Archives for category: Drawing Parallels

“A thought-provoking and beautifully-photographed collection to which I have found myself returning on many occasions.”
William Arthurs, Editor, London Society Journal

Sources of architectural inspiration from around the world

In this fascinating “un-guide book” Quintin Lake uses visual comparisons drawn from his extensive travels in more than 60 countries. From mega cities to the remotest villages, from man-made structures to natural forms, he takes us through series of pairings of photographs that that reveal hidden harmonies in the world around us and challenge our understanding of what constitutes architecture.

Beginning with ‘shape and surface’, comparisons are drawn between forms and textures in the man-made and natural world. ‘Organising space’ reveals the layers, divisions and structure of both vernacular and contemporary urban space. ‘Shelter’ covers all aspects of the home and survival from favela housing to skyscrapers and suburbia. ‘Memory and architecture’ reflects on the powerful aftermath of war and natural disasters and the visible passage of time through weathering. And finally ‘Architecture as Stage set’ examines the use or rather the mis-use of space for personal gratification, political drama or public narrative.

Quintin Lake is a photographer and architect. He studied at the Architectural Association and is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Society of Arts. His extensive expeditions include Greenland, Uganda, Peru and Iran; recent solo exhibitions include Cities and Landscapes, Orquideas Interoceanicas and Pripiat: 21 Years After Chernobyl.

General Information

Press Release containing brief description, author biography and technical information from Papadakis Publisher (PDF) here

Book Cover Image (high res jpg)

An Architecture of Looking, Some directions for use. Foreword By Richard Wentworth

UK Stockists here

Media and Credit Information

Should you wish to feature any material from Drawing Parallels, I request that the following information be included within your piece:

  1. Book Cover image (high res jpg)
  2. Drawing Parallels: Architecture Observed by Quintin Lake
  3. £25

Should you wish to include any additional material, I would be happy to provide it on request. Questions may me emailed to me at

For review copy request please contact my publisher, Papadakis Publisher

Chapter Extracts

Summary text and two print resolution (300dpi) sample spreads from each chapter available to download as a PDF .


2. Surface and Texture CLICK HERE FOR EXTRACT

3. Organising Space CLICK HERE FOR EXTRACT

4. Shelter and Home CLICK HERE FOR EXTRACT

5. Memory and Place CLICK HERE FOR EXTRACT

6. Architecture as Stage Set CLICK HERE FOR EXTRACT


All text and images © Quintin Lake. 2009

“When you look at a city, it’s like reading the hopes, aspirations and pride of everyone who built it.”
Hugh Newell Jacobsen

The greatest architectural gestures of our civilisation, the very epitome and physical embodiment of that civilisation, the apparently random and chaotic surge of something intended and planned, the phenomenal paradox of achievement and disaster, the home of ultimate construction and destruction, the Twenty-First century city, is outpacing any attempt to define its nature the very second an image is formed of it. How to represent, how to see, how to know, this most mercurial of forms, that constantly defies notions of what is attainable? As a photographer, the emerging conurbations, the fresh unimagined megalopolises demand a perspective. This is a quest for scope. These horizons, where the patterns and grids of vast populations are assembled out of seeming chaos, are a bright optimistic contribution, a means of attempting to see a future that is happening right now.

Constant sky

left: Downtown São Paulo seen from the top of the Edificio Italiano.With a population of eleven million residents São Paulo is the most populous city in the Southern hemisphere. São Paulo, Brazil, 2008

right: Cuzco seen from Christo Blanco. The city has a population of 350,000 and is located at an altitude of 3,300m. Peru, 2008

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Slicing cities

left: Highway in downtown São Paulo. Brazil, 2008

right: A man ascending an arch of Lupu Bridge over the Huangpu River. Shanghai, China, 2007

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“Architecture [is] a theatre stage setting where the leading actors are the people, and to dramatically direct the dialogue between these people and space is the technique of designing.”
Kisho Kurokawa

Public places and buildings have the added dimension of acting as arenas for our lives. In the virtual era we have a heightened awareness of the nature of illusion, of the fact that we are at one and the same time both observing and participating.We see buildings as the backdrop to history and human drama, no longer as organic wholes to which we are connected. In a global village we become tourists and visitors to the sets of a world of other cultures. The photographer, always the contriver and exposer of visual illusion, is attuned to this particularly contemporary phenomenon. Cities and places continually present new ironies, making the observer constantly aware of the layers of transparency. People become orchestrated crowds, and architecture a grand theatrical set, yet individuals are still glimpsed, asserting the defiantly human amongst the towering forests of forms.

