At 80 miles an hour the desert appears as a void in the universe, an empty, desolate landscape of nothing. But, if you slow down, if you walk away from the road, if you take some time and settle in, you will see that void open up to you. Its not an accident that so many religious traditions, old and new, emerge from the desert. In the desert, there is a stillness, an openness and a quiet which envelope you, and as you slow down its speed opens your perceptions to its vastness and grander.
Sight, sound, touch, smell and even taste, open up to you in the desert because they are so subtle and delicate. The desert has a way revealing the invisible, once you simply align yourself. The only other place on earth were this kind of stillness is available is the arctic. The arctic and the desert share the vast openness of space that the mind finds difficult to comprehend, but where the perceptions feel completely at home.
The desert engulfs us with negative space: the realm of the air and the sky. Above the ground and beneath the stars, this negative space becomes sensible, palpable, almost tactile, in a way that never happens on the ocean, in the mountains, or within the city, because the desert contains this intense stillness.
These houses were discovered while driving through the deep Mojave, east of Twenty Nine Palms, while listening to a book on Buddhism that had just began speaking about being and non-being. Even at 80 mph, as I looked through the speeding landscape, the connection between the book and these house frames, far out into the landscape, was instantly obvious. Once Slowed down, the houses open up to a landscape of other structures: plants, trailers, containers, and the remains of civilization. These "structures" exist in the world, and yet, at the very same moment, they do not: They are being and non-being, in the same moment. They are the desert.
Tverrfjellhytta | Snohetta
Tverrfjellhytta transliterates as"Across Mountain Cabin". Its is better known as the Snohetta Reindeer Viewpoint. The viewpoint sits on top of a gentle mountain slope over a wide valley that is one of the major migration routes through this area of Norway. The viewpoint is for watching reindeer and musk oxen migrating across the mountain, and, significantly, is sited with a direct view to Mt Snohetta, the namesake of the architectural firm who designed these buildings.
We were in Norway for New Years, to see the Northern Lights and Architecture. Before heading north to Tromso for the Northern lights, we ventured to Lillehammer and then Hjerkinn to see this building. It was early January, we arrived at the parking lot for Tverrfjellhyta right as the sun was rising above the mountains to the south. It was -13C, and the wind was blowing. We estimated the temperature at about -25C with the wind chill.
In the parking lot, we encountered a wooden structure with symmetrical openings and a red, inset, panel: the restroom... which was closed, because no one uses this place in January. I was taken by the form of the restroom and made a series of images, as my girlfriend dressed for our hike in the car.
We were just below the arctic circle, and at 9:30 in the morning, the sun was just skimming over the tops of the low, rolling, mountains to the south. After photographing for 10 minutes I went back to the car to get my girlfriend and set off for our destination.
About 1/4 mile from the parking lot, we found a Cor-Ten information panel, that can been seen in these images. Up the path, we walked over the low mountain top and at the crest, saw Tverrfjellhyta and a second wood sided restroom.
The Pavillion both blends with, and is, offset from the landscape in a perfectly balanced way. It was also closed so we could not get inside, which was more of an issue for my girlfriend than me, since she had nothing to do while I walked around and photographed the building.
Within 15 minutes of our arrival, the mountains far to the south, began to cast a shadow across the pavilion, as the sun moved westward, and the mountains moved higher, they blocked the direct light of the sun. You will notice that many of the images have the pavillon in shadow. After about 45 minutes of shooting, the shutter of my camera malfunctioned several times because the lubricants inside the camera were too cold, we left and walked back to the warmth of our car.
Outside of Oslo, this was the only building in Norway that I absolutely had to visit on this trip. As it tuned out, I had never seen the restrooms before, and it was the 2 bathrooms that I found most intriguing, with which I spent most of my time with.
One of these images has subsequently won an AIA Photography Award in 2017.
Berlin Nacht | 2017
Seeing Berlin, Darkly | January 2017
Winter nights in Berlin are cold and dark. We came here for New Years 2017 to start this historically transitional year, from what is one of the most historically important cities in the world, and to experience both the physical coldness and the metaphysical darkness that pervades Berlin.
As we were flying in, my girlfriend announced that I was not going to spend the entire trip photographing. This came as a shock to me for many reasons, the main one being that we had talked about photographing Berlin for about 6 months. After some heated discussions and a fair bit of pouting on my part, I realized that in addition to me, she loved to sleep, and that I could go out photographing at night after she had gone to bed.
The first night photographing was fine. It was uncomfortably cold and slightly intimidating to be out wondering the streets at night, but I made a set of images I liked. After the third night, however, I realized that photographing at night was the perfect way to explore the particulars of this deeply wounded city. So, what started as a major conflict, transformed itself into an unexpected way to see the city, that ended up bring us both closer to each other and the city.
My photography is generally about the way humans define and construct space. Berlin is a city about space, a city about expanding, inscribing and defining space. At night the space of the city collapses into localities defined by light and the surrounding darkness. Conceptually, a photograph does the same thing, as it frames and inscribes a world through light and darkness. These localities of light offer glimpses into the past, present and future of what this city that has been, and continues to be, as a model for the cultural and political dynamics of the world, and as an abiding concern of mine.
