Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Looking for concrete...

I spent some time in Bruhl last week. Beautiful town in Rhineland (Germany), just beside Cologne. I was working there on commercial assignment with one of my frequent clients.
A day before, while packing all equipment and getting ready for the trip I was making a big plans in my head. I wanted to visit and explore a few local modernist buildings after work.

My stay in Germany was relatively short but intense. Quite a long trip, over 10 hours of photographing (for client), making ready a part of images almost on the go... These and also very short days in that part of Europe as well as constant cold made me to revisit my ideas quite drastically.  I ended up only with one building. Well, that was three in reality but access to other two was rather difficult if possible at all. 

Sitting in the train from Bruhl to Cologne I had a few minutes to think about possibilities. I wanted to choose the right place to focus on. Everything else would be on my Plan B list... and I made it. The best choice I could make :)
St Johannes XXIII catholic church completed in 1969, designed by Josef Rikus and Heinz Buchmann. Pure, truly impressive brutalism in a very small form.

© Artur Sikora

I always approach such buildings with a big excitement but this time it was something really special. All was so different than previous buildings I had a chance to see. It's like a concrete sculpture which you can use, go inside, look at from the outside. Fully functional sculpture. Beautiful. Similar emotions filled my brain and body when I was entering Berkeley Library, TCD with my cameras in 2011.
This kind of architecture you can only love or hate. There is no other option. That's the fact. And this makes it also so unique :)

Church was open so I could have a look at it from the inside as well. Magnificent simplicity, heavy raw concrete... just brutal. At the same time however very light in a strange way. Entire church looks and feels like levitating over the ground. The additional effect of mentioned lightness is being doubled by beautiful stainless glass windows with pattern matching all structure. 

© Artur Sikora

© Artur Sikora

Illumination inside …another special element. Not very bright interior but at the same time perfectly exposing every single structural detail. It’s kind of dim light penetrating all areas…
Here my digital equipment I was using while working in Bruhl the day before, came handy. Of course I had my beloved Holga with me and also EOS 3 with Tmax 400 loaded but it was too dark for that despite the fact that part of the roll was already exposed at much lower speed. Only with ISO about 12800 I could properly record what I wanted.

© Artur Sikora

© Artur Sikora

I was really happy and felt kind of fulfilled, even if part of the church was covered with scaffolding due to ongoing renovation. 
The same with next building I went to straight after that -  Cologne Opera House…everything was fenced and covered with prefab site offices/rooms for construction workers.  
Here I found only two spots to make an images. This building actually is being renovated for about 7 years …but in my crazy schedule before trip I had no time to check it out … I know it's a shame.

© Artur Sikora

© Artur Sikora

Opera House was designed by Wilhelm Riphan and opened in 1957. It’s a part of bigger art complex which includes also Cologne Playhouse designed and built in 1962 by the same architect. 

It was about midday …I had to keep going as i wanted to see a little bit more also in Dusseldorf where I was flying from back home that evening. Got there some time after 1pm … it was already getting darker… weird feeling. Honestly, living for over 12 years in a different place I forgot how short winter days can be. 
Within about 30 minutes I reached Mannesmann High Rise - 88m high, very simple and elegant structure designed by Shneider-Esleben/Knothe and opened in 1958. 

For this size of the building I really had to cross the river just beside it in order to make a photograph showing its real scale and form. I managed to reach half way of the bridge, made a quick photograph and it was already too late for more and for crossing the river. Windy afternoon, lots of clouds…. 
That was the time when I decided to head off to the airport.

© Artur Sikora

Sitting in the train I was kind of digesting my visual feed from that day. Mostly St Johannes XXIII church which made the biggest impression on me.  
The first thing I wanted to do at the airport was to find a place to sit down with strong coffee and start to write this post, to release all my minds and reflections while they are fresh and still buzzing...


Very short but beautiful site seeing. Definitely worth repeating at some stage. Maybe summer when the days will be longer. Germany is a country very rich in a modernist architecture. Until now I was mostly visiting Berlin which I described a few times already on my blog. Still have to come back there to see more... and now this - more cities more architecture, more concrete...

