My partner said to me yesterday ‘you just used the word “bespoke” in general conversation’. I’ve been photographing a lot of architecture lately, which means I’ve been hanging around architects quite a bit. One in particular, who I hold utterly responsible for this present flourish of verbosity. But he’s a bloody good architect. And he engages me to photograph his residential & commercial buildings here in Brisbane. So all is, of course, forgiven.

When you look at architecture what you see is a collection of solutions to problems you can’t see.  It’s like having the answer ’42’ written down, without knowing the question was ‘what is the meaning of life?’  That’s one of the reasons I love talking to architects about their buildings as we’re standing in them.  Because bit by bit they strip the building back and reassemble it for you piece by piece.

Natural light spills down the flight of stairs in this residential architecture build highlighting the sharpness of the timber and polished concrete

Natural light spilling through the top of the staircase makes you want to climb the stairs to see what else is happening in this building

You don’t always know what the design brief was, what the site restrictions were, what the planning regs are, what the client’s pet hates were, the fact there was a slab thickness problem which caused a height restriction problem.  And all those many, many hours spent back and forth between client, builder, architect and engineer.

Residential interior showing triple glass sliding doors letting natural warming morning sun in, as well as the easterly breeze

Depending on the time of day this house gets incredible light and shape from the progression of the sun

So you can never really know whether a feature is a by design or compromise. The best architects turn the latter into the former. Chatting with Ben Parker of Ben Parker Architecture, who designed this residence, was great fun. Not the least of which because ‘contextual architecture’ is now part of my vernacular.  When the client still invites the architect (and by proxy the photographer) over for dinner after the building is complete you know the design brief wasn’t just met, or even exceeded.

It was reimagined. From scratch.

Residential architecture showing how you can stand outside this house and see through the entire living space all the way out the other side.

Indoor/Outdoor living is a bit of a cliché in residential architecture these days, but when your kitchen bench literally goes from inside to outside without interruption, you know it’s the real thing.

After my conversation with Ben, and spending a whole day and night in the building, two things really stood out to me:

  • Really simple materials used well, finished elegantly, and combined with things not ordinarily found in residential construction, make buildings look really sharp and keep weight and costs down.  See: exterior
Exterior of house showing architect designed window detail

Use of ordinary materials in interesting and different ways on a residential exterior 

  • There’s more to ‘bringing the outside in’ than slapping a couple of sliding doors out to a deck.  The spaces have to be connected in a meaningful way.  See: kitchen bench
Kitchen bench that extends through a window out to the patio on a residential house

Bench extends from the kitchen inside to the patio outside seamlessly

When I shoot architecture I come to it with a camera, a tripod a spirit level and a couple of eyeballs… and that’s about it.  I let the architect talk to me about how the building started, grew and developed along the way.

And then I just follow the light.