David Schalliol- Isolated Building Studies

A Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago and the Visiting Assistant Professor of Social Sciences at the Illinois Institute of Technology, David Schalliol is academically and artistically interested in issues of social stratification and meaning in the social and physical worlds.

In addition to his sociological and photographic activities, David plays an active role on several websites, including his work as managing editor of Gapers Block and founder & editor of metroblossom. If you have any ideas what he should do with theloess.com or mollisols.com, let him know.

via David Schalliol.


The Isolated Building Studies are the visual confluence of my interests in urban dynamism, socioeconomic inequality and photography. By using uniform composition in photographs of Chicago buildings with no neighboring structures, I hope to draw attention to new ways of seeing the common impact of divergent investment processes on urban communities.

Isolated buildings are particularly useful for the exploration of neighborhood transformation and its social correlates because they are immediately recognized as unusual. As urban buildings, their form illustrates their connection with adjacent structures: vertical, boxy, an architecture confined by palpably limited parcels. When their neighboring buildings are missing, a tension emerges: the urban form clashes with the seemingly suburban, even rural setting. Thoughtfully engaging the landscape requires further investigation to resolve this tension: Why is this building isolated? It is from this fundamental friction that the Isolated Building Studies launches.

On one level, the details are helpful. In the case of older structures — which are discernible by their brickwork, ornamentation and often the patina of neglect — we see remnants of previous neighbors: an uneven side wall, an arch that terminates at its apex rather than at the ground, a fence dividing claimed and seemingly unclaimed territory. These physical aspects uniquely illustrate the history of the place as one of construction and, then, near destruction. The polarity is hindered by the survival of the subject building.


David Schalliol, Isolated Building Studies
A smart comment by the interviewer for ArchDaily, Sarah Wesseler, about his work:
There’s been a lot of discussion of late in the architecture community about how to deal with existing building stock and how buildings should relate to their context. Most architectural photography, however, doesn’t seem to have much connection with these issues, for the perfectly valid reason that it’s generally a commercial product designed to make an individual project look as good as possible.
This comment made me think about the architecture photographer Julius Schulman, and how uncritical the documentary about his life was about this point.

I had a professor who very strongly believed the problem with modernist architecture (and, by proxy, modern understandings of architecture) is that it’s designed to look good in photographs and not in three dimensions. For anyone who has ever felt isolated in a minimalist, Danish-Modern, etc. room, anyone who has ever felt the oppressive weight of some cavernous convention center, go back and find a picture that of that space. see how much warmer it looks, see how inviting it seems. Pictures don’t have a one-to-one correspondence with reality.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s