This week’s episode of Project of the Week takes us to León, Spain with architectural photographer Álex Fernández-Llamazares! Today we’ll be checking out his photographs of Estación AVE León by URBAQ Arquitectos.
Álex has some great accolades to his name, including winning 3rd prize in the IPA 2022 for Architecture/Buildings, and honorable mention in the IPA 2022 Architectural/Industrial field. Álex also placed in the top 10 for our 2022 Early Career and Emerging Talent award. He proudly shared that this year, he received his Master’s degree in Image and Communication of Architecture from the University of Malaga. This past September, Álex received two honorable mentions in the IPA 2023 – one in Architecture/Buildings and another in Architecture/Interior. All that to say, it’s no surprise that Álex was commissioned to photograph this new train station!
Álex introduces us to the project by sharing, “Fernando Liébana (URBAQ Arquitectos) was the architect who carried out this project. He contacted me to photograph the project that he had completed a couple of years ago. The work had been completed in 2021 but he had not yet made any reports and wanted to be able to do so. He purchased 2 licenses for this project, one for his studio and another for his client. We were talking between July and August 2022 and the idea was to be able to carry out the report between the end of September and October.
Unfortunately, the weather was not good and in September a rainy season began that lasted until winter, so the report was postponed until we could ensure good weather. Finally, in April of this year, I was able to travel to the city of León, 400km (250 miles) from my location in Vigo and do the report. There, Fernando explained the project to me. In the past, the train tracks divided the city of León in two. Given this, the need arose to bury the tracks and eliminate the physical barrier they represented. The idea of the project arises from the study of the light of the city of León, the colors of the stained glass windows of the Cathedral of León (Pulchra Leonina) are taken to the skylights of the underground tracks of the Spanish High Speed Train (AVE) becoming protagonists both outside and on the platforms.”
I love the bold colors and powerful lines present throughout Álex’s photographs of the train station. In this next shot, he carefully composes the scene so that the roofline of the station platform gives enough space to the building in the distance. There is a nice juxtaposition between the negative space of the blue sky, and the station’s roof and web of trusses. What a cool shot.
Alex shares, “The most important thing was to be able to ensure a completely clear sky to be able to show the contrast of the color of the skylights with the sky, both during the day and during the blue hour. And of course, the coordination with the architect so that we had all the permits to be able to go down to the platforms and photograph the interior, as well as have control of the on and off of the lights that illuminate the skylights from inside at night.
The extra bonus of this project was the possibility of accessing a roof terrace in front of the line of skylights and being able to photograph how they escape into the distance since at street level it was impossible due to how large they are, their minimum height is just over than 2m (6 feet) and there is no possibility of seeing over the following ones.
Apart from this, I also [researched the light] in the station to know what would be the best time to make the report.”
As we descend into the station, we are met by a myriad of colors permeating down from the colored skylights.
Each section is a different color, creating a playful and cheerful mood despite being underground.
Álex masterfully showcases the variations in color and the joyfulness present in each section of the platform.
I asked Álex about his shoot day and how long he was there. Álex explained, “I started around 3 p.m. photographing the platforms, at that time the sun was shining on them through the skylights and coloring the station platform like a kaleidoscope. I also waited for the arrival and departure of some trains to give some dynamism to some images. In the following hours, I also took some photographs inside the station and at the back. When the sun began to go down a little, I went outside, where the skylights emerged from the sidewalk like totems of color, and I took some shots while waiting for the blue hour. At that moment, they light up from the inside and present a wonderful riot of color. The last images were taken from the roof of the station almost at dusk.”
Álex speaks on his favorite image of the station, sharing “My favorite is the one where you can see the lilac skylight and the red canopy behind it — for me it is the hero photo of the project. I love the combination of lights, the sky at blue hour, the lilac skylight and the red canopy leaning on the building of the old León train station.
For this photograph I used a 24mm TS-E, in fact, the entire project has been photographed with this lens and with a 17mm TS-E combining it with a Canon 2x extender. This allowed me to essentially have a 24 TS-E, a 35 TS-E and a 48 TS-E.”
He continues, “Another image that I also really like is the one that shows the line of skylights disappearing towards the end of the photo, below the canopy, showing the curve made by the underground platforms under those skylights. This image is taken with a 17mm TS-E + the Canon 2x extender, so I can get closer, and is taken from the roof of the new station.”
A huge thank you to Álex for submitting this project in to us for POTW! We love getting to hear the back story on these shoots!
If you have a project you’d like to be considered for Project of the Week, you can submit it here.