The nonprofit MAS Context is hosting the international digital premier of Starship Chicago: A Building on the Brink, a documentary by Nathan Eddy, chronicling the oft-misunderstood Helmut Jahn–designed James R. Thompson Center. The film was premiered at the Architecture Film Festival Rotterdam, with a U.S. premiere at the fall MAS Context: Analog event in Chicago. Later it was shown at the New Urbanism Film Festival in Los Angeles, and the Architecture and Design Film Festival in New York. The one-week showing on the MAS Context website runs through November 12, and it's the first time the 16-minute film can be streamed online.
“I love these buildings, and I don’t think these buildings are appreciated. Helmut Jahn told me while making the documentary, 'At some point every artist just makes a lot of noise.’ I know how to make a lot of noise,” filmmaker Nathan Eddy told The Architect's Newspaper (AN). “That is the only way that people will pay attention in this day and age. I’m a controversy builder. I do these things because I cannot help myself.”
Completed in 1985, the Thompson Center is the hub of Illinois state government in the City of Chicago. From the moment it was constructed, it has turned heads and sparked debate. Today, the current governor, Bruce Rauner, has been adamant about his intentions to see the building either demolished or converted into a private property. Starship Chicago interviews many of Chicago’s most influential architectural thinkers to discuss the construction, legacy, and future of the iconic structure. The documentary includes conversations with James R. Thompson, the former governor who commissioned the building, the building’s architect, Helmut Jahn, architecture critics Blair Kamin and Lynn Becker, and architects Chris-Annmarie Spencer and Stanley Tigerman, among others.
Starship Chicago is the second short film by producer-director Nathan Eddy, whose first film, The Absent Column, covered the preservation battle for the eventually demolished Bertrand Goldberg–designed Prentice Women’s Hospital. Starship Chicago is the first vocal step in beginning the conversation about saving the Thompson Center, and Eddy is active in preservation battles elsewhere. Recently, he has led the charge to protect the Philip Johnson and John Burgee–designed AT&T Building in New York, whose granite facade could be replaced with glass in a Snøhettta-led redesign.
“I have one method, which is 'WAKE UP!!!' All caps with three exclamation points,” Eddy said, discussing the differences between The Absent Column and the Thompson Center film. “After Prentice, we made a great film that tried to appeal to people on an emotional level that would be poignant. That didn’t work and that sucked. When we were doing the film about the Thompson Center, we needed to re-evaluate the way we were going to make people wake up. So, I wanted to make the first comedic architecture documentary.”
Of the famed and derided atrium of the Thompson Center, former governor James R. Thomson remembers in the film discussions surrounding space. “I heard a lot of criticism at the time saying, ‘Boy, that is a lot of wasted space.' And I would usually say something like ‘Well, would you like me to fill up the building with bureaucrats?’ So, it is not a wasted space, it’s a celebration of space.”
The film can be seen in its entirety exclusively on the MAS Context website.
“Well, that’s Columbus—meth and modernism,” quips 19-year-old protagonist Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), in the new independent film Columbus. Directed by Kogonada, the movie centers on Columbus, Indiana, so much so that the city and its architecture functions as a character equal to the actors (and of course, lending itself to the film’s title). In context, her remark isn’t a flippant dismissal of the town but a reflection of larger issues Kogonado contemplates in his work.
“Do forms make a difference? Do buildings make our lives better even when they are bad?” This is a particularly apt question to ask in a city like Columbus, which, although known for its architecture, is not exactly known as a cultural hotspot.
It is rare that architecture features so heavily in what is otherwise a clever coming-of-age tale, but even the plot emerged from the city’s buildings. Kogonada was inspired by visiting the southern Indiana city and wrote the script based on his observations. “The City of Columbus had to give us permission to film there, or else we wouldn’t have made the film,” Kogonada said in a discussion following a screening at BAM.
Scenes center on, around, and in the soaring modernist works by Eliel and Eero Saarinen, I.M. Pei, and Deborah Berke, as Casey rapidly gains aesthetic awareness and an appreciation for architecture as she grapples with staying in her hometown and taking care of her mother (a recovering meth addict) while her friends go off to college. She encounters Jin (John Cho), a Korean-American translator who comes to the city to care for his father, a noted architectural historian who falls critically ill while visiting Columbus; the pair form a relationship. The plot itself is charming and smart, but it is the film’s pacing, styling, and setting that elevate it to what the New Yorker has described as “precocious genius.”
