LArchitecture — Fall 2012
Change Language:
Do You Think I´M Sexy?.
Carlo Caccavale, Hon. AIA|LA

How often do we hear or say the word "sexy"? Sexy cars, sexy glasses, sexy shoes, sexy design. Homes are sexy, restaurants are sexy … who knew? Well, since sex is a bestseller, everybody (and everything) has jumped on the bandwagon.

And architecture has followed along. But those who truly make architecture sexy are the photographers who treat their subject matter like models in a fashion shoot - highlighting the sensual lines, featuring the best angles, optimizing the light - all in an ultimate effort to offer the sexiest version of a building.

We asked a slew of photographers to tell us what makes a building sexy in their eyes and which one is the sexiest building in LA.

Q: How would you define sexy architecture?

We asked a slew of photographers to tell us what makes a building sexy in their eyes and which one is the sexiest building in LA.

Q: How would you define sexy architecture?

Claire Harlan

For me, sexy architecture has to do with beautiful lines. It has to do with the textures and weight of the structure and how it conducts the light.

Eric Straudenmaier

I find architecture sexy when it engages in a dialogue, aspires to inspire and challenges my perception.

Undine Pröhl

Visually exciting and sensual spaces.

David Lena

To me, sexy is sophisticated, sensual, alluring, with a feeling that anything is possible. Sophistication in architecture is something like the Apple principle: elegant simplicity that allows for easy use and comfort, is sustainable and technically stateof- the-art, and has a whimsical way of introducing nature. It is most often modern and can be reminiscent of things past with a new and captivating twist.

Art Gray

Architecture with good lighting! One of my first jobs out of architecture school at the University of Michigan was with an architectural lighting firm here in LA. We did lighting for high-end homes and hotels, which included many "sexy" spaces. To share a line from my lighting designer boss, "One should respond to the lighting, not react to it," as he held his hand over his eyes. Funny, but true. The wrong lighting can really ruin a "sexy" space, or done right, it can be beautiful.

Lane Barden

Just exciting, alluring architecture - there is so much of that right now. Ever since architecture was liberated from structural and conceptual restraints, it's just gotten to be amazing. All that new work that departs from conventional form is sexy to me. Intellectual finesse is also sexy to me. To redefine the genre or subvert our expectations of what a city hall or a school or a museum is can be very sexy.

Q: Do you think you, as an architectural photographer, see architecture in a different way, and how?

Lena: I'm not sure if I see it differently, but I do feel that I see it more profoundly than most people (with the exception of my clients). Profoundly in the sense of its geometry, its relationship to nature, and its surroundings and its innovation. I am always inspired by simple ideas that make space that much more enjoyable and alive, and which introduce the beauty of nature with transparency.

Pröhl: Yes, I am seeing it a little differently, because I am trying to capture the building and transform it into a two-dimensional image without losing the sense of space.

Harlan: I see architecture as a way to connect spatially. This connection can be a solitary experience as well as a connection to others.

Throughout my life, I have felt a great curiosity and fascination with physical objects that connect us to the past. Architecture seems to be a natural extension of that.

Straudenmaier: Of course everyone sees architecture from their unique point of view. When I'm photographing, I look to see what story the building is telling. I'm looking to make a provocative photograph, one that will draw the viewer in so they will have a chance to fall in love with the building themselves.

Gray: I would think I do see architecture from a slightly different perspective than the average Joe. I cannot help but look for what would be the best (sexiest) shot when I walk into a new space. My architecture school training helped me learn space planning and how to understand what the architect intends for one to experience as they walk through or live or work in a space. Which is, of course, what I now want to capture with my photographs. The final set of photographs of an architect's work is usually the only imagery of a project that the world will see. I feel the "architectural instinct" that I have, the skill of understanding space planning, knowing what the "sexy" shots are, has really helped me know what my architect clients want me to capture.

Barden: I see photographically.

I have a high sensitivity to light, and I see in terms of framing - and framing is that kind of tunnel vision when you see what potentially could be in the frame of the image. You always have to make a choice between what you see and what will be outside the frame.

