Paul Clemence at Biennale, Art Basel

A 2015 trip to Sao Paolo by architectural photographer Paul Clemence first inspired a 2016 photography exhibition at the Venice Biennale – and then another at a symposium at Art Basel in Switzerland.

Clemence traveled to Sao Paolo last summer to explore the work of Ruy Ohtake, a second-generation Japanese architect who’s almost a household name in Brazil – but still under the radar elsewhere.

Clemence set out to change that.

“I visited six or seven of his projects and took hundreds of photos,” he says. “There are eight photos in the exhibition, but to get to those eight, I took a couple of hundred of that red pool.”

The pool he’s referencing lies atop the Unique Hotel in Sao Paolo. It’s literally an immersive experience – those who take a dip in it are also diving into the architecture of the building. And its color is not just a hue – it’s an experience.

“When you’re in pool, you’re inside the architecture,” he says. “Daily, it changes its color – a color that’s so subjective to the atmosphere. If the day is cloudy it can  look purple in tone. In bright sun it’s like a David Hockney painting.”

When he returned home, he received an invitation to participate in a collateral event to the Venice Biennale called “Time Space Existence,” at Palazzo Bembo, and organized by the Global Art Affairs Foundation. “It was the perfect outlet for my work,” he says. “The idea came to me that it could be interesting to use photos of Ruy’s work – it’s about the same topic, his work and my work – about awareness of the architectural experience.”

At Art Basel in Switzerland called “Architecture During Art” – a recurring night of thought-provoking conversations, Ohtake was one of the speakers, and Clemence’s photographs were front and center. “The other architects were theoretical but he was interested in intuition,” he says. “The exhibit is about color and form – almost a haiku and an homage to Ruy – and they used an image of the red pool to cover the stage in the Laufen Showroom.”

If it sounds like there’s an affinity between the photographer who learned his craft in architecture school and the architect who says that color is life – well, there is. “I think we’re both interested in that moment of heightened awareness of the experience of architecture,” he says. “He’s designing the spaces that enable those moments, and I capture them in two dimensions.”

And now the design world knows all about that.

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