characteristics it would be the powerful use of light
and shadow, and her ability to capture the essence of
a structure through glimpsed fragments rather than a
composite whole. Her reductive approach partly stems
from a belief that it is arrogance to suggest that the
complexity of a building can be captured simply by
portraying its entirety.
‘It is a reaction to the possibility that as photographers
we have to do a lot, and I do the opposite and say no
we can’t. It’s about seeing very little, it’s about reducing
to one moment. That moment can tell you a lot. When
you look at it, you make your own space with your
own imagination, like when we read, when we dream.
That’s the spatial quality that I’m looking at.’
Light, she says, ‘will give you the best melody’. Buildings
will be at their best in different qualities of light, and
if it’s possible she likes to study the site beforehand to
determine that optimum moment to record it.
‘The best thing is to spend time before looking at a
building. Of course I can’t always control the weather
– sometimes I think I really want to do this with cloud
and then we have sun, or the opposite. The more time
I have to spend and understand the light of the place,
the more successful will be the shot.
‘I’ve had the luxury where I’ve shot a building in winter
and people have asked me to come back and finish the
building in summer in completely different conditions
and that was absolutely wonderful. It was a building
in the north of Denmark where winter is winter and
summer is summer, it’s really different. That was a
She has also observed that architects have different
attitudes to light according to their provenance and
culture. ‘In Nordic places where light is so precious,
architects spend a lot of time thinking about this light
and how to use it in a building,’ says Binet. ‘I love the
work of Zaha but the light was not important to her.
She grew up with all the light she wanted, and the
building was not about collecting light.
‘Even where there’s a tiny bit of daylight coming in,
it makes a different moment, a different mood, it’s so
precious,’ she adds.
Does she begin with the light or the shadow? ‘I’ve
been thinking a lot about this. When I did an essay
on shadow in architecture, around 2005, I was trying
when I went into buildings to only look at shadow
and what I really noticed was that our body wants
builds is something I often try to find’
Opposite: Church of Saint Pierre, Firminy, by Le Corbusier
Overleaf: MAXXI Diptych A (Architecture by Zaha Hadid) 2009