Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology at University of Pennsylvania.
The building is littered with brightly-colored terraces for meetings and studying.
The Singh Center is not your grandmother’s research lab. The $80-million nanotechnology center, located on the University of Pennsylvania campus, will appeal to science geeks and architecture fans alike. During the design stage, architects consulted with engineers to measure the precise specifications for the labs inside. During construction, the Dean of Engineering was often seen standing outside with a stopwatch, measuring the length of time that pedestrians spent admiring the exterior.
Nanotechnology is the process of manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Researchers have used nanotechnology to improve everything from medicine to tennis balls, and the potential applications are endless.
An electron microscope housed in the building’s basement.
The Singh Center houses laboratories for studying and engineering these very small structures. It is one of a few buildings in the country that boasts multiple electron microscopes, each performing a different and complementary function – an all-in-one nanotechnology wonderland.
The nucleus of the building is a small room that houses an extremely sensitive electron microscope, where engineers can study the movements of individual atoms under water. The entire structure was designed around the room’s precise coordinates. University Architect David Hollenberg told the Pennsylvania Gazette that the room is “the core out of which everything else spirals… if this were a Gothic cathedral, this is where the saint’s bones would be.”
The Singh Center distinguishes itself from other engineering buildings with its stunning and ultramodern design. The public face of the building is a transparent glass structure that allows passersby to peer inside. A cantilevered section that juts out the side creates an illusion of weightlessness that makes pedestrians below catch their breath.
The open corridors encourage interaction.
Inside the building, extensive public spaces provide a place for scientists and students to study, relax or exchange notes. The Philadelphia Inquirer referred to the open terraces as “nightclub-like lounges.”
Overall, the Singh Center has an exuberant atmosphere, bringing the light from outdoors inside and displaying a glowing interior at night.
It was a pleasure to finally get an up-close view of this architectural marvel, and to learn about the daily miracles that occur inside. The Singh Center will change our idea of what a laboratory can look like, fitting for a field of study that is changing the way we interact with the world we live in.
The SingCenter sits on the former site of a windowless engineering building and a parking lot.
My wife and I recently completed a total renovation of the bathroom in our 1927 Dutch Colonial house in the suburbs of Philadelphia. In a twist on my day job, my wife and I became amateur interior designers and general contractors. Working on this project gave me a new appreciation for what architects, interior designers, and contractors do on a daily basis.
Before the renovation, the bathroom still featured the original white subway tiles and 86-year old cast iron tub. The old-fashioned tub still functioned, but with the tiles and calking starting to fail, it was time redo the room.
The bathroom pre-renovation.
Even though our bathroom is small, it has many distinct elements. Bev and I spent much of our time making decisions on the choice of finishes, fixtures and details.
Design is a balance of functionality, appearance, durability and cost.
The experience gave me a crash course in stone and tile. I love the look and feel of real stone, but modern porcelain ceramics are more practical in the damp environment of a bathroom. We ultimately settled on large porcelain ceramic tiles by Roca, an Italian tile company. The sales reps at Mark Galdo Tile in Lansdowne, PA, were also more than generous with their time and advice.
We decided to go with a simple, modern design with large tiles covering the walls and floor. We also replaced the original hinged door with a pocket door, which is a major space saver.
The pocket door gains valuable space in the 5 foot by 8 foot room.
Our contractor, George Feeser, with his experience and attention to detail, was able to build and create the bathroom that Bev and I imagined. The floors had settled so he had to create a new, level one. We preserved or re-created the original Arts and Crafts door and window trim. Finally, we saved space by replacing our old, bulky cast iron radiator with a sleeker, modern one.
Original cast iron radiator.
The modern radiator from Runtal saved valuable space.
While I won’t be alive in 86 years, I hope that my new bathroom lasts for as long as the old one – until it’s time to renovate again.
The world looks different from 750 feet. It is one thing to peer down past the wing of an airplane, viewing an entire city in miniature. It is quite another to hover just above the tallest skyscrapers in a two-man helicopter, close enough to see the texture of a stone, far enough to take in whole structures and spaces as never before.
This gallery on my website showcases some of my aerial photography.
Greg flying over the city.
My commercial real estate clients love to have aerial photos of their buildings. For my part, I love flying in a helicopter with the door removed to get the clearest view and the most flexibility in shooting angle. To see and photograph buildings from the air is a visual treat. To me, flying in a helicopter is better than any amusement park ride.
Paine Park, a skateboard park near the Philadelphia Museum of Art, opened May 2013.
The high cost of renting a helicopter puts a premium on efficiency. With the engine often burning a gallon of gas every few minutes, it is even more important than usual to know where the sun will be, and which spots will afford you the best views of a building from on high.
Planning for an aerial shoot involves studying the site on Google satellite view, finding a good weather day, and coordinating closely with the pilot. Pre-planning and good communication with your pilot make for successful photos and a safe flight.
For more helicopter shots, see my previous blog post on using a helicopter to document an urban university’s new park and athletic fields.
3 Executive Campus, Cherry Hill, NJ
I look forward to my next trip to the clouds. From up in the air, you begin to understand that architects and city planners are no different than we were as children, playing with Lincoln Logs, planning homes and offices for the people below.
As part of my series of portraits of movers and shakers of the building world, I photographed Chad Ochnich and Jeff Mattiola of Bluetree Landscaping. Chad and Jeff work often with EP Henry’s paver products, a frequent client of mine.
