Philippe Sarfati

2016 - Ongoing

Netherlands; Belgium; Switzerland; Japan; France; South Korea

The first impulse behind this experimental project was to inject street photography methodology - moslty, the reliance on serendipity and spontaneous behaviour - into architectural photography.

Inspired by Ila Beka and Louise Lemoine’s films, I wanted to show buildings through the eyes of their users, to only present spaces as inhabited territories. Acclaimed works of architecture become dramatic backdrops to everyday scenes, their radical geometries framing simple acts.

This series plays with the notion of contextual portraiture.

On one hand, architecture is used as a frame, focusing compositions onto a subject with bold volumes and strong lines. On the other hand, people give meaning and scale to the spaces shown. Their attitude builds our perception of the building’s atmosphere.

We are shaped by our environment, and we shape it continuously and subconsciously, by the simple act of inhabiting it.


I am an architect.

I started working on this series as a source of inspiration for urban design, three years ago, with the desire of documenting daily scenes of appropriation of public spaces. The project took a form of its own through a continuous search for buildings to visit and experience, and discussions / collaborations with architects and photographers.

The series contains today more than a hundred research images depicting remarkable buildings around the world... and is the subject of a book project that I am currently developping.

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  • Market Hall, MVRDV, Rotterdam, Netherlands

  • Museum Aan de Stroom, Neutelings Riedijk, Antwerp, Belgium

  • Messe Basel, Herzog & de Meuron, Basel, Switzerland

  • 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, SANAA, Kanazawa, Japan

  • Beyeler Foundation, Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Basel, Switzerland

  • National Museum, Christ & Gantenbein, Zurich, Switzerland

  • RAI Hotel, OMA, Amsterdam, Netherlands

  • Rolex Learning Center, SANAA, Lausanne, Switzerland

  • L'Ombrière, Foster + Partners, Marseille, France

  • Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Zaha Hadid Architects, Seoul, South Korea