One Photo Challenge 2021: Competition Winners Announced!

The winning photographs brilliantly encapsulate a wide spectrum of human emotions and the architectural spaces that frame them.

Architizer Editors Architizer Editors

Architizer is excited to announce the winners of the 2021 One Photo Challenge! After evaluating an incredible shortlist of 100 architectural photographs and their stories, our stellar jurors have selected 2 top winners — one non-student and one student entry — along with 10 commended entries. We’re delighted to present each top winner with a grand prize of $2,500 and a Fujifilm Instax Wide camera.

The non-student winner is Venla Rautajoki with “The Roofscape of the Obscure”, and the student winner is Anna University’s Kavin Kumar La Sa with “Poor Man’s Canvas”.

One Photo Challenge juror Al Crow — one half of iconic architectural photography studio Hufton +Crow — reflected on his winning selections: “There were some really fantastic images on display, and it was very difficult choosing my favorite. I’m often attracted to similar qualities in an image, which can manifest in many different ways. Common qualities are, beautiful light, ‘drama’ and a human element or narrative.

“I seem to have been subconsciously drawn to images that evoke a sense of isolation,” added Crow. “I particularly like the sense and feeling of being alone within architecture or nature. To experience something alone can be both euphoric and melancholy, a narrative I am drawn to in photography and music. After the year we have all been through, these images seem even more poignant.”

Without further ado, we present to you the winners of the 2021 One Photo Challenge, including both photographs and their accompanying stories…

Non-Student Winner: “The Roofscape of the Obscure” by Venla Rautajoki

“This photograph captures the relationship between the hidden subterranean spaces and the active, urban landscape of Amos Rex.

This art museum, located in the very heart of Helsinki, is known for its windowed and hill-like domes creating a characteristic, urban environment ‘terra firma’, and a large-scale peephole beneath. This little boy drew my attention when he repeatedly climbed on top of a dome to oversee us inside the museum hall.

I chose to make this photograph monochrome to strengthen the focus and power of light and shadow and to evoke a sense of timelessness. At the same time, man’s body figuratively resembles a clock — background as a dial and body as clock hands.

Currently, many of us are battling with feelings of ceased time and solitude. When looking at this boy, you may relate to similar emotions, but simultaneously feel the freedom of exploration and curiosity.”

Camera used: Canon

Student Winner: “Poor Man’s Canvas” by Kavin Kumar La Sa, Anna University

“‘Two sisters, smiling brightly, stare across the street. Go closer, and it’s merely a painting on a building façade. This is Kannagi Nagar, a resettlement home for fishermen communities of three slums across the city. Murals like these illustrate ideas of home, hope and livelihoods.

This is an ignored part of the city fabric. Crimes, violence, grime — this is what people associate with this area. These paintings aren’t merely aesthetic; they change people’s perception of this area and are a medium for placing social issues in the limelight.

The kid’s bright smile is a beacon calling to me. I see a vibrant place, and people, trying to find home within their houses. Unchaining my previous prejudices, I smile too.

A question arises in me: Can art matter amidst poverty? Though the people here are unaware of its implications, they say art matters — after all, little things make life.”

Camera used: Canon

Architectural photographer and One Photo juror Ana Mello commented on Poor Man’s Canvas: “The framing chosen by the photographer flattens the image, but the central snippets reveal the scale of the photographed object, bringing three-dimensionality. The lines that check the painting bring indications of the structure of the building behind this plane. With the frontal positioning, the children’s gazes attract our attention, but reveal that contagious happiness can even be found in a façade.”

Commended Entry: “Landscapes Found” by Pedro Ignacio García Sáez, Pedro GSaez Photography

“This work is about believing in the contemporary sensibility — a contemporary sensibility capable of assimilating obsolete remnants of our culture and retrieving them through a process of reinterpretation and alteration, redefining its meaning. It’s about colonizing disused spaces to establish a new order. Recycling the city and the landscape; recycling architecture.

The textile factory is one of the largest industrial vestiges of the city of Malaga. The structure that once housed the factory, employing many of the citizens, brings a massive scale space bathed in a homogeneous zenith light that filters through the ribs and drain accompanying beams. This is an area of high potential, not only for its quality but for the great opportunity offered.”

Camera used: Nikon

Juror Nick Hufton, cofounder of iconic architectural photographic studio Hufton + Crow, had this to say about Landscapes Found: “This image beautifully portrays a strong compositional sense. It describes a sinking feeling of desperateness, yet at the same time offers a sensory, respectful nod to the brutalist era. The overall feeling of decay and dystopia is offset by the serene calmness of the horses resting from the intense heat of the sun. I particularly enjoy the sharp shards of sunlight mirroring the debris strewn across the floor.”

Commended Entry: “Echo” by Philippe Sarfati, Philippe Sarfati

“Architecture and art: Tadao Ando’s gallery in dialogue with Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ provocative and autobiographic installation.

To enter the minimalistic space, it is necessary to go through the precious and dramatic curtain of red and white beads.

The installation represents a week of progression of HIV in the bloodstream, inducing contradictory emotions, between fascination, empathy, and awe.”

Camera used: Fujifilm SLR

Juror Ana Mello commented on Echo: “At first, this seems to be a dreamlike image. The red ribbon curtain that covers the image reveals a contemporary interference in a probably more ancient construction. The chosen framework takes the viewer into the artist’s work. We want to wear the character’s shoes to see beyond. The human scale is very well positioned, opening a gap for another reality in the backlight. The photograph is full of textures, and at the same time, quite simple.”

Commended Entry: “The Leaning Man (द लीनिंग मैन)” by Edmund Sumner, Edmund Sumner Photographer

“This image was taken at the High Court in Chandigarh, India, designed by Le Corbusier. I have been photographing Corbusier projects for many years, and despite my best efforts, I could only get access by joining a tourist tour. Consequently, I relied on candid handheld imagery with a long lens.