Kogonada incorporates the architecture both blatantly and subtly. Throughout, Casey names and describes each building to Jin, a newcomer to Columbus—Eliel Saarinen's First Christian Church, I.M. Pei's Cleo Rogers Memorial Library, Eero Saarinen’s Miller house, the Irwin Conference Center, and North Christian Church, Deborah Berke’s Irwin Union Bank, and Robert A.M. Stern’s Columbus Regional Hospital, among others. Those structures not explicitly labeled still loom prominently in the setting.
Architectural themes also permeate the film, most notably the exploration of absence and presence, void and volume. Kogonada explores this several different ways: Whenever music plays, there is an absence of dialogue; when Jin speaks Korean, there is an absence of subtitles; characters refer to plot moments that never came up; and at times there is silence even though the audience can see that the person is speaking.
Other questions are grappled with, as well: “Can architecture heal?” “Do the buildings we grow up around inform our views of the world?” “What makes modernism important?” They are good questions and ones that the architectural, art, and design communities debate often, but in Columbusthey are opened up to the layperson and architecture aficionado alike.
For screenings and more information, see the film's website.
The Architecture & Design Film Festival (ADFF) is returning for its ninth edition. The nation’s largest film festival dedicated to the subject of design, architecture, and urbanism is touring around the world in cities near and far with an extensive program of films, events, and panel discussions.
The ninth annual festival will be passing through Seoul, South Korea (July 27-October 29), New Orleans (August 24-27), Montana (September 23-24), Chicago (September 26-27), and ending at its home base at New York City’s Cinépolis Chelsea (November 1-5).
A full schedule of the 2017 program is yet to be released, but below is a sneak peek at a few feature films that will be presented, followed by the tour dates and locations of ADFF.
2016 / 62 min / Canada – U.S. Premiere
Director: Joseph Clement
The film presents a close glance at the intricacies inside the home of Jim Stewart, the most published mathematician since Euclid. Noted as “one of the most important private houses built in North America,” the dwelling is located in Toronto’s Rosedale neighborhood and was designed by Shim-Sutcliffe Architects in 1999. The Integral House was a decade-long project that worked to intertwine and reflect Stewart’s two obsessions: curves and music. The completed home is filled with curved wood, expansive windows, and seductive spaces that many consider to be one of the city’s best performance spaces.
Building Hope: The Maggie's Centres
2016 / 55 min / UK - US premiere
Director: Sarah Howitt
Can design be the secret cure to cancer? A popular cancer support organization in the U.K., Maggie’s Centres, thinks it definitely plays a role. Maggie’s Centres has a unique approach to patient care that considers the importance of design. With a major focus on constructing environments to comfort and rejuvenate patients, the organization stands out as exceptional. The documentary, Building Hope: The Maggie’s Centres, directed by Sarah Howitt, illustrates the story of Maggie’s Centres and puts on display the utter appreciation that the patients have for the healing environment that Maggie’s Centres offers.
Below are dates and descriptions available on the ADFF website.JULY 27 - OCTOBER 29
ADFF: Seoul @ Storage
Seoul, South Korea
Presented by Storage, an experimental exhibition space opened by HyundaiCard, ADFF will screen three films per day over a four-month period. The gallery shows alternative works covering architecture, design, film, and contemporary art.
AUGUST 24 - 27
New Orleans, Louisiana
Presented by the Louisiana Architectural Foundation (LAF), the opening night of the second annual ADFF: NOLA (August 24) will be held at the Contemporary Arts Center followed by a special screening of Designing Life: The ModernistLegacy of Albert C. Ledner at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) on Friday, August 25. All other screenings will be held at the Broad Theater.
SEPTEMBER 23 - 24
ADFF: Tippet RiseFishtail, Montana
ADFF will present a curated selection of nine feature-length documentaries and three film shorts at the Tippet Rise Art Center—the 10,260-acre sculpture park and classical music center in the Montana highlands. On Saturday, September 23, Frances Anderton, host of KCRW’s DnA, will moderate a conversation with artist Stephen Talasnik, architect Débora Mesa, and Tippet Rise co-founder Peter Halstead.
SEPTEMBER 26 – 27
Ace Hotel ScreeningsChicago, Illinois
During the Chicago Biennial, ADFF will host two rooftop screenings at the Ace Hotel. On September 26, the winner of AIA’s ‘I Look Up Film Challenge’—an initiative that encourages architects and filmmakers to collaborate and produce short film— will make its world premiere in addition to a screening of Design thatHeals with Mass Design Principal Alan Ricks.
ADFF: Short Films Walk
New York, NY
ADFF and SoHo Design District present the 4th Annual Short Films Walk (SFW), where participating SoHo showrooms will screen a unique program of film shorts curated by ADFF. This year’s walk will be held from 5:00 - 9:00 pm with an expanded list of locations.
