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Things are looking up

Earlier in the year RIW launched a competition for architects to see what vertical building means to them. Here are the winners and details of what happened

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First place winning entry of the Grove sculpture at the Boston Design Biennial designed by GLD Architecture
First place winning entry of the Grove sculpture at the Boston Design Biennial designed by GLD Architecture Credit: Chen Man

The term ‘Things are looking up’ can mean different things to different people, but fundamentally it’s about perspective. The desire to live in the clouds, to not be earthbound, has been an elemental part of being human. When looking up at a building from ground level, it can give a new outlook, both literally and emotively. We have now reached a point where to signal the success of a city we have to build vertically and to envisage the London skyline without the Shard, Heron Tower, Cheese Grater, Barbican or Post Office Towers is impossible.

With this in mind, earlier this year RIW, a waterproofing products and solutions supplier to the construction industry, launched a photography competition in which entrants were asked to take a picture either on their smartphone or camera of what the term ‘Things are looking up’ meant to them. As RIW is keen to support architects and the projects they are passionate about, and with photography and architecture going hand in hand, an Instagram based competition was considered the best fit. 

The competition used the Iconosquare platform with entrants asked to post their images through either Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #thingsarelookingup, or to directly upload their photograph. Emmanuel Cole, the popular architectural photographer and 'the original iPhone photographer', was commissioned to take a series of five shots to post through his own Instagram account and on RIW's as the face of the competition.

Second place winner
Second place winner Credit: Carolyn Jamieson

The competition attracted more than 200 entries, each with a different rationale and perspective, showing the different outlooks each of us can take when looking up. The winning entry was by Chen Man, a final year Part II student at the University of Nottingham. Man is followed up by Carolyn Jamieson, associate at jmarchitects in London who specialises in education and conservation projects, in second place and Darrell Godliman, an architect of 18 years at Riach Architects, Oxford, in third place.

Man's entry was taken while he was in Boston visiting the public sculptures of the Design Biennial. The image captures looking up at the Grove sculpture designed by GLD Architecture. He says: 'I have an affinity to the orderliness of an image. I was particularly attracted to the symmetry in the image, but also the many lines that draw your eye across it. I like the ambiguity of the image; it focuses more on the light, colour and composition.'

Man was first inspired to 'look up' while visiting Nice in the South of France where, because the houses are packed so tightly together on narrow streets he couldn't get the right angle for his photographs. 'I often find that looking up gives more interesting shapes than just looking around with the objects around you framing the view. For this sculpture it also gave a different light quality that created all these different shades of greens and greys.'

  • Third place winning entry of Herzog & de Meuron's Forum in Barcelona
    Third place winning entry of Herzog & de Meuron's Forum in Barcelona Credit: Darrell Godliman
  • Runner up
    Runner up Credit: Mark Darnell
  • Runner up
    Runner up Credit: Jesus Burgos

Jamieson's entry on the other hand deals with the way direct light, reflected light and shadow bring a building to life. She says: 'This was what first drew my eye to this shot. My intention when framing of the shot was to keep the building lines parallel but on reflection I think it’s the lack of perfect symmetry created by the different facades and emphasised by the different qualities of light that make it an interesting composition.'

The third place winner, Godliman, whose photograph captures the Forum in Barcelona by Herzog & de Meuron, also became interested in photography at university following a visit to Russia. He has combined his photographic skills with elements of his architectural training and has been increasingly selling architectural and travel photos for publication in magazines, brochures and websites. In addition to his architectural role within Riach Architects, Godliman is responsible for photographing projects and putting together awards submissions. He writes of Russia: 'I was new to photography at the time, but the photos I came back with proved to be a great record of the trip as well as a way of communicating my passion for the places I've visited and people I’d met.'

Among the winners, there were also three runners up: Irwin Chan, Mark Darnell and Jesus Burgos.

  • Things are looking up campaign
    Things are looking up campaign Credit: Emmanuel Cole
  • Things are looking up campaign
    Things are looking up campaign Credit: Emmanuel Cole
  • Things are looking up campaign
    Things are looking up campaign Credit: Emmanuel Cole

The winner receives a short break at the Shangri-La Hotel in the Shard, including lunch at the Walkie Talkie and dinner at Galvin at the Windows. The second place winner receives a helicopter tour of London and Godliman in third place wins a trip to climb the O2 arena. All entries can be viewed on the competition page hosted on RIW’s website.

Richard Krzyzak, RIBAJ art editor and one of the judges in the competition, comments:

'While planners debate the merits of the 200 or so tall building proposed in London it is a pleasure to see the vertical celebrated in RIW’s ‘Things are looking up’ competition. The winning entries all amply demonstrate how the elevated view will always surprise and delight us and how that view provides us with an often abstract beauty that doesn’t exist at ground level.'

Although RIW’s products don’t contribute directly to the aesthetics of a project, architects understand the important role waterproofing plays within any project and the need to ensure it has been correctly specified - therefore allowing them to focus on the more visual elements of their design. 

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