Category Archives: Assignment 3 – Buildings in use

Assignment 3 – Buildings In Use

Choose five or six buildings and for each produce between two and four images that describe effectively and attractively the way in which these spaces are used.

For this assignment I decided on researching, as much as possible, the history of the locations I have chosen. I wanted to know why the buildings were built the way there are, and the main purposes of said buildings. I also was aware that I wanted to incorporate a mixture of both old and new, big and small.

I decided very early on that I wanted to shy away from the conventional approach in executing this assignment. What I mean by that is that I wanted to focus on evidence of the buildings in use, rather than focusing on the actual activity. For example, I wanted to avoid typical shots of say, someone drinking coffee in a coffee shop, and perhaps photograph the cups afterwards.

During the research phase I also noticed the majority of students were photographing on a big scale, and incorporating a vast amount of their surroundings into the frame. I wanted to see if there was a way of fulfilling the assignment brief while focusing on smaller details.

I wanted to avoid, where possible, people in my images. Obviously this was rather difficult in public areas, but with patience and timing it should be achievable.

For several of my locations I wanted to document historical or past actions that show the how the buildings were in use.

Stoke Dry Church:

Stoke Dry Church is dedicated to Saint Andrew. The parish church has mediaeval wall paintings and a Romanesque chancel arch. It is claimed that the Gunpowder Plot conspirators met in a small room above the porch. At the start of the 17th century, the manor of Stoke Dry was owned by the Digby family. Sir Everard Digby was one of the Gunpowder Plotters and was executed for his role in the unsuccessful attempt to blow up Parliament.

The wall paintings date back to the 13th century and depict St Christopher carrying the infant Jesus, and the death of St Edmund. Edmund is shown tied to a stake while archers shoot arrows at him. The main thing to notice about these wall paintings is the quality of them, and their unusually well preserved state.

Stoke Dry Church Exterior

Still in use today, this graveyard houses multiple mass graves of large affluent families that still occupy the village itself and the surrounding villages. Families still visit their loved ones and pay their respects. I wanted to try an capture the neatly kept greenery, while fitting the whole church into the frame as well.

Gunpowder Plotting

This is the room where it was rumoured several men used to meet up in secret to plan the gunpowder plot. Hidden up a tiny spiral staircase, the room is visited by tourists and locals frequently. It is a tiny room, so I used my wide angle lens to try and fit as much in as possible.

Historical Stories

These drawings/paintings are quite remarkable. They depict current events of that era. Unfortunately the majority of the paintings have been damaged beyond repair apart from this section. Worshippers and church goers used the walls to log historical events.

Bible Studies

The Church still has Sunday School and regular services which use the historical books to educate. The teachings that are being taught today are the same as those from centuries ago. While several of the books are in a very bad state, the more kept ones are used weekly. They are cared for and handled with such care that I imagine them being in use for a long time.

The Bear Pit, Sheffield:

The Bear Pit is the finest surviving example in the UK. The superb condition of the structure is due to the many years it was used as Yorkshire’s biggest compost pit.

This is a Grade II listed structure and was built in 1836 to home a black bear. Rumour has it, spectators would observe from the viewing platform at the top while a second bear was put into the pit and they would fight until one bear had defeated the other.

In 1839 the attempt to combine zoological exhibits was stopped because of the noise and stench. In 1855 Sir Henry Hunloke presented 2 brown bears to the Gardens although little is known about how long they remained there. Local legend relates that a child was killed after falling into the pit around 1870.

The Grade II listed Bear Pit was fully repaired during the restoration of the Gardens. The old railings (of a somewhat dour municipal character) have been replaced with more elegant ones, matching the railings which surround most of the Gardens. Grilles have been re-instated and can be pulled across the entrance to the Pit, and also across the 2 side dens (which once housed the 2 bears). The grilles can be locked, thereby keeping things either in or out.

In January 2005 a mild steel sculpture of a bear (2.4m tall) was installed, to remind people of the former use of this structure. The bear was originally a pale silver grey colour, but the sculptor allowed the metal to rust naturally. The bear is an interesting and very realistic grizzly-brown colour.

