Architectural Photography: Shorelands Seafront Residence

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Architect Stephen Mendes retrofitted this contemporary seafront home, installing security measures without sacrificing clean modern lines or ocean views. Architectural photographer and blogger Brian Lewis guides our tour of our featured home.

Shorelands Seafront Residence, Oceanside Shorelands Seafront Residence, Oceanside ©LUMIS Photography

The Project

This project is a major retrofit/ renovation and extension with the design intent to create transparent views of the ocean and yet achieve a reasonable level of security by using a contemporary architectural palette. Architect Stephen Mendes is well known for major planning and commercial projects, but here we see him convert the remnants of an existing house into a contemporary design as a fitting conclusion to his design career. The seafront is reclaimed with simple yet contemporary landscaping. Interiors are colorful and fitted out with high-quality modern furniture and contemporary artwork in contrast to the simple white walls of the architecture.

The double-height courtyard. ©LUMIS photography.

The house is two stories with a central double-height courtyard that allows an undisturbed view of the seafront from the entrance and most of the rooms on the ground floor. The north and south facades of the house are generally sliding folding glass doors with metal security grilles that open to naturally ventilate the home, creating a more direct connection between interior and exterior spaces. Because of the architectural design I found that I composed images that were perpendicular to the façade in a one–point type perspective.

Considerations for the Photo Shoot

I had originally planned to photograph this project between May and August when the sun would illuminate the north façade. However, this plan had to be deferred due to the need to complete maintenance tasks and make improvements. When the time finally came to shoot the project it was January, when the sun was in the south, so it was not ideal to photograph the front (north) facade of the house. Still it is better to have "a bird in the hand" so I agreed to shoot the house in January and then return again when the sun was in the north.

The Shorelands Seafront Residence is a fairly large house, and I decided to restrict photography to the public spaces on the ground floor. Still, as it is a large photogenic house, I had plenty of images to capture in one day. I had asked the owner to arrive at 6:30 AM to catch the morning light. Unfortunately I forgot to bring my hat, so after a few continuous hours in the sun I decided to take a break at midday, returning at about 3:00 PM hoping to catch the golden sunset hours.

What I learned from this assignment is that one always has to be flexible, willing to change one’s plans based on actual, on-site conditions. I had originally thought that arriving early would allow me to shoot the seaside façade of the house from the southeast [with the sun over my right shoulder]. In reality this turned out to be less than ideal, since the landscaping there cast a shadow on most of the façade and I ended up shooting the south façade from the southwest later (at about 9:30 AM) when the sun cleared most of the landscaping. I was also able to use a long lens [210mm] from an offshore jetty. By the time I finished shooting the exterior it was midday, and I was shattered, so I decided to take a break.

Photographic Technique and Architecture

I returned in the afternoon invigorated by a shower and meal to shoot the interiors. One of the challenges of this particular assignment was controlling contrast while attempting to capture the design intent to achieve transparency. I had to boost interior lighting levels by using a pair of ProFoto D1 flash units on tripods with umbrellas and when necessary employed Nikon Speedlight flashes to shape light and enhance features. Another challenge was the variety of color temperatures that added to the complexity of post-production adjustments.

Thanks to the burning of tires at the national garbage dump as a protest, there was no golden hour that day in the Port of Spain area. Instead I ended up shooting a feature glass wall with colored lighting in the entrance courtyard as the light dropped at the end of the day. Hopefully I can return to shoot the northern façade between May and August when the sun shifts to illuminate the north facade. The Shorelands Seafront Residence is very photogenic, so for me it was a real challenge to limit the number of shots within the few daylight hours available. To do justice to a house like this requires a minimum of three days – a second visit is necessary.

Brian Lewis

Brian Lewis has practiced as an architect continuously for over forty years and is currently Practice Manager of the firm ACLA:WORKS an architectural and interiors practice. The firm was founded in 1944 by Anthony C. Lewis in Barbados but the name ACLA:WORKS was introduced in 2001 when three architectural practices merged. ACLA:WORKS provides a full range of architectural, planning and interior services. The firm is a member of the Trinidad and Tobago Institute of Architects [TTIA] and through our team, have affiliations with the Barbados Institute of Architects [BIA], the Jamaican Institute of Architects [JIA], American Institute of Architects [AIA] and the Royal Institute of British Architects [RIBA].

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