Almost immediately, I found this liberating, and was struck by this scene where the sun, shadow and architecture were in perfect alignment. I have long been a fan of the Hong Kong street photographer Fan Ho, who used strong shadow and solitary figures in a similar way. The title ‘the leaning man’ adds to the mystery and is also a reference to the infamous Falling Man from the Twin Towers”

Camera used: Canon

Juror Ana Mello had this to say about The Leaning Man: “This photograph portrays an iconic building by Le Corbusier in a precise and less obvious snippet. The composition of the photograph is exquisite, balancing the openings of the green plane on the left with the stretch of yellow wall from the foreground on the right. The light that falls on the diagonal perfectly stitches the picture, creating a conversation between the characters.”

Commended Entry: “Architecture and Nature Aligned” by Alex Nye

“This is a beautiful and poignant example of how humans are inspired by nature, both in structural design and humanitarian purpose. The Salk Institute is an icon of San Diego by architect Louis Kahn. Designed in harmony with the equinoxes, twice each year one can stand in the middle of this courtyard and see the sunset perfectly aligned between the symmetrical buildings while looking out towards the ocean.

This site’s larger significance is its dedication to scientific research for the good of humanity. The institute was established by Jonas Salk, the developer of the Polio vaccine. This image was captured in March of 2020 as the world faced another deadly virus pandemic. One year later on the spring equinox, millions have been inoculated thanks to incredible scientists, like Salk, inventing vaccines for humanity.”

Camera used: Other

Juror Ana Mello had this to say about Architecture and Nature Aligned: “A commonly photographed iconic building of architecture, the Salk Institute appears in this photograph at a beautifully uncommon angle, and in a moment of special light. The symmetry is perfect, broken beautifully by the position of the human figure.”

Commended Entry: “Six Buildings” by Demétrio Jereissati

“Fortaleza is a big coastal city in northeastern Brazil. Everyone tries to live near the beach, with a view of the sea if possible. Here we see six buildings where we can barely distinguish one from the other.”

Camera used: Leica

Commended Entry: “Eleanor Boathouse” by Tom Harris, Tom Harris Architectural Photography

“At Studio Gang’s Eleanor Boathouse on opening day, after Chicago’s mayor cut the ribbon and the public left, the project architect and I stayed behind to make a few more photographs of the building as it began to snow. Here she is, reflecting quietly on her work as the world around faded away, leaving her alone with her building in an unexpected November storm.”

Camera used: Canon

Commended Entry: “Quarantine Dancing” by Ossip van Duivenbode, Ossip Architectuurfotografie

“The Musa at Katendrecht Rotterdam in the Netherlands is a multifunctional building, mainly containing housing for the elderly, and was designed by Diederendirrix Architects. During the coronavirus lockdown, the residents danced together, each from their own apartment.”

Camera used: Fujifilm SLR

Commended Entry: “Timkat” by James Brittain, James Brittain

“In January each year, thousands of pilgrims make their way to the northern town of Lalibela in Ethiopia to celebrate Timkat, the Orthodox Christian festival of Epiphany. Worship and reflection takes place at a series of ancient twelfth century churches carved into the mountainside.

The cruciform chapel of Bet Gioghis appears from the ground like a sacred artwork. It’s not built, but sculpted in reverse from solid rock to create what can best be thought of as a building “negative”.
According to tradition, the monolithic structure was made on the instruction of the then King Lalibela, with the assistance of angels. An architectural marvel of its time, and an enduring source of wonder to this day.”

Camera used: Other

Commended Entry: “Terlingua Night” by Peter Molick, Peter Molick Photography

“Set in the Chihuahuan desert of west Texas, Terlingua is a small but vibrant community spotted with vast views of the nearby Chisos mountains to the east and some of Mexico’s rugged landscape to the south. This image depicts a guest house at the Willow House, each of which provides a perfect frame looking off into the vast openness allowing visitors to be one with the surroundings while also enjoying very comfortable ammenities. The area is also a designated dark sky region providing views of the stars that are seemingly endless.”

Camera used: Nikon

Commended Entry: “Way Home” by Feitong Du, University of Southern California

“The light always leads you back to your sweet home when you are tired of the world. I took this picture in an ancient district, where buildings are representations of classical and traditional Shanghai architectural styles. Two strangers were walking home under the lamps. The darkness cannot take over the hope and the meaning of life away. Like these two men, I, as part of the youth in the world, live to thrive and make a better future for the rest of the world.”

Camera used: Sony

Juror Al Crow had this to say about Way Home: “This is my favorite image. The ribbon of warm light meandering through the dense urban landscape, offers hope, and a way out for our pair of nighttime wanderers. There is a sense of danger, but as long as they stick together, I think they will be fine — a good message for all of us.”

Congratulations to every Winner and Commended Entrant, as well as all 100 finalists, which can be viewed in full via our special feature “100 Photos That Tell Powerful Stories About Architecture in 2021.
This highly anticipated and captivating publication was distributed to 100,000+ newsletter subscribers and 4+ million social media followers, and the reception has been incredible!

Thank you to all participants for sharing these amazing photographs and telling such fascinating stories about architecture. If you are interested in entering next year’s One Photo Challenge, be sure to sign up for updates by clicking the blue button below.

Register for the Next One Photo Challenge

Read more articles by Architizer

Tide Side: 6 Coastal Designs That Use Water as an Architectural Element

Explore how architects are incorporating surrounding water landscapes in the interiors of their coas tal designs.

This Digital Platform Allows You To Explore the Venice Architecture Biennale 2021 Online

A group of national pavilions collectively deliver an independent online program for all wishing to experience architecture's big event from home.