View from balcony of Lea Library, rare book room at Van Pelt Library, University of Pennsylvania.
It’s not everyday that I get the opportunity to photograph such a unique space as a perfectly-preserved Victorian Gothic reading room embedded in the top floor of a modern library.
I was delighted to be commissioned by Cathy Gontarek, art director the Pennsylvania Gazette, to illustrate an article on the gorgeous Henry Charles Lea Library at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Link to PDF of Gazette article on Henry Charles Lea.
Here is another article that features my photos about renovation of Van Pelt Library, in which Lea Library is housed.
Portrait of Lea that hangs in the rare book room.
In 1925 Henry Charles Lea’s family donated his extensive collection of rare books and manuscripts to the University of Pennsylvania — along with the room in which they’d been housed since 1881.
The recently-completed Lea Library is now home to the Special Collections Center and the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies, and includes conference rooms, a digital media lab, seminar rooms and exhibition space for rare manuscripts, in addition to the refurbished reading room.
The double-height reading room is an impressive example of Victorian architecture and interior design — truly a treasure worth preserving for future generations of students and scholars.
Victorian bust from original Lea Library.
The shelves are filled with rare volumes.
Page from a book about witchcraft from the 1400s.
Exterior of the newly opened IPEX building, University of the Sciences, Philadelphia.
Seminar auditorium with state of the art AV equipment.
I had the pleasure of photographing this unique educational project for architect Bob Little of L2Partridge, along with Turner Construction. The building boasts cutting-edge learning spaces amid green design elements such as a green roof and interiors full of natural light.
In today’s booming healthcare industry, it’s not enough for doctors and other providers to simply be trained in the science of their practice — they must also master the art of person-to-person interactions and they must be familiar with the responsibilities of the other healthcare professionals with whom they will work in the real world.
Collaboration is key. In an educational environment, bringing together multiple disciplines strengthens students’ understanding of their own professions as they learn from each other.
Main entrance to the IPEX building.
Clean, modern, bright and airy, the newly-completed IPEX (Integrated Professional Education Complex) building at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia is dedicated to training students with a comprehensive, interprofessional approach to healthcare.
The inspiring and energizing spaces are the ideal home for this new approach to teaching our future generations of doctors and healthcare professionals.
Main stairwell and common space with circular skylights above.
Detail of skylights in the ceiling.
November 11th, 2014
Posted in portraits by Greg Benson
Kurt Vonnegut at 1980 Cornell Daily Sun dinner, 5/15/1980.
Today, November 11, is the birth date of Kurt Vonnegut. Born in 1922, he died in 2007.
Like Vonnegut, I attended Cornell University and was a member of the Cornell Daily Sun newspaper staff. I have fond memories of photographing for the Sun. One day per week I would be on assignment – shooting during the day, developing film and making prints in the darkroom at night, usually until midnight. The next morning I would wake up and see my photographs in the newspaper that was delivered to my doorstep.
Vonnegut attended Cornell in the 1940s, and he served as managing editor of the newspaper. The year I graduated from Cornell, Vonnegut spoke to the newspaper staff at our annual end-of-year banquet. I had the opportunity to photograph him during the banquet and I took this candid black-and-white close-up of him.
I have always liked Vonnegut ‘s fiction. He’s a great storyteller and his books make me laugh out loud and cry at the failings of his all too human characters. Many of his stories, though simple on the surface, actually deal with life’s biggest questions. That wisdom was on display the night I photographed him at the banquet, May 3, 1980. His speech that night ended with the following words, a reflection of his time at the Sun:
I was happiest when I was all alone — and it was very late at night, and I was walking up the hill after having helped to put The Sun to bed.
All the other university people, teachers and students alike, were asleep. They had been playing games all day long with what was known about real life. They had been repeating famous arguments and experiments, and asking one another the sorts of hard questions real life would be asking by and by.
We on The Sun were already in the midst of real life. By God, if we weren’t! We had just designed and written and caused to be manufactured yet another morning newspaper for a highly intelligent American community of respectable size — yes, and not during the Harding administration, either, but during 1940, ’41 and ’42, with the Great Depression ending, and with World War Two well begun.
I am an atheist, as some of you have gleaned from my writings. But I have to tell you that, as I trudged up the hill so late at night and all alone, I knew that God Almighty approved of me.
— Kurt Vonnegut ’44
This town house’s façade uses striking geometric shapes.
The geometric modern façade of this new town house by Daryl Rothmund stands in contrast to its traditional red brick Philadelphia row house neighbors. Working with Daryl is always a pleasure. His projects are a breath of fresh air in the world of residential development, and a delight to photograph.
Imagined by Atrium Designs as an oasis in the vibrant Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia, this large row house features a modern open floor plan, large windows and private outdoor living spaces rarely seen in this dense urban environment.
The dramatic geometries of the home’s facade are continued inside, with a spacious and airy modern design.
This town house features an open space plan.
Steps away from the bustling energy of Philadelphia, this home’s private outdoor space is nothing short of a sanctuary. The home’s large windows and glass doorways fuse the luxurious modern interior with its lush outdoor living spaces in a seamless transition perfect for entertaining.
Who wouldn’t love a secluded oasis like this to enjoy on a hot summer night in the city?
