You should allow for food and spending money – this is going to vary greatly depending on what country you are going to be.

Remember this is a starting point to make sure things don’t go off track to much, accommodation/ food and spending money is an average number so if one day you are going to a number of monuments but the day after you plan to hang out at the beach it should average out.

Flexibility

When you have flexibility and /or time you can usually find better deals on flights and hotels in the offseason – this will save you money on flights and hotels that you can use towards entry fees and day tours.

We all have to Eat

I am a foodie but sometimes on travels food is fuel and not the main event so what I like to do is try and save money on one meal a day.

Breakfast:  Often I travel with food, a few protein bars or granolar bars because they are easy to transport  or I will go to the market and get some fresh fruit or a treat from the bakery while I am out and about and have that in my hotel room with coffee, if there is a coffee machine in the room.  This is a relaxing and quick way to have breakfast in the morning, often while I review the plan for the day.

Lunch:  if lunch is my money saving meal I will try to have a bigger breakfast and grab a snack on the go midday.  Street food is always my favorite but that will depend on what city you are in. Also if you are having a big breakfast and an early dinner you may skip lunch all together.  If you are close to market grab some fresh fruits and vegetable which are hard to get enough of when traveling.

Istanbul Streetfood 3 Istanbul Streetfood 1 Istanbul Streetfood 2 (variety of street food in Istanbul, Turkey)

Dinner:  this is a bit trickier to save for, but possible, ask your concierge for recommendations and try to stay out of the tourist areas which are normally expensive and not that great.

Some general tips:  If coffee is super pricey, my experience in Tokyo, I have gone to the store and purchased some instant coffee to have in the hotel.

With all these ways to save I do not recommend trying to save a dollar on water.  Drink safe reliable water especially in hot places, if you are in Rome and it is over 40 degrees Celsius it is important to stay hydrated, try grabbing a big bottle of water from the grocery store instead of the stands in front of the Coliseum.

Citypass

Because you have been diligent and done a ton of research prior to your trip you will know which sites you plan to visit and the entry fee prices, but many cities offer a ‘citypass’ (the name of the pass vary from city to city) which basically bundles a bunch of popular city sights for a flat rate.  This is perfect for those who plan to go to enough of the sights on the list.  Many of these value packages offer features such as line-bypass or discounts for other places, stores or shows.  Here are a few examples:

MADRID Tourist Card:  http://www.madridcard.com/en/inicio

TORONTO Citypass:  http://www.citypass.com/toronto

NEW YORK Citypass:  http://www.citypass.com/new-york

BERLIN Welcome Card:  http://www.visitberlin.de/en/welcomecard

To find if the cities you are traveling to have a citypass I typically would Google the city name and the phrase ‘tourist card’, the officially tourist website of the city/country you are going should also have some advertising for it.

Museums

Louvre LensMany Museums and Galleries offer pricing for General Admission, the Temporary Exhibit and typically another price for both.  You can save some money by viewing only the Permanent Collection, it is all new stuff if you have never been there before and if you are really just interested in the architecture you will see the main spaces and most of the building without the up charge on the Temporary Exhibit.

Bilbao Guggenheim Museum

Also try to take advantage of the time where it is free entry, most museums and galleries do offer this so if it works with your schedule try to take advantage but I must warn you it will likely be busy.

louvre-museum

Buy your tickets in advance, sometimes there is a discount for purchasing ahead of time, for some museums and art galleries you need to book a time anyways so I would recommend always looking into this as part of your research.

Tourist Trap

Prada by Herzog & de Meuron Architekten

Prada by Herzog & de Meuron Architekten

Don’t get sucked into the tourist trap of feeling like you need to visit every monument, museum, gallery, ruin and historic something rather which all have entry fees.  Pick and choose which you actually want to go to, perhaps the Arc de Triomphe is awesome enough from the ground floor and you don’t need to go up, the view is pretty cool that was just an example. If you don’t find a bunch of ruins that interesting because history is not your thing you are better to check out an awesome Square or Piazza and have an ice cream or go shopping in some super trendy boutiques.  Don’t feel like you need to hit the top ten listed in some travel guide.

Sleep on the Go

ways_to_sleep

You can save a night’s accommodation if you book an overnight train or flight rather than spending the entire day commuting only to arrive to your destination just to sleep.  If you plan to do this bring a small inflatable pillow, ear plugs or load your iPod with some relaxing white noise, an eye mask and a light blanket.  Be sure to keep you valuables safe, I have sat on top of my passport and money on a few train rides, and try to keep your luggage in easy viewing distance, better a few seats in front of you than behind you.

Discounts

If you are young, a student or a senior you got it made for discounts.  Almost everything offers a discount from public transit to popular landmarks; if it is not advertised ask if there is a discount.  Some reward cards or membership cards offer discounts to hotels and attractions, it’s worth reviewing the offers before booking your trip.

Transportation

Kyoto on BikeTry to walk as much as possible, take public transit or rent a bike over taxis.  You can see the city the best by foot and cover a lot of terrain in a bike.  Do what the locals do to get around, ie:  in Kyoto renting a bike for a few days was perfect, very convenient and flexible, in most cities I take the metro, in Istanbul I saved a ton if money taking the regular commuting ferry up the Bosporus River rather than an expensive tourist cruise, you miss the commentary but the scenery is the same for only a few dollars.