Of course I photographed Bruhl as well. Negatives are almost ready. Will start scanning tonight and will show some images in usual way soon ...Twitter, Instagram and FB 

Thursday, 17 November 2016

AiB Bankcentre

Years ago I was trained to design buildings, to participate in its creation process. Over a decade later I ended up archiving them using my cameras and seeing them being demolished on almost frequent basis. Quite a significant metamorphose, isn't it? 

This blog article is exactly about one of such a subjects ….

Before I start, I would like to say that I had quite a difficulties writing this post. 
Sometimes I would prefer to explain everything only through images as this is exactly what I see and what I want to show. Photography is obviously form of my expression but also my passion and profession since a few years. This passion has to be shared with architecture anyway as architecture is actually still in and around me.  
At the same time however I am aware of the fact that I also need a words every now and then.
Some days I can write a lot. My fingers jumping from one key to another. Words are just flowing and all my ideas are being transformed into short stories almost instantly. The other days however I can’t even think about simple sentence, can’t built proper text…I have everything in my head but just can’t transform it into words… 
I see only images… This is what I have since a few days.

It's one of the reasons why I am often enclosing links to articles from magazines, newspapers or online sources. People already wrote many fantastic articles about subjects photographed by me or its creators so why not to share it  and blend it with the effect of my visual perception.

Lets move on then. 

‘Bankers Paradise’, ‘Garden Bank’ … as this one of Ireland's first campus-style business complexes has been already described.

© Artur Sikora

The essence of good taste, discrete, neither imposing nor assertive, a fine example of the demanding art of orderly development. When the balconies are clothed in shrubs and plants we will have nothing less than the hanging gardens of Ballsbridge'

Taoiseach Charles Haughey at the opening of the AIB Bankcentre Ballsbridge, 19 February 1980*
*( 'Garden Bank - AiB Bankcentre'.... from article on )

Beautiful words about incredibly well designed buildings. One of these you can’t just pass without stopping for a while.
Refined and at the same time almost hidden concrete structures gently blended with nature. All of it in Ballsbridge, old Victorian Dublin suburbs just across Royal Dublin Society complex.

© Artur Sikora

© Artur Sikora

AiB Bankcentre was designed by Andrew Devane (1979) of Robinson Keefe & Devane Architects. I found very good article about this important Irish architect (by Emma Gilleece). Please click HERE to read it. I would strongly advice to do so as it gives over all a better perspective. 

© Artur Sikora

I visited AiB Bankcentre for the first time while Open House Dublin 2016 tour organised by Irish Architecture Foundation last month. That was the moment when I made a first photographs and decided to come back to see it better, to kind of contemplate the beauty of all complex. That day happened about a week ago. The last day (at least for now) with beautiful sunlight which I was really hoping for. It allowed me to record all I saw with strong contrast which helps to emphasise the structure and perfect form of my subject.

© Artur Sikora
Here I would like to thank Mr Liam Muldowney who played an immense role in obtaining permission to photograph The Bankcentre and also all security people. Mr Muldowney was also a guide on our Open House tour and introduced us to this incredible object. Really appreciate it.

© Artur Sikora

© Artur Sikora

Time is passing by, the needs of society are changing. This is also, or maybe first of all, about our surrounding.  
Monuments of our culture are being ‘extracted’ one after the other. This is ‘modern’ outcome of such changes and sign of our time …Unfortunately AiB Bankcentre is not the exemption …
4 front blocks were already sold and the permission for its demolition has been granted.

© Artur Sikora

© Artur Sikora
Recently (since a few months) I have an opportunity to record/archive buildings which are on the ‘black list’, buildings which we won’t be able to see in a few years (maybe even months) at all or not in its original form. Fitzwillton House, Bord Fáilte headquarters or Phibsborough shopping centre ...and now ‘Garden Bank’.
It’s like a race against the time. All it can be done now is probably only memorising simplicity of forms, details, functionality of modernist buildings and genuine ideas of its creators, pioneering architects  and innovators of our times.

© Artur Sikora

Presented above photographs it's just a small selection from all I had a chance to make so please follow me on all social media for more updates and to see remaining images.
Links at the top of this blog or directly from my website

Thank you!


