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David Zahle on Architecture and Photography

Interview Date: 16-01-2013
(More interviews from this person)

VIEW the entire interview on VIDEO!

Many architects worldwide share the passion of photography for various reasons. What is your relationship with photography? Do architecture photographers do better this kind of work?

The most important thing about being an architecture photographer is to capture the essence of the building and in that way some of the good architecture photographers are architects. But I also think that sometimes having people devoted in only being photographers can actually enhance and show things of your own buildings that you did not immediately anticipate and actually brings out things that are new to yourself.

We can say that most οf architecture photos of buildings do not include any people. What are your thoughts about including people in your photos? Ιs it important to photograph a building in use or by itself?

Architecture is a cell, so without the people it is not really much needed. So for me and for us, it’s really important that we always show people in both our renderings and competitions entries, on models and especially on architectural photography. The diversity of people and human life is really what brings value and diversity to the building. So, I think it‘s extremely important.

Many architecture theories and a lot of people think that contemporary architecture is designed in ordered to be well photographed. Doing this work, do you have this feeling of buildings that are not designed to serve specific need but are rather iconic and self promoting?

For us the way we work with architects is that we try to create an architect that forms differently and thus looks differently, so doing it the opposite way around is very alien to our approach where we always try to see what is in the program that actually needs defining. By defining those needs, actually adding to those needs, the building suddenly becomes something that is also interesting to look at. So for me it is very alien to create something that is iconic without also creating something that performs right.

What do you think is the difference between seeing a picture of a building or a place and visiting that building or place yourself? How does architectural photography explore the relation between the perception of space and the experience of space?

There are three different things that are really important. One thing is first of all the scale. We are often cheated by the scale of a building by only seeing it from certain viewpoints. The scale is one of the most fundamental and interesting things to work with in architecture. So I think that is a good reason to visit it. Then of course it is the sight. You often look at architectural photography and you barely see any sights around it and then you visit it and it is suddenly a small house among skyscrapers. Then you realize that it is a very different project from what you were anticipating. Third of course is how it works, if it actually works and if the people use it in the way we see.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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David Zahle

Country: Denmark
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David Zahle is a Partner at BIG and the Project and Design Architect responsible for many of BIG´s award winning projects. His collaboration with Bjarke Ingels began in 2002 with the VM Residences – which he ended up calling home with his family. During the same year David won the Helsingør Psychiatric Hospital and subsequently followed it through to completion in 2006. He also lead the design of the Stavanger Concert House, which was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale 2004 for the world’s best concert house, the Magnakil Education Centre in the Faroe Islands and the Danish Maritime Museum from its concept stage in 2007 to completion in 2012. Recently David has overseen the design of many prominent projects including a new art gallery and sculpture park in Norway, the Quingdao Science Museum, the Experimentarium competition in Copenhagen and the prize winning Amagerforbrænding; Copenhagen’s new Waste-to-Energy Plant with an innovative roof doubling as a ski slope. In addition to his design success, David has lectured on BIG’s works throughout Europe and taught throughout Scandinavia.Credit image Portrait: © Flemming Leitorp