(Kyoto, Japan by bike)

Cash

Try not to exchange money or withdrawal money too frequently, most exchange centers have bad exchange rates and banks can charge fees for each withdrawal (learned this the hard way).  Try to change as much money as you feel comfortable carrying before you leave.  I recommend not keeping all your money in one place no matter how much you have, I always try to have an emergency bill or two tucked somewhere no one would go ie: shoes, bra, sock (gross I know but I would not want to be completely stranded somewhere without even a way to get back to the hotel).   Before you leave it may be worth a quick internet search of where a good place to get cash is or ask your concierge.

Whats Included

It shocks me beyond words that in this day and age free WiFi is not standard in every hotel but many hotels do charge.  It will be beneficial and save you time and money to have free WiFi access with your accommodations, it will be easy to contact friends and family, look up venues you plan to go to, and allows more freedom to change your itinerary and research new things on the fly.

Complimentary breakfast will also save you money if you take full advantage and have a healthy size breakfast you may not to have lunch at all.

More Time – Less Places

Cherry Blossoms

I know I know – there are so many places and so little time but if you cram in too much you won’t enjoy it anyways and be paying to be in an airport, on a train/bus for half your trip.  So stop and smell the roses, it will be easier on your pocket book too.

a happy groupie is an architecture GROUPIE

Visiting Modern Architecture

How to Plan your Architectural Travel

Canova Plaster Cast Museum

I love planning my architectural explorations, for me it is almost as fun as the traveling, however I recognize not everyone feels this way, it can be a lot of work particularly if you want to see it all and don’t want to miss a thing.  I really hate getting back from a great city and missing an amazing architectural project because I didn’t know it was there!

When I went to Venice I was ill prepared and missed a bunch of Carlo Scarpa’s architecture, I have heard his work is amazing from friends and wish I could have experienced it in person (now his work is on my bucket list).  So to prevent this I have outlined my system of travel planning in hopes you will never miss out on any architectural experiences.

Choosing an architecturally rich city

If you haven’t already decided where you want to go one of the methods I use to determine which cities to travel to is to first ask myself and my travel companion: what time of year I want to travel, how long the trip will be and what do we want to gain from the experience.  Most people like to travel where the weather is reasonably good so that will help narrow down where you want to go depending on the time of year.  How long you have will narrow down how far you can go and how many cities you can reasonably see.  There are so many wonderful and exciting cities so once the list has been narrowed down do image searches and talk to people who have been to the places you are interested in – this will definitely help to make your final determination.  If you are like me there are just too many places and not enough time and/or money.

banner

Finding the architecture

Once you have determined the city or cities you are going to visit you can begin to find the architecture.  Research cannot be overstated – the more you do before you leave the less you miss and the more you see!  I always search for as many architectural gems as I can by doing the following:

  • Refer to architecture magazines and books
  • Talk to friends and family about your travel plans they may offer suggestions and tips, most people love to reminiscent about the things they have seen and places they go.  Friends and family are usually a reliable source because they are unbiased and the information and experience is first hand.
  • Image searches, try different keywords, when you see something you like save the picture and try to get the name from the website – the pictures are important because a list of building names can get all confusing after so much research
  • Visit www.archgroupie.com which is our architecture directory of architectural gems organized by city so you are able to skip all this research but if we haven’t covered the city yet – feel free to write us and let us know.
  • Consult various architecture websites, check out this blog post:  12 Awesome ARCHITECTURE websites

Keep an ongoing list of everything you find.  This can be done on your computer, in a sketchbook, on a smartphone app such as Evernote, or all of the above.  Whichever method works best for you, we will organize the information in the next step.

Get Organized

When you believe you got it all or have run out of time for researching begin to vet through the information.  I always rank my researched architecture list into three categories:

1. Absolutely will not leave this city without seeing this building…MUST SEE

2. Really want to see

3. I will live if I don’t see that building

4. Not that interested

Now research the essential information from the top three categories: address, hours, entry fee, tour times, website links, etc.  Make reservations, get tickets if required and prepare anything you may need to visit the building.

Map it out

smartphone 5

There are lots of ways to map out the architecture, you can use Google maps, print a map and label it with a corresponding legend or mark up your travel guide book.  It is important to map it so you can better prepare an itinerary.  Mapping will also help you know when a building is hard to get to or just next door.   I like to always group sites by geography so I do not waste precious time traveling back and forth around the city – on a map it is easy to tell how close or far apart buildings are.

Architecture GROUPIE is creating maps so you can skip all this work too.

Itinerary

Visiting Modern Architecture

Make an itinerary, I have never been too keen on a day by day / hour by hour itinerary but many buildings are not open every day and if you are not careful you can miss out on some great sites because you weren’t organized or well researched.

Based on your “MUST SEE” architecture list outline what days they are open and closed to see if a conflict will occur.  Use your itinerary loosely to figure out how you will get around and what you plan to see and do… be sure to leave flexibility for example if the weather is rainy I like to check out some indoor venues such as a museum.

Documents

It is important to let people know where you are just in case.  I create a small spread sheet with the important information of where I will be and give it to a family member, be sure to include any information you may need as well, such as confirmation numbers, see example below.  Another option is to enter all this information into a sharable calendar such as Tripit, I have not used it yet but plan to give it a try on my next travel adventure.

 Date  City and Flight Info

Hotel (name, address, phone number)

Confirmation Number

Include your email address and phone number at the bottom.

Also it is important to have a copy of important travel documents such as your passport, visa etc.  Save these on your smartphone, tablet or print them out.  I would recommend putting all this important stuff on the cloud (Dropbox Google Drive, etc…) or you can just email it to yourself in case something happens to your device, this way you just need any computer with internet to access this sensitive information and its one less thing to care around. 