Traditionally at the end the list of equipment used for those analogue photographers (like myself) who just would love to know it :)

- Sinar F2 with Schneider-Kreuznach Symmar S 150/5.6 and Super Angulon 90/8, 
  Fomapan 100 4x5 exposed at ISO 50
- Hasselblad 500 c/m with Planar 80/2.8 and Distagon 50/4, 
  Ilford Pan F plus 50 120 
- Holga 120GN with 60mm optical lens, Kodak Tmax400
- Canon EOS 3 with 100/2 and 35/2, Kodak Tmax 400

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Hunt for modernism...

One can observe an increased hunt for modernism these days. Fascinating and important structures disappearing one after the other. All of it in the name of 'redevelopment' of the area which is usually related to demolition of precious object in order to built new one. 
...As simple as that... and It goes along with usual public acceptance - 'ugly building', 'eyesore', 'happy to see it down'.
...hmm why it is so difficult to understand that traces of every period are very important for future generations... architecture, literature, paintings...
In case of architecture we are talking usually about very innovative structures for the time when it was built, about genuine ideas. It is an architectural heritage which needs to be treasured. Doesn't matter what people say and how much money developers can offer for the land...

Just my opinion which I keep repeating for quite a long time and I am not going to stop...

So many buildings has gone already and many other will be demolished sooner or later. 
It is truly frightening, so sad and hopeless... 

Over a week ago I was photographing Fitzwilton House (please click HERE to see the photographs) ...'redevelopment' of its area will happen very soon. 
This includes demolition ...
The same with part of the old AiB Bankcentre in Ballsbridge, absolutely stunning building which I am hoping to photograph before it will be to late. 
I am awaiting permission since a while...
These are just very recent examples.

A few days ago I spent couple of hours with my camera in Phibsborough centre. Busy streets with lots of people, cars , busses... Typical morning rush hours.
Luckily there was still plenty of space to set the equipment.

Phibsborough shopping centre with office tower on the top. Magnificent structure.

The building, opened in 1969, was designed by McCormack Keane and Partners. 
It 'is a seven-storey concrete office tower on a plinth of single-storey retail units. The formal arrangement of tower and plinth recalls a motte and bailey fortification. This comparison is enhanced by both the segmented concrete staircase that clings to the  south-western side of the tower like a medieval turret and the first floor concrete annex that wraps around the corner of Connaught street like a battlement.

The facade is composed of 409 pre-cast panels in the office tower and further 50 on the first floor.'

(info from the Cormac Murray's article on

Soon I am going to come back to make some images showing more context. It was kind of impossible with large format camera I was using that day. Some views requires shooting from the street or middle of the footpath so small equipment and relatively fast photographing is required.

These photographs are part of 'Unfulfilled Dreams' of course. Please have a look at all project.


Equipment used: Sinar F2 4x5 large format camera with Schneider Kreuznach Super Angulon 90/8 lens and Fomapan 100 4x5 sheet film.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Along the Grand Canal...

Since a few months I am cycling along the Grand Canal at least four times a day... new daily routine related to father's duties ;) 
I have a chance to observe surrounding of the Canal in more details than before and in various light. My eyes are focused mainly on architecture of course. It nicely shows how buildings are changing, how its shapes and character transforms in different light. It can be truly fascinating. Believe me ;)

Two buildings caught my attention - Fitzwilton House on Wilton Place and then former Bord Fáilte headquarters  (Irish Tourist Board) at the junction of Lower Baggot Street and Wilton Terrace. I know them very well as I was working for a few years in this area in my so called previous life. after many moths of concentrating mainly on commercial part of photography and small jobs related to my Darkroom Service I decided to dust off my good reliable Sinar. Going big - the best choice.

Now I had a possibility to look at them through the lens of my camera.

It was also a good chance to check equipment and my own performance after such a long break. And what can I say? All works well and that’s the most important thing :)

I made first few photographs on Direct Positive Paper. Got only one good image which is not bad at all. On Monday morning I returned for more. This time with FP4+ loaded into holders and some more paper as well. 
My 'models' are really important from architectural heritage point of view as they may be gone pretty soon…as many other modernist objects from that period in Dublin. 
Both completely different in scale and both quite a tricky subjects to photograph due to some heavy traffic on Wilton Terrace at the time of the day when I could do my work. Bus stops and bus parking along the street didn’t make it easy as well.

