Capturing never-to-be-seen again views of the city

As recently reported in Construction News, “a total of 13 new major developments will be added to London’s skyline by 2026”.

The speed at which the City of London is currently expanding means that the capital is a hub for the construction industry, consistently a source of economic power and wealth in the UK.

Bishopsgate and Square Mile, as cited in CN’s recent article, are two locations that house some of London’s major developments. Other prestigious sites include Leicester Square, Strand, Oxford Street and Battersea.

We have been involved in documenting some of the most high-profile construction (and demolition) works in these areas along with many more in the Greater London Urban Area.

Professional time-lapse photography relays progress at a much faster rate than it was recorded and is particularly versatile in its capture and application. As such, this photographic method is able to faithfully track big city developments in incredible high quality detail, regardless of location, size or duration.

Time-lapse construction

Time-lapse allows for the smallest of details to be magnified, isolated and emphasised in an incredibly efficient way for contractors and civil engineering companies to illustrate their services.

Time-lapse is a familiar element of construction projects, which helps facilitate the growing audience that it receives on platforms like Twitter, as well as breathing new life into marketing campaigns, of which social media is a big part. For this reason, time-lapse construction has become a genre in its own right.

Important variables to be considered before any camera system installation include location, duration and fixing position. To document projects of significant scale it is more often than not better to situate the camera at a higher vantage point than the subject of capture.

Time-lapse video functions as a public record that is not only informative but also showcases contracting endeavours in a way that is also visually compelling.

Up on the roof

While fully post-produced sequences can reveal the most subtle of detail and movement, it is ultimately the still image that is the foundation of time-lapse.

Overlooking The Alchemist on Salford Quays during golden hour
Above: overlooking The Alchemist on Salford Quays during golden hour.

The predictability of regular interval capture – with camera systems set up to process images continuously at the same time every day, every week and even every year – may initially spark the idea of ‘monotony’, but this is a vital part of the time-lapse process. And guarantees a stunning compositions regardless of how ordinary & everyday the surroundings.

For these reasons, it is of no surprise that the building sector at work has also attracted the creative eye of other professional photographers.

Andy Spain’s work of the last few years, featured in this BBC News article, involves capturing various construction sites in London.

As Spain himself puts it: “When a building is knocked down it reveals a view for a short period of time before the next building goes up to obscure it again”. Indeed, “once buildings were under construction, and complete, these sights were lost again.”

In this way, the still image preserves the capital city as it will never be seen again. In a similar vein to ‘unseen London’, our own work often takes us on to many a rooftop in cities across the country.

As we have detailed elsewhere, this has presented us with a unique perspective of such cityscapes.

Preserved facade of office blocks in London, before making way for LSQLDN.
Above: LSQLONDON midway through redevelopment. A view that will (probably) never be seen again.

For example, we captured the above image as part of a project in the heart of London’s West End, tracking progress as it was transformed from an empty shell into a flagship retail space in just 18 weeks by our clients, ISG.

The photograph shows a never-to-be-seen again view of this unique space before part of this existing structure was built up to become the world’s largest Lego store – at LSQLONDON.

Similarly, our time-lapse and video capture for The Postal Museum provides an exclusive snapshot down in the depths of London’s subterranean network of railways before this became a fully functioning ride experience for visitors.

So, working at height and photographing at regular intervals is often necessary in order to build a comprehensive narrative of a project. But another positive aspect of this kind of work is that it is also preserving a view of a city as it will never be seen again.

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