Top Level

Still visited by thousands of tourists a year, this is the observing area where back in the day spectators would look on as 2 bears fought one another. Nowadays it’s purely used to admire the building itself, and reminisce on it’s history. Trying to capture it without anyone in the frame took a great deal of patience, especially on such a lovely day! I used my wide angle lens again to get close enough to capture detail while also fitting it completely into the frame. I used a tripod to add extra height do i could shoot downwards and include the far wall, adding depth.

In The Pit

From inside the pit the wall feels much larger than when looking down. Although now replaced with a steel bear, this space would have contained at least one bear at all times. It was effectively housing the bear. Again, using my wide angle lens I was able to capture the strong curve of the wall and the bear in the same image.

Bear Pit Exterior

The main entrance is where the bear(s) would be herded into the pit, and also allowed for human access into the pit. To both the left and right of the doorway are two very small rooms with chambers into the main space (the one on the left is obscured by the greenery) with bars on the windows to serve as protection. I decided to shoot very low to the ground to incorporate the viewing platform at the top of the pit.

Top Viewpoint

Finally a view similar to that observed by visitors both now and back when it was a functional building. You can see the two side chambers which were perhaps used as a feeding area to the bear(s). Again, I used my wide angle lens to capture as much of the pit as possible.

Bradfield water treatment works

Bradfield Water Works was built in 1913 for the filtering and treatment of water taken from the Dale Dike (the cause of the 1864 great flood of Sheffield); as well as the Agden reservoirs in the neighbouring Loxley Valley.

The site was cutting edge technology back in its day and it even included the first telephone to be installed in Bradfield back in 1930 allegedly.

By 1974, the Yorkshire Water Authority took over the Water Works, and then during the Thatcher Government a number of years later; the entire UK water industry was privatised with the Water Act of 1989.

Eventually, the pumping house at Lower Bradfield was closed down in 1994 when a new pump house and Water Processing Plant was built elsewhere in the Loxley valley.

It has been said that the locals believe the building attracts unwanted visitors and is a “constant eyesore” and a “morbid reminder of Lower Bradfields grim past.”

Treatment Exterior

I wanted to photograph the exterior of the building as it is evident that people are using it currently to tag with graffiti. I was not able to photograph the older section of the building as a whole, due to access restrictions, but I like how the image incorporates the old original building and the newer modern extension which has been tagged. The overgrown shrubbery emphasises the fact that this building is no longer ‘in use’ as it was intended.

Treatment Tap

Once inside the building there is a side room that has one of the very few remaining pieces of equipment that demonstrate how the building would have been in use. The industrial water tap would have been an integral piece of equipment used to transfer and filter the water. The second demonstration of use is more in the present, and it’s the discarded spray paint cans scattered around the tap. The building is plastered with artwork from numerous ‘artists’ and these cans represent the way the building is still in use today.

Treatment Interior

There’s a huge irony to this building. It shouldn’t be in use as its derelict and has been emptied of almost everything that resembles the way it was once used. But it’s obvious that this building is very much in use. The artwork and its vivid colour create wonderfully artistic and aesthetic images that are oddly beautiful and captivating.

Charles Street ‘Cheese Grater’ Car Park

This car park sits in the heart of Sheffield, and underwent a huge renovation in 2008 which resulted in it ranking in the top 3 coolest car park in the world. (The winner is in Miami) It was nicknamed the ‘cheese grater’ based on it’s appearance. I must admit it’s an unusual and eye catching building. I wanted to know what it looked like on the inside, and whether the unusal exterior was carried through on to the interior. As car parks go, the layout and style doesn’t really change (it would be ineffective).

Car Park Exterior

The main use of this building is self-explanatory. The exterior design is eye catching and interesting, and it’s situated in a busy city centre meaning it’s no doubt a busy space. I wanted to enhance the appearance of the exterior walls that have earned the building its nickname, and achieved this by photographing up towards the sky. This also emphasises the great size of the building.

Lower Level

As one would expect, the lower levels are completely full. I wanted to incorporate a picture that demonstrates the vast number of cars parked on each row. Using a lower viewpoint I was able to continue the row of cars underneath the bumper of the car closest to me.