ADFF: New York
New York, NY
In its ninth edition, ADFF’s annual anchor festival in New York will present a series of feature length and short films, panel discussions, filmmaker Q&A's, and more, at Cinépolis Chelsea (260 West 23rd Street, NYC). Film highlights include Columbus, Building Home: The Maggie’s Centres, Glenn Murcutt: Spirit of Place, Integral Man, and Land Artists: The Story of Denton Corker Marshall.
Liam Young: New Romance is the first solo exhibition for the filmmaker, storyteller, futurist, and architect in the U.S., presented by the Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery at Columbia. Young’s work is an examination of fiction, technology, and the near future through cinema and visualization. The exhibit will feature three of Young’s short films: In the Robot Skies (2016), an exploration of love in the time of drone surveillance; Where the City Can’t See (2016), a look at subcultures in the near-future world of data shot entirely with laser scanning technology; and Young’s most recent film, Renderlands (2017), a look at the half-realities of rendered worlds built with the leftovers of digital rendering projects. Alongside the films will be several props Young created for the work and research he utilized for his fictitious cinematic universes, emphasizing his focus on existing technologies and networks and how he begins to project them into unknown futures.
Film enthusiasts, sci-fi nerds, architects, and romantics alike will delight in the provocative new exhibition at the GSAPP's Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery. Titled Liam Young: New Romance, it features three remarkable films that explore how technology is changing society and the built environment.
New Romance is the product of a collaboration between director Liam Young (an Australian architect-turned-filmmaker) and writer Tim Maughan (a British fiction and non-fiction writer). The exhibition features three films that extrapolate current trends in technology to create near-future sci-fi settings; each film tracks a different kind of romance to explore how technology might shape human relationships and architecture.
For instance, In the Robot Skies follows the relationship between two teens—Jazmin and Tamir—living in public housing in London. One teen is under house arrest, so the pair uses hacked drones to pass notes between one another. Shot entirely from the drones' perspectives, viewers see a familiar story of star-crossed lovers from an entirely new vantage point.
The striking Where the City Can't See was shot entirely in LIDAR, a technology used to scan surfaces for digital mapping and navigation. It follows Dexter, a new arrival to Detroit, as his factory coworker Kelis takes him into a community of young people who shield themselves from the city's smart sensing technologies. Hidden from Detroit's electronic eyes, they gather to dance, party, and freely express themselves.
Lastly, Renderlands explores the fantasy life of Prakash, who works at an anonymous Indian render farm. Prakash uses leftover fragments of digital renderings to build the image of his dream girl, an unnamed American actress, who he meets in a romanticized digital vision of L.A. A peon by day and dreamer by night, Prakash constructs a digital fantasy alternative reality.
All three films offer beautifully surreal visuals and a soundtrack by Detroit-based D.J. Stingray to match. However, Young and Maughan contend that these films don't depict dystopias in the conventional sense: these worlds are extrapolations of the "trends and weak signals" the duo have already detected in the real world, especially in parts outside the developed West. As Young put it in a panel discussion before New Romance's premier, he and Maughan seek to "embed critical ideas about the present in fiction." The films use romance as a means to "find the emotional potential and drama in the everyday," making the work more accessible to a general audience in the process.
There is certainly an activist element to these films. Young described how their goal is to "exaggerate [the effects of technology] to the point that you can't ignore it." Drones, smart city technology, digital renderings—all are essential to the film's "world building" and the relationships between the characters. "You can't separate technology and culture," he added, "we're prototyping those cultures, those subcultures."
Liam Young: New Romance runs through May 13, 2017, at the Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery at Columbia University.
For more on Young, whose previous projects include New City series, matte animations that explore similar near-future worlds, see his Vimeo page here. More on Maughan (who also contributed to the New City series) can be found here.
In a new immersive art experience on the outskirts of Downtown Los Angeles, Hong Kong–based artist Simon Birch has created a replica of the iconic bedroom from Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Birch collaborated with architect Paul Kember of Hong Kong–based firm KplusK to create the space as part of his project The 14th Factory. The duo worked carefully to mimic the details of the original set in ambiance and coloring, using illuminated floor tiles to give the space its otherworldly glow.
The replica bedroom, titled The Barmecide Feast, is one of fourteen spaces that weave together across the three acres of the warehouse to create one immersive journey. Birch collaborated with twenty interdisciplinary artists to create this multi-media extravaganza, with work ranging from installations and paintings to video and performance art.
