Architectural Touit tour with Peter Fauland: EPFL Rolex Learning Center
The new building in the Ecole Poly Federale de Lausanne is a masterpiece of contemporary architecture. Berlin photographer and physicist Peter Fauland embarked on a photographic tour of discovery, accompanied by his Touit 2.8/12.
Like a UFO that has just landed” – this is the description that springs to mind the first time you set eyes on the Rolex Learning Center on the campus of the Ecole Poly Federale de Lausanne (EPFL). The interconnected complex of buildings was opened in 2010 and extends over an area of 88,000 square meters (980,000 square feet). Despite its size, the structure radiates a sense of lightness and movement: the roof and floor run parallel to one another in the shape of a wave. The building is intended to serve as a laboratory for new forms of learning. For Berlin photographer Peter Fauland, it became a laboratory for photographic experimentation: “I’ve been fascinated by the Rolex Learning Center for some time now. A few weeks ago, I finally saw the building in its complete form and knew right away that it had to be the venue for my next workshop. At the same time, I thought that this masterpiece of modern architecture would be the perfect setting for a photo series with the Touit 2.8/12.”
During the three days of the shoot, he was also given access to the nearby former Swisscom transmission tower (today: “Odyssea”). From this bird’s-eye view, the observer gets an impression of the overall structure of the complex, which is simply impossible to convey with close-ups: “The initial question for me was: how can you possibly photograph a complex like this – other than from the air? The dimensions are so huge and the building is very flat. Basically, there is only one floor, and wave shapes are everywhere. So over the course of the shoot, I constantly experimented with new perspectives.”
The results of these experiments in perspective clearly show that the Touit 2.8/12 is excellent for architectural photography. “I’m impressed by the fact that such a wide-angle lens is so free of distortion and yet still produces razor-sharp images all the way to the corners. Normally with architectural photos, you need to eliminate curves during the processing stage. But with the Touit 2.8/12, there is little or no work needed for this.”
Peter Fauland has taken a very close interest in his photographic subject. Since construction on the building began in 2005, he has been on site at least once a month, compiling his own personal photo documentation. Back then he was working in the neighboring CERN building as a participant in the Large Hadron Collider beauty experiment (LHCb). Here too, he was behind the camera. His task was among others to photograph the experimental set-up in such a way that survey technicians could use the images created to analyze whether individual components in the experiment were correctly positioned. To do this, he developed “large format hybrid camera”: an adapted Sinar F1 with a digital SLR at the back.
As well as this research activity, Fauland has worked as a freelance photographer since 2002, and has been fully self-employed since 2008. In addition to running his photo studio, he offers workshops and coaching sessions, and this was how he established his connection to ZEISS about a year ago – with a detour via Fujifilm: “I now use compact system cameras from the X series for 90 percent of my training courses and shootings. To my mind, these cameras currently represent the most interesting innovation on the photography market. I give ZEISS a lot of credit that it is not closing off this development and is offering autofocus lenses that not only can be connected without an adapter, but also offer the high-quality image performance we expect from SLR lenses.”
Taking photographs with system cameras opens up new possibilities, including more time to work and to set up the equipment the way you want. These two factors, in conjunction with low weight, allow for greater concentration on the subject: “By combining the compact system camera and the Touit 2.8/12, you can just work without any other distractions. Even if you are on the road all day and waiting for the right light, you never feel that the equipment weighs you down. And that frees up your mind.”
An important element of Fauland’s workshops is the correct use of wide-angle lenses and selecting the perspective: “It pays to change your position – even if it’s just half a meter. A fixed focal length like the Touit 2.8/12 forces you to think very carefully about the point from which you finally want to take the photo. The flat concrete roof of the building for example, could produce a somewhat overwhelming effect. But if you stand directly underneath the roof, the entire structure appears airy and open. The only support this sweeping arch seems to have is at the outer corners. The building has a unique appearance, as if someone were standing on tiptoes and letting their body float. And that is exactly the feeling the photo is meant to convey.”
About Peter Fauland
Peter Fauland lives and works as a freelance photographer in Berlin. His main areas of interest are people, events and cityscapes. He passes on his knowledge of photography through training seminars such as the “Architecture Workshop: EPFL Rolex Learning Center Lausanne”, and individual coaching sessions.