At this stage I would like to push a bit my project ‘Unfulfilled Dreams’ which was on hold since almost the beginning of the year. It's a pity that sometimes it is so difficult to obtain a permission to get inside, if possible at all. That’s why I decided to change tactic, approach many structures in a different way and focus on external parts first instead of interiors. 
I will be very happy to come back and finish it out with interior photography as well but that's a next stage.

Fitzwilton House was designed by architects Emanuel Shoolheifer and Don Burley (hired by Ronald Lyon Estates) for Sir Basil Goulding and completed in 1969.  
It is an immense concrete structure but at the same time fragile in its visual perception.
Very complex facade made of few different concrete finishes creates sort of sceleton which makes all building invisible.
Nine storey tower with smaller, three storey base surrounded by carpark.
Very fine example of modernism in Ireland in my opinion.

In June 2016, planning permission was granted for its demolition...

Bord Fáilte headquarters, another architectural treasure, was designed by Robin Walker (of later Michael Scott & Partners) in 1961.  Robin Walker was the only Irish architect who worked for le Corbusier and studied under the direction of Mies van der Rohe. 

This very unique and beautiful in its simplicity structure is now for sale as a potential development site...

I just wanted to write something about it but doing research I found perfect article written last year by Robin Walker's son Simon Walker... I woudn't be able to explain it better. 
Just click HERE please to read it. 

At the end some technicalities of course.

All was photographed with Sinar F2 4x5 large format camera with Schneider Kreuznach Super Angulon 90/8 lens and Ilford FP4+ 4x5 sheet film.

Some photographs were made on Ilford/Harman Direct Positive Paper. I presented one of them on social media a few days ago. The rest will be shown in the same way so please follow me on FB, Twitter, Linkedin or Instagram.

Also please have a look at recently reorganised and updated 'Unfulfilled Dreams' gallery ...important Irish modernist buildings (just click gallery title please).

Thank you!

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Built in nature...

It took me a while to write this post. Usually when I am showing photographs and writing about modernism all words just flowing out of my head. This time however was a bit different.
I tried to write something a few times this week but decided to postpone it at the end.
It is probably because disappointment sitting deep in my head related to camera incident I am constantly talking about... I know... 
Material for this article was the most important for me and most of photographs which never came out were made exactly on described below site. Close-ups, some details and really interesting frames showing how well this building is connected to the nature. 
I am here anyway with what’s left and with some description...  at last.

Visiting described place was special for couple of reasons. It is the only naturally preserved structure in the area, structure so well representing my beloved period in architecture. It is also the only one which stands out and looks simply beautiful. 
The most interesting aspect however is the fact that the owner of the house was my history teacher in secondary school. Absolutely lovely lady! It was a pure pleasure to meet her after all these years.

How did I get to photographing described building? I was thinking about it many times when my trip to Poland was approaching… and believe me or not but actually It’s happened spontaneously. 
I mentioned Mariusz Tomczuk in my last post.  Yep, he lives almost next door :) and Mariusz also had a plan to visit neighbouring modernist treasure so… we just did it. 

House was built in 1938 by the father of present owner. This extraordinary building sits on a beautiful plot surrounded by an amazing trees. Generally it is a very green part of the town, away from a busy streets. All of it makes this place very special.

What’s the most important if the fact that interior looks like the time has stopped decades ago. It is not only about furnitures but also the smallest details. Incredible. I was seriously amazed when I entered the house.
This applies to the entire building.

I also had an opportunity to see part of the original project. Very exciting moment. Small A4, already yellow/brownish pages with hand drown layouts . Unfortunately there was no obvious these days data table so I don’t have the name of the Architect.

Anyway - there is nothing more to say to be honest. Have a look please at photographs. This house is just beautiful and its every corner speaks for itself!

We had a plan to split our session into two parts that day in order to get a proper lighting on all elevations. Time was flying however so we managed to do it in one go. Sun smoothly illuminated our 'model' from the east to the west perfectly!

I am not sure when I will be in Hrubieszow again and if I will be able to rephotograph what has been lost but I am really happy with images I got and possibility of seeing the house.
Many thanks to the owner of the place for having us! 