“My hope for The 14th Factory is to bring a broad range of minds together, to uplift and inspire, ignite conversation, action, and solutions but also to provoke,” said Birch in a press release. “There are installations here that discuss love, loss, fear, pain, hope... our shared experience, but that also ask the question; as civilizations have risen and fallen, are we now at the brink of collapse or the start of a wonderful new chapter?”
Birch continues to explain that he hopes the Factory will act as a “safe haven” where people are able to immerse themselves in a journey and be transformed. It would seem Birch is going further than replicating the cult film’s iconic set, also paralleling its existential quest examining the future of mankind.
Birch and his collaborators are currently turning the multi-media adventure into a documentary-style film, where visitors take on the role of protagonists as the space’s story unfolds. The space is currently open to visitors by appointment, and Birch hopes to temporarily open the space to the public once filming has concluded.
For more information visiting or about the artists featured at The 14th Factory, you can visit their website here.
The annual ritual of the Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals that take place simultaneously in Park City, Utah in January have just concluded. Here’s a rundown of films where architecture and design are featured characters. Watch out for these titles as are they are released. (Note: All films were screened at Sundance, unless otherwise noted.)
Columbus is set in this Indiana town that has become a modernist architectural mecca (and is the birthplace of V.P. Mike Pence). The Cummins Engine Company, then run by J. Irwin Miller II, initiated a program where the company paid architects’ fees for public buildings in this small town (population 44,000 in the last census) if selected from a designated list, yielding buildings from architects like Eliel and Eero Saarinen, I.M. Pei, Roche-Dinkeloo, Robert Venturi, César Pelli, Richard Meier, and Harry Weese.
A magnet for architects to visit, the plot begins when a notable Korean architect is in town to deliver a lecture, only to collapse at the Miller House (Eero Saarinen, architect; Alexander Girard, interiors; Dan Kiley, landscape) in the opening scene. A young woman, Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), who grew up in Columbus and works in the library (I.M. Pei, architect), has come to love the architecture, unlike her peers, who barely seem to notice. Casey says of Columbus, “Meth and modernism are really big here” to the Korean architect’s estranged son, Jin (John Cho), who has come to be with his now-comatose father. She takes him around Columbus, often at night, to show him the architecture that moves her. She also tells him that she met architect Deborah Berke when she delivered a lecture in town—Berke designed the Columbus’s Irwin Union Bank in 2006 as well as a building for Cummins in Indianapolis in 2017—who encouraged Casey to go to the University of New Haven, audit her class at Yale (where Berke is now dean) and intern at her office in New York. Casey even quotes Jim Polshek about the healing power of the built form. In the film, architecture symbolizes hope for the future, a utopian vision. The director, Kogonada, made his name as a film critic and maker of “supercuts,” short online videos on cinema history. (See his website for “Kubrick’s One-Point Perspective,” “Auteur in Space” and “Mirrors of Bergman.”)
Abstract: The Art of Design is a new series premiering on Netflix on February 10. Each of the eight episodes focuses on a designer—Bjarke Ingels (architect), Christoph Niemann (illustrator), Es Devlin (stage designer), Ilse Crawford (interior designer), Paula Scher (graphic designer), Platon (photographer), Ralph Gilles (automobile designer) and Tinker Hatfield (Nike shoe designer)—all chosen by Scott Dadich, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine. The one shown at Sundance was on Niemann and directed by Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom, Best of Enemies). The question arises: Is the designer the filmmaker? Is the film about the maker or made by him or her? By taking us inside Niemann’s head and processes with clever animation, they are clearly partners. The title “abstract” refers to taking meaning down to the essence, like Niemann’s explanations with Legos—yellow for a New York City taxi, or several configurations to explain a nuclear family from different members’ point of view, or his many New Yorker covers including one of Donald Trump in U.S. flag motif.
Slamdance presented Aerotropolis, whose title refers to an ambitious urban development project for Taoyuan, a city in northwestern Taiwan, as a major transportation hub for airplanes and ships. However, it has been a bust with an incomplete airport subway link, unaffordable luxury properties laying empty, land sold at wildly inflated prices, and thousands of displaced residents, all accompanied by conflicts of interest and corruption scandals involving government officials overseeing the project.
Allen (Yang Chia-lun) has invested all his inheritance in real estate hoping to cash in on the market bubble created by the Aerotropolis project. But his scheme is a failure as he is unable to find buyers. Although he owns a luxury property, in order to keep it pristine for potential buyers, Allen essentially lives like a homeless person, sleeping in his car and using public restrooms at the airport.
