Karrie Jacobs


April 20, 2010

An Ode to Stanley Greenberg

0-14 by Reiser and Umemoto, Business Bay, Dubai 2008 (photo by kj)

Beekman Tower by Frank Gehry, Lower Manhattan, 2010 (photo by kj)

Have I ever mentioned how much I love construction photos?  Maybe this is because a lot of buildings are more interesting when under construction than they are when complete.  What they reveal in process is the strange marriage of highly refined design techniques to assembly strategies that still appear crude, messy and dangerous.  The finished piece of architecture, all shiny and swoopy, often looks as seamlessly abstract as the computer rendering from whence it came, but to see a building in process is to appreciate its undeniable physicality.

Which is why I love Stanley Greenberg’s new book, Architecture Under Construction.  Greenberg photographs a variety of notable buildings — Steven Holl’s MIT dorms,  Zaha Hadid’s Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art,  SANAA’s New Museum — in various stages of undress.  Greenberg, whose 2003 book Waterworks, about New York City’s water system is one of my favorites,  applies to the incomplete structures, and all the mess of construction,  the same formalism that  architectural photographers generally reserve for the completed buildings.  Because I’ve been finding excuses to visit construction sites (by invitation or not) most of my life,  I see Stanley’s collection of construction photos as the the first coffee table book for process geeks like me.

(Note that Greenberg shot lots of construction photos of Frank Gehry’s troubled  Stata Center at MIT [see below].  Now that the lawsuit about the leaks  has been ” amicably resolved,” Stanley’s photos — which could have served as evidence had there been a trial — can be enjoyed as souvenirs.)

Frank Gehry’s Stata Center (photo by Stanley Greenberg).

P.S.  Another favorite photographer,  Mark Luthringer, has published two new books, The Ridgemont Typologies, a study in the banality of banality,  and 40 Monuments to Progress.