Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Missed Opportunity

South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI)
SAHMRI Photo ©Darren Bradley
The South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) has just been completed in Adelaide, South Australia by the architectural firm of Woods Bagot. I've been watching it go up for the past couple of year during my frequent visits to Adelaide, and documenting its progress. Finally, the SAHMRI building has been completed, which coincided with my most recent visit to that fair city. So I was really looking forward to the opportunity of finally seeing the interior and perhaps getting a few photographs from inside. That didn't happen. 

South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI)
Oooh, that light on the skin of the building... Photo ©Darren Bradley

As anyone knows who follows my Instagram or Flickr feeds, I get to Adelaide fairly often. Now, to be perfectly honest, Adelaide is not exactly known as a hotbed of interesting modern architecture. In fact, I frequently don't even bother to bring my camera on my trips. But in August of last year, as I was crossing the bridge across the railway tracks while driving back into the city one evening at sunset, I looked over and saw this... 

South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI)
Yes, it really looked like this - no crazy filters or editing needed... You can really get a nice idea of the construction with this photo, and the outer skin over the internal floor structure. It's too bad that the glassed in sections on either side are being occupied as office spaces, which makes them less transparent.  Photo ©Darren Bradley
I was blown away. I immediately pulled over and jumped out of the car on the bridge and grabbed this shot, creating a bit of a traffic jam behind me (the people behind me weren't as excited about this building as I was, apparently, and weren't terribly happy with me). 

I wasn't really sure what I was looking at. It was something out of this world (of course, the crazy sunset didn't hurt). I loved the elegance and lightness of the structure. I loved how imaginative it was, and yet practical at the same time, with a creative use of screening to shade the sun. It seemed weightless and monumental at the same time. Also, it was just cool. I grabbed a morning shot on my way to the office the next day... (apologies again to Adelaide commuters for the traffic jam). 
South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI)
Same view as above, but early morning. Photo ©Darren Bradley
Woods Bagot had seen the above photos online and left me a few nice words... So now, it was finally finished and the timing coincided with my next trip to Adelaide. I brought a light travel kit to take some photos while I was there, and sent a note in advance to Woods Bagot to ask about the opportunity to go inside for some interior photos. Alas, they never responded. 

I decided to make the best of it, and woke up before dawn the day after my arrival to grab a few exterior shots of the completed structure. I had about an hour or so before I had to be at work, and it looked to be a nice sunrise. 

A bit too dark for this shot, but had to make do with the time I had. Photo ©Darren Bradley
Seeing this beautiful building reveal itself as I walked around in the changing light was a real treat. One of the things I love most about it is how different SAHMRI looks and feels, depending on the angle and the light. 
Another one from the first morning...
Photo ©Darren Bradley
A study in light
And suddenly, the sun is up and the building changes again. Photo ©Darren Bradley

It seems to morph in scale, texture, and form. It's quite fascinating. I really enjoyed the show. 
South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI)
Looking very organic here. Photo ©Darren Bradley

In conversation with a building...
A conversation with a building. Photo ©Darren Bradley
As my hour was up and the light had already changed to daylight, I was walking back to my hotel to get ready. 

South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI)
Photo ©Darren Bradley
I came across a guy in an orange construction vest setting up a Canon with a 17mm TS lens on a tripod at basically the same exact angle where I had been an hour before. Now, architectural photography is a fairly lonely activity. I'm not used to running across other photographers at all when I'm out shooting - and certainly not one with a rare tilt-shift lens (which is what we use primarily for photographing architecture to maintain perspective control). So my curiosity was peaked. 

His curiosity, apparently, was not. He was doing his best to ignore me as I stood there watching him work. So I teased him a bit by saying that he was about twenty minutes too late for that shot he was trying to get (the sun was already blazing and creating a heavy glare on the glass). 
South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI)
This is the image I got about an hour before I saw Trevor Mein's assistant taking a shot from the exact same location.
Photo ©Darren Bradley
He was nice enough, but clearly didn't want to talk. He told me briefly that he was there all week to photograph the new SAHMRI project, and that he was working for the architect. He mentioned that his boss, Trevor Mein, was also around somewhere. Trevor regularly photographs for Woods Bagot, so his presence wasn't a big surprise. But it was a funny coincidence that he happened to be there at the same time as me. 

I spent the rest of my week there, working, Then on my last afternoon, I got back to my hotel while the sun was still up so I decided to see if I could get inside SAHMRI for a few interior shots before I left. But as I walked in the lobby, I saw Trevor Mein setting up a tripod in the corner. As a courtesy (I didn't want to be in his way), I just left without asking about taking any photos inside. I only got this one exterior shot from across the street, instead. 
South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI)
Late afternoon shot on the west elevation. The construction is from the new Royal Adelaide Hospital being built adjacent to this site. I hope that the building doesn't crowd the SAHMRI building, as it clearly deserves to stand on its own, and looks best without having anything else nearby. Photo ©Darren Bradley

Anyway, I would love to have access to the building the next time I'm there. It would be a lot of fun to get some interior shots. I have to say from the little I did see in the lobby, it's even more beautiful inside, and there's lots of potential to play with shadows and angles of those spaces. Regardless, I will definitely spend a bit more time to get some additional exterior shots. With the right lenses (I'd only brought one lens with me), there are lots of opportunities to get some nice shots of the context of the building in the surrounding environment. 

I also look forward to seeing Trevor Mein's photos of this project. It's always fun to see a different perspective. 

Congratulations to Woods Bagot for completion of this beautiful project. And thanks to Adelaide for commissioning it. Can't wait to go back. 

*** UPDATE ( 7 December 2014)***

Since I've taken these photos, I've been back in Adelaide a few times (and am there right now). I have tried to arrange to gain access to the interior to take some photos on each occasion, but have never been able to do so. The staff is always friendly, but they are always too busy to accommodate my request. They did allow me to take a couple of photos of the interior reception area this time. Here's what I was able to do during the few minutes I was in the lobby.
South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI)
Photo ©Darren Bradley

sahmri revised
Photo ©Darren Bradley

Shame about the sign... Photo ©Darren Bradley

For my previous blog post on Adelaide, please click here. 


Boris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Boris said...

Thank you for the story! I was blown away by the photos the moment I firsts saw then. Now, reading " imaginative it was..." all I was thing the "and then there is DC".
Can you imaging creating a traffic jam on the 14th or the Key Bridge?
That would be a scene worth being immortalize in pixels.
Consider yourself very lucky. Not many people will ever see this building live, let alone capture views that may compare to yours.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful photographs and an interesting building that looks as good from a distance as it does up close (not always the case). Looking forward to the interior shots.

John Eaton said...

Thank you for recording the progress on this fantastic work. I think it's both beautiful and relevant.

-- John

John Eaton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I'm an Adelaide dweller for now and love your Flickr feed so I was excited to see such great shots of that building appear in your feed over the past year or so.

Really appreciate your work!

modarchitecture said...

Thanks for your comments! I do consider myself lucky to have the opportunity to travel and see so many beautiful things. Adelaide is an amazing city and should be proud of this work, as should the architects.

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