Thursday, July 17, 2008

Form versus Function

I spent the morning and early afternoon last Sunday (7/13/08) walking around and photographing Seattle Art Museum's (SAM's) Olympic Sculpture Park. It's an interesting place, (previous portfolio, newer one in progress). You're in a park with lots of sculpture surrounded by the city, the building on the north, east and south and the railroad and Puget Sound on the west.

It's hard to get a good photo or image because almost everytime and everywhere the background has elements which detracts from the subject or scene. And when you try to get up close or hide the background, you're bound to get either concrete or people in the scene. In short, it's a now win situation for the photographer, so you have to balance the image and sacrifice something for another.

But then I noticed this time, while trying to have an "artful" place, the SAM's management had to make even the ordinary artful. The mechanics of a building meets the art of public space. Can you make it fit? Obviously many buildings have accomplished this and some beautiful too. Well, while walking into the entrance with it's covered walkway, I looked up. And saw the image above.

It struck me the architect had to make a choice of hiding the mechanics of the building or exposing it to fit into the style of building. They obviously choose the latter. I'm always struck how we often dismiss the art of the contstruction work, the professionals, journeymen/women and craftsmen/women who build the structures we visit, like the SAM cafe and office space.

The irony to me is that if they don't build it beautifully we'll notice it an instant, but when they do build it beautifully, we overlook its blend of form and function into its own art. They translate the architects' design into reality, the architects' vision into the tangible. But do we see their art? Their form and function? Do we glance and go on? Do we notice and wonder? Do we look and appreciate? Or do we see and understand?

It's why I like to photograph the ordinary, and sometimes the things we take for granted. It wasn't to those who designed it and those who built or made it. Shouldn't we spend a little time too?

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