Budget

If you are on a budget be sure to take note of ticket prices and free offers.  Some buildings can be viewed from the outside if the tours are really expensive and it isn’t on your “MUST SEE” list.

Also visit:  5 TIPS FOR VISITING MODERN ARCHITECTURE ON A BUDGET

Just remember you will likely never go back to these cities and see these places again so don’t go overboard and miss out on great architecture.

Now all you need to do is pack…  Happy Travels

travel guides - blog

A happy groupie is an architecture GROUPIE – check out the digital maps to save you all this work

package your architectural memories

So we take these extraordinary architectural journeys and visit inspirational places and but when we get home it seem almost immediately to be like a dream that went by in a flash.  Before you begin planning your next trip take some time and package your architectural memories.

Make the most of your experiences and re-live them by sharing with family and friends.  This is what I do to keep the inspiration and memories around me or at my finger tips.

Scrapbook / Box it

It sounds nerdier then it is.  I try to keep all the tickets stubs, receipts, plane boarding passes, train tickets and even subway cards from my trips.  When I return home I usually put them all in a scrapbook or well labeled box.  It is surprising how much you forget until you open up the scrapbook or box and see a ticket stub to a museum or tour and flooded with memories of the day and experience.  I also like to look back to see how much I paid for things like flights or dinners and it makes it much easier when friends ask me what I did when I was there.  It is also nice to see how different the each scrapbook can be, ticket stubs and receipts in different languages, little notes and things you pick up along your travels can vary immensely.  The scrapbook doesn’t need to be beautiful – just make sure the paper has a heavy weight, I like paperclips for pamphlets and maps, staples and glue work well also.

Scrapbook3 Scrapbook2 Scrapbook1  Box-it

Photobook

Some of us will have taken thousands of digital pictures which will go into our computers never to be seen again. Create a photobook that looks like a magazine, the days of the old 4×6 picture album with plastic sleeves is over.  There are much better photobooks that are so easy to make online.  I have used the Blacks photobooks but there are lots of companies that provide similar services.

Now that we take hundreds, even thousands of photos on our trips picking the right pictures can be a bit of work.  An easy way to sift through all of this is to make a ‘BEST OF…’ folder.  Then go through all the pictures and any one you like COPY into the ‘BEST OF…’ folder, you do not need to be too picky at this point, if you are really thorough this is when you can delete any out of focus shots or just really bad ones.  When you are done the first round go to the ‘BEST OF…’ folder and see how many pictures you have.  Keep narrowing it down removing photos that are repetitive, try to get the essence of the trip.  Depending on how big you want to make your photobook is how many photos you should have in this folder.

Slideshow

Using the photos from your ‘BEST OF…’ folder you can easily make this into a slideshow.  There is so much software available to do this I won’t go through all of them, keep in mind you can add any videos you took, include local music, add captions and so on.  Be creative and have fun.  You can play your slideshow on your TV or computer; you can send it to your friends and family online. I recommend no more than 200 pictures – this is even pushing it for the average attention span – they weren’t there so they are only so interested.  Also be sure that the pictures you use in a slideshow are not just of you with a landmark in the background, my brother and his girlfriend did this and watching a slideshow essentially of just them was pretty boring and we have never let them live it down (all in good fun).

Journal it

Travel Journal

Writing and/or drawing in a journal is so gratifying for your future reminiscing.  I highly encourage you to spend a few minutes everyday on the trip and jot down a few things you were thinking throughout the day.  But what do you write, here are some ideas:  the most surprising or best part of the day, what really inspired you and why, what you thought was disappointing.  If you don’t’ like to spend time doing this when you could be out and about take advantage of the train rides or waiting in the airport, there is always some downtime that can be better utilized. These short notes are priceless and you can keep them private or share them.

Showcase

It is always nice to surround yourself with memories of the places you have been and also a way to decorate your home.  Here are some suggestions of ways to display your photos which I have done.

Collage

Print 4×6 photos and collage them together, this is inexpensive and a fun home project.  The image above is a small portion of my photos of Japan, if you make the collage big enough it has lots of impact and can tell the story of your trip and all the places you have been.

Photos on the cheap       Photos on the cheap 2

This image are photos I printed on my home printer and then spray glued each photo on foamcore, using an x acto knifecut off the boarders and mounted them on the wall using a small piece of double sided tape (be careful to use a tape that can come off the wall easily).

Photo Series

A series of photos is also nice, the image above are two photos from Turkey I sent to be printed and then mounted them in frames I purchased.  This is more expensive, the cost will depend on the frame and type of printing you choose.

Party

Often when I return from a trip I am eager to share what I have seen and learned with anyone who will listen.  Returning from a vacation doesn’t mean the fun is over – have a party themed and inspired by it.  When I returned home from Peru I decided to have a bunch a girlfriends over and host a ‘Peruvian night’ we all brought a Peruvian dish, drank pisco sours and I ran my slideshow with the native music playing.  It was all very fun and relaxed and because a few of them had already been there it was a trip down memory lane for them too.

A happy groupie is an architecture GROUPIE

Try HDR for your Architectural Photography

HDR is an awesome photo technique so if you haven’t tried it in your architectural photography you should. 

I am going to give you the 101 on HDR. 

High Dynamic Range (HDR) is a post-processing method of taking a series of images, combining them, and adjusting the contrast ratios to do things that are virtually impossible with a single aperture and shutter speed.

