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Penthouse, 62M

James Brittain

WINNER OF A 2019 CANADIAN ARCHITECT PHOTO AWARD OF MERIT

James Brittain

Client: 5468796 Architecture

The winning photo by James Brittain

Photographing architecture on commission is a slightly chaotic mixture of accident and control. I think about the process in terms of rigour and fluidity. The tension between these two ideas is what makes for interesting pictures, allowing room for the unexpected to occur.

To make an interesting photograph on a commissioned shoot—or at least one that resonates in some way beyond simple description—a few different elements need to come together.

There’s usually a host of practical concerns: co-ordinating access, arranging equipment and lighting, familiarizing yourself with the routines of a place and the passage of light and the sun. However, many aspects are completely out of your control. For example, natural light, how it falls and moves, the weather, and the life of people occupying a place.

I particularly cherish my work with 5468796 because of a shared commitment to challenge the boundaries of how architecture is represented in pictures. Each project is considered for its specificity, with nothing taken for granted.

62M, pictured here, is a disk-shaped housing complex set on an abandoned site next to a highway in Winnipeg. It has a beautiful combination of refinement and raw, and because of that we chose to shoot all the exterior photography in overcast skies or rain.

But clouds and sunshine suited the penthouse. It sits on top of the building’s concrete elevator core, with various modes of habitation—eating, entertaining, working, bathing, sleeping and repose—all laid out in one volume.

The view out is perfectly positioned at a height just above the treetops to enjoy Winnipeg’s downtown core. –James Brittain

Jury Comments

Rami Bebawi :: It took me time to allow myself to plunge into this image… yet once one overcomes the harshness of a glass box, we find ourselves in a subtle moment between skies and living spaces. Perhaps the technical talent of the photographer has allowed the architecture to become more expressive.

Joe Lobko :: A privileged view of the city. Wouldn’t we all like that?

Ema Peter :: What a way to connect the interior and exterior. The clouds reflect beautifully in the space. From a purely technical perspective, it is a difficult image to do. Few interior spaces can be this impactful—with the symmetry, perspectives, interior and exterior connection, as well as the human element.

Cindy Wilson :: This photo captures the sky on all vertical surfaces, creating a rhythm of the clouds. I would like to see this as a video when the clouds are moving fast—a natural flickering disco ball.

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