The web series Gente-fied (executive produced by America Ferrara) depicts slices of life in a gentrifying L.A. neighborhood, Boyle Heights, with stories of those struggling with (and adapting to) the changes brought by affluent people moving in and long-term, less-affluent residents facing displacement. The series tries to humanize the issues. In the first vignette, Chris has a taco shop. Mexicans won't buy $3 tacos because they’re too expensive, while whites say the food is so authentic, it’s like they were kidnapped by a cartel. Chris is given a “Mexican” test by his cousin and elders.
Another story depicts Ana, who paints a gay-themed mural on side of bodega for the supremely pleased, new white landlord—to the horror of the staff. Her attempts to appease the shopkeeper are rebuffed, as she fears the mural will scare away her regular customers.
In the third, Pancho runs a bar. New customers want the bar to look like “Frida Kahlo threw up all over it.” The same white landlord (who owns the bodega) raises the rent repeatedly, and when the price doubles, Pancho gives up the bar and washes floors in a bodega with the mural.
In the winner of the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Screenwriting, Pop Aye, Thana (Thaneth Warakulnukroh) is the once-praised architect of Gardenia Square, a 1990s landmark high-rise in Bangkok. Now that his boss’s son has taken over the firm and is replacing Gardenia with a sleek new skyscraper called Eternity (seen in a slick video), Thana is depressed. Now unkempt and out of place in his office, as well as an unwanted presence by his wife in his own modernist home with an interesting curved front gate and clean lines (complete with a Barcelona chair). He goes on an unexpected road trip with an elephant he believes to be from his childhood—they never forget—through the Thai countryside to his hometown where his childhood home has been sold to developers and replaced with a mundane apartment block.
Another example of sleek development is shown in the Middle East in The Workers Cup, where construction workers from India, Kenya, Ghana, Nepal, Bangladesh, and the Philippines work in Qatar to build the 2022 FIFA World Cup Stadium. We see the work camps where they live, the luxury shopping centers they have built (but cannot enter after they open to the public at 10:00 a.m.), and their arduous construction sites. We follow a group who participate in a corporate-sponsored “workers welfare” soccer tournament.
The Nile Hilton Incident, which won the World Cinema Dramatic Grand Jury Prize, is set against the backdrop of Cairo in the days before the Tahrir Square uprising. A wealthy real estate developer of the “New Cairo” is mistakenly accused of the murder of his mistress in the upscale—yet still seedy—hotel of the title just off the square. As we follow Noredin (Fares Fares), a cop who is corrupt but has his limits, around the new and old cityscapes—from the Sudanese immigrant community to the palatial home of the developer—it’s like watching a Graham Green novel.
Winner of Slamdance’s Narrative Feature Audience Award was Dave Made a Maze. During a weekend when his girlfriend, Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) is away, Dave (Nick Thune) decides to build a cardboard fort in the living room; essentially, he is the architect of the maze. On her return, Annie speaks to the unseen Dave inside the maze, who tells her that he is lost inside. She calls a friend for help, who in turn calls a documentary filmmaker and other friends. When they enter, the world inside the maze is far bigger than what appears on the outside, with a seemingly unending string of puzzles and booby traps all cleverly brought to life through the use of cardboard, modest digital effects, and animation. The filmmakers assembled 30,000 square feet of cardboard to build full-scale sets for this fortress-like environment.
After losing her job and boyfriend in New York due to binge drinking, Gloria (Anne Hathaway) moves back to her hometown to discover a strange connection with a monster attacking Seoul, South Korea in Colossal. When she moves, the monster moves. The plot is motivated by the child Gloria’s model of a town: skyscraper, tower, and bridge that is blown away, and then seemingly rescued by her friend Oscar, who then destroys it. As adults, alcohol makes Gloria and Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) into monsters who can destroy this far-off city with their actions.
Berlin Syndrome portrays Australian architectural photographer Clare (Teresa Palmer), who is in Berlin shooting GDR buildings for a planned book. We see examples of her work and traverse the city with her until she meets a handsome English literature teacher, Andi (Max Riemelt), who shows her a Schrebergarten colony, miniature follies on the outskirts of the city with tiny gardens sprinkled with gnomes, windmills, and vegetation, used by middle-class Germans in the summer. He takes her back to his East German-era apartment building with central courtyard, which is largely abandoned except for him…where he then holds her hostage.
In Rememory, Peter Dinklage plays an architectural model-maker turned sleuth.
Chasing Coral, winner of the Audience Award: U.S. Documentary and coming to Netflix, shows how coral reefs are underwater cities and skyscrapers where life can flourish. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef on the Northeast coast of Australia is called "the Manhattan of the ocean.” However, the film charts how coral reefs are being imperiled by rising temperatures to their death, first by bleaching the coral white and then disintegrating. In 2016, more than 2/3 of the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef died.
