Geometry + Geology II (2020) is an essay in personal memory, which develops themes first explored in Geometry + Geology.

I spent my childhood living on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, and many holidays in the mountains of northern England. On moving to London as an adult, I noticed that its Brutalist buildings were often reminiscent of the rocks I had grown up with. The rough, weather-stained shuttered concrete resembled the erosion-scarred terrain of the mountains; both essentially dark materials, especially in dour weather. The shadowy nooks and crevices inspired trepidation, and yet invited exploration. In The Seven Lamps of Architecture, John Ruskin writes of the significance of ‘power’ (or the sublime) in architecture, citing the epic, uninterrupted wall, the ‘precipice’, as the archetypal expression of abstract power. To me, these sublime monoliths carry with them a sense of melancholy and solitude. The buildings photographed exemplify this imperviousness—solitary, stark, with intersecting planes conveying a sense of geological force and weight. The geometric compositions add to a sense of abstraction. There are no obvious symbolic forms introduced by the architects. The geometry is strong, but irregular. The buildings, considered as wholes, do not have lines of symmetry; again, suggesting a comparison with mountain rock.

The fact that the North’s craggy landscapes enjoy widespread appeal, whereas Brutalist architecture is commonly reviled—at least in the UK—adds a compelling layer of paradox. The dark and sinister is visible in the welcome and familiar, and vice versa—a special instance of the Freudian uncanny.

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