Stockholm’s new public installation and Nolan Giles on architectural photography shot on film.
“Public space is complex, it can be extremely monotonous and is often designed for the idea of a ‘normative’ human,” says James Taylor-Foster, curator of contemporary architecture and design at Stockholm’s Arkdes museum. “But we believe that the city is for everyone.” Taylor-Foster’s taking monocle through an exhibition that will sit within the garden of Arkdes, a globally renowned design and architecture institution, across the summer of 2022.
Created by Stockholm-based industrial designers Mira Bergh and Josefin Zachrisson, various delicately ribbed steel structures occupy the area. These inventive forms, acting as both public furniture and spaces for play and reflection, aim to highlight how democratically minded public spaces can draw in both young and old. “We’re always thinking about how we can create furniture that has social value that makes people interact,” says Zachrisson, leading monocle through the space, where children crawl along tunnel-shaped benches while parents sit and natter above them. “We worked around the idea of pleasure gardens, with their manicured walks and various private spaces; we just did it on a smaller footprint.”
“We’re always thinking about how we can create furniture that has social value that makes people interact”
The exhibition will be moved on to a permanent location elsewhere in the city later this year. Before that, however, Taylor-Foster has ambitious plans. “It will move onto its next life on 11 September, Swedish election day,” he says. “But before that I want people doing political speeches from here; I want this to become a platform where voices from all disciplines come together.”
There’s something that feels very different about architectural photography when it is shot on film. You’ll see the results of this in our exclusive report on the expansion of Ett Hem in Stockholm, which was shot by master Swedish photographer Felix Odell on his trusty circa 1970s German-made Rolleiflex. For this highly anticipated hospitality opening, it felt important to capture the first professional images of the remarkable venue in this way. With a limited number of shots per roll, every image produced was meticulously constructed before the shutter button was pressed. In the process, the project’s designer, owner, team and myself would all peer into the viewfinder, marvelling over a certain angle that Odell had laboriously uncovered before he made the satisfying “click” and froze the moment in eternity. Of course, this process could have been imitated on a digital camera (and wouldn’t have required someone to dash back and forth between the site and a local film developer to check advanced images) but it would not have been as special. Typical digital shoots in these settings tend to see quantity trumping quality: every good angle is shot multiple times, then the images are whittled down to the best selection off-site. Capturing a beam of sunlight when it perfectly hits a piece of furniture seems a more satisfying experience when done by a film photographer, who waits patiently for it, as opposed to a digital snapper getting lucky shooting the same spot multiple times.
Today architectural photography feels more like the production of a mass commodity rather than the making of a methodically thought-out visual moment. Our shoot with Odell renewed my respect for a craft that takes a lifetime to master. It reinforced my view that good architectural photography (on film or digital) should be considered as precious as the subject matter it depicts.