Snap decisions

8 July 2010

Ode to Escher, Shanghai, China | Photographer: Mick Ryan

Vote for your favourite in photo competition

The closing stages of selecting just 12 finalists from nearly 1,100 entries in the CIOB’s Art of Building digital photography competition had all the drama associated with the Stirling, Booker or Turner Prizes, writes Elaine Knutt.

The judges lobbied for personal favourites, made impassioned pleas and even conducted some tactical manouvring until the list of winners emerged.

The strength of feeling was testament to the sky-high standards, and awareness that the competition theme of capturing the creativity, emotion and social impact of construction had enthused more than 600 photographers worldwide – so we owed them some enthusiasm of our own.

The judges – photographer Matt Wain, CIOB deputy chief executive Michael Brown and myself – first viewed all the images and identified more than 100 that merited a closer look. These were then pared down to 12 finalists and 12 highly commended images.

Many photos were rejected because the art represented was that of the original architect rather than the photographer. We wanted images that showed the photographer’s skill in composing, framing and lighting the subject.

We received entries from unfamiliar places – including Iran, Australia, China and India – but used Google Images to assess their originality. Many promising photos were rejected on the grounds that anyone standing in a particular location could hardly fail to take a striking shot.

There were many abstract compositions: unexpected angles, experiments with depth of field and creative cropping. While we were initially struck by their graphic appeal, many didn’t convey a relationship between the building and the viewer, or evoke much emotional response. Great images, but not our finalists.

Relatively few photos showed buildings under construction, although Zaha Hadid’s Museum of Transport in Glasgow was particularly well-represented, suggesting that the construction team on site have been inspired by its architectural drama. 

Hopefully, the selected finalists all show aspects of the built environment that should be acknowledged and celebrated: its impact on the way we live, its creativity, heritage and visual appeal, and the personal contribution of the individuals involved.

Now there is a final round of voting, and this time you make the decisions. Visit the competition website to cast a single vote for the image that strikes you as the best depiction of the built environment. Voting is open until 12 July, and the winner will be announced on 19 July.

The images will then be used by the CIOB on its website and in its publications, where they will continue to put a fresh perspective on the built environment.


Eastern Architecture, West Bengal, India | Photographer: Abhijit Dey

Bamboo Slum, Dhaka, Bangladesh | Photographer: Mohammad Rakibul Hasan

Beauty in Decay, abandoned hospital, Germany | Photographer: Jeremy Gibbs

Elements, Riverside Museum, Glasgow | Photographer: Paul Jaffray

A Taste of Summer, London South Bank | Photographer: Paul Stephenson

Esplanade Bridge, Singapore | Photographer: Declan Prendiville

His First Building, Age 11, Cambridge, England | Photographer: Phil Goodwin

Flooding by Design, Reykjavik, Iceland | Photographer: Paul Stefan

Zaragoza Delicias Station, Spain | Photographer: Wotjek Gurak

Vanishing Point, Vienna, Austria | Photographer: André Boto

Midlevels, Hong Kong | Photographer: Keith Pickavance

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