Up to the neck

left: Fibreglass shark sculpture erected in 1986, on the 41st anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb. Created by sculptor John Buckley for Bill Heine, who lives in the house. Neighbours tried to force Heine to remove the shark, but after an appeal to the UK’s Secretary of State for the Environment, it was allowed to remain. Oxford, England, 2009

right: Sculpted heads surrounding a front door in Lambeth. London, England, 2009

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Spectating space

left: Seated viewers in front of Formal Session of the StateCouncil onMay 7, 1901, in honour of the 100th Anniversary of Its Founding by Ilya Yefimovich Repin, 1903, oil on canvas, State Russian Museum. St. Petersburg, Russia, 2007

right: A tour group outside Injeongjeon Hall (the throne hall), Changdeokgung palace. Originally built 1405, destroyed in the ImjinWars, restored 1609, destroyed by fire 1803. The current structure dates from 1804. Seoul, Korea, 2007

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“Memory is not an instrument for exploring the past but its theatre. It is the medium of past experience, as the ground is the medium in which dead cities lie interred.”
Walter Benjamin

A place is not a conglomeration of functional structures. Where we live, visit or observe, and the images we form and receive of it, gains its real nature from the feelings identified with it. An empty brutalist cityscape and an abandoned school gym, can speak of a more tragic dimension to our lives that is somehow inscribed in the very essence of a place. The way that vanished cultures persist in traces of their legacy, that nature reclaims vast human endeavours, that modern cruelty and power leave an aura or a sense of their very character in an ambience, is something that the photographer can capture. There are deeper, almost intangible remnants, some hauntingly sad, some joyful, that emerge as visual shocks or surprises, to be seen in the frozen image of a photograph. The chilling catastrophe of an abandoned city bereft of humanity clashes, paradoxically, with the defiant optimism of resurgent nature.


left: A doorway in Ta Prohm to a temple built in the late 12th and early 13th centuries as a monastery and university. The door is surrounded by silk cotton tree roots encased by strangler figs roots, which develop their own underground root
system. They then grow quickly, often strangling the host tree, which in time dies and rots away. The strangler fig continues to exist as a hollow tubular lattice that provides shelter for many forest animals. Siem Reap, Cambodia, 2003

right: A silver birch tree growing through the floor on the terrace of the Hotel Polissia 21 years after the Chernobyl disaster. Pripiat, Ukraine, 2007

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left: Lightswitch in a bedroom of the Hotel Polissia 21 years after the Chernobyl disaster. Pripiat, Ukraine, 2007

right: Billboard with posters removed at Green Park Underground Station. London, UK, 2009

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“All architecture is shelter, all great architecture is the design of space that contains, cuddles, exalts, or stimulates the persons in that space.”
Philip Johnson

Photography captures both the visual appearance and the hidden intent inherent in a building. However transitory or ephemeral the structure, we can see the impetus for human survival in the act of creating a shelter, whatever the material, whether it is as ancient and fundamental as stone and wood, or as modern and widespread as glass, concrete and plastic. The fact that a dwelling embodies a more complex range of impulses, a strange mixture of domesticity and adornment, a basic expression of identity, in what can only be hinted at in the concept of home, forms the secret emotional dimension to architecture that emerges in the photograph. This is another landscape, beyond function and form, an emotional and psychological aspect that is only just beginning to be charted in these far-reaching visual connections.

A door & two windows

left: The home of D. Maninha, aged 94, one of the oldest inhabitants. Pylons, Cubatão, Brazil, 2008

right: Thabang and family outside their home in Ha Motenalapi in the Senqunyane valley. They are wearing their Basotho tribal blankets. The door and window mouldings demonstrate Litema, the mural art of the Basotho. The hut floor and window mouldings are made from Daga, a mix of earth and dung. The high ammonia content of the dung acts as an antiseptic. The patterns engraved around the doorways may represent the surrounding furrowed fields. Ha Motenalapi, Lesotho, 2000

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Tree house

left: Tree house in the South Tyrol Alps. Italy, 2003

right: Town house with Japanese black pine tree which also may act as a barrier to prevent people climbing over the outer wall. The curved structure is an inuyarai (a lightweight removable bamboo screen) to prevent rain splashes from the ground hitting the wall and causing the timber to rot. Kyoto, Japan, 2004

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“Architecture is the will of an epoch translated into space.”
Mies van der Rohe

The organisation of space is the realm of both architect and photographer. The nature of space, and the very means by which we recognise it, is always fluid and transitory. The photographer not only recognises great established relationships between familiar structures and their environment, but also observes the constantly evolving realignments or mutations, which exist between tradition and modernity, as much as between manmade structures and nature. There are moments of random interaction between humanity and the great landscapes of the natural world where an almost instinctive relationship can be captured in something as simple as a workmen’s goal mouth by a highway. Barriers, enclosures, walls and routes are not just overt structures but unspoken strictures. These attempts at definition and containment speak of deeper cultural and political truths. By looking at them, by bringing them together, hidden realities and sinister webs of power are gradually revealed.