HDR compensates for this loss of detail of overexposed and underexposed areas in a photo by taking multiple pictures at different exposure levels and stitching them together to produce a picture that is representative in both dark and bright areas in computer software during post-production.

The reason HDR creates such amazingly realistic photos is because a single image uses only one shutter speed and one aperture setting however the human eye does not process images the same way.  Your eyes move and adjust the light as required and does a lot to process an image accurately.  So even with the best equipment getting an accurate representation of what you saw is difficult.  HDR stitches all the images together – a trick to accurately represent and image.  Many times HDR is exaggerated in post-production – this effect is no for everyone or appropriate for all pictures so balancing the effect with your desired outcome is where the challenge lies.  Some examples of HDR from www.stuckincustoms.com:

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What you need:

1.  MANUAL CAMERA

A camera which can be put into manual mode, likely a DSLR or SLR, because you will need to be able to adjust your exposure (I have the Canon 4Ti which is an inexpensive camera with lots of features).  Most DSLRs have Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) which allows you to set the exposure easily and the photo will take the photos and adjust automatically.  If you are not sure check your camera’s manual.  Some of the newest cameras have an HDR feature but this does all the work for you and you will have no control over the final output – do a comparison to see if you are happy with the results.  Also, I would recommend taking the photos in RAW+JPEG but if you are low on memory or can’t shoot in the RAW it is fine (Shooting in RAW just gives more post production control).

2.  TRIPOD

A tripod is important to maintain the exact same shot with different exposures.  There are so many tripods out there and the price range is significant the Manfrotto 410 is an awesome tripod because of all the leveling features and stability but there are less expensive tripods on the market.  For the purpose of HDR you just need to keep the camera still so a basic tripod and you can adjust and straighten your photo in post-production.  It is also recommended to have a camera remote (canon rs-60e3) which prevents the camera from shaking when you press the shoot button.  If you are traveling and want to pack light just use the timer on your camera so you press the button and there is a short delay before the camera goes off.

Manfrotto tripod

3.  POWER & MEMORY

Taking HDR is requires taking multiple shots for every one photo, usually 3 or 5 but if you are very particular or need a really perfect image you can do more with less exposure range between them.  Thus you will be going through your batteries and memory 3 or 5 times faster, something to prepare for if you are taking a trip.  Note:  if you are planning a trip soon try this technique before you go so you don’t miss a great photo.

4.  THE SUBJECT

The image should not be in motion, repetitive motion is fine for example a waterfall but people walking will result in ghosting – which can be a cool effect but may not be what you want.  If you are shooting architecture this shouldn’t be a problem.  Also, you will likely see the most noticeable improvement in photos where the subject has with lots of color, HDR can be used for monochromatic photography however I found the benefits less apparent.

5.  SOFTWARE

There are a number of software programs available to do the HDR post-production, I always use Adobe Photoshop but this is pretty expensive software, an alternate I have been hearing about is called Photomatrix.

For more research check out this review of HDR software Top 10 Best HDR Software Review 2012

  

OKAY – now you are ready to begin, it is easy

  1. Setup your camera on a tripod as you would for any photo
  2. Using the AEB function set three exposure levels appropriate to your setting with one begin the correct exposure (you can add more exposures as you practice).  You can meter the dark and light spots to find the right exposure range.  If you do not have AEB you will need to adjust the exposure manually after each shot but be careful not to move the camera.
  3. Take the photos, depending on your camera you will either press the shot button once or will need to do it for each shot.
  4. Bring your images into the post-production software and have fun, play around with the features and the light levels. The process will depend on the software you choose, if you are using Photoshop this YouTube video will help you see the process:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qhnd1oNlqCU

13 + 2Untitled_HDR2

You will never say

“Well, you really had to be there” again

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Tips for your architectural Sketches

Tadao Ando Sketch

Architectural sketches are many things but they do NOT need to be perfect / meticulous or even pretty.  Sketches are tools and without rules.  Often times we shy away from sketching because we think they need to be pretty perfect replicas of whatever we are sketching.

Sketching offers so many benefits such as:

  • a record of something you have visited and seen in person
  • a record of one or more aspects of something you want to keep record of
  • a way of learning how materials and forms come together
  • is a great alternative when cameras are not permitted
  • sketching is slower than photography which lets you take a moment and really appreciate and look at the architecture you are visiting
  • you can add notes and thoughts to your sketches
  • a rough description – it’s OK if they lack detail; don’t fill the page or are not even completed

All you need:

Faber-Castell 9000 Pencil Design SetPencil:  A carbon pencil is great for the beginner – they come in a variety of lead grades and provide a varied and richness to sketches over mechanical pencils which are hard and thin,  I would recommend a soft lead such as a B or 2B, for a sketcher quality you can even move up to a 6B.  Mechanical pencils break easily and because they are so thin it will be more difficult to shade and obtain a variety of line qualities.  No erasers – don’t bring an eraser sketches do not need to be perfect when you make a mistake work with it or start over, this adds character and will help you improve.

Pen:  there are so many types of pens available; the easiest to sketch with, in my opinion is a felt tip marker.  The thicker the pen the less precise and detailed you need to be.  Experiment with pen types you have, I would not recommend traveling with a fountain pen, they require refills and my fountain pen exploded on me after a long flight so stick with a basic felt or nylon tips.

Moleskine Classic Red Notebook, Plain Large

Paper:  a sketch book with good quality paper is important, also if you choose to use markers you will need a paper that can hold the ink without bleeding the next page.  Every sketch looks better on good paper – Moleskine has a variety of paper weight available for their sketchbooks and the paper color also varies which adds to the quality of the sketch.