I’ve always been intrigued by Berlin. Born in 1962, I grew up in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, a very clear and distinct definition of political space. The Cold War loomed over this city, that, for so long, served as the epicenter for its anxiety, its espionage and its ideological confrontations. I came here to see the remnants of that space and to experience the history I grew up reading about, watching and imaging.
These images were taken over the course of 7 nights walking through the streets of Berlin from around 9pm to as late as 4am. They are arranged formally and conceptually rather than chronologically, geographically or thematically. The city itself is disjointed, and the order of the images here reflects that feeling of discontinuity that pervades its guilt ridden, strife torn, and politically charged, luminescence.
—Steve King, February 2017, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Hamburg Haffencity | 2017
Traversing 70 Years of Architecture in One Day [Hamburg to Hafencity, and back]
Hamburg was flattened by Allied bombing in the 1940’s. After the war the city was rebuilt and returned to its position as the nation’s largest port and most important trading center. However, beginning in the 1970’s the port facilities were again attacked and, more or less destroyed, this time, economically, with the advent of container shipping. Containers necessitated both the building of a new port facility, across the river, and the abandonment of the old port and its kilometer after kilometer of warehouses, roads and canals.
In 2001 the city of Hamburg instigated “Hafencity,” the largest urban renewal project in Europe. Hafencity will remodel some of the abandoned warehouses of the old port, and create over 100 new buildings that, together, will form a new urban center within Hamburg. Unlike older downtown areas dominated by office high rises, Hafencity will be developed into a compact zone bringing together workplace and residential uses, culture and leisure, tourism and retail facilities, and be anchored by Herzog and De Neuron’s Elbphilharmonie, that sits on the very edge of the Elbe river.
Hafencity, like many industrial sections of cities around the world, is undergoing a new kind of urban renewal. People are rediscovering and returning to these formerly abandoned areas and taking advantage of lower real estate costs, increased efficiencies and greener less carbon intensive lifestyles.
The images in this book are from a single day in January of 2017, walking from the center of Hamburg to this brand new edge of urban transformation, and back.
Our Day in Hamburg|
We flew into Hamburg on our way to Berlin. Hamburg offered a cheaper faire, and the opportunity to see an important port city, as well as to see a bit of the German countryside from the train, rather than the air, as we traveled the final leg into our 2016-17 New Years trip. The images in this book are from the very end of our trip, just before we were to board our plane home. Hamburg had seemed so inviting that we had decided to cut our time in Berlin short and return early to Hamburg to spend our last day in Germany exploring this city we discovered only a week and a half before.
Within a few blocks of our hotel, we discovered a narrow roadway and I was immediately drawn to the way it articulated the urban space of the city. Looking at the space, and looking at the image on my iPhone I was struck by how much it reminded me of Thomas Struth’s earlier Black and White images of the urban landscape. Those images had a profound effect on me, because they taught me how one could photograph “nothing”, they taught me how to photograph what is invisible, they taught me that you could actually photograph the emptiness of negative space and the way it is defined by architectural form, allowing both to be seen at the same time.
As we continued walking, I just kept photographing with my phone, and posting on Instagram. But when we reached the first canal I was struck by the drama that opened up in front of us: the bridge, the reflective water, the buildings and the sheer scale of the place, forced me to bring out my larger camera. The larger images, the main portion of this book are from that larger, slower, more deliberately controlled camera.
What struck me about the canals was the spectacle of space that they orchestrate. The way that the sheer, vertical, faces of the buildings dive into the water, the way the reflections of both buildings and sky shimmer in the canals, and the way that both sky and water seem to explode from the impossibly small horizon, far off inside of these canyons of architecture, all work to create a dramatic play of positive and negative space within this densely urban landscape.
My work always concerns the juxtaposition of the built and the unbuilt worlds: designed form in relation to the natural environment, and visa versa. Now, more than ever, as the anthropocene extends farther and farther into the natural world, this relationship between humanity and nature is being brought into question. The architecture of this city seems to engage with the natural space of the river and the sky, the way a dovetail joint connects the corners of a well built wooden box. These images are about looking at that joinery between architecture and open space, and discovering the new and evolving urban condition of Hafencity.
Reflections of an Urban Metaphysics.
Hamburg is the largest port in Germany and the second largest in all of Europe. In the 19th century, virtually every German immigrant to the United States left from this city, regardless of where they lived. What was surprising for me, walking the streets of this heavily industrialized port city, was how comfortable and seemingly familiar this city feels, especially in comparison with Berlin. Where Berlin seems monumental and somehow alienating, Hamburg feels like it wraps its arms around you, even though the density of the built environment is far higher.
My family lineage, on both sides, is German. We immigrated here in the late 19th century from towns or cities in Germany that remain unknown. Perhaps it is the fact that my great, great, great, grandparents were here, that provides the sense of connection I feel. This is the only city in Germany where I am certain they walked. Or, perhaps, this is just a well designed city that reflects and embraces our desire to be part of something larger than ourselves. Regardless of the reason, walking these streets, this city engages you with an unfolding historical narrative that traverses its long and illustrious past with an innovative, hopeful future that is being created right before our eyes.