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14th October 2020

Telling construction's story without words

13 milliseconds. According to a team of neuroscientists from MIT that is how long it takes your brain to process an entire image.  Perhaps that should be unsurprising, after all we have been hardwired to absorb visual information for much longer than text.  But even so, we respond to imagery in a much faster way than words.

Despite the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ the publishing world counts on us doing the entire opposite. Not only do many of us choose whether to buy a book based on its cover, scientists will tell us the design even influences if we will enjoy it as well.  So imagery matters - it cuts through language barriers and it engages us quickly.

For more than10 years the CIOB has been in conversation with a growing international audience using purely photography of the built environment, we call it the Art of Building. It is a competition that attracts people from all walks of life to share their view of the built world. We celebrate its impact, its excellence and sometimes it helps to reveal the darker side of construction where we need to do better.

The Courthouse by Marcel Van Balken (Highly Commended, 2017)

Over the years we have been approached to make music based on the photography for National TV. We have turned site hoarding into photographic galleries to inspire the public to engage with the very real art of construction going on in their cities and towns, and auctioned imagery to support the building of real-world shelters for those who need it most.

The conversation has revealed the eerie beauty of buildings in decay, the appalling use of child labour in different corners of the globe, and people living in cemeteries because their cities don’t have room for them. It has even shown how our built environment can divide us as much as it can bring us together.

But it has amazed us too.

From humble homes built by hand that made many happy lifelong memories, to glorious structures reaching far into the sky formed with an equal measure of complexity and artistry. To the wonders of conserving our history and repurposing it for the future. The Art of Building has captured how buildings influence our lives.

If you have a construction story that you can’t put into words then the CIOB invites you to join our conversation and enter the Art of Building at The competition is open until 15 November 2020.

Near to fire for bricks by Rajaram (Finalist, 2014)
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