Marc Goodwin’s passion for architecture is all-encompassing. Architect, academic and photographer born in London, Marc owes his fortune to an idea that brings together all these three souls to offer the public something new. For years, in fact, he has been travelling around Europe, America and Asia to photograph the most important architectural studios, from Renzo Piano Building Workshop to David Chipperfield Architects. He has thus had access to some of the most creative places in the world, and has opened the doors to many others curious to understand how and where the great architectures of today are conceived. A way, this, to learn about the state of the art, to document an unjustly neglected piece of history and to change the paradigm of photography. Your work on academic papers also brings us here: how is it possible that a terrain as rich in innovation and talent as architecture is represented according to styles that seem immutable? Thus was born his studio, Archmosphere, stubbornly determined to defy the rules. Because architecture is atmosphere, something impalpable that cannot be reduced to a wide angle with blue sky. Something that changes with time, with the people who inhabit it. His is a courageous work, which clashes against the prevailing models to open our eyes to a new way of seeing modern architecture.

 

 

1) Let’s talk about your Atlas of Architectural Atmospheres. Your work helped inspiring architects all over the world by stepping is some major firms through your lens. Where did the idea come from and what are you trying to achieve with this?

 

In the beginning I had a phobia of offices. I’m not joking. It’s the reason I became a photographer instead of an architect. If I had to choose which of the two means more to me, I would choose architecture. But each time I walked into an office I would start sweating and my heart would start pounding. So I decided once I finished my doctorate to do something about this, to confront it head on. And thus the project was born. 200+ offices later I am cured of my phobia and on my way to making a small contribution to the global understanding of architecture. At least that is my goal.

 

2) What was the most striking surprise you found in this project?

 

China. I guess I had some negative preconceived ideas before going there. Lots to do with Western media, I have to say. But China changed everything: my beliefs, my career, my notion about the West as the centre of the world. There is so much going on there, so much talent, so much energy and work.

 

 

3) You are the founder of Archmospheres. What is it and what is the philosophy behind it?

 

In a word, diversity. The idea that one way of doing things cannot be the right approach to a job that you do in so many different environments, each with a different atmosphere. Place, weather, time of year, time of day, people, events…all of these could and should be represented in frozen Architectural Atmospheres which are what I call these photographs.

 

4) I read that architecture was an obsession for you. How did you find a way to address it with your images?

 

Well, it’s basically all I do. Or was until COVID. Whether shooting, retouching, meeting with people, browsing images, reading articles…this job really feeds my obsession like no other.

 

 

5) In one of your articles, you list a number of conventions used to represent architecture, from camera orientation to depth of field. You also say that blue and white has replaced the classic black and white. Why has this happened and why is it important to change this?

 

During my doctoral studies I did content analysis of books and magazines and found that nearly all images were of white/light-coloured or glass buildings under blue skies. l found this to be incredibly monotonous. So I did some field work to ask architects about it and they didn’t seem to know the cause. Most really hadn’t thought about it that much. You hire a good photographer to take good pictures, end of story. Maybe the Pareto Principle was the best way to explain their choices. But what about limiting the definition of what’s good to so few parameters? It reminded me of the racism behind concepts of beauty which Oliviero Toscani brought to light so beautifully for Benetton in the 90s. My goal has always been to do something similar for architecture. Practitioners are defining their concept of beautiful too narrowly based on established conventions that are ready to be overthrown.

 

6) You’re not afraid to represent building in conditions that are not “ideal” (bad weather, cold colors). Why’s that?

 

This comes back to the idea of diversity. Most buildings do look great in fine weather because strong shadows produce a sense of volume, saturated colours give the intensity of ripe fruit we are evolved to look for and so on. But surely there is a numbing effect if you always go to the same conditions, over and over. Postcards are boring without a personal connection. This really hit me when I moved from England to Spain to Finland and everyone wanted the same weather conditions in their pictures. Are you ashamed of where you live, I thought? Show what is special and unique about it. Often that means clouds, rain and snow. I don’t think of it as bad weather at all. I love that sort of thing, although it does make it harder to shoot – possibly another reason why it is done less!

 

 

7) Did you find any resistance from your client about shooting in these conditions?

 

Yes, they all try to cancel or postpone when the weather forecast is bad. But they wind up buying pictures anyway!

 

8) Is it easier to convey an atmosphere shooting an exterior or an interior? Why?

 

I find exteriors easier in every way, not just regarding atmosphere. Interiors of the sort Manuel Cervantes produces are an exception. But that sort of thing is all too rare. If people would leave the lights off and value dark interiors where windows become a kind of evocative opening to the exterior (which is what you see when you go on a building site) I would find them far more interesting. But most of the time I think interiors have been ruined by all the junk the architect’s client has forced into the building.

 

 

9) You travel a lot. Which country is now peaking architectural research in your opinion?

 

Mexico. I cannot wait to return there. I loved everything and everyone. It was the most amazing trip. The same is actually true as well of Brazil but they were going through such rough times when I went that from a business standpoint Mexico was a bigger draw. But there is so much talent, knowledge, innovation and understanding of tradition…so much beauty in the architectural communities of each country that I felt very, very inspired by each.

 

 

10) Architectural photography often moves on the verge between art and market. Does it make it harder to find its own style compared with other, more free genres?

 

Yes, this connects to my answer to your fifth and sixth questions. Often I used to just say ‘look at the work of fine artists’. They all shoot under white skies. That alone would double the possibilities for architectural photographs. Look at the lifestyle work that Julius Shulman did. That would make your interiors so much more alive. Look at the potential for landscape as part of the story you are telling, whether urban or natural. Use black and white when the project asks for it. Light interiors in weird ways at night to highlight aspects of the building. Shoot exteriors at night with long exposures. Do multiple captures to show the haptic memory of people using the space. Shoot construction, destruction and real habitation. There is so much more to say in a way that the industry would benefit from. Don’t get me wrong, architectural photography is amazing, the top people are very talented and produce beautiful work consistently. I just think there is room for an expanded field of architectural photography. It’s time to take off the golden straightjacket it has been wearing for so long.

 

11) What is the question you hoped for and that I didn’t pose? What’s your answer?

 

I’m kind of glad you didn’t ask about Covid, but I do wonder what will happen to cities if this keeps recurring. Will this mean another urban flight by people of means like the one that took place in the 20th century? Are we about to turn the world into suburban sprawl? God, I hope not. That would mean interiors are no longer fun to shoot either. Oh, and the destruction of the planet.

 

12) Tell us 3 young photographers that we should follow.

@Chloé_Ler,

@Dunja_Somwhere,

@cclglr