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Feature article



Outside the


Photographer_ Bruce McAllister

WORDS BY Simon Whibley

The centre of Melbourne is inundated with architectural visualisations of a very particular kind.

Billboard advertisements for proposed apartment buildings in the CBD employ images that dramatically exaggerate viewpoint and horizon line to foreground, and distort the image of the building to come. These visualisations, almost comic in their dynamism, are often coupled with renders depicting the view and city scenery that will be experienced by those who will occupy the future dwelling.

These are extreme examples of the contemporary, hyper realistic imagery that presents an architecture that is discreet, heroic, gestural, and often populated by a stripped in cast, demonstrating exactly how this building can be used and experienced.

I am interested in what these kinds of images exclude, what qualities of architecture arise out of these all-encompassing images that are almost compulsory requirements for today’s design competitions. I can’t realistically see a return to more suggestive or illustrative ways of presenting architecture in the public realm, but is there the chance that the imagery that foregrounds the contingent, fractured and relational qualities of architecture might also capture the popular imagination, and that of juries?

The images assembled on the following page are part of the research my practice is undertaking into how those qualities can be integrated into the imagery we produce. Combining web creative commons sources with my own photographs, these images were selected on the basis of both technique and content. What they foreground is not the architectural (or artistic) object, but the relationship between it and something outside it; a landscape, a submarine, an ornament, the adjacent spaces.

The architectural information they communicate is rich, complex and important – a different kind of imagery to show the qualities of architecture that can’t be captured in a single totalising view.

Rooftop terrace on OMA’s Casa de Musica.

View of Beistegui Apartment, Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret

Spiral Jetty View, Duomo, Florence.

1. Rooftop terrace on OMA’s Casa de Musica.

The cropped view isolating the occupation of this space strongly evokes the manner in which the building itself is positioned within the city around it.

Photographer_ Forgemind Archimedia


2. Another crop of Christo and Jean Claude’s Valley Curtain.

At its focal point is the sliver of space between the giant curtain and the landscape. This image is similar to the drawings of the projects produced by Christo, where cropped views are accompanied by aerial plans and construction details: an enormous singular intervention captured through multiple partial representations.

Photographer_ Bruce McAllister


3. View of Beistegui Apartment, Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret.

The Arch de Triumph peeking over the balustrade next to the fireplace. The furniture is unoccupied, allowing the viewer of the image an imaginary space to sit and look between those two arches, simultaneously experiencing the private terrace and the city beyond.


4. Spiral Jetty, Robert Smithson.

The absurd presence of a curated singular viewpoint for an artwork that operates between aerial and microscopic scales.

Photographer_ Joe Vare


5. Duomo, Florence.

The building that dominates a city depicted in fragments, a circumnavigation capturing the spaces created between it and the surrounding streets.

Photographer_ Simon Whibley


6. Rear of A’Beckett tower, Elenberg Fraser.

Above ground car parking redeemed by the character of the existing laneway in the foreground. This project provides a contextual continuity (and complexity) for an emerging high density city.

Photographer_Simon Whibley


7. Victorian Desalination Plant, ARM, peckvonhartel, Aspect Studios.

Not unlike Spiral Jetty, this project has a well-known figural and graphic quality that is discordant with the experience of a building that is almost geological.

Photographer_Simon Whibley


8. A quieter combination of landscape and architecture

Here an index of interior and exterior occupation, public and private space. House on Naoshima, Japan.

Photographer_Simon Whibley


9. Nexus Housing, Fukuoka, Japan by Steven Holl Architects.

The manner in which this project captures the small scale, intense urbanism of Fukuoka is compelling, and not apparent in its more familiar images that describe its solid/void sculpted form. Here a street, shop and dwelling are delicately assembled, poised between the child’s bicycle and the ornaments on the window sill above.

Photographer_Simon Whibley


10. Folie at Parc de La Villette, Bernard Tschumi Architects.

The architecture here is one of assemblage; the folie itself is incomplete, inadequate without the submarine. Their surreal juxtaposition is a singular instance that realises the concept of the folie point grid that lies across the park.

Photographer_Elena Mazzanti