Edmund Sumner X Vladimir Belogolovsky: Cross Border Conversations

Adventures in the Arbitrary
STIR X LOCO Design bring architectural photographer Edmund Sumner with critic and curator Vladimir Belogolovsky to discuss the nuances of storytelling with two different mediums.

by Zohra Khan Published on : Sep 10, 2020

The tenth episode of Cross Border Conversations presents an interesting juxtaposition of the visual and the visceral... Of the two speakers, London-based Edmund Sumner calls himself a ‘black sheep’ because he grew up in a family of architects but did not study or practice architecture or design. An avid interest in architectural journals from very early on, as against reading adventure and trend magazines that were commonly found in British households, led him to a career in photography.

  • Cross Border Conversations | Edmund Sumner X Vladimir Belogolovsky | STIR X LOCO Design
    Edmund SumnerImage: Courtesy of Edmund Sumner
  • Cross Border Conversations | Edmund Sumner X Vladimir Belogolovsky | STIR X LOCO Design
    Vladimir Belogolovsky Image: Courtesy of Vladimir Belogolovsky

The other speaker, Vladimir Belogolovsky was born to engineer parents and studied Nuclear Physics in a small city in the Soviet Union before embarking on a journey that led him to Rome, Vienna and eventually New York, where he got into architecture at the Cooper Union. What started as a deep fascination to explore the historic side of buildings shaped into a career that spans architectural writing, curation and criticism.

Belogolovsky and Sumner talk about their practices and the peculiar overlaps: while one uses photography as a medium, the other uses words to bring forth the expression that architecture seeks to convey or fail in some contexts. The 60-minute conversation moderated by Amit Gupta, Founder and Editor-in-Chief - STIR, dives into their journeys, revealing what they set out to do in the first place, where they see themselves now, and where they are headed.

There is a slight escapism in the work that I do. – Edmund Sumner
  • Casa Naila, Puerto Escondido, Mexico by BAAQ | Cross Border Conversations | Edmund Sumner X Vladimir Belogolovsky | STIR X LOCO Design
    Casa Naila, Puerto Escondido, Mexico by BAAQ Image: Edmund Sumner
  • Casa Monterrey, Monterrey, Mexico by Tadao Ando and Associates| Cross Border Conversations | Edmund Sumner X Vladimir Belogolovsky | STIR X LOCO Design
    Casa Monterrey, Monterrey, Mexico by Tadao Ando and Associates Image: Edmund Sumner
  • Casa Wabi, Puerto Escondido, Mexico by Tadao Ando and Associates | Cross Border Conversations | Edmund Sumner X Vladimir Belogolovsky | STIR X LOCO Design
    Casa Wabi, Puerto Escondido, Mexico by Tadao Ando and Associates Image: Edmund Sumner
  • UDEM University of Monterrey, Monterrey, Mexico by Tadao Ando and Associates | Cross Border Conversations | Edmund Sumner X Vladimir Belogolovsky | STIR X LOCO Design
    UDEM University of Monterrey, Monterrey, Mexico by Tadao Ando and Associates Image: Edmund Sumner

“I do not have the patience or the inter-personal skills to work on a project for years,” says Sumner, who also adds that choosing architectural photography over mainstream architectural practice was a conscious decision. He recollects that it was simply the joy of understanding and interpreting spaces sans the process of conceiving, which made him seek photography as a career.

Over the years, Sumner has been collaborating with leading architects, publishers, editors and curators globally, and regularly contributes to international publications and books.

