Andrew Buchanan Documents State-of-the-Art Technical School for Vanir Construction

Jan 25, 2019
Photographer Spotlight

Late last year, Vanir Construction Management contacted Seattle-based photographer Andrew Buchanan to shoot the recently-completed Health Sciences Careers building at the Puget Sound Skills Center (PSSC) in Burien, WA. The building was designed by architecture firm Hutteball & Oremus, which specializes in educational facilities.

PSSC is a technical school that serves three districts, and the new building – which Andrew describes as a “classroom hospital” – houses facilities in which students can train as dental assistants, certified nursing assistants, and biomedical lab technicians. These facilities include a four-chair mock dentist’s office, a six-bed mock hospital, and a laboratory classroom containing DNA sequencers.

Puget Sound Skills Center hospital classroom laboratory Vanir Construction photographer Andrew Buchanan

After researching experienced architectural photographers in the Seattle area, Vanir contacted Andrew Buchanan to take both interior and exterior photos of the building. Andrew has photographed ten other school projects in the recent past and so was already familiar with some of the difficulties inherent to photographing educational facilities. 

“My challenge as the photographer was to remember that my client was not the more typical architecture or construction firm, but rather a firm whose task it was to supervise the building of such a unique and specialized project. . . . The photos needed to communicate the specialized health-sciences nature of the spaces, and also portray the fact that they’re living classrooms, designed to be used, experimented in, and learned in.”

Puget Sound Skills Center dentist classroom laboratory Vanir Construction photographer Andrew Buchanan

The Health Sciences Careers building was already in use by the day of the shoot, so another challenge that Andrew faced was coordinating with teachers and administrators to schedule the shoot in an empty building.

“Privacy concerns are always an issue when photographing kids independently of their parents, [and] photographing schools is always a balancing act as the spaces are heavily used starting immediately upon completion. They consequently start to show wear and tear almost right away.”

Puget Sound Skills Center Vanir Construction photographer Andrew Buchanan

Andrew arrived at PSSC on a rainy Saturday in early December, armed with a master key that would give him access to all areas of the building. ("I can’t stress enough to other photographers that liability insurance is a MUST in situations like this!" Andrew advises.) It took at least half an hour to prepare for each shot: tables had to be aligned, surfaces had to be cleaned and tidied, and chairs had to be arranged before the lighting process could even begin.

“Winter daylight in Seattle is also cruelly short for anyone trying to photograph interiors without blacked-out windows, so I found myself working quickly as my assistant set up ahead of me or cleaned up behind, while we raced the daylight from shot to shot.”

Puget Sound Skills Center biomedical classroom laboratory Vanir Construction photographer Andrew Buchanan

In addition to state-of-the-art training laboratories, the Health Sciences Careers building contains both a theater and multi-purpose room. To make maximal use of the space, the two are separated by a 25-foot-tall retractable glass garage door. "Since it's such a dominating feature of the space," Andrew says, "I decided to feature the door in action with a short time lapse video." 



As for the striking exterior shots, Andrew was hindered for most of the day by the omnipresent Pacific Northwest drizzle.

“Finally, about 30 minutes before sunset, the rain had let up long enough for the puddles to clear just a bit. The dramatic dusk-blue sky and glowing interior lights, combined with the reflections off of the wet pavement, let me capture several great hero shots of the exterior.”

Puget Sound Skills Center exterior Vanir Construction photographer Andrew Buchanan

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