Showcasing Unsung Architectural Icons

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Exterior Architecture Photography of King Abdullah Financial District Mosque by Gerry O’Leary

One of the privileges of my work is celebrating and sharing phenomenal architecture that is often overlooked, especially when it stands in the shadow of icons like the Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, and Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Here I look at some of the lesser-known marvels of the Middle East and the pleasure of showcasing them in my architectural photography.

My objectives include highlighting the external beauty of these buildings, drawing attention to their innovative engineering, and capturing the distinctive details which help them stand out. By using my camera to explore the essence which makes each structure special, I help my clients put their work on the platform it deserves.

KAFD Grand Mosque

Despite being significantly shorter than the skyscrapers which surround it, this magnificent Juma’ah (Friday) mosque forms an architectural centrepiece of the King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh. Omrania and Associates have taken inspiration from the form of a desert rose to develop a column-free, one thousand square metre internal space in an external shell which catches the eye from every side, including the fifth elevation which can be seen clearly from the towers above. The photographic challenge here is communicating the peaceful majesty of the architecture within the energy of the location.

Architecture Photography of the Dubai Creek Yacht Club by Gerry O’Leary

Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club

Now 30 years old, the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club has seen an entire city grow around it. British architect Brian Johnson of Godwin Austen Johnson created one of the UAE’s earliest icons when he conceived its design echoing the sails of the traditional Arab dhow. Though I have photographed many of the newer buildings which have since been added to the skyline, this has remained one of my favourite Dubai buildings from the evening I captured its dusk colours with a perfectly timed shot.

Exterior Photography of Qatar National Library by Gerry O’Leary
Exterior Photography of Qatar National Library by Gerry O’Leary

Qatar National Library

World-renowned architect and founder of OMA, Rem Koolhaas, was the mind behind the Qatar National Library, which opened in 2017 at the centre of Doha’s Education City. Koolhaas sought to create a space that could display an entire population of knowledge while keeping an inviting ‘living room’ atmosphere. Designed to appear as two pieces of paper, pulled apart and folded diagonally, this masterpiece does exactly that. Part of my role as the building’s architectural photographer was to highlight the space and carefully engineered natural lighting which are integral to its purpose.

Emirates National Bank HQ

Architecture Photography of Emirates NBD by Gerry O’Leary

An imposing building which rises from the waterfront, the Emirates National Bank HQ is an award-winning design by Carlos Ott of Norr Architects. Its curved facade creates an enormous mirror which reflects and distorts the sky and water to create a fleeting appearance. Though striking at any time, the building’s most spellbinding moments, as shown in the photographs, are when the sunset paints it with shades of gold and silver before it is illuminated against the night.

Mleiha Archaeological Centre

Architectural Photography of Mleiha Archaeological Centre, Sharjah by Gerry O’Leary
Architectural Photography of Mleiha Archaeological Centre, Sharjah by Gerry O’Leary

In the desert of Sharjah, at the foot of Fossil Rock Mountain, Dabbagh Architects have created a structure which strikes a stunning image, enriches its environment, and provides a naturally flowing visitor experience. By photographing from above I was able to capture the artistic vision of the whole site while a series of eye-level shots walking through the building show how each plane and section works in harmony with its location and exhibits.

Please get in touch if you have questions about the unsung icons of the architectural world and the considerations and responsibilities of photographing them. Check out my Instagram for more images of architectural icons and feel free to share this article on your preferred platform.