Photoessay: Alien geometry

_Z702441 copy

Every time an architect tries a postmodern, hypermodern, pseudo-alien interpretation of something – I can’t help but think that the opposite is true. By intentionally shedding societal convention and expectation of what a building or space should be, and given a sufficiently liberal client – all that’s left are the limits of the designer’s imagination*. And unless the designer isn’t of this planet – what remains is if anything about as human as things get. I do realise this sounds somewhat unintuitive at best, and downright hypocritical at worst; but ask yourself this: for something to be truly alien it has to be foreign to you. And if it was created by humans – as all buildings on Earth are – it’s still within the realm of our understanding and appreciation. Different, yes; completely alien, no. Somewhat related segue: not having the dictat and expectations of history is not a bad thing at all when it comes to design; I don’t think I’d be able to create a watch to a company expectation or style, for instance. To the creators of the buildings – I applaud the clients for not saying no (or for insisting son something different) and for the architects and contractors to pulling it off. MT

This series was shot some time ago with mostly the Olympus Pen F and various lenses, mostly SOOC camera JPEG. Some Nikon Z7/ 24-70 thrown in for good measure, too.

*And structural engineers’ ability to execute. I respect/ pity those who work for Gehry, Hadid etc.

_Z702439 copy

_Z702393 copy

_PF04059 copy

_PF04042 copy

_PF04039 copy

_PF04054 copy

_PF03995 copy

_PF04129 copy

_PF04282 copy

_PF04015 copy

_PF03901 copy

_PF03896 copy

_PF03905 copy

_PF03951 copy

_PF03918 copy

_PF03927 copy


Ultraprints from this series are available on request here


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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved


  1. Paul Mullins says:

    Great piece Ming, and I fully agree. However, you forgot to credit the structural engineers as well!!!

  2. Re: _Z702441 Can one squeeze any more shelves into a space by making them wavy? Does one get less shelf space, in fact? More importantly, when you are searching for your friend in the library, can you glance down the rows and check out whether he/she is there? Or do you have to plod down each and every aisle? Or when the librarian goes off to check something for you and you move to the next aisle, can he/she see where you are now? Maybe they could issue GPS aisle-trackers and a sign-in so that people can find one another?

    Seriously, I think it might be an issue, but I still like the break with convention and wiggly aisles.

    As for the ‘alien’ aspect, I don’t see it. There is a problem and a solution, and unless the architect has hyperspace and worm holes at his/her disposal, then it’s going to be a human answer to a human problem.

    I also like _PF04039 and _PF04129 because they are attractive and well observed – ‘something from nothing’, as a photographer I knew used to say.

    • Hah! No, I don’t think you get any more extra shelf space trying to tessellate rectangular objects into what is fundamentally going to be wedge shaped spaces – but it won’t stop them trying for the sake of being different.

      ‘Human’ geometry – or at least what is familiar to us – tends to be strongly rectilinear. ‘Alien’ in the strictest sense of definition is merely unfamiliar or foreign, not necessarily also extraterrestrial.

  3. Paul Wilson says:

    Great shots and good point. I might go one step further and say that as humans are of this universe and it’s physical laws, then nothing is truly alien and we can find something that resonates at every level except perhaps the nano scale, which we were until recently completely unaware of.


  4. Thank you for sharing this photo-essay. You capture and express (so well) the view back thru the lens to your reaction to what you see.

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