I am really not afraid to shift but completely make 180-degree turn in my career. – Vladimir Belogolovsky
  • <em>Harry Seidler: The Exhibition </em> in Sydney curated by Vladimir Belogolovsky | Cross Border Conversations | Edmund Sumner X Vladimir Belogolovsky | STIR X LOCO Design
    Harry Seidler: The Exhibition in Sydney curated by Vladimir Belogolovsky Image: Courtesy of Vladimir Belogolovsky
  • <em>City of Ideas: Architects' Voices and Visions</em> in Shanghai curated by Vladimir Belogolovsky | Cross Border Conversations | Edmund Sumner X Vladimir Belogolovsky | STIR X LOCO Design
    City of Ideas: Architects' Voices and Visions in Shanghai curated by Vladimir Belogolovsky Image: Courtesy of Vladimir Belogolovsky
  • The Latvian pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale (2014) curated by Vladimir Belogolovsky | Cross Border Conversations | Edmund Sumner X Vladimir Belogolovsky | STIR X LOCO Design
    The Latvian pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale (2014) curated by Vladimir Belogolovsky Image: Courtesy of Vladimir Belogolovsky
  • The Russian Pavilion at the 11th Venice Architecture Biennale (2008) curated by Vladimir Belogolovsky | Cross Border Conversations | Edmund Sumner X Vladimir Belogolovsky | STIR X LOCO Design
    The Russian Pavilion at the 11th Venice Architecture Biennale (2008) curated by Vladimir Belogolovsky Image: Courtesy of Vladimir Belogolovsky

Belogolovsky attributes much of his career choices to seizing possibilities by random chance and in the firm belief that a single conversation can change your life. In 2001, while having worked at an architectural office for over 12 years, he decided to leave everything behind him to start an ‘underground career’ with a desire to fuel what he always loved doing – writing.

After much learning and inspiration along the way, today Belogolovsky’s New York-based practice called Curatorial Project curates and designs architectural exhibitions, while he also continues to curate books and conduct interviews with leading architectural practitioners.

  • Vladimir Belogolovsky with Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown at their office in Philadelphia (2004) | Cross Border Conversations | Edmund Sumner X Vladimir Belogolovsky | STIR X LOCO Design
    Vladimir Belogolovsky with Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown at their office in Philadelphia (2004) Image: Courtesy of Vladimir Belogolovsky
  • Belogolovsky with Yona Friedman in London (2016) | Cross Border Conversations | Edmund Sumner X Vladimir Belogolovsky | STIR X LOCO Design
    Belogolovsky with Yona Friedman in London (2016) Image: Courtesy of Vladimir Belogolovsky
  • Belogolovsky with Fumihiko Maki in Tokyo (2017) | Belogolovsky with Fumihiko Maki in Tokyo (2017) | Cross Border Conversations | Edmund Sumner X Vladimir Belogolovsky | STIR X LOCO Design
    Belogolovsky with Fumihiko Maki in Tokyo (2017) Image: Courtesy of Vladimir Belogolovsky
  • Belogolovsky with Norman Foster in London (2016)  | Cross Border Conversations | Edmund Sumner X Vladimir Belogolovsky | STIR X LOCO Design
    Belogolovsky with Norman Foster in London (2016) Image: Richard Kickbush, Courtesy of Vladimir Belogolovsky
  • Belogolovsky’s upcoming book, <em>China Dialogues </em> that features interviews with 21 leading architects in China | Cross Border Conversations | Edmund Sumner X Vladimir Belogolovsky | STIR X LOCO Design
    Belogolovsky’s upcoming book,China Dialogues that features interviews with 21 leading architects in China Image: Courtesy of Vladimir Belogolovsky
If I see another backstreet with a construction worker having a cup of tea with a new building in the background: that is not really what I am interested in. – Edmund Sumner

Both Sumner and Belogolovsky find their work extremely adventurous and they share that discovering new places is something that they enjoy the most. Sumner shares his experiences from countries such as India, Japan and Mexico that he repeatedly visits for projects and the special connect he shares. Speaking with Belogolovsky, whose upcoming book China Dialogues features interviews with 21 leading architects in China, he discusses why this part of the world never caught his attention and what he looks forward to doing, following the recent developments in the country.

