Body & Motion by JC Buck

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How The Motorcycle Has Influenced Architect Antoine Predock

Words & Photos by JC Buck (Originally published in META Magazine Volume 12, July 2018)

It’s six in the morning, and Ben is picking me up outside my garage in Denver. We are about to embark on a six-hour drive from Denver to Albuquerque to meet renowned architect and motorcycle enthusiast Antoine Predock.  

Last year I discovered the work of the New Mexico-based architect, who is celebrating 50 years of architecture, and have been photographing his buildings since.  

I work as an architectural photographer, and I am fascinated by Antoine’s career. So much so that, in my own time, I have photographed his buildings in Arizona, Wyoming, Las Vegas, Minnesota and Colorado.  

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Antoine has designed award-winning museums, libraries, university buildings and private residences all over the globe. He has been awarded the prestigious AIA Gold Medal (joining the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Kahn), among many others, and is considered to be one of the most notable American architects of our time. 

His buildings are works of art and come out of the ground like geological events. They truly become part of the landscape, with canyon-like approaches, mountainous shapes, dramatic sloping rooflines, and a deep and thoughtful respect for place – historically, culturally and geologically.  

We arrive at his Albuquerque studio shortly after noon, and there he is waiting for us with a diverse trio of his motorcycles on display (Vincent, Ducati and Zero Electric), one for each of us!  

He resembled a rock star more than an international architect, with his steampunkish sunglasses, beanie, black-on-black outfit, skateboard shoes, and Ducati T-shirt. Antoine is particularly fond of Ducati motorcycles, we soon come to learn. 

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He greets us like old friends, invites us into his studio, and gives us a quick tour. The space provides us with a glimpse into his design process, with tables displaying clay models, 3D-printed models, gallery walls of sketches, paintings, large-format handmade collages, photographs, awards, and stacks of books upon books.  

The “architectural studio” part of the tour was relatively quick, as it was clear that he wanted to talk motorcycles. And we were equally excited about that.  

Antoine proceeded to show us his large collection of motorcycles, from a 1929 Indian Scout to numerous Ducati and BMW sport bikes, to his current favorite: a custom electric Zero motorcycle, which had been raced in the Colorado Springs Pikes Peak Hill Climb.  

Following the tour of his studio and my lusting over his beautiful collection of motorcycles, we crack open some S.Pellegrinos (it’s still early in the day) and settle into a small, comfortable seating area in a window-filled corner, with expansive views of the Rio Grande river valley and Sandia mountain range.  

We asked Antoine all kinds of questions, and he talked to us like friends – explaining his process, designing architecture, and passion for motorcycles. He shared with us his body-and-motion philosophy, a tale of a recent motorcycle crash and the archives he recently donated to the University of New Mexico. 

It was a time I will cherish: The three of us talking about motorcycles, architecture, design, and life all while overlooking the most beautiful otherworldly and iconic New Mexico landscape.   

Antoine is fascinated with the idea of body and motion. Throughout his career, he has studied how the body moves through spaces and landscapes. For him, the motorcycle embodies this philosophy more so than anything else.  

As he poetically says, “The connection to place, to the land, the wind, the sun, stars, the moon ... it sounds romantic, but it’s true – the visceral experience of motion, of moving through time on some amazing machine – a few cars touch on it, but not too many compared to motorcycles. I always felt that any motorcycle journey was special.” 

We all know this feeling, and it’s a sensory experience like no other. I can see how this influenced Antoine’s work. Prior to discovering his buildings and learning about his design process, I would not have connected these two. I am now seeing things differently as I ride through a landscape, or in the way I approach and move through a building. I have become hypersensitive to my own body and motion.  

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“The body moves through space every day, and in architecture in cities, that can be orchestrated,” Antoine says. Not in a dictatorial fashion, but in a way of creating options, open-ended sort of personal itineraries within a building. And I see that as akin to cinematography or choreography, where episodic movement, episodic moments, occur in dance and film.” 

I’ve experienced this with his buildings I have photographed, most notably the Nelson Fine Arts Center at Arizona State University. The building has multiple options to enter, pass by, and interact with the space, from its subterranean levels to ascending its tower into the sky, overlooking the campus.   

“Architecture is a ride – a physical ride and an intellectual ride,” says Predock. He wants people to move through his buildings, in fact, he wants everyone to be able to move through his buildings; such as the Human Rights Center in Ottawa, Canada, a stunning futuristic sculptural building, for which he won awards for its accessibility for people with disabilities. 

Antoine shares with us a recent motorcycle crash he experienced in Los Angeles: Someone drove right into him while he was riding. He wasn’t lane-splitting or anything aggressive like that (and he did comment on how much he enjoys lane-splitting), but just out of nowhere someone hit him, resulting in a brief hospital visit with several non-life-threatening injuries. He has mainly recovered, although at the time we were meeting, he was still dealing with some pain.  

