Among Buildings

Photography of iconic Melbourne architecture meets poetry in Among Buildings, a captivating new read.

We spoke with the combined brains behind this very special project: architect and poet Michael Roper, photographer Tom Ross, and graphic designer Stuart Geddes.

Elle Murrell

Authors of Among Buildings, photographer Tom Ross, architect and poet Michael Roper, and graphic designer Stuart Geddes. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

The unbound title has been three years in the making. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Most of us live among buildings and experience them in personal and immersive ways,’ explains Michael of the book’s title. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Among Buildings sits alongside other architecture publications in Michael’s studio. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

The unbound art object inside its box. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Tom set out with a planned photographic approach, but found that these ‘fences’ were gradually trampled as he captured the 26 locations. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

‘Mike and I always joke about the poems being captions to the images and vice versa… they are created so closely that I really think of them as one thing,’ says Tom. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

The book features understated typography and layout. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

‘Initially there was no preconceived idea about what is should become, who it was for, or when it would end,’ says Michael. ‘It was a real pleasure working on a creative project removed from deadlines and external expectations.’ Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

The only coloured spread in the volume, the Athan House, by Edmond and Corrigan, is included as a tribute. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Elle Murrell
28th of February 2017

Michael Roper and Stuart Geddes met as cafe ‘dish-pigs’ years ago, while Michael first encountered Tom Ross above a tattoo parlour, where they were splitting studio space. The three men went on to frequent the same coffee shop, until more recently when their efforts turned from gleaming tableware and cafe lattes to a unique publication, which presents Melbourne architecture as never before.

The foundation for Among Buildings was laid unassumingly in late 2013. Michael had started writing about Tom’s architecture photographs, and Tom had begun shooting images for Michael’s words. Soon, the pair were making visits to iconic buildings together. ‘We realised that the conversations really added a whole other dimension to how we were experiencing the buildings,’ explains Tom.

Excited Gasbagging about Melbourne Buildings could really be a subtitle to this project.’ – Tom Ross

Among Buildings is the first foray into bookmaking for Tom. Photographically he chose to capture the atmosphere of each site intuitively, taking vertical images, in black-and-white, without using a tripod. ‘In photography, especially of architecture, there is this glaring assumption of objectivity and representation, which has always made me uncomfortable,’ he says. ‘I was trying to understand my own experience of the places through taking pictures, reading Mike’s poem, then making an edit of images.’

For Michael, it was his first time publishing a collection of poetry (though he admits he wrote his first poem about footballer Robert DiPierdomenico at age five, around the same time that he decided he wanted to build swimming pools for a living). ‘I enjoy the act of imagining, crafting and editing in both disciplines. I think there’s something inherently poetic to the act of creating architectural space, and similarly there’s structure and craft to any good poem – but maybe I shouldn’t try too hard to find the rhyme here!’ says the co-director of local firm Architecture Architecture.

According to Tom, when Stuart came on board (via a laundromat chat with Michael) the project took on a whole other dimension. At first, Stuart, who has a wealth of experience working on books, magazines and journals, was a source of advice on printing and design, and he was later chuffed to see his name credited on the work. ‘I’m interested in the gestural possibilities of a book, which this one explores quite nicely,’ he explains of the unbound, matte-paper title.

Understated in terms of typography and page design, Among Buildings is printed with two black inks, giving dark shadows and rich mid-tones. All the photography is black-and-white, bar one project: the Athan House, by Edmond and Corrigan. ‘A beautiful and mysterious photograph of the building hidden among trees,’ details Stuart. This singular coloured image is an homage to both the scene and architect Peter Corrigan, who passed away during the making of this book.

The trio has worked hard on the daunting task of developing a worthy response to their beloved subject matter. ‘The perennial question: what is there to say when so much has already been said?’ has been constantly in their minds. Nevertheless, all are thrilled with the outcomes. ‘As much as we love the finished publication, the collaborative process has been the greatest pleasure – the simple act of discovering, sharing and developing ideas,’ says Tom.

What they haven’t tried to do is be objective or comprehensive. ‘The 26 buildings in this publication are presented through a very subjective lens – images and words are personal and fleeting,’ explains Tom. ‘We hope that our words and images might inspire readers to look to their city with fresh eyes, approaching familiar, old buildings with newfound curiosity.’

Among Buildings is available for purchase online. More information and local stockists can be found on the book’s website.

Authors photographer Tom Ross, architect and poet Michael Roper, and graphic designer Stuart Geddes. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

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