Image and Reality

Michelangelo Sabatino, who is researching the Canadian architect Arthur Erickson (1924-2009), recently sent me photographs that he had taken while visiting an early work by the architect. The 1959 Filberg house is in Comox, on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, and is particularly important since it launched Erickson on a stellar career that made him into Canada’s first internationally famous architect.











Sabatino’s photo (left) shows a rather, well, glitzy interior. Compare this view with what a professional architectural photographer does with the same interior (right). The angle is more interesting, the reflections are deeper, the forms balance each other; the room is still opulent, but no longer glitzy. In a forthcoming book, How Architecture Works, I compare architectural photography to portrait photography, whose purpose is to flatter the subject, to set it off to the greatest advantage, and to eliminate anything that detracts from this purpose. How often have we visited a building that we have previously seen exclusively in photographs, only to be disappointed, or at least surprised. Incidentally, the Filberg house may be an an example of Fifties taste, but that does not seem to have hurt its appeal, since it is listed for sale for six million dollars.

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