Higher Level

As I climbed up further through the occupied levels, the car parking space usage began to diminish, and I was able to photograph one lonely car on a level to itself, albeit, this level was still in use.

The Millennium Gallery

The Millennium Gallery is an art gallery and museum in the centre of Sheffield. Opened in April 2001 as part of Sheffield’s Heart of the City project, it was designed by architects Pringle Richards Sharratt, the building is primarily made from concrete and glass, with a series of galleries extending from a central avenue, which connects Arundel Gate with Sheffield Winter Garden. In 2011, the gallery was listed as the 15th most-visited free attraction in the country by Visit England.

With this being a gallery that is open to the public it was nigh on impossible to remove people from my images. This wasn’t a bad thing whatsoever, as it was helpful to use people as a way of demonstrating the building in use. I also wanted at least one set of images to include people. The building has many purposes – it hold exhibitions, has a cafe, has a small shopping area, and has a stunning ‘Winter Garden’ in which people can relax and enjoy their surroundings for free.

Millennium Gallery Exterior

The exterior of the building is used primarily to advertise their content. With big billboards advertising the varying galleries and exhibitions it lets the public know what’s on. Foot traffic around this area of Sheffield is vast, so using the exterior in this way is beneficial to the gallery and the artist they’re representing.

Millennium Lobby

The internal atrium is a large open space that is easy to navigate to the separate areas of the gallery. Escalators have been installed throughout to accommodate a fast flow of visitors and avoid congestion. I really like the solitary figure at the top if the escalator.

Exhibition Entrance

The main exhibition taking place was the ‘Hope Is Strong’ exhibition which was incredible. Unfortunately photography was prohibited but I wanted to demonstrate its popularity and its level of use. The flow of viewers streaming in and out was constant. I really like the neutral décor of the white walls contrasted with the bold red advertisement.

Winter Garden

The Winter Garden is a spectacular space. With high ceilings and plenty of greenery, the space has a multitude of uses. There’s seating areas for people to enjoy a coffee, eat their lunch, or just take some time out and admire the building. Another form of use that I think is evident is that it requires a substantial amount of upkeep, especially from a gardening perspective.

Assessment criteria

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills:

I am generally happy with the overall technical and visual execution of this assignment. In order to demonstrate the use of a building I had to make sure there was a visual representation of actions/evidence of action. There were only a few locations where I was visually restricted, such as photographing the ancient drawings in the church, and photographing the exterior of the water works. Visually speaking I feel I’ve produced varied and interesting images of some buildings/spaces which could be deemed as fairly boring – such as the car park.

Quality of Outcome:

I am very satisfied with the quality of the outcome in terms of the individual sub sets of images. The set of images as a whole does perhaps lack continuity, but with the spaces I chose being so varied I was aware of this from the start. Previous assignments have sometimes had a running theme, or been based around one action (for example the rugby assignment) which results in natural continuity.

Demonstration of Creativity:

I tried to be as creative as possible when it came to the overall interpretation of the brief. I had done substantial research of other students work and had decided to try and put my own creative spin on this assignment – venturing away from playing it safe and photographing buildings in use in real time. I’m pleased with my decision to use a variety of buildings which varied in terms of style, age, and size.

In terms of developing my personal voice, this assignment allowed me to incorporate photographing an abandoned building – which is something I’ve been researching as a side project. I plan to expand on this topic further, but this brief gave me the chance to start it.


Since my last assignment I’ve researched the history of architectural photography and learnt how it has developed into the photography we see today. I also researched the work of David Spero, specifically his work on ‘Churches’ that was recommended to me by my tutor. I found his work to be refreshingly captivating. He documents the opposite of traditional idealistic churches. Urban churches and places of worship can and do look like regular city buildings and are a stark contrast to old historical buildings. Spero’s work is a fascinating and opposes our stereotypical ideas of ‘Churches’.

I find myself studying buildings much more since doing this assignment. I question why they might be built the way they are, how effective the space is and how I could photograph them in thought provoking, creative ways.