New Frontier is the Sundance section devoted to art and technology. The most interesting of the VR experiences were Heroes, Melissa Painter’s exploration of dancers in a movie palace and the historic Ace Hotel in downtown L.A., and Saschka Unseld’s Dear Angelica, which creates a drawn, magical universe where we explore loved ones who have died. Also of interest was Hue, an immersive environment of a color-blind man who we help to see color, and the installation Pleasant Places, which displayed Van Gogh’s Provence landscapes.Films and Projects:Abstract: The Art of Design, Morgan Neville, director
Aerotropolis, Li Jheng-neng, director/screenwriter
Berlin Syndrome, Cate Shortland, director
Chasing Coral, Jeff Orlowski, director -
Colossal, Nacho Vigalondo, director
Columbus, Koganada, director/screenwriter
Dave Makes a Maze, Bill Watterson, director/co-screenwriter
Dear Angelica, Saschka Unseld, director
Gente-Fied, Marvin Lemus, director
Heroes, Melissa Painter, director
Hue, Nicole McDonald, KC Austin, Tay Strathairn, directors
The Nile Hilton Incident, Tarik Saleh, director
Pleasant Places, Quayola, director
Pop Aye, Kirsten Tan, director/screenwriter
Rememory, Mark Palansky, director/co-screenwriter
The Worker Cup, Adam Sobel, director
Can you imagine Jeff Bridges playing Ludwig Mies van der Rohe? Of course you can. Luckily, for those who bemusingly can't, a film about the trials and tribulations behind Mies's magnum opus dwelling, The Farnsworth House, is reportedly in the works. Edith Farnsworth, the German architect's client, will be played by Maggie Gyllenhaal and van der Rohe will be played by, you guessed it, Jeff Bridges.
Completed in 1951 in Plano, Illinois on the outskirts of Chicago, the house was put onto the National Register of Historic Places in 2004 for its architectural significance. Two years later, it was designated a National Historic Landmark. Open to its natural setting, the elevated glass box and its all-white steel structure was viewed as the epitome of the International Style's ethos. The house, however, has a history of controversy. Famously bearded Mies became embroiled in a fiasco pertaining to the Farnsworth House's finances during and after its construction and was also rumored to be in a romantic relationship with Edith Farnsworth. (Warning, spoilers below.)
The public dispute came after costs overran by $15,600 (roughly $156,000 in today's money), totaling $74,000. This was down to the rising price of materials; anticipated market demand increased with the Korean War looking more and more likely. In the aftermath, Mies filed a lawsuit for the unpaid sum of around $30,000 in construction costs and service fees. Edith Farnsworth, a reputable Chicago nephrologist, then hit back with a lawsuit of her own accusing Mies of malpractice. It was later deemed by the court that Farnsworth had approved of the ever-inflating budget and she was ordered to pay up the outstanding construction costs.
The debacle, however, left a bitter stain on Mies's career. He and Farnsworth were also heavily rumored to be romantically involved with each other. Mies also referred to the dwelling as the "child" of their relationship. More detail on this can be found here.
According to a source speaking to Showbiz411, “Jeff and Maggie have been looking for another movie to do, and this script really appealed to them.” No dates for the film have yet been disclosed.
Tantalizing uses of physical space and the built environment were integral to a wide range of the 44 films from around the world presented at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s 54th New York Film Festival. From those that introduce or immerse you in their locales to those where architecture is at the heart of the story, there was a lot to see.
In the category of films with distinctive locates, check out:
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail isset in New York’s Chinatown.
Nerudafollows the poet and politician’s exile in 1948 Chile.
I, Daniel Blake takes place in bleak, brutalist Newcastle, United Kingdom.
Moonlight islocated in Liberty City, the poor, 95% black community in central Miami.
Karl Marx City is set Chemnitz (renamed Karl Marx City by East German from 1953 to 1990) and features Soviet-style factories, office buildings, and tower blocks.
Certain Women ismostly set in rural Livingston, Montana, a small, central casting Western town with only human-scale buildings and no chain stores.
The Human Surge, where viewers walk behind a character traversing Buenos Aires, Argentina through flooded streets and into houses, supermarkets, and tower blocks before flipping to Mozambique and then an ant colony.
A Quiet Passion, where poet Emily Dickinson is confined to her 18th century home in Amherst, Massachusetts.
20th Century Women is centered in a 1906 Mission-style Santa Barbara house under constant renovation—the ceiling is taken down to its substructure, there's talk about plaster and woodwork, sanding the balustrade, repairing the green tile fireplace.