Absolute boundaries

left: Tourist viewing platformfor looking into North Korea from the South Korean side of the 38th parallel. Situated on top of Dorasan (Mount Dora), the observatory looks across the Demilitarized Zone. It is the part of South Korea closest to the North. Mount Dora, South Korea, 2007

right: Road barrier above a steep drop at the edge of a newly completed section of the Interoceanic Highway in the Peruvian Andes. Above Cuzco, Peru, 2008

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Enveloping form

left: Scaffolding surrounding the second temple of Hera. The Greek Doric temple was built in about 450 BC. Paestum, Italy, 2001

right: Statue of Lenin at Sculpture Park (Fallen Monument Park), Moscow, Russia, 2007

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“Sometimes I enjoy just photographing the surface because I think it can be as revealing as going to the heart of the matter.”
Annie Leibovitz

Architecture has a texture. Whilst it is a commonplace that the very materials of buildings, both ancient and modern, contribute to their character, looking again at, or observing, the very fabric and substance of this aspect of the art, brings to life almost another art form in itself. For the photographer these architectural building blocks, from the smoothest marble to the roughest stone felt underfoot, from intricately glazed tiles to roughly cut timber in an ancient temple, merge into images where an alternative aesthetic is seen, beyond the functional or the decorative. The photographer can also register the elusive interplay of light with materials. It is in the bringing together of these moments, whether it is the natural vernacular of an ancient or traditional landscape with the neon radiance of a modern Chinese office block, that provides truly novel commentary.

Pixilated skin

left: Glass disks on the façade of Galleria Fashion Store treated with iridescent foil on a metal support structure. A back-lit animated colour scheme ensures that the façade appears to be always changing by day and night. Architect: UN Studio. Engineer: Arup. Seoul, South Korea, 2007

right: Façade of Birmingham’s Selfridges store at night. The skin consists of thousands of spun, anodised aluminium discs that reflect the surrounding city, set against a blue curved, sprayed concrete wall. Architect: Future Systems. Engineer: Arup. Birmingham, UK, 2007

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Responsive skin

left: Detail of aluminium sunscreens on the façade of the Esplanade, Theatres on the Bay, Singapore. The shields are set to be more open or closed depending on the angle at which the sun hits them, affording the glass façades protection from direct
sunlight without limiting the view. Many Singaporeans casually refer to the Esplanade as the Durian because of its resemblance to the tropical fruit. Architect: Michael Wilford & Partners & DP Architects Singapore. Singapore, 2003

right: Timber roof tiles of an alpine hay barn, South Tyrol, Italy, 2002

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“I often think of that rare fulfilling joy when you are in the presence of some wonderful alignment of events. Where the light, the colour, the shapes, and the balance all interlock so perfectly that I feel truly overwhelmed by the wonder of it.”
Charlie Waite

If architecture is the act of making shapes, from a detail to an overall impression, part of the art of photography is seeing and registering the wealth of changing forms and patterns that are created by the harmony and clash of buildings with their environments. The art of the contemporary photographer allows for the fine precision of focus on unnoticed, forgotten and ignored details which exist almost as structures in their own right. A doorway, a ceiling, a corner or a façade can come to life through the recognition of a composition. There are new forms, almost new works, created by the erosion of time. Decay and neglect fashion something fresh, whilst a fragment of a former whole achieves a revelatory beauty in its own right. This gallery of experience is new for each generation. The contemporary photographer not only notices and composes, but he can assemble to make unique modern statements.

Buildings without precedent

left:Wind towers (Badgir) next to a building which acts as a refrigerator to store food and Zoroastrian Tower of Silence (Dakhmeh). Yazd, Iran 2007

right: Clean water flows into the Thames from the northern outfall of Beckton Sewage TreatmentWorks. Sewage from 3.4 million Londoners is treated on site every day. Barking Creek Tidal Barrier, which resembles a giant guillotine, was built over four years and completed in 1983. It is about 60m high, which allows shipping to reach the Town Quay in Barking further upstream. The barrier crosses the Barking Creek reach of the River Roding at its confluence with the Thames. London, UK, 2003

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left: Underside of the stage of the theatre in the inner garden, Yuyuan Garden, originally built in the 14th year of the Guangxu reign in the Qing Dynasty, 1888. The old stage underwent extensive rebuilding in 2005. Shanghai, China, 2007

right: Ashley Building, School of Humanities, University of Birmingham. Architect: Howell, Killick, Partridge & Amis. Refurbished by Berman Guedes Stretton, Birmingham. UK, 2006

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