In a field just a 40-minute drive outside of New York City lies a pavilion that houses an important art sculpture called the London Cross by American artist Richard Serra. The pavilion was designed by the architecture firm OLI Architecture over the course of two years and has since won the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) Projects Honor Award. New York-based photographer Albert Cheung of FRAME Studios was commissioned to photograph the LX Pavilion through the seasons.
I started shooting in September 2019 for this project. Overall, it’s been six to eight months now. I would get there in the morning and each shoot would take about three hours.
Originally exhibited in 2014 in the United Kingdom, Richard Serra’s London Cross features two massive 30-ton sheets of steel balanced in what seems like precarious positions. One sheet stands on its long edge across the diagonal length of the floor and the second sits on top across it perpendicularly. Like many of Serra’s works, this structure was created with a space in mind — in this case, OLI Architecture’s pavilion. Upon being acquired for a private collection, the London Cross was moved across the ocean to upstate New York.
Because it’s in a private collection, the only way the world can experience it is through the lens of the camera. It’s a piece that strives to respond to the sire and how the existing lighting affects the apce throughout the day.
In addition to recording the exterior of the pavilion, Albert was allowed inside to document the London Cross as well. He photographed Hiroshi Okamoto, the chief architect, under the piece to show the scale of the space, deftly positioning him in a way that begs the questions of how these plates, both 15 tons each, were delicately placed on top of each other without any additional fastening besides the pressure of the structure itself. Future plans may include portraits of Serra himself at the site.
Having worked as an architect for 10 years prior to pivoting to architectural photography, the shot list seemed fairly standard to Albert at first, but as the project went on, he found new ways to experience the place. His documentation included conventional and aerial still photography and videos. Yet, compared to the typical “get in, get out” feeling of architectural shoots in New York City, the quietude of the pavilion in the field was a welcome change.
I find it very therapeutic to just go out there and document the process of how this curious wooden cube ages in the forest.
The pavilion’s exterior is made from charred Japanese wood, using a specific process called Yakisugi. This process makes the wood become shiny and lustrous, therefore making it challenging to shoot in certain weather conditions. Albert’s background in architecture helped him understand how the light and humidity would affect the pavilion’s look in his photos.
I do a lot of the architectural real estate work, which is like run and done. You go, you shoot, and you get out. For once, I got to live with something for a year that’s so simple. It kind of slowed me down.
Albert’s documentation of the pavilion assisted the piece’s winning the AIA’s Projects Honor Award. His photos can be found in the Spring 2020 issue of Oculus magazine, a publication by the AIA. Watch Albert’s drone footage from this shoot in the video below.