The Settlers, which graphically shows, from a drones-eye-view, how the West Bank settlements are deeply—and permanently—entrenched in the infrastructure.
My Journey Through French Cinema, whose director and producer Bertrand Tavernier shows us clips of his favorites, including The Things of Life (Les Choses de la vie, directed by Claude Sautet) where Michel Piccoli plays a Paris-based architect.
Other films use architecture more centrally, almost as characters: Paterson, where a bus driver (Adam Driver) navigates his route and walks his dog through this manufacturing town (complete with waterfalls) that was the home of poet William Carlos Williams, artist Robert Smithson, and comedian Lou Costello, half of Abbott and Costello.
All the Cities of the North, an elegy to lost utopias, features abandoned government buildings laid out in star-shaped constellations. They were once a Yugoslav resort complex in Lagos, Nigeria that was transformed by residents for their own use. Then, there is a story about Brasilia, where a second, parallel city was built by the workers for their use during construction and unplanned by architects. When the Oscar Niemeyer and Lúcio Costa-designed city was completed, the workers’ city was destroyed by flooding the area to form a lake. The ruins are now under water.
My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea is an animated feature showing blueprints of Tides High School, perched on a bluff on the Pacific Ocean, with designated floors by year: freshman, sophomore, junior, senior. Permits were falsified—discovered by a journalism student while in detention—so an extension could be built on a fault line. An earthquake causes the sinking disaster as students try to climb to the top of the building to escape.
In the Death of Louis XIV, where we are claustrophobically held in the bedchamber of the dying Sun King during his last days, we feel like real-time witnesses. Louis says to his great-grandson and heir, the future Louis XV, “Don’t imitate me in … the love for the buildings … Instead, make peace with your neighbors.” The candlelit room is decked with gold brocade walls and red silk, and all who are present are festooned with gigantic wigs in elaborate coiffures, even the dying king. The film started as a performance commissioned by the Pompidou Centre.
And then there are those films where place is a primary element.
Dawson City: Frozen Time isan extraordinary film from the maker of Decasia that employs filmmaker Bill Morrison’s trademark use of decomposing archival footage. Here it is used to tell the story of this Gold Rush town in the Yukon, and how the history of early cinema is intimately intertwined with its fortunes.
We get to know the town—its business district burned down and was rebuilt each year for its first nine years, with the population swelling and shrinking along with the gold rush like a fever dream. Its hotels, dance halls, casinos, and restaurants, have names like the Palace Grand, Savoy, and the Auditorium. The personalities connected to Dawson City would make you think it was a vital nexus: Donald Trump's grandfather, Friedrich Trump, ran hotels and brothels, and formed the foundation of the family fortune. Sid Grauman, who went on to own cinemas including Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, was a newsboy; Alex Pantages, a bartender, got the idea for his movie palace empire here. The Guggenheim fortune was made extracting minerals and brothers Daniel and Solomon started the Yukon Gold Company, which came to dominate the field here. The Dawson City of this era was represented in many films, including Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush, 1925.
Dawson City was the end of the line for cinemas, and distributors were unwilling to pay return carriage for film prints after screening. Many reels were disposed like all garbage, i.e., dumped in the Yukon River, but others were buried and were unintentionally preserved in the permafrost. During excavation of a site for the construction of a new recreation center in 1978, 1,500 reels of silent-era nitrate footage were unearthed, and through a series of lucky breaks, their importance was recognized and transferred to Canada’s National Film, Television, and Sound Archives, in Ottawa where 522 reels totaling 500,000 feet were deemed salvageable. Morrison weaves together these factual stories using the fictional silent films for a remarkable portrait of a town.
In Aquarius, Clara (Sonia Braga) lives in a small 1940s apartment building directly across the street from the beach in Recife, Brazil. A former music critic, she is the only remaining resident, whereas everyone else has been bought out by a developer that intends to tear it down and build a high-rise. The one thing they will keep is the name, Aquarius. Clara is under intense pressure to move from her children, relatives of those who have sold but can’t yet collect, and from the new owners. Rather than tactics employed by New York City landlords like cutting off electricity or water, the developers throw a wild party, complete with porn-shoot orgy in the apartment directly above, leave feces on the staircase, hold a religious event with queues of people entering the site, and most dramatically, infest the empty apartments with termites who make dramatic patterns across the walls as they destroy the integrity of the building structure. At the Cannes Film Festival, Braga and writer-director Kleber Mendonça Filho drew a parallel between the film and the impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, which they say was a coup, demonstrating the rampant cronyism and corruption of then country.