Tech info:

All photographs here were made with Hasselblad 500c/m and Distagon 50/4 on Ilford Pan F Plus 50 and Kodak TMax 400 exposed at ISO 50.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Journey to the East...

Every few years I am visiting Poland and the small town where I was born... 
Hrubieszow - this very old, quiet, easternmost town in Poland, surrounded by beautiful woods, meadows, farmlands is also filled with unique old architecture ...
This time it was almost a month (!). Being there for so long I decided to photograph some treasures of the region. It is always like a journey down the memory lane ... Everything has changed of course comparing to the time I left this place almost 25 years ago moving to Krakow, my next (not the last) stop for another 10 years.
Lots of places I remeber as a child don't exist or looks completely different. Obvious sign of time... however It is still good to walk the same streets, corners and observe... 
It was also great to meet a few old friends and some new, especially those sharing the same passion to analogue photography. Here I have to mention Mariusz Tomczuk who made some of my local visits/sessions possible. Thank you Mariusz!
You can check his website: HERE and ArtLimited profile HERE .

Some of you already know about the problem with one of my cameras which resulted in a loss of about a half of all photographs made over there. Some of them could be pretty good but as one of my friends said: ‘the best images regardless will always be in your head’ (Thanks Steven!)
It also reminds me of something from the past, described in this article: 'Untaken photograph’.
Apparently I have enough photographic material for a few articles. Most of it however I will show on my FB fan pageInstagram and twitter as a single images. 

Survived photographs were made mostly with Holga camera. Weather was perfect for this type of work. Blue sky, great light which gave stronger contrasts (best thing ever) …and unfortunately (for me) very high temperature. Most of my friends know that I should live probably on the North Pole ;) haha

Hrubieszow was not the only place I photographed of course. I also spend a short time in Lublin (capital of the region) and Zamosc

Sun was waking up before 5am and so do I …there was nothing better to do after a morning coffee and cigarette than packing camera in the bag and going out … before temperature raised and my kids woke up ;)

Eastern Poland is mostly rural and very picturesque area… not an easy place for the concrete and urban jungles maniac like me ;) …still very pleasing place to be.


Yeah, photographs... Just a few images for now. 

Grain silos, Teratyn  (Holga + Kodak TMax 400)

Such structure is quite common probably in a most places on earth. In this sun however and surrounding fields   it looked very special. Also this is the only image I have. Lots of other photographs from this place made with my Hasselblad has 'gone with the wind'...

Orthodox Church, Hrubieszow (Holga + Kodak TMax 400)

The only Church in Poland with 13 domes.
'This is a typical religious building from the second half of the nineteenth century, built at the request of the Russian government in the Russian-Byzantine style, after the suppression of the January Uprising. Built on a cruciform plan, with octagonal bell tower, semicircular chancel and two lateral wings. It is topped with typical thirteen onion domes, one of the bell-tower, five conventional arrangement of the central part of the nave, three on each wing and one on the chancel. Across the Europe, only two churches have 13 domes (the second can be seen in Finland).' Info: Poland Travel

Kiesewetter Palace, Hrubieszow (Holga + Kodak TMax 400)
Kiesewetter's family Palace built in XIX century, rebuilt in XX century.

Wooden houses, Hrubieszow (Holga + Kodak TMax 400)

... A type of architecture characteristic for this region. Unfortunately lots of similar houses are in a very poor condition and in most cases renovation will never happen...
The City Hall, Zamosc (Holga + Kodak TMax 400)

The City Hall of Zamosc was built in late XVI by the Italian architect Bernardo MorandoQuite an obvious photograph when you are on the Great Market Square in Zamosc ;)

Władysław Panas Alley, Lublin (Holga + Kodak TMax 400)


All photographs above were made with Holga 120 GN camera, except the colour once snapped with mobile phone. I photographed some buildings with Hasselblad 500c/m, Distagon 50mm and Planar 80mm lenses. As far as I know now, 80mm lens failed. All equipment is being repaired now by one and the only Noel Young so it will be like new after that. 

Here are once again links to my other social media if you would like to be up to date with my photography. Photographs from this particular trip will be posted regularly over there:

Facebook website

Thank you!