He goes on to talk about how he wears armor now, to protect him from the elements, like “asshole commuters,” he jokes. Wearing motorcycle armor for protection, he ties it back to architecture – how he designs for place. For example, designing for the New Mexico landscape, the extreme conditions of of which have defined him as an architect.  

“I try to understand ‘place’ on a deeper level than just the physical or environmental aspects,” he explains. “It includes cultural and intellectual forces, too. It’s an inclusive approach that brings in many disciplines and sees place as a dynamic thing.” 

Antoine’s education and entire career has been rooted in New Mexico. The Land of Enchantment has defined him as a person, his design process, and his architecture.  

In his words, “New Mexico has formed my experience in an all-pervasive sense. I don’t think of New Mexico as a region. I think of it as a force that has entered my system, a force that is composed of many things. Here, one is aimed toward the sky and at the same time remains rooted in the earth with a geological and cultural past. The lessons I’ve learned here about responding to the forces of a place can be implemented anywhere. I don’t have to invent a new methodology for new contexts. It is as if New Mexico has already prepared me.” 

Before we wrapped up our afternoon with Antoine, we follow him down to the University of New Mexico School of Architecture and Planning, a building that he designed. I wanted to capture some architectural photographs of him passing by one of his buildings on his motorcycle.  

The strong and rectilinear university building, with its articulated southern-facing façade, is a modern interpretation of the New Mexico landscape, specifically inspired by the cliffs of Canyon de Chelly. It sits on Central Avenue, a main east-west street that was once part of the famous Route 66.  

The sun was raking the southern facade as cars passed by, and I capture a handful of compositions with Antoine on his electric Zero Motorcycle, beautifully showcasing the scale of the building in comparison to Predock and his motorcycle. 

While there on campus, which happens to be graduation day, we join the architect inside to see dozens of celebrating graduates of the Architecture and Planning School in their red caps and gowns. Antoine is greeted with hugs and smiles as he congratulates the students. 

We say our goodbyes, and just like that we are on the road back to Denver. As we passed through the New Mexico landscape with the sunset in our rearview mirror, I couldn’t help but think about body and motion. What a great philosophy and way to live this life.  

Body. Motion. Life. It’s all about movement. 

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Narrow your Focus by JC Buck

 © 2017 JC Buck - Marrakesh Airport by e2a Architecture

© 2017 JC Buck - Marrakesh Airport by e2a Architecture

Originally published on Escape to Shape blog on May 26th, 2018

JC is an architectural photographer based in Denver, Colorado. JC works with architects, developers, and interior designers to document their work in a creative and meaningful way. He is passionate about photographing the great architectural projects "of our time" from beautiful public buildings and to physic-defying sky scrapers. We are honored to have JC share his tricks of the trade, for as he noted in coversation with us recently, "Photography and travel go hand in hand, so I figured a post inspiring people to see things differently would be fitting content for your blog." And we could not agree more! 

A friend of mine recently just got back from vacationing in Amsterdam. I asked her if she took a lot of photos. She said she was in awe of the architecture and every time she tried to take a picture, she felt she was too close, struggled to find a good angle, couldn’t find a way to frame her subject and would give up.

I know this feeling well. I work as an architectural photographer. Photographing buildings is a lot harder than many realize. I have found over the years through my obsessive observation and photography of the built environment that it’s the details, the moments, the vignettes that create the most beautiful photographs.

 © 2017 JC Buck - Bahia Palace Marrakech

© 2017 JC Buck - Bahia Palace Marrakech

I told my friend next time you are in that situation, when your senses are overloaded by all that’s going on in front of you, simply narrow your focus. Take note of the details. It's the details that tell the story of the whole. If you can't frame the entire building, get closer.. Take a picture of a door, a window, the roofline, a wall, the textures, notice the way the light is hitting the scene. What is it about the subject that resonates? Focus on that.

 © 2017 JC Buck - Majorelle Garden

© 2017 JC Buck - Majorelle Garden

This is a fun exercise for the eye. When you photograph this way, you are effectively taking notes. It's proven that people remember more by writing things down, even if they do not revisit their own notes. Just the act of writing helps cement material in our brains. I feel the act of taking a photo does the same.

I know many people feel that when they see tourists with their cell phones and camera's out, that they are not in the moment. They have travelled all this way to be on their phones. They are not enjoying the present! I totally disagree. I feel the camera becomes an extension of our bodies and by taking photos we are actively observing, studying, and recording a scene for later. The shutter sound alone stamps an image not only to the camera's sensor, but also to our brain.

 © 2017 JC Buck - Medina of Marrakech

© 2017 JC Buck - Medina of Marrakech

The most rewarding part of photographing the details is when you string them together, create a collage of sorts- they begin to tell a story. A story more interesting than any wide-angle photo showing everything; which, we can call "post card photography." I take those photos too, but come on, what fun is taking the same photo a million others have shot?! You want to create your own memories of your own interpretations, your own visual record.

