When NYC Skyscraper Reflections Become Abstract Art

Yohani Kamarudin
Yohani Kamarudin
Scribol Staff
Art and Design, January 16, 2013
  • New York is a city we’re all familiar with to some degree, even if we’ve never been there. And the New York skyline is a favorite with photographers and moviemakers alike – as are the city’s busy streets and famous parks.

    Because New York has already been featured in innumerable amateur and professional snapshots plus countless movies and TV shows, capturing something new about the city can be quite difficult. Photographer Carsten Witte took up the challenge, however, and the results are these stunning images of buildings reflected in the facades of other New York skyscrapers nearby.

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  • The buildings in these photographs may be ordinary office blocks or apartments, but the way Witte has captured their reflections in the shiny glass panes has rendered them beautiful and mysterious. With their geometrical shapes and watery colors, the shots look more like abstract paintings than architectural photography.

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  • The two gray buildings reflected here are perfect examples of unexpected beauty found in seemingly drab objects. Looking at the structures normally, you’d see a couple of nondescript towers. But because of the way the lines are bent and the colors enhanced, the distorting effect of the glass reflection makes them much more interesting

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  • These little squares remind us of the graph paper we used back in school! We can see an unusually shaped building and a gorgeous blue sky reflected in the tiny squares, which act almost like a grid. Interestingly, the reflective properties of glass-covered buildings – which make them seemingly disappear into their environment – are one of the reasons why this type of architecture is so popular.

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  • This photograph in particular looks like the work of an abstract painter. The colors and patterns seem to have been artfully, if somewhat randomly, applied. Presumably, you know that these reflections are caused by light bouncing back at us after hitting the shiny glass. Hence, the way this building is reflected will vary depending on which angle you look at it from.

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  • Here, the distortions in the reflection have caused the building opposite this one to develop spiky towers – like something out of a fairytale. All that’s missing is a few fluttering flags at the top of each tower and it really would resemble a castle! The white clouds in the reflection add to the fantasy effect.

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  • This particular image just looks like some blurry, diffused patches of color – but this kind of uncertainty only adds to the intrigue and mystery of the photographs. Another interesting aspect of the photo is the way the ‘bulging’ windows have created a sort of quilted effect.

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  • In this photograph, shimmery golden waterfalls cascade down steep silver cliffs. The contrasting colors reflected on the different sides of the buildings look spectacular. Yet while the effect of these glass structures may be striking and aesthetically pleasing, there are doubts as to how environmentally sound they are. Ultimately, we may pay a high price for all this shiny beauty.

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  • Here, two buildings have combined to create a wonderfully unsettling abstract effect, with one reflected in the smooth glass panes of the other. But although they’re great to look at, heavily glazed buildings consume more energy and seriously lack green credentials.

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  • In the past, one of the main reasons for constructing glass-covered buildings like this one has been the access to natural lighting they offer. However, most glass-covered buildings use tinted glass that filters the natural light anyway. Also, to get the desired amount of sunlight, it’s only necessary to have a window that covers roughly a third of the wall, rather than floor-to-ceiling glass.

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  • “The best glass you can buy leaks more energy than the cheapest tract house wall it’s legal to build in most places,” says architect Steve Mouzon. Of course, this isn’t good news for the environment or whoever’s paying the electricity bill!

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  • Another unpleasant side effect linked to these glass complexes is sick building syndrome (SBS). Said to be caused by factors like poor air circulation and chemical and biological contaminants, it results in irritation of the nose, skin and eyes. And since buildings like this one usually don’t include openable windows, they’re prime candidates for SBS.

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  • The black and white patterns reflected on the surface of this building remind us of zebra stripes or some kind of Rorschach inkblot.

    Looking at his photos, we can’t deny the beauty that Carsten Witte has found in these glass buildings, but beauty alone doesn’t justify some of the environmental and health problems they’re thought to cause. Still, we can’t help gazing at these arresting shots in awe.

    Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

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