The exterior overall shot of an architectural project is my opportunity to introduce the design, materials, and site in one image that initiate the viewers’ understanding and appreciation. The opening view is a home designed by Arthur Dyson on a large lot in a rural area with Valley Oaks. The projecting overhangs repeat in design, the angled stone chimney anchors the home in the center. The windows are key design elements, which are best shown in an evening shot. 

A note about Arthur Dyson, who was recently honored with the title of FAIA. He is strongly rooted in American architecture. As a teen, he apprenticed with Frank Lloyd Wright and worked on the Marin County Civic Center and the Guggenheim Museum. He then worked for William Gray Purcell (Purcell and Elmslie) and Bruce Goff. In the tradition of Organic Architecture, the site greatly influences the design and the material selections, geometry is a key to forms, solar orientation and exposures are considered and affect overhangs and shading, and the sense of the home’s livability and the warm of emotion are established by the fireplace and hearth. Arthur Dyson served as Dean of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture and has taught and many architectural schools.

Exterior Architecture

The chapel is an addition to an existing UCC church in Bakersfield, California, in a suburban neighborhood. The photo composition frames the addition to show the context of continuing the original material palette with a focus on the chapel’s cross created by the windows. 

Exterior Architecture

The California foothills can be a challenging environment of extremely hot and dry summers and winters with heavy rains or sometimes snow. This ranch house feels anchored and protected. The roof overhangs the windows to reduce the solar gain, and the metal adds fire protection. To reduce fire risk, the area around the home is cleared, but the projecting beams unite the open clearing into being part of the home, unifying the sky to the earth. Opening the front door, the view goes out to the back and the rocks of the site are enclosed within the home. 

Exterior Architecture

This unique home sits onfour acres of private river bottom with a stream running through the edge. Trees, vines and vegetation create privacy while adding a natural component. Despite how difficult it is to see, it never-the-less attracted attention and nicknames like the Hobbit House. The homeowners requested an A-frame with an attached metal workshop, which is essentially the design. There are two stories with bedrooms above and an open living space below, and to the right is the workshop with a lushly landscaped dirt berm in front. The photo sought to show how the home nestles into the landscape, the flowing lines of the wooden façade, and the continuation at the end with the projecting metal beam, built by the homeowner. 

Exterior Architecture

The homeowner of the preceding home remarried after losing her partner and this is their new home. A curved roof unites the home, as in the former. This home is designed to function as an indoor concert venue for up to 60 people and an entertaining home for occasional large groups. It is on a rural lot overlooking the river with a large outdoor entertainment area behind, partially shaded by the roof overhang. 

A forested setting at an upper elevation in Northern California is the site for this wooden cabin. The garage and workshop to the left follows the contours of the hillside in which it is nestled. To the right, the living portion is dominated by the fireplace and chimney with dramatic roof angles that effectively manage the snow load. 

Exterior Architecture

The low long rectangular forms of this home sweep across a large expanse to provide a generous amount of outdoor living and entertainment spaces. The site is an estate lot residential subdivision surrounded by agriculture. As you can see by the design and lighting, the home is enjoyed most in the evening hours. 

Much like the establishing shots in movie scenes, the overall exteriors are an introduction. Especially with innovative designs, one can’t understand the buildings without seeing the other sides, interiors, and medium shots and details of the materials and how the elements come together. The overall exteriors are the first step, and the role of the photographer is to make it an inviting step. 

All photos by Scot Zimmerman

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