Sketching Tips:

Everyone has different preferences so spend a few minutes and experiment with what you like.  You do not need to travel with lots or supplies, 2 pens and 2 pencils and 1 sketchbook are enough.

To do this sort of sketching you need to relax and let yourself go and not to be afraid of making mistakes and to have an understanding of form and shape.

A lack of confidence and worrying about a perfect sketch inhibits your work and enjoyment of the process.  Sketches are a means of conveying an idea, they are tools to learn, understand and communicate so they do not need to be perfect or finished.

Really simple tips to elevate your sketches:

  1. Darken the end of the line

  2. Overlap corners

  3. Add a dot at the end of the line

  4. Leave gaps in lines

  5. Repeat your line

  6. Shade on a 45° angle & vary you depth

  7. Write notes

  8. Use white space

  9. Continuous lines (don’t lift your pencil/pen)

  10. When drawing a long straight line do not use your wrist but rather move your entire arm  – try it.

Architectural Sketching Tips

Draw something everyday – an exercise which will bring fluency and confidence to your drawing

The Art of Urban Sketching: Drawing On Location Around The WorldDrawing: A Creative Process

10 Architectural Photography Tips

We are always looking to improve our architectural photography skills to get the best architecture photos possible.  Here are a few ideas and tips based on my experience and research to keep in mind the next time you are visiting your favorite modern and contemporary architecture.

1.  Closeup vs. Far Away

Sears Tower closeup   Sears Tower from afar

When photographing buildings from closeup they can sometimes appear to be sloping backwards – sometimes this can be corrected in Photoshop however if possible try moving farther away from the building and use a telephone lens this will correct the distortion and result in much straighter lines.  Notice the difference in the two Chicago  skyscrapers above, the photo to the left is taken from a much closer with a wide angle lens and the photo to the left from a boat with a telephoto lens – the end result is dramatically different.

2.  Foreground and Background

Design Sight

Including an interesting foreground such as plants, people, or cars can help contrast the building lines and form.  A background such as trees, clouds, other buildings can do the same.  Be sure to keep the focus on the architecture by adjusting your depth of field.  The photo of 21-21 Design Sight in Tokyo by Tadao Ando is framed by textured vegetation which contrasts the strong straight lines of the building roof and glazing.

3.  Silhouettes

Istanbul Mosque

At dusk or dawn you can try having fun with silhouettes.  Some buildings have wonderful and distinct forms which can be understood even without all the details.  In Istanbul the beautiful mosques have minuets and domes that can be clearly read even as a silhouette, photo above.

4.  The Essence

Elevator

Capture the essence of the space.  This old and wonderful elevator in Prague was an accidental find – a photo without displaying its movement would not be the same. Experiment with shutter speeds to get the amount of blur you are happy with.  A few other ideas is intentionally overexposing or underexposing these can be great effects if done in the right space to capture the mood of the architecture.

5.  Lines

BCE Place - Toronto Architecture 2   Colourful architecture

Architectural photography is often about lines, angles, details, colors, shapes and materials and textures, exploit what you believe the most important element of the building.  To keep your lines straight be sure to turn on your camera grids on this is also helpful for following the Rule of Thirds.  Straightening out your lines can also be done in the post production phase (I frequently rotate and crop photos in Photoshop).

6.  Sky

machu picchu

A big blue sky is great but it can be boring.  On my trip to Machu Picchu I was disappointed when I awoke to a rainy overcast day however I realized this fog and rain added a lot of mystery and drama to my photo, above.

Clouds / Overcast / Fog / Sun – use light and its qualities to your advantage no matter what it is.

7.  Location and Approach

IMG_3440

There are so many buildings where the approach and procession to it is worth documenting.

Build the suspense – don’t give it all away.

8.  Night and Light

Prada - Tokyo     IMG_7852

Don’t be afraid to capture architecture at night, you will likely need a tripod but a building can completely transform from day to night and that night shot may be amazing.  Architects spend a lot of time planning what a building will look like at night.  These photos are more challenging my suggestion is turn off your flash and increase your ISO and aperture, also I also try to get these photos just after sunset when the lights are on but it is not complete darkness  – again a tripod is crucial for a perfect night photo!

9.  Abstract

Royal Ontario Museum - Toronto Architecture 2

You don’t need to get the whole building, editing can result in an abstract photo emphasizing architectural elements and strong features.  The ROM by Daniel Libeskind, above, is made of sloping jagged forms – I tried to focus on that aspect of the architecture only and cutting out all the other elements on the building.

10.  Unexpected & Dramatic

John Hancock - Chicago    Looking up Ginger's Skirt

Many times the most interesting architecture photos are when they are taken from an angle you would not expect or think of.  On the left is Frank Gehry’s ‘Fred & Ginger’ building in Prague when was looking at this building I was more interested in understanding how the glass was being supported but I soon noticed I was in fact looking up Ginger’s ‘skirt’ so i took advantage of the unexpected photo opportunity.  The photo on the left is the John Hancock Building in Chicago, I love the form of this building and the drama of standing at its base.

Resources:

Here are two photography resources I have found very helpful:

photo.tutsplus.com/

theartofphotography.tv/episodes/

Coming soon:

Tips on how to take a great PANORAMA and HDR photo

Interior Architectural Photography TIPS

Getting the best architectural interior photo is not always easy there are many challenges such as lighting, tight space, obstructions, and people.  Professional photographers have many tools and expensive photography equipment to get perfect interior photograph and often some control over these challenges.  However, like me, most of you probably do not have a lot of photography equipment when traveling and pretty much no control over the lighting and people.