  • High Court of Punjab and Haryana, Chandigarh, India by Le Corbusier | Cross Border Conversations | Edmund Sumner X Vladimir Belogolovsky | STIR X LOCO Design
    High Court of Punjab and Haryana, Chandigarh, India by Le Corbusier Image: Edmund Sumner
  • Amdavad ni Gufa, Ahmedabad, India by BV Doshi | Cross Border Conversations | Edmund Sumner X Vladimir Belogolovsky | STIR X LOCO Design
    Amdavad ni Gufa, Ahmedabad, India by BV Doshi Image: Edmund Sumner
  • Maya Somaiya Library, Kopargaon, India by Sameep Padora & Associates | Cross Border Conversations | Edmund Sumner X Vladimir Belogolovsky | STIR X LOCO Design
    Maya Somaiya Library, Kopargaon, India by Sameep Padora & Associates Image: Edmund Sumner
  • Edmund Sumner’s upcoming book, <em>Contemporary House India</em> | Cross Border Conversations | Edmund Sumner X Vladimir Belogolovsky | STIR X LOCO Design
    Sumner’s upcoming book, Contemporary House India Image: Courtesy of Edmund Sumner
  • Cloud Garden Nursery, Tokyo by Junya Ishigami | Cross Border Conversations | Edmund Sumner X Vladimir Belogolovsky | STIR X LOCO Design
    Cloud Garden Nursery, Tokyo by Junya Ishigami Image: Edmund Sumner
  • Imagawa Cemetry chapel and Visitors centre, Hyogo, Japan by David Chipperfield Architects | Cross Border Conversations | Edmund Sumner X Vladimir Belogolovsky | STIR X LOCO Design
    Imagawa Cemetry chapel and Visitors centre, Hyogo, Japan by David Chipperfield Architects Image: Edmund Sumner
  • Murai Masanari Art Museum, Tokyo by Kengo Kuma and Associates | Cross Border Conversations | Edmund Sumner X Vladimir Belogolovsky | STIR X LOCO Design
    Murai Masanari Art Museum, Tokyo by Kengo Kuma and Associates Image: Edmund Sumner
  • Teikyo University Elementary School, Tokyo by Kengo Kuma and Associates | Cross Border Conversations | Edmund Sumner X Vladimir Belogolovsky | STIR X LOCO Design
    Teikyo University Elementary School, Tokyo by Kengo Kuma and Associates Image: Edmund Sumner
  • <em>New Architecture in Japan</em> - a book featuring photography by Edmund Sumner | Cross Border Conversations | Edmund Sumner X Vladimir Belogolovsky | STIR X LOCO Design
    New Architecture in Japan - a book featuring photography by Edmund SumnerImage: Courtesy of Edmund Sumner

Discussing the future of publishing, the middle ground between brief and interpretation and understanding what comes first – the medium or the audience, the two also look into each other’s processes and ways of communication and exchange fond hopes and aspirations.

Arbitrariness is probably the biggest hope of architecture because so many designs are so intuitive and incidental. – Vladimir Belogolovsky

Belogolovysky, who does not want to be called a specialist, insists: “It’s not about following a particular style. It’s about steering someone’s interest and sharing your fascination. The best form of writing is like writing a letter to a friend”.

Sumner believes that a good photographer gives not only closure to a project but also new life to it. He makes a poignant observation: “Photography is a very lonely world, and of all the macrocosms of photography, architecture is probably the loneliest. It’s a blessing. It’s a curse. It’s a calling”.

Discover more in the video above.

Cross Border Conversations

Curated by Pramiti Madhavji and Amit Gupta, STIR X LOCO Design present candid video conversations among creative professionals across geographical borders and creative disciplines of architecture, design, art and beyond.

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Steered by values of leadership and integrity, LOCO Design strives to create aesthetic innovation with a creative essence enriched by design values, master artisans and technical expertise, contributing to a responsible future.
Know more at www.locodesign.in

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