Exploring the Industrialness of American Vernacular Architecture With Tom Harris

Exploring the Industrialness of American Vernacular Architecture With Tom Harris

A departure from the typical “professionally designed architecture” we often see here on Project of the Week, today we’re exploring a few American gems with one of APA’s favorite photographers, Tom Harris.

Deeply rooted in the culture of a place, vernacular architecture is often function over form, but that doesn’t mean it’s void of charm. In fact, vernacular architecture often ends up being some of my favorite “designs.”

Take these grain bins, grain elevators, and copper mine headframes photographed by Tom, for instance. It’s not the typical shiny high-rise or elaborate private residence we are accustomed to seeing from the Heidrich Blessing alumni. At least to me – these shots carry a greater weight. Infused with a sense of place and time, Tom’s photographs feel reminiscent of a bygone era.

“Last week in Michigan I photographed three of the four remaining headframes from the old copper mines up there. I grew up spending my summers in the copper country and undoubtedly these structures altered my life trajectory, I have always been interested in them,” Tom explains.

Tom squeezed in these shots right around dawn or dusk. The orangey-red hues contrast beautifully against the blue skies. We can feel a chill in the air and smell the rusting metal. Tom does a lovely job of anchoring us in each scene, where we can take the time to imagine experiencing these locations, and note the shapes, colors, and textures in each frame. I appreciate how we can see the similarities and differences between each headframe – each shot is distinctly different but a piece of the whole story.

“The grain bins and elevators are from my [recent] trip to Nebraska,” Tom shares. “They were shot on the way to the airport, mostly at high noon. It’s not exactly the best light for the bins, but the contrast against that blue Great Plains sky is pretty nice.”

Humbly, I think high noon works pretty dang well for these structures. The harsh sun creates specular highlights and pulls out the repetitive, rhythmic textures on the metal bins. The hard shadows feel in line with the hard materials and industrial elements.

What a crisp shot!

Tom also includes lots of little elements that are fun to spot. On the left, faint powerlines overhead slide our eyes through the frame. On the right, we notice a person climbing the side of the bin.

I love the birds flying by the elevators in the frame on the left! What a cool detail. On the right, hard shadows and highlights carve out the forms at hand! Again, the orange/blue color contrast looks so good!

An enormous thank you to Tom for sharing his personal project with us. It’s such a joy to explore all the different types of architecture and design found throughout the world. Seeing human creativity and ingenuity at work is a powerful thing!

Tom’s website is tom-harris.net and his Instagram can be found at @tomharrisphotography

If you have a project you’d like to be considered for Project of the Week, you can submit it here.

Shopping cart0
There are no products in the cart!