Here are some tips to get you the best interior architectural photo possible.

  • Spend a few moments to determine what elements of the space are important to capture
  • Compose the photo on an angle so the camera is not facing a wall but rather into a corner OR if the space is symmetrical try taking a photo at the center of the room to emphasize the symmetry.

The slight angle in this photo’s composition helped showcase the sloping ceiling and angels of the room (Taliesin West, Scottsdale, left).
Due to the perfect symmetry of this space and photo was intended to exaggerate the symmetry (Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, New York, right)

Look up – some buildings are all about the ceilings but if you never look up you will never know.
  • Don’t use a flash – unless you really know what you are doing and have a good external flash I wouldn’t bother, likely the flash will produce hot spots and unwanted reflections.
  • Interior shots can be better when the camera is about 5 feet off the ground –  When we hold our cameras high we get more tabletop and floor but lowering the camera and tilt it up slightly will result in seeing more of the space – try shooting from different heights, you will be surprised how much difference it makes.
  • Include People – sometimes waiting for everyone to get out of the shot is a lost opportunity.  People show scale and interaction with the architecture – if you leave your lens open a bit longer the people, if moving, will be blurred so they will be a bit out of focus and not necessarily the focal point.  This can be done in Photoshop too later as well

This photo wouldn’t have scale or meaning without the two people praying

  • Shoot in JPEG and RAW – Unless you are running out of room on your memory card it is good to have both.  RAW images allow for much more control over the post-production process but not every shot needs to be modified and so the JPEG is perfect.
  • Always try to keep your ISO as low as possible and adjust your white balance appropriately.  Try to avoid shooting into florescent lights and mixing lighting types (I know easier said then done but it is good to keep in mind.  Different light gives off different color which can make a mess of your photo).
  • A tripod is always ideal for interior photography however often that is just not possible.  If the light is dim and you need to leave your shutter open try to find somewhere to set your camera down.  There are a few alternatives to the giant tripods such as The POD or the The Monsterpod.

The Pod Red Bean Bag Camera Support  supports compact cameras, advanced point and shoot cameras, camcorders, DSLRs with a short focal length lens, microphones, etc. It is built-in 1/4″ camera mount and provides support on regular or irregular surface like rocks, benches, cars, on the ground, etc

Joby GPM-A1EN GorillaPod Magnetic Flexible Tripod (Black) is a flexible tripod designed for digital cameras weighing up to 9.7 ounces (325 grams), it fits into your purse, backpack, or jacket pocket, Innovative segmented leg design to ensure secure mounting and has a standard universal 1/4-20 screw for attaching your camera to the tripod mount.

  • If you can’t find anywhere to place the camera down try leaning against a wall and holding the camera tight to your body (exhale before you take your shot). You can always fix some composition and rotate the photos later but blur cannot be fixed.
    • Left hand holding the camera, fingers softly gripping the lens
    • Right hand is used for controlling the camera settings
    • Elbows together, pressing on the chest
    • Camera firmly against the forehead, head leaning towards the camera

Photos by:  www.expertphotography.com/how-to-hold-a-camera

  • An ultra wide-angle lens will distort at the edges of the photograph so although you can usually get a lot more of the space in your photo it will look distorted and sometimes curved at the edges.  In many types of photography such as landscapes this is not a big deal but in architectural photography straight lines can make or break the photograph.  Wide-angle lens are also expensive.

My suggestion is using a standard lens; mine is an 18 to 55mm and take a series of overlapping photos.  Each photo should overlap at least 1/3 of the frame.  Focus your lens and then turn your lens auto-focus off.  When you get home you can use the photomerge tool in Photoshop to blend all the photos into one photograph.

This is an outdoor photo however I was unable to get the entire space in a single frame due to the space restrictions so it was take in five separate photos and stitched together in Photoshop using the photomerge tool.

(The previous tip is intended for DSLR cameras however if you have a point and shoot, many new point and shoot cameras have a panorama setting – check your manual to maximize the features.)

Interior architectural photography is not easy but practice makes perfect. Try some of these techniques in your home so you become comfortable with interior architectural photography.

Let me know if this helps or you have any tips you would like to share.

how to document your architecture experience

how to document your architecture experience…. video, photo, words, sketch, writing…

There are so many ways to capture your experience of architecture.  Each method offers different benefits as well as different levels of authenticity.  A photograph or video can be thought to come closest to reality however even they are subjective and are not exact replications after all photography replicates a 3-dimensional object in 2-dimensions and weakly represents movement and time, video can do that but still lacks documenting the many other senses we use to describe architecture (related topic:  How do we EXPERIENCE ARCHITECTURE).  So how can we authentically represent our architectural experiences?

Simple – we don’t…

There are two main filters our experience of architecture will go through before it can be documented:  our personal subjectivity and the media we choose to represent it

Subjectivity is our interpretation, understanding and opinion of space and architecture which can be highly influenced by the personal experience you have at that given time.  How we understand and perceive space can vary greatly from one person to the next.  Projects which create strong reaction, both positive and negative are successful, in my opinion, because they hit a nerve and force viewers to stop and think a minute.  Good architecture can make you ultra-aware of the space you are in and the moment so your reaction and impression of the architecture is just as important to capture as the architecture itself.