Given that I work as an architectural photographer, I am biased towards buildings, but the idea of focusing on details works for any subject. If you photograph people, narrow in and photograph just their face, their hair, feet, hands. If you like nature and landscapes, narrow your focus to the flowers, grass, rocks, water, sand- get close and find yourself shooting straight down to the ground. Maybe it’s a hiking trail, or the sand of a beach. The options are endless!

 © 2017 JC Buck - El Fenn 

© 2017 JC Buck - El Fenn 

My longtime partner Liz and I have been fortunate to travel with Escape to Shape many times and each time I bring a different camera with me. Last year we went to Marrakesh, Morocco. The photos scattered throughout this post are from that trip, all shot with a Fuji x100f. Notice all the quiet moments, details, scenes that easily could be overlooked. I made a book using these images and collectively they create a beautiful reminder of our time in Morocco.

 © 2017 JC Buck - La Mamounia

© 2017 JC Buck - La Mamounia

I encourage you to pick up a travel camera*, something small, it could be your phone, but, in my opinion, a dedicated camera is better because you will be more focused when taking pictures. So next time you pack your bags, don't forget the camera, narrow your focus and photograph the details!

If this was helpful, if I inspired you to narrow your focus, then please connect with me on Instagram @jc_buck, I would love to see your photos! And use #jclookatmydetails. Just the act of writing this brief post has inspired me to get out there and shoot more details!
 
Cheers!


JC
 
*Recommended Travel Cameras: Fuji x100f, Fuji xT2, Sony A6000, 6300, 6500. These are amateur priced mirrorless cameras featuring pro level performance! I shot all the Morocco photos on a Fuji x100f

about Escape to Shape and its founders

Escape To Shape is the vision of Erica Gragg and Francesco Anchisi, two 'gypsetters'* who believe in a sophisticated yet down-to-earth way of living- blending traveling, local flavors, experiences and entertaining with balance & wellness. Together the two have successfully married their passions for travel and cultural connections with fitness and wellness, creating a unique and rewarding way to experience the world. Each unique ESCAPE TO SHAPE location provides a perfect backdrop and platform for discerning guests to re-discover themselves while discovering a new culture.

Each location, activity and menu is hand selected and curated by Erica and Francesco so as to ensure that guests experience the most authentic and very best each culture has to offer- a blend of cultural 'must sees' with an 'in-the-know' edge and off-the-beaten path treasures. Erica and Francesco host each Escape and provide a welcoming and intimate backdrop- similar to visiting a close friend’s private villa. Past guests have enjoyed African dance lessons in Cape Town, South Africa; trekking horseback through the vineyards in Colonia, Uruguay; experiencing an authentic Berber meal in the peaks of the Atlas Mountains in Marrakech; exploring the architecture of magnificent St Petersburg, Russia with a historian; practicing yoga in the underground cisterns of Istanbul, Turkey; journeying inside a volcano in Iceland; savoring the sunrise over the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, swimming with baby sea lions in Galapagos, Ecuador and hiking peaks & valleys in breathtaking Bhutan, plus much, much more. All this combined with luxurious accommodations, delicious food, daily yoga and/or fitness classes, hiking, culinary delights, cultural (& shopping!) discoveries, unique activities reflective of the region + lots of laughter.

Shaken not Stirred by JC Buck

 Cherry Creek Lifestyle Magazine - June 2018

Cherry Creek Lifestyle Magazine - June 2018

What's your recipe for capturing the essence of a building?  

We spend our lives interacting with architecture. We were born in buildings, we live in them, we work in them, we are surrounded by the built environment constantly. But, how often do we observe buildings? That’s the recipe. I have an insane amount of patience and am very perceptive by nature. By spending time, hours, sometime days with a building, I begin to see details, shapes, light, shadows and how people interact within and around the architecture. For me, it’s this exercise that leads to capturing the essence of a building.
— JC Buck

Cherry Creek Lifestyle magazine interviewed me for its annual "Shaken not Stirred" feature where the magazine buys a drink for Denver's "top movers and shakers and asked them their secret recipe to being big in business." 

It was a fun quick interview and photo shoot where I got served a beer early on a Friday morning, met other inspiring entrepreneurs and had the rare opportunity of being on the other side of the lens. 

Thank you Cherry Creek Lifestyle magazine! 

Stahl House by JC Buck

This photo was taken late February, 2015.  had just spent a month in California living out of a rental camper van. I had traveled the entire state taking pictures and this was my last photo shoot, working for Modern Christmas Trees at the Stahl House.  It truly was a remarkable experience that I’ll cherish for ever. In this shot, Matt and his crew just finished setting up. All we had to do was wait for the sun to go down. What an amazing night!  

Buck House by JC Buck

Last time I was in Los Angeles I had to find this house, we share something in common, we have the same name. This is the Buck house designed by Rudolph Schindler for John J. Buck, an interior designer of clothing stores. My name is John C Buck. I don’t think we are related, but I haven’t looked into it. There is not much online about this house, its rarely published. If anyone knows anything about this home, please contact me. I would love to meet the owners. I tried, but no one was home. - JC

Buck House, Los Angeles © 2017 JC Buck