VRC e-newsletter December 2015

The Visual Resources Collection's (VRC) e-newsletter highlights donors and their recent image contributions. Images of featured projects can be accessed by UT faculty, students, and staff via the VRC's online image collection
Elizabeth Farrell is pursuing a Master of Architecture at The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture. She traveled to Medellín and Bogotá in January 2015 to study and interpret architecture within its context. In Medellín, she documented the library parks of Colombia to better understand how architecture can affect quality of life. Elizabeth’s documentation was funded in part by UTSOA’s Independent Research Travel Scholarships program. Her photographs are available to university faculty, students and staff through the UTSOA VRC’s online image collection

Donor Highlight

Elizabeth Farrell

M.ARCH, expected 2015 
What motivates you to document/photograph the architecture/sites you visit?
When I document buildings, I am looking for signs of inhabitation and moments that provide a particular experience for the users. For example, a specific condition of light, or a space that invites a user to pause and take notice of something. For me, it is less interesting to document the building purely as an architectural form than to capture it in a way that demonstrates how it relates to its context — its specific site and the people who use it. This might mean trying to photograph the building from an unconventional view or cropping just a piece of it to highlight a particular moment. I also have a soft spot for materiality. I enjoy finding contrasting textures and capturing the ways in which light interacts with these types of surfaces. 
Any special interests in photography or equipment? Do you find the buildings more exciting, or the photography?
I am most excited about the buildings in their context. For me, photography is just one tool to understand architecture. 
How do you use the images you shoot? Do they influence your design thinking? How does photographing architecture inform your thinking?
The pictures I take definitely influence my design thinking. I often reference photos of spaces I captured in Medellín, and I also notice and photograph in the environments I experience every day. I see photography as a form of notetaking, a way to document an idea or condition that I see and would like to reference again. I believe that building up a library of images, both physically and mentally, is a requirement in order to continue to develop and improve as a designer. 

Where's your next destination? Are you searching out locations with a particular theme, or region?
What I liked about the trip to Medellín was studying architecture that is applicable to people in their everyday lives rather than buildings that function primarily as tourist destinations. For my next trip, I’d like to continue this theme, studying buildings not just as objects but as elements of a larger fabric. With this idea in mind, the possibilities seem endless — who knows where I’ll go next!
To browse all images donated by Elizabeth, visit the VRC's online image collection. Log in using your EID and select the "Advanced Search" option.  Search for "Elizabeth Farrell" in the Source Name field. 

Project Highlight

The Library Parks of Medellín, Colombia

Photographs by Elizabeth Farrell

What was your overall impression of the library parks? Did they exceed your expectations? Fall short?
In Medellín, I visited five different library parks. Each had its own reading as far as how successful I found it to be within its context. The most famous works are by Giancarlo Mazzanti, and are often used to publicize the library parks; however, I actually found those to be the least successful. Mazzanti’s work seemed to focus on being object or form-driven rather than functioning as a successful community space. I visited these projects six years after they were constructed, and both of Mazzanti’s buildings were in severe disrepair. One was even partially closed for repairs. Overall, though, the five library parks in general exceeded my expectations as far as how they were being used and how they were connected with the life of the neighborhood. 

What prompted your visit to the Library Parks of Medellín, Colombia? Did you travel there to document this project, or was it an incidental discovery?
As a Master of Architecture student, I’m particularly interested in how architecture either does or does not affect the quality of life people experience in an urban environment. In my research on this topic, I came across the example in Medellín, wherein architecture has played a huge role in transforming the city from its status as the most dangerous city in the world in 1992 to one that won an award from the Urban Land Institute for innovation in 2015. Having read extensively about this story of seeming success, I wanted to visit these sites for myself to find out if the projects were in fact working as the academics claim. What I found is that, largely, they are successful. While some appear to have issues of construction quality, spatially they are all proving to be an amenity utilized by the surrounding neighborhood. What is important to remember is that while architecture was critical in this urban transformation, it was just one piece of the puzzle. Efforts at multiple scales — from policy level to individual outreach — were required to realize the library park projects such that they now function as positive contributions to the built environment. 
Which Library Park did you find most interesting?
The library that I found to be the most successful was Biblioteca La Quintana. In contrast to Mazzanti’s work, the architecture of this project acts as a frame or anchor for the public life that takes place around it. The “park” connects seamlessly with a busy street above, inviting a flow of neighbors to use the space. Teenagers meet on the outdoor balconies and covered area beneath, children play soccer in the open brick plaza, and mothers and grandmothers watch from the giant staircase that functions both as circulation and inhabitable space. In visiting this project, I felt like I was seeing a slice of neighborhood life, an active extension of the community itself. 
To browse all images donated by Elizabeth, visit the VRC's online image collection. Log in using your EID and select the "Advanced Search" option.  Search for "Elizabeth Farrell" in the Source Name field. 
Elizabeth Farrell
Park Towers (Torres Del Parque)
Bogotá, Colombia
Accession # 2015-3498
Gabriel García Márquez Center
Accession # 2015-3499
El Tunal Public Library (Biblioteca Pública García Gabriel Márquez, El Tunal)
Bogotá, Colombia
Accession # 2015-3513
El Tunal Public Library (Biblioteca Pública García Gabriel Márquez, El Tunal)
Bogotá, Colombia
Accession # 2015-3503
El Tintal Public Library (Biblioteca Tintal)
Bogotá, Colombia
Accession # 2015-3509
La Ladera Library Park (Parque Biblioteca La Ladera)
Medellín, Colombia
Accession # 2015-3534
San Javier Library Park (Parque Biblioteca San Javier)
Medellín, Colombia
Accession # 2015-3528
Bethlehem Library Park (Parque Biblioteca Belen)
Medellín, Colombia
Accession # 2015-3525
La Quintana Library Park (Parque Biblioteca La Quintana)
Medellín, Colombia
Accession # 2015-3543
Spain Library Park (Parque Biblioteca España)
Medellín, Colombia
Accession # 2015-3547
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Copyright © 2015 UTSOA Visual Resources Collection, All rights reserved.
v. 6, no. 1 (December 2015)

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