Q: What do you see when you see a building?

Harlan: When I see a building, my immediate reaction is emotional. In visually exploring a structure, I just want to watch what it does with light - the way that the light rounds a corner or slides along underneath some structures. The light articulates for the building.

Lena: I see those who live and/or work in the space and how that can be incorporated into an image. I see form, function, allusions, reflections, opacity, translucence, color contrast, texture, light and opportunities for light, volume, design and views that capture the iconic essence of its design, both interior and exterior.

Straudenmaier: I like to look at the relationships: between the architect and the client, the building and the pedestrians, and the relationship of the architecture with its physical and historical context.

Gray: When I see a new building going up, I see the opportunity for greatness!

Barden: My first reaction, just like everybody else, is "I like it" or "I don't." But I also see a kind of visual logic that holds the building in space and makes every element work together with the concept of the building. I look for places that can be representative of an image.

Q: What is your favorite building to photograph?

Harlan: I am very drawn to turnof- the-century industrial buildings. I love the materials and textures used to construct them, and I admit to some nostalgia for my own past and theirs. The forgotten stories of these buildings intrigue me.

Straudenmaier: I have an affair with every building I photograph, casting aside all my old loves and not looking to the future. I throw myself at the new building, living only in the moment of that relationship.

Pröhl: I do not have a favorite building to photograph. Each time, it is a new challenge.

Gray: Just one? Impossible to pick just one!

My favorite type of architecture to photograph is residential, although some of the most personally satisfying projects I have shot have been fire stations, low-income housing projects and, most recently, modular and "off-the-grid" projects. I love simple modern architecture that sits within nature or seemingly becomes part of nature. I have had the good fortune to work with many of LA's top young architecture firms over the past 10 years. This list includes the very talented Santa Monicabased architect Patrick Tighe. I shot his first house, the Collins/Banchik Gallery House. The challenge was to capture the architect's view of an owner's request to have a house that also functions as an art gallery.

It's certainly one of my favorite and most successful shoots, and a multiple national award-winning project - the house even made the cover of LA Architect Magazine and the cover of Michael Webb's book, Brave New Architecture, Adventures in Southern California Living.

Lena: A modern building that makes one or many captivating statements.

Barden: It's a tie between School #9 by Wolf D. Prix and the Austrian firm Coop Himmelb(l)au, and a recent, less-known building, the Pacoima City Hall by RoTo architecture.

These two buildings are really interesting to photograph, as they don't hold the usual expectations about a school or a city hall, [but] they don't disappoint when you look closely. An exciting piece of architecture should draw you in and reveal more and more interesting details, and these two buildings do that for me.

Q: What's the sexiest building in LA to photograph?

Harlan: My feelings about buildings change with where I am in my life. I think our landscape shapes us in ways we aren't always aware of consciously. I think that is why so many buildings move through my personal conversation, such as the Gothiclooking storage building on Virgil and Beverly, which I find very sexy. For me, though, the sexiest manmade structures in Los Angeles are the freeways. They can feel powerful and effortless, heavy and serene, flawless and ephemeral, all at once.

Gray: I would have to say the Theme Building at LAX. The idea of a building like that, as a kid growing up in small towns in the Midwest, was certainly an inspiration for me to look west. I have only taken snapshots of it when I first moved here; I got some really great, fun shots.

Lena: The sexiest building to photograph is often the one that is receiving the most attention by the media. Bold, iconic architecture is controversial and generates a buzz sometimes far in advance of its completion. A building and its architect - and sometimes an architect and all of their buildings - can be celebrities, and the photographer who lands the exclusive to photograph those celebrities has the sexiest, most coveted assignment around.

Pröhl: Maybe it is a little obvious, but, in Los Angeles, I would say it is Disney Hall.

Barden: I would have to give you the obvious answer, Disney Hall - but sometimes we get too much of a good thing and the allure starts to fade because it is overphotographed.

Straudenmaier: Whichever one happens to be flirting with me at that moment. I forget all the others.