Selecting a media to document will edit what you can represent and how you choose to document the experience says so much about what your perception is.  Have fun and be creative with your documentation, exploring will help you learn and enjoy the architecture in a deeper and richer sense.  Here are some suggestions to help you think twice about just taking a photo:

VIDEO:

Helps to capture the sounds and movement through the spaces

SKETCH:

In colour or pencil, with pens or markers, Fast or slow, accurate or free, scribbles or lines, shaded or outlines

messy sketch, done fast, i like the curve of this building so i just looked at representing that moment in the building.

i took a bit more time with this sketch and trying to use strong continuous lines to describe the architectural details

PHOTOS:

Architectural Photography can serve several objectives, knowing what your objective is will produce a collection of photos that will be useful for you in the future and will help direct your photographic decisions while on site.

See my previous post:  The Intention of Architectural Photography

WORDS:

words that describe the space and how you feel – these don’t need to be full sentences
describe the materials, use adjectives

WRITE:

journal entries such as the ones I have posted online help recall specific moments that can be forgotten.

architectural travel entry: one

architectural travel entry: two

architectural travel entry: three

architectural travel entry: four

architectural travel entry: five

architectural travel entry: six

SOUND CLIPS:

Document your thoughts while you walking around (you can get an app for your smartphone, there are even programs that can transcript them for you.
Sound clips are also great to capture music or acoustic qualities

COLLAGE:

Use objects you have found to represent the architecture

  • this is a crude collage i made of a restaurant i went to in Prague, the waiter took us through a maze of small dinning rooms and corridors before we were seated. I still don’t know how we found my way out

OTHER:

I used a thick piece of lead to telegraphy the pattern of leaves from the concrete facade of this building.

I like to collect all the tickets and booklets – they come in handy to help remember all the great places i visited and on what day.

The options are endless… it is your subjectivity and selected media that makes the documentation of your architectural experiences an artistic expression.

If you have any other suggestions please share it with us.

 

 

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Vitra Campus – Weil am Rhein

Why visit Weil am Rhein? …. Vitra

Weil am Rhein is a located in Germany but boards onto both Switzerland and France and is about 20 minute drive from Basel, Switzerland.

As an architecture groupie you may be wondering why I would feature such a small and obscure town.  Well Weil am Rhein is home to the Vitra Campus which is a mecca for any modern architectural enthusiast.

Vitra is a furniture company founded in Weil am Rhein, Germany in 1950 by Willi Fehlbaum.  Specializing in the production and retail of furniture originally designed by many internationally celebrated designers.  Priding themselves on creating beautiful well-design and well-made furniture.  Although Vitra is company famous for reproducing furniture designed by many well named architects they have also gained a reputation for commissioning celebrated architects to manufacture, house and exhibit their products.

In 1981 a large fire destroyed most of Vitra Campus who were forced to rebuild and continue to expand.  Nicholas Grimshaw was the first to begin the rebuild and Herzog and de Mueron has been the most recent project, completed in 2010, currently a new Factory Building by Kazuyo Sejima / SANAA is scheduled for completion in 2012.  The Vitra Campus is a collection of contemporary capital ‘A’ architecture.

The Vitra Design Museum by Frank Gehry is an exhibition of the design and architecture of Vitra.

Visit architecturegroupie.com/weil-am-rhein for a directory of the Vitra contemporary architecture.

Vitra Campus

When visiting the Vitra Campus be sure to take a guided architectural tour of the campus as well as a guided tour of the exhibition.

For the tour schedule visit www.vitra.com/en-us/campus/visit .

In addition the new workshop at the center of the Lounge Chair Atelier holds live demonstrations of the production of the famous Lounge Chair by Ray and Charles Eames check out this video demonstration

 

Vitra Miniatures Collection

Besides the modern designed life-size furniture, Vitra also manufactures The Miniatures Collection which is collection of 80 small-scale furniture pieces.  The pieces are considered to be the most influential in design from 1850 to the present day.  Model builders measure the historical original in the museum collection and then scale it down to one sixth of the original size, compile technical documentation and replicated each with impressive precision.  The Vitra Miniatures Collection include The Barcelona chair by Mies van der Rohe, the Tulip Chair by Saarinen, the Barrel Chair by Frank Lloyd Wright and of course a series of furniture pieces by  Ray and Charles Eames to name a few.

Here is the full Vitra Miniatures Collection

These miniatures can be delivered directly to your home at  Vitra Miniatures at Amazon or click the image below to order.

   



     

If you have been to the Vitra Campus – share your experience with us.


 

How do we EXPERIENCE ARCHITECTURE

Understanding Architecture is highly experiential.  It is a complete sensory experience that requires use of much more than the eyes to understand and generate a response.  This is why visiting architecture is the only reliable method to understand architecture rather than looking at a photograph of it.  I have always tried to refrain from a strong opinion of a building until I have had a chance to see it in person.  From experience I know that a photograph doesn’t tell the whole story.  You likely know what I mean; similar to the way art can have a profound effect in person and almost none at all in a textbook.  For example I remember when I saw Klimpt’s painting ‘The Kiss’ – I was surprised I could not look away it was hypnotizing to me.  I had never given this painting a second thought in my art classes but the really life experience was profound for me.  This is not to say Architecture is always better in person sometimes it is just the opposite, however we cannot overlook the three-dimensional aspect of architecture as well as how the human body relates to these spaces.

