Architectural abstraction through the lens of Nikola Olic

‘Structure Photography', a series of work by the US based photographer, explores unusual buildings, shapes, visual effects and colour combinations in modern architecture 

Lens of Nikola Olic
Brickell Heights Condominium, Miami 
(Image credit: Nikola Olic)

Architectural photographer Nikola Olic has been working on a single project for over seven years. In fact, he doesn't quite remember the precise moment he began developing this particular series – nor has he a specific deadline or completion point in mind. ‘Structure Photography' was born out of an instinctive reaction to capture architecture in a certain way and keep going. Now, the series has a little fewer than 100 photographs in it, and it's still evolving. 

‘About seven years ago, a few photographs came together in an effortless way that hypnotized me into spending more time with photography,' he says. ‘I dedicate significant time to carefully curating the published collection, and removing or adding photographs.'

When asked about his series' central concept, Olic, a Serbia-born professional photographer who's been living in the US since the age of 17, replies that, in a way, there isn't one. ‘I didn't have any particular goal or concept to chase,' he explains. ‘I was externalising my internal photographic dialogue, exploring well known visual spaces from well known architects, feeling that there was a new world of visual associations and surprises that a given building can offer, going beyond what even the architects themselves could imagine them to be.'

Seattle Public Library and Safeco Plaza, Seattle

Seattle Public Library and Safeco Plaza, Seattle

(Image credit: Nikola Olic)

The body of work focuses on presenting cleverly, artistically framed crops that capture architecture – some famous buildings, some not – in a way that emphasises shapes, colours and patterns. There is a certain abstraction to the work, although often, the structures are instantly recognisable – the spire curves of the Chrysler Building in New York, the angled tiers of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC and the hanging gardens of the Bosco Verticale in Milan are hard to miss for the architecture aficionado. Still, this is not about particular styles or architects, but more about a fresh, intimate way of looking at buildings as objects. 

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It is this relationship of unexpected graphics and volumes that attracts Olic to choose a subject for his imagery. ‘Unusual shapes, unusual buildings, unusual combinations of visual factors, those are all on my mind as I explore the physical space and move around with my camera,' he says. ‘There is a randomness to it, I try combinations and permutations of visual elements in front of me, and sometimes it works out. '

From there, the process is simple. Olic doesn't use a lot of technical equipment, working with a fairly ‘light' and inexpensive non-DSLR Nikon camera with a built-in Super Zoom, and he doesn't take long to set up each shot. It's a matter of minutes, as he points out. ‘If I learn later that there was more I could have done with the photograph, I will gladly go back and give it another try, with a specific plan on what I want to do,' he explains. ‘I once flew to Chicago just to (re)take a photograph I thought could improve some thinking I had done before (I was wrong. But I love Chicago, so no complaints)

Waterside Plaza, New York

Waterside Plaza, New York

(Image credit: Nikola Olic)

Nicola olic photography chrystler building and UN

Chrysler Building and United Nations, New York 

(Image credit: Nikola Olic)

Nicola olic photography bosco verticale

Bosco Verticale, Milan 

(Image credit: Nikola Olic)

Nicola olic photography patterns in buildings

First City Tower, Houston

(Image credit: Nikola Olic)

Nicola olic photography smithsonian

(Image credit: Nikola Olic)

IAC Building

IAC Building, New York

(Image credit: Nikola Olic)

Nicola olic photography architecture

Thanksgiving Square, Dallas

(Image credit: Nikola Olic)

INFORMATION

structurephotography.org (opens in new tab)

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).

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