I had the pleasure of catching up with my old friend and fellow architect Francesca Perani (Find her on Twitter here) when i was in Italy earlier this year. It had been 8 years since I had seen Francesca so it was fascinating to see where our respective paths had taken us. To my surprise photography had become an important aspect of both our worlds.

Francesca makes a fitting first person to interview for the new blog because of her passion for creating content about architecture with something as ubiquitous as an Iphone. What I love about this approach is that it moves the architectural photography conversation away from expensive and unattainable equipment that only professional photographers use. It opens up instead a discussion that asks, “what can I do with what i have”, and “how do i use my creative skills as an architect to communicate what i do?” This is an incredibly empowering way to approach architectural photography and a motto I hope many of you embrace. To top it off, when i later emailed Francesca and asked here if she would be willing to be interviewed her email response ended with an almost scripted quote, “Architecture needs to be shared.”

So without further ado, here is the interview with Francesca Perani, Iphone Architect.

Tell us a little about yourself. Give us some background about your studies, your architectural work and your current practice.

I am an architect who enjoys experimenting with the image-making process using different media : illustration, graphic design, photography. My academic career started at the Politecnico of Milan, and included external studies in Belgium and Australia. A strong influence for me is the work of Enzo Mari and pure product design. I worked in several large architectural firms in the UK and In 2007 I decided that was about time to set up my own company which i called ironically francescaperanienterprise.

I often define myself as an architect trapped in a graphic designers mind, because all along my career i have been interested not just in the way a project is designed, but also in the way the project gets transferred into communication. The exciting moment where you present your design both to clients and publically on magazines and other networks.Very recently after collaborating for several years with an extremely talented argentinian architect, Sandra Marchesi, we decided to join in a new company, SpectaculArch!sharing the needs to avoid standards in architecture and willing to create an exciting network of creative people.

In an interview I did with Nicole Fichera (you can find it here) we coined the term Para Architect for architects doing things that are not strictly practicing architecture. Would you consider your self a Para Architect and do you think this Para Architecture is common in Italy?
Yes I definetely do, and after reading your definition you made me think on how lucky I am in confronting myself with another architect beeing a para architect.
Para Architecture is very common in Italy because the number of architects here is so high, it is just impossible for everyone to keep doing the profession, so Para Architecture became a necessity, and the only way to survive for most architects in Italy.

 

You told me that you have almost completely transitioned from using a DSLR to using your Iphone. This is a pretty big jump that many seasoned photographers would be skeptical about. Can you tell us why this has occurred? What fascinates you about using an Iphone instead of a “traditional” camera?  
When i was young i had the opportunity to receive a manual camera from my father, he started giving me some technical details on how it worked but instead of listening I just started using this facinating new toy in an almost compulsive way. I was not interested in understanding the how and the why, I just i wanted to use it. This is still my approach, i need to record friends, places, and things because i am very worried of forgetting them and i love collecting memories. Digital photography gave me the possibility to be even more compulsive about it; in 2005 I started a blog (http://maiscio.blogspot.it/) which was my first approach into the wide open world of the net. I was found by a curator and i started exhibiting my photography work about building sites. I understood straight away that art, photography, and architecture could be shared so much more easily, without the usual need to know “him” or “her” to get exposed or published somewhere.

From this path, as soon as I got an iphone in my hands I started using it as my camera. Applications are amazing now, you can do so many things thanks to them. Instagram is definetely my favourite one. It’s a social platform providing you an immense database of exciting pictures, I can perceive trends much faster than on the internet, your inspiration can be fullfilled thanks to this open amazing collection. My traditional professional camera now needs an extra button on it. The SHARE BUTTON. This is the only way i can go back to it (if i am not producing Professional photography).

There are no doubt many readers out there wondering what Iphone apps you’re using. Can you tell us your top 5 and what they do?

  1. INSTAGRAM connection with the world of image making process
  2. INSTASEED (crop/rotate/details/focus/balance/drama/effects/etc.)
  3. ART STUDIO elaborate layers system
  4. MONTAGE composition
  5. PHONTO fonts on your images

 

 

When i went through your blog (http://www.francescaperani.com/lab/) I saw some great black and white behind the scenes shots. They’re taken from floor level and are such great story telling images. They are not what most people would think of as architectural photography, but they do a wonderful job of portraying the process of design and exhibition. Can you tell us a little bit about what you focus on when creating images? Is it about style or is about play, or is it something else?

As i said i am mostly a self taught photographer so experimenting is always my first thought. The opportunity i have to combine more activities under the name design helps me to be maybe a bit more superficial, therefore, extreme on the way i express my personal language. Playing and risking is part of the process.

Can you elaborate on what you mean by architecture needs to be shared? Something else i’m interested in how this sharing, especially via social media and user generated content, is affecting architectural media more generally. There are definitely more options available to architects than even just 5 years ago and it would seem we are in a very exciting time of change. 

Architects in my country are very jealous and solitary in their little ministudios, they rarely decide to share their knowledge, their know-how, their thoughts. Competition is so bad that it is impossible to grow a culture of architecture with a colleague.

We are now are experiencing social networks, web sites and applications wich are violently driving all our knowledge on the net. We are getting all much closer to each other. We had been so limited in connecting with other designers that now we are all feeling the urge to share architecture. We have all the instruments now to raise projects more democratically. We can give light to undiscovered projects which need to be seen. We want ARCHITECTURE TO BE SHARED as much as possible.

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Are there any questions that readers want to ask Francesca? Leave a comment below so that we can keep the discussion going.