“We never look at just one thing; we are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves” (Ways of Seeing by John Berger pg 9)

So how can we understand architecture?  Let’s begin with the human senses:

Seeing

Of course seeing is the most obvious way to understand and experience architecture but are you conscious of what you are looking for or at?  Do you see the bigger picture and the small details? Are you looking for natural light or the use of materials?  Are you watching how people use the space?  Seeing is profoundly useful to experience architecture if you are consciously processing what you see.  Sketching can be tremendously beneficial because what you are seeing must be processed and then regurgitated on paper thus requiring a lot more attention and consciousness.

Hearing

In some cases architecture’s success or failure is based on this human sense.  Sound can be the most profound and memorable element of a building.   I attended mass in Notre Dame and when the organ began it was palpable and the entire space changed, it made sense, the space, the light and the sound came together.  Sometimes the lack of sound is most desired; such as in a library.  When you visit a building listen for a moment, is it quiet? Does the space create an urge to speak low or not at all? How does it do that?  Become aware of the acoustics? Is there an echo? Can you hear people talking? Can you hear anything at all?

Smell

This is not the first thing you think of to experience architecture however, building materials have a smell, they are not always good but the smell will influences your experience.  If a new building is off-gassing due to the choice of materials your experience will be poor.  However there are other smells such as wood or concrete.  Is it fresh or stuffy?  Does the building smell old or new, close your eyes for a second you may be surprised what you discover.

Touch

I touch a lot.  Touching gives you tons of information and architects spend a lot of time thinking about surfaces, texture, and materials, what people touch how they interact with the material. Some architect’s believed that people should always touch wood so handrails would always be made of wood.  If you are in any of Tadao Ando’s buildings you must run your hand over the concrete – it is soft and silky like butter – not what you would expect.

Taste

I don’t think this applies, however if you have experienced architecture by taste let me know.

There are other senses we can use to experience architecture such as:

Balance

How do you feel in this building, some architecture intentionally throws off your internal sense of balance to bring out a specific frame of mind.  The Berlin Jewish Museum Daniel Libeskind tilt some of the walls slightly so when I was reading and looking at the exhibits I felt particularly moved and effected by the exhibit and its content.  It was very intense and made me uneasy which in this instance was appropriate – the architecture powerfully provoked a sense of instability.

Temperature

Feel the air, become aware of it.  Do you feel warm or cool? Is there a breeze?  How does this happen?  Are you shaded from the sun? or roasting in its light. Is it natural or mechanical?   Are you surprised by the change in temperature from the outside?

Time

Architecture transforms as you move through it and around it, it unravels over time.  How does your experience change during your visit?  Is it predictable or does it surprise you?

Time can also make itself known on the building itself in the way materials age and patina.  Can you see time in the building you are visiting?  Has time made the building more rich with texture and color or does it look worn down?

This is an addition of an old french Villa, the concrete was mixed with pulverized limestone and copper to replicate the aging of the existing Villa. 
Villa am Romerholz by Gigon Guyer 1998

So how do all these stimuli make you feel?

Architecture provokes a reaction, pay attention to your immediate reactions as well as the feelings you have at the end of your visit as well as those you have upon reflection, did your opinion change?  Sometimes you will need time to formulate an opinion – don’t be worried if you do not know what you think or feel immediately.  Enjoy visiting these buildings and practice becoming aware of how you experience architecture.

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How to Catalog your Architectural Photography

Architectural photography

Now with all our digital cameras we can take hundreds or thousands of pictures while traveling and visiting architecture and if they are not cataloged well how can you ever find anything or make use of all those great ideas and inspiration.  These are ways I have cataloged my architectural photography which have been helpful and made it easy to find what I need when I need it.

By location:

This is fairly easy – starting at a large scale and working our way to a smaller scale.  I begin with a folder of the country and then subfolders of each city and often within this folder I will also catalog by building if there are a significant amount of pictures.  It is nice to put the date after the tiles so if you return to that place the pictures are separated by date.  See example below

Main folder:  Japan – 2008.03

Subfolder:  Tokyo – 2008.03.05 to 2008.03.10

Sub-Subfolder:  Prada – 2008.03.08

Subfolder:  Tokyo – 2008.03.20 to 2008.03.22

Sub-Subfolder:  Mori Art Museum – 2008.03.20

Best of:

I always make a ‘Best of’ folder.  These are your best shots that can easily be turned into a slideshow in moments and don’t all have to be about architecture, I try to limit the photos in this folder to 200 maximum – this pushes the attention span of my audiences.  I usually upload these to Flickr or Picasa to share with friends and family in other cities.  This is just a great go to folder.

By Category:

If you use your architectural photography for other purposes such as work, like me, I recommend replicating these photos and placing them in folders by category.  Those quick snap shots can come in handy but if they are not organized by appropriate categories they will be hard to find and remember.  Here are some examples:

  • Architectural elements: ie. doors, staircase, windows
  • Architect
  • Building Type: ie. Museum, Office, Retail
  • Detail: ie. roof, cladding, materials,
  • Architectural Style

Picasa

Picasa is free downloadable software by Google.  It makes viewing you photos easy.  The features are extensive, a few at the top of my list are:

  • photo editing
  • web albums which can be shared through the internet
  • keywords can be added to images which are later searchable
  • movie maker

Here is a quick 5min video to quickly learn the basic features (a bit dated but helpful for the basics) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rskC6c_5L1M

Note:  Picasa 3.9 has removed the buttons to get them back just go to Tools > Configure Buttons and add them to the bottom

However you choose to organize your architectural photography do not forget to backup your pictures!  I have lost a lot of photos because I didn’t back up and it was devastating.

An organized GROUPIE is a happy one.

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