Recently, I created this available light image of the MWest offices in Santa Clara, California for Kelly Simcox and Rick Yeh of Studio G Architects based in Campbell, California. This commercial office was a tenant improvement project that artfully straddled the line between new urbanist design and the more traditional modern design that has been so popular for the past three generations.

You can see two versions of the image here. This first image demonstrates the scale of the formal conference room and its spatial and contextual relationship to the reception area and the remainder of the project. The angle shows how color is utilized to define the seating area as a separate physical and psychological space. The mass and impressive nature of the conference room’s design is evident and could be overpowering but is balanced by the energy in the colorful seating area.

MWest | Populated Reception Area, Conference Room and Corridor | Studio G Architects

MWest | Unpopulated Reception Area, Conference Room and Corridor | Studio G Architects

The Necessity of Context
The second image without human figures is the more traditional representation in architectural photography, but it lacks the emotional or psychological context provided by people working and using the space. I used people in the reception area to communicate its function as well as to provide a reference for scale. A solitary figure in dark clothing in the corridor accentuates the strength of the design in that space while the group of people in the reception area realizes the intended use of the space.

Purposeful Choices
When I include people in my images, I think of them as compositional elements and use them to help construct my composition just as I would a chair, flowers, or landscape. However, I feel it’s critical that the people in architectural photography are shown interacting with each other and with the space in normal and meaningful ways. This lends an air of authenticity to the images that is highly prized in the new urbanist movement.