Looking at Frank Gehry’s Ray and Maria Stata Center at MIT, one can see sunlight that has reflected and refracted off of a number of nearby surfaces before finally making its way to the eye. In some ways, this is an ordinary aspect of all sighted observation. Yet on Stata, the substance of the building is a series of thin pieces of material—staniless steel, titanium, glass, brick veneer—suspended in space by a rambling steel and concrete frame behind the surface, largely unseen from the exterior. Because of the intricate building geometry, these panels are pointed nearly every direction in three dimensions: facing up to the sky, down to the brick terrace, and out towards each other from numerous angles. Lapped like shingles or fish scales, they form a continuous skin with a number of geometric variations, each with a relatively uniform surface character—brushed to a dull finish, polished like a mirror, painted white, painted yellow, corragated. Observed together, they reflect each other and the changing colors of the sun, sky, and clouds, adding multiple layers to the visible surface in a continuous interplay of borrowed textures that only exists for a moment, and for a particular point of view. Thus a building, known for its geometric exuberance, is here viewed again, framed in the rectangular view of a camera, isolating a series of individual moments which, through layers of color visible in a small part, interpret the character of the whole beyond.
Exposed at mid-day on 4×5 transparency film balanced for daylight, the building displays a softness typically attirbuted to the sweet light of dawn or dusk. Photographs are made at eye-level, frequently pointing straight ahead, always pointed in the direction a visitor’s eye would glance. Closely cropped, they seek to frame and pull aside for consideration easily missed moments that rely on color at the surface to hint at the spatial quality of the three dimensional whole behind the reflection.