Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more


  • Comment

Hélène Binet: Photographic Works 1986-2007 At the Architectural Association, 36 Bedford Square, London WC1, until 8 February

In a lecture at the Architectural Association (AA) last month, Hélène Binet said architectural photography has the ability to bring architecture back to the dreams of its designers. The current exhibition of her work demonstrates this goal with remarkable effect, as Binet reduces her subjects to abstract expressions of the architects' intentions - a feat requiring ingenuity and creativity along with technical skill.

The show is spread over two oors of the AA and comprises mostly black-andwhite photographs taken of buildings by designers with whom Binet has worked over the past 20 years - among them John Hejduk, Zaha Hadid and Peter Zumthor.

A concern with light, shadow, texture and detail is integral to many of the photographs, and is often demonstrated through series.

In some instances, such as in two sets of Le Corbusier's monastery of La Tourette, these series create a narrative, illustrating Binet's exploration of the site.

One set develops a pattern of light and shadow cast on the ground of the monastery through four large-scale photographs. While the first of these images emphasises the scale of the light and the texture of the ground, each subsequent photo is increasingly abstract. They become atter, with less texture; the last is almost unrecognisable. The other set follows a similar iteration: windows and mullions are photographed at increasingly oblique angles until they are a collection of pure rectangular geometries. By showing the images in series, Binet illustrates how minute shifts in light, framing and angle can make a space into something almost neo-plastic.

Binet traverses this dichotomy between static and temporally dynamic in projects by Peter Zumthor and Zaha Hadid. At first glance, the images of Zumthor's Thermal Baths in Vals are almost impossibly static. Yet Binet creates dynamism through composition, frames within frames, and a direct relationship between the interior and exterior space of the baths.

Despite the atness of the images, the viewer sees depth through many planes.

The images of Hadid's Vitra Fire Station and Phaeno Science Center are startlingly like Hadid's drawings: Russian Constructivism mixed with Futurist dynamism. Binet shows these elements in Hadid's built work, translating the architect's vision by finding moments of the building that evoke these conceptual forms. Her images of Hejduk's Wall House in Groningen achieve similar ends: through angles and framing, Hejduk's explorations of atness and depth are made clear.

The second portion of the exhibition shows Binet's more recent endeavour into landscape photography, with a series from 2002-2003 titled Paysages en poésie from the Prealps in Switzerland. The results suggest that Binet's approach to space through detail extends beyond artificially designed forms, imbuing a new subject with her powerful style.

Jaffer Kolb is a writer in London

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.