On Reflection
by Jens Meyer, RED Visualisation

This project was submited to the 001 competition with Registration ID #452

Detailed information/workflow about the image

The building I have chosen is Crown Hall by Mies van der Rohe.

There seems to be a common thread running through many of Mies's buildings: that their apparent simplicity in plan and elevation belies their surprising richness when seen in real life. The reason for this, I feel, is the layering of regular patterns, the meticulous use of materials, the dexterous placement planar elements / reflections, and the way the buildings interact with the light and with their surroundings.

This is the theme I wanted to explore in my image for this competition: how and why does (to quote the architect) "almost nothing" feel like so much?

I hunted around the 3D model for suitable vantage points, initially exploring external views that created reflections of the surrounding vegetation to contrast with the elegant simplicity of the gunmetal grey structure. However I quickly discovered that the most pleasing interactions with the surroundings were actually to be had from inside the building, using the (in real life) highly reflective floor. After much experimentation with compositions including the facade, the exterior and the floor, I eventually ended up at the logical conclusion of my thought process: I pointed the camera at the floor, to create an image that consists of almost pure, multi-layered reflection, and almost nothing else.

The result initially challenges the brain somewhat, as you try to figure out what it is exactly you're looking at. But, like Rubin's famous faces-or-vase image, comprehension suddenly snaps into place. The visual clues are the subtle grid of floor tiles, and the two "upside-down" (reflected) figures at the top. In fact, turning the whole image 180deg gives a surprisingly easy-to-comprehend impression of the unreflected elements.

This submission is a hybrid of 3D render (3DS Max, Corona), real watercolour washes on textured paper, and some rendered line work. I have used Affinity Photo to composite the various elements together.

I have endeavoured to capture how visual complexity arises spontaneously out of multi-layered simplicity, and the fact that every additional "layer" (such as reflections, or reflections of reflections, or people, or shadows) gives more and more depth.