When I proposed having them pose waist deep in the pool wearing their work clothes, they were willing to jump right in. As I wrote in my Designer Dog blog, when I shoot portraits I like to show my subjects doing what they love, and also depict them in a playful way.
Chad and Jeff are natural partners in their business. Chad spends much of his time out in the field directing day-to-day operations. Jeff is the behind-the-scenes office manager and salesperson.
They have recently added swimming pool construction to their landscaping business.
Overall view of the Bluetree pool featuring lots of EP Henry pavers.
To document PMC Property Group’s newly completed apartment building in Center City Philadelphia, I shot from a nearby rooftop at twilight.
The lights at night add drama and color, and the streaks from the moving cars help animate the photo. The building gives off its own energy.
2040 Market Street as a 5 story building.
The original AAA building was 5 stories and comparably dull. This site used to be the home of the American Automobile Association. The Association’s declining fortunes meant they had to leave their Mid-Atlantic headquarters.
PMC saw this is an opportunity to transform and expand the building, located at the edges of the Philadelphia’s central business district. In 2011, they purchased the 5-story vacant building and morphed it into a 13-story luxury apartment with 282 units.
New section of 2040 Market Street.
The architectural firm, Varenhorst, masterfully enlarged the smaller building into a modern jewel box
As part of my series of portraits of movers and shakers of the building world, I photographed interior designer, Floss Barber at her offices. Her dog, Dorothy, became a key co-star in the photo.
When photographing people, I want the environment in the photograph to show the person, their activities and interests.
Floss runs an interior design studio, Floss Barber, Inc. and her office reflects her passions and focus. Large ceramic sculptures, by the artist, Robert M. Younger, stand tall by the conference room as if they had just materialized from a Greek archeological dig.
Pets become an integral part of our lives and Dorothy was always at the office. Sadly, since I took this photo in the fall of 2012, Dorothy passed away at age 12. In Dorothy’s obit, Floss says that at the office, the dog ended up advising her staff on the correct carpets for her high-end customers. She had a particular affinity for wool and silk blends.
Philips uses this space to host lighting seminars for designers and other clients. The room’s unique construction helps demonstrate how different types of light and light bulbs affect our perception of color.
Color is just an illusion.
In one demonstration, all red wavelengths of light are eliminated from the room. Without red light reflecting off them, the previously loud leather chairs appeared mud brown to my eyes and to the camera.
In another display, viewers compare two identical office mock-ups lit with different types of bulbs. You get a sense of how something as simple as lighting can alter your workspace and even your mood.
A new perspective.
The chairs sit on a revolving platform, which rotates throughout the demonstration to show different sections of the room.
New Wave meets wavelengths.
The strong colors and minimalistic setting gave the room a futuristic feel that made me think of New Wave music videos from my youth.
As an architectural photographer who is fascinated by light, I loved photographing this room.
Photo by Ezra Stoller. Design Research, a store in Cambridge, Mass., 1969, designed by Benjamin Thompson.
Currently there is an exhibit of the work of Ezra Stoller at the Yossi Milo Gallery in New York City.
Stoller (1915-2004) was a pioneer of modern American architectural photography. He photographed for such famous architects as Frank Lloyd Wright and Erro Sarrienen.
I love how the inside merges with the outside in this twilight photo. I also love how this photograph breaks some of the “rules” of quality architectural photography. There is a dead tree, a parked car and melting puddles of snow, which are all elements that shouldn’t be in a “perfect” photo. These elements provide context and also make the image more real.
With the Super Bowl, watching the ads can be as entertaining as the game itself. The Chrysler ad for their trucks really stood out for me because it uses still images and no live motion.
The advertising world is shifting toward using more video and less stills. The number of ad pages in print magazines is shrinking. On the competitive advertising stage of the Super Bowl, ads with big budgets compete using lots of computer generated high powered imagery, and big stars. So this simple TV spot grabbed my attention because it was different.
With the authoritative voice of Paul Harvey laid over nostalgic imagery of farmers and farms, it’s a very soft sell. The product, Dodge trucks, doesn’t even appear until halfway into the spot.
The ad shows a wide range of people in its salute to the hard working lives of farmers. Farmers who will use Dodge trucks in their selfless pursuit of growing our food.
We’d like to think that things from 2000 years ago don’t impact our modern technological world, but they do. The calendar on my iPhone reads January, named after the Roman god, Janus, a two-headed god who looks forward and backward. Janus was the god of transitions, beginnings and endings.
In the spirit of Janus, I have been looking back at 2012 and forward to 2013.
In 2012 I had the opportunity to photograph twins, who I have known for many years–Lee and Laurence Tamaccio. They are both architects and I have worked with them each separately, Laurence at Design Destinations, and Lee at Buckl Architects, but I had never been with the two of them at the same time.
Laurence and Lee Tamaccio.
Having seen and spoken to each of them separately, in my mind, Lee and Laurence were as identical as two people could be. When I got together with both of them for a photo shoot in Center City Philadelphia, I suddenly realized how different they were from each other.
January is the month of new beginnings and New Year’s resolutions. It is a time for reflection on the past, and a time for optimism about the future. While many resolutions are doomed to fail, some will succeed. Good luck in your New Year.