Building Images

By Li Yingxue | China Daily | Updated: 2017-12-01 07:18

Zhang Qianxi wins a top global architectural-photography award. Li Yingxue reports.

Zhang Qianxi waited by a swimming pool at Tianjin University on a cold winter afternoon last year. At a certain point when the light reflected perfectly on the water, he clicked the shutter.

That photo made Zhang the top winner of the Architectural Photography Awards 2017, which were announced at a gala dinner for the World Architecture Festival in Berlin on Nov 17.

The WAF is the largest such festival for the global community of architects.

As part of the WAF, the awards hosted by Arcaid, an industry website, focused on photographers' skills and creativity.

"It's not only an honor for Chinese architecture photographers but also an honor for original Chinese architecture," says Zhang.

He was the only photographer this year with three photos shortlisted among 20 finalists for the award.

Building Images

The finalists from four image categories - exterior, interior, "sense of place" and buildings in use - were selected from thousands of entries after two rounds of judging. The overall winner was voted for by visitors to the festival.

Another of Zhang's photos that showed a gymnasium at Tianjin University topped the category of buildings in use.

The pool and the gym Zhang photographed were designed by Atelier Li Xinggang. Li was the Chinese team leader of the design team behind the National Stadium in Beijing.

Zhang shot the swimming pool in November 2016, after talking with Li about the design concept. The temperature was 0 C outside and about 20 C inside. So the vapor was reflected in the sun.

"I've never seen such clear light - it was like a fairy tale," the 31-year-old photographer says, adding that he waited until all the students had left the pool.

Zhang used to be an architect. He turned to photography six years ago when he found his passion to capture the look of buildings surpassed his desire to design them.

"You can't be a good architectural photographer unless you are a fan of buildings," Zhang says.

"I like to make connections with the audience when I take a photo of a building."

This was the first time Zhang took part in the Architectural Photography Awards.

Among the 12 images he submitted, the shot of the swimming pool is his favorite - "the light is perfect and the building is designed by Chinese".

Wang Zhenfei, an architect and photographer, also made the list of finalists with his photo of Tianrenheyi Museum in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, which he himself helped design.

Another Chinese photographer was among the finalists - Yao Li, with his photo of the Dongzhuang-Building Museum of Western Regions in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

Adam Letch's photo of a chapel built on Bosjes farm in Ceres, Cape Town, won the exterior category, and Tom Roe's Messner Mountain Museum Corones, Bolzano, Italy, won "sense of place".

Amy Croft is one of the judges and curator at Sto Werkstatt, the cultural headquarters of the Sto Group in London. She says the 2017 entries were remarkable in their global reach: from the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert to a housing estate in Beijing, from an art museum in Denmark to a chapel in Cape Town.

"This truly global view the prize offers us stands as a reminder of the skill of architectural photography to communicate not only the image of buildings but evoking their atmosphere, usage and social and cultural contexts," says Croft.

Chen Li, founder and chief architect of Cendes Architecture, was the first and only Chinese on the judging panel.

The entries of all 20 finalists are exhibited at the TruSpace gallery in Beijing through Dec 25.

Cao Jian, founder of TruSpace, says he aims to showcase the importance of photography in the way that people experience and connect with space.

"I want to bring more high-level art exhibitions and show more Chinese artists' works to the world," Cao says.

The finalists' works will also be shown at Sto Werkstatt from Feb 8. Zhang will be presented with his prize and $3,000 at the opening of the London exhibition, titled Building Images.

Wang Yi, a professor at Tsinghua University's School of Architecture, says architecture and photography are two different art forms.

"Zhang's photo of the swimming pool is not mainly presenting the structure of the building, but it's an artwork that combines color, light and composition," Wang Yi says.

Photography translates the sophistication of architecture into something that's easy for people to engage.

"Photos cannot replace architecture, but they are channels to present architecture."

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 Building Images

From left: Wison Tungthunya’s shot of a hotel in Ayutthaya, Thailand; Zhang Qianxi’s photo of the folk art museum at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou; Adam Letch’s photo of a chapel built on Bosjes farm in Ceres, Cape Town.

 Building Images

Building Images

The shortlisted works of the Architectural Photography Awards 2017 include Zhang Qianxi’s shot of the swimming pool at Tianjin University (top), the Choi Hung Estate in Hong Kong by Fabio Mantovani (above left) and Tom Roe’s Messner Mountain Museum Corones in Italy. Photos Provided to China Daily

(China Daily 12/01/2017 page20)

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