Windward Harbour is located at the northern tip of Avalon, New Jersey.
July and August are the hottest months in Philadelphia, and escaping the heat of the city — with all its concrete and glass — is on everyone’s mind. A favorite getaway is the New Jersey shore, where you can just leave it all behind.
Courtyard at Windward Harbour.
A few years ago, I visited the Shore (twist my arm!) to photograph the charming Windward Harbour Condominiums in Avalon, NJ.
E. Allen Reeves, Inc. was commissioned to rebuild Windward Harbor after it was lost to a fire. The Zacker Group Architects designed the 45 unit community which overlooks Cedar Island and the Atlantic Ocean.
Docks are located right outside your door.
Windward Harbour is truly a piece of paradise on the Jersey Shore. If you ever get tired of laying out at the beach, you can enjoy the community pool or go boating.
If you’re not in the mood for the beach, the pool or boating, you can relax on your shaded balcony. These views will never get old.
June 20th, 2014
Posted in weather by Greg Benson
At midnight view of Stockholm from the south.
On my visit to Stockholm we climbed a high hill to see the horizon at midnight on one of the shortest night of the year. It’s amazing how bright it is in the middle of the night. Midsommer is a big holiday in Sweden.
Center City Philadelphia from the east.
It’s a cold, dark night on the biggest shopping day of the year, and I’m hovering hundreds of feet above the city of Philadelphia. The world beneath my feet is glowing, the darkness pierced by pockets of light.
What am I doing here?
Deptford, New Jersey, Walmart from 1000 feet.
For three hours that night, we flew loops around Philadelphia in a small helicopter, capturing aerial photographs of cars at five different Walmarts to discover how large a parking lot should be.
Walmart had commissioned an engineering firm to study the capacity of their parking lots on their busiest sales day. My aerial photos would help them answer the classic Goldilocks dilemma — are existing parking lots too big, too small, or just right?
The answer is important: too large of a parking lot and money is being wasted, too small a parking lot and potential sales are lost due to customers not being able to park.
Cockpit of Schweizer 300 helicopter as we approached our final landing.
The next time you’re out shopping, remember that we’re out there too, working to make your life just a little easier through the magic of aerial photography.
Simplicity and orderliness are key inside a warehouse.
Warehouses are a hidden but important part our modern economy.
Most products that end up in our lives pass through a warehouse or two. Boxes of cereal, gas grills, TV sets, baseball caps, blue jeans – you name it, the product has probably been brought to and distributed through a warehouse.
Racking can extend to over 30 feet.
I’ve had a hard time coming up with an exact figure, but I think there is at least 1 billion square feet of warehouse space in the United States. In 2010, the 20 largest warehouse firms had 514 million square feet of space.
The size of many warehouses boggles the mind. One warehouse that I photographed was 1 million square feet–so big that 17 football fields would fit inside it. A walk around the outside is a one mile trip.
This warehouse contains 600,000 square feet of floor space.
I was asked to photograph this warehouse for the owner, Dermody, so they could promote it to new tenants. It is currently being used as a distribution space for h.h. gregg and also houses a UPS distribution center.
We don’t often think about where our stuff comes from, but the warehouse is a crucial part of the life of an item – from manufacturing to arriving at your front door.
Many warehouses are automated, and can be operated by only a few employees.
Some of the 17 clocks I changed for Daylight Savings Time.
Changing 17 clocks is a drag. Twice a year when daylight savings time starts or ends, I’ve got to adjust numerous clocks.
And I need to re-adjust my internal clock. I don’t understand why we still have this system. If I were king, I would keep the clocks the same all year long.
“I’m known as a light artist. But rather than be known as someone who depicted light, or painted light in some way, I wanted to have the work be light.” —James Turrell
James Turrell manipulates light for a living.
Turrell is an artist famous for his installations that deal with light and perception. For the past five decades he has been creating structures and artworks that make viewers think about the way they experience space and reality itself.
I first encountered his work, Meeting, at the art space PS1 in Brooklyn. I remember on a cold winter day going into a room on the top floor and being surprised that the ceiling was missing and thus, the room was open to the sky. I remember sitting on a bench and watching the sky darken as day turned to night.
Turrell is also a Quaker, and when the Quaker meeting in Philadelphia’s Chestnut Hill neighborhood decided to build a new meetinghouse from the ground up, they tapped Turrell to design a Skyspace for the structure. I had the pleasure of photographing the building shortly before it opened to the public. E. Allen Reeves, a long time client built the new meetinghouse.
The opening to the sky in 3 positions: closed, half open, fully open.
The Skyspace is an aperture in the roof of the meetinghouse that slides back to reveal the sky above. A series of lights around the ceiling further manipulate the light to create different moods and feelings.
I have attended Quaker meetings at a meetinghouse near my home, in Havertown, Pennsylvania. Much of the meeting is set aside for quiet meditation. After spending just a few minutes inside Chestnut Hill’s new space, I could understand how Turrell’s vision of a space open to the sky and the elements becomes an inextricable part of the experience itself.
While Turrell makes art from light, Philips Lighting takes a scientific approach to light. For alternate take on light, read my post, Is This a Set for a Devo Video?
Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting.
The metal roof of the meetinghouse uses motors to slide open.