There was one film shown that is directly about architecture. Jean Nouvel: Reflections, emphasizes the architect’s use of light and geometry, the bold and the delicate, nostalgia and interpretation. We are taken to the Institute du Monde Arabe, the Philharmonie de Paris, National Museum of Qatar, Muse du Quai Branly, Jane’s Carousel, 40 Mercer St., 53 W. 53 St., Louvre Abu Dhabi, Doha Tower, and the Cartier Foundation, each responding to locale. Nouvel talks about the game he plays between framing and height to allow discovery of the city beyond. The film is directed by Matt Tyrnauer, whose Citizen Jane: Battle Cry for the City on Jane Jacobs will open the DocNYC film festival next month.
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Steve James, director
Aquarius, Kleber Mendonça Filho, director
All the Cities of the North, Dane Komljen, director
Certain Women, Kelly Reichardt, director
Dawson City: Frozen Time, Bill Morrison, director
The Death of Louis XIV, Albert Serra, director
The Human Surge, Eduardo Williams, director
I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach, director
Jean Nouvel: Reflections Moonlight, Matt Tyrnauer, director
Karl Marx City, Petra Epperlein, Michael Tucker, directors
My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea, Dash Shaw, director
My Journey Through French Cinema, Bertrand Tavernier, director
Neruda, Pablo Larraín, director
A Quiet Passion, Terence Davies, director
The Settlers, Shimon Dotan, director
20th Century Women, Mike Mills, director
For more on the festival, which ran September 16 to October 30, see their website.
Bette Jane Cohen, director, producer, and editor of the 1990 film The Spirit in Architecture: John Lautner, passed away on October 19, 2016, after a long illness. She was 62. Cohen’s work as a filmmaker and editor is widely regarded in architecture circles, with her work on Lautner’s architecture holding high prominence for its impact on the late architect’s nearly forgotten career. The film, produced during a nadir for the groundbreaking designer’s work, brought renewed attention and interest to Southern California’s midcentury modernist heritage years before appreciation for the era’s architectural works would begin to take off in earnest. Last year, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art acquired Lautner’s Sheats-Goldstein Residence as a part of its permanent collection. Cohen’s documentary showcases the only instances of filmed interviews with the architect. Cohen had recently been traveling the world in support of an updated 25th anniver25th-anniversarythe film.
Writing in 2001 for the John Lautner Foundation about her experience making the film, Cohen remarked on the sheer novelty of her focus on Lautner’s work, saying, “At the time I made the film, no books had been written on Lautner.” In the essay, Cohen recalls how she did not know Lautner when she started work on the film and had not yet asked permission to use his work in the movie, saying, “I went into Lautner's office with my proposal and introduced myself. I had never made a film before but I had been a film editor on many films. He said, ‘Well it seems like a worthwhile project and you seem tall enough to do it!’ That is how we started working together.” Cohen went on to, among other accomplishments, eventually serve as a founding member of the John Lautner Foundation Advisory Board.
Services for Cohen were held Friday, October 21, 2016, at the Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary in Los Angeles.
The 8th Architecture & Design Film Festival (ADFF) launched this week at the Cinépolis Chelsea and runs through Sunday, October 2. The opening night film was Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future featuring, and with cinematography by, Eero's son Eric. Other profiles depict architects such as Marcel Breuer, Gio Ponti, Peter Behrens, Nicholas Grimshaw and landscape architect Piet Oudolf and buildings such as Shigeru Ban’s Aspen Art Museum, the Glasgow School of Art, Dostoevsky's Drama Theater (Novgorod Spaceship), Neutra’s Windshield House, and Eileen Gray’s Villa E-1027.
We were able to screen a sampling of ADFF films in advance. Here is a brief selection.
Where Architects Live (Francesca Molteni) allows us to peek inside the homes of eight architects: Shigeru Ban, Mario Bellini, David Chipperfield, Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas, Zaha Hadid, Marcio Kogan, Daniel Libeskind, and Studio Mu. We hear them describe their intimate spaces and we voyeuristically come inside their private world.
Facing Up to Mackintosh muses on what an art school should be and how architecture can make that possible. Looking for the essence of the school and how the Charles Rennie Macintosh building encourages creativity, the principles are reinterpreted by Steven Holl in his new addition with his use of light and voids. The film goes beyond a conventional documentary by featuring interpretive, cinematic experimentations including unusual lenses, cartoons, and the clever music and sound.
Pedro E. Guerrero: A Photographer’s Journey shows an artist who chronicled the careers of Frank Lloyd Wright (whom he met at an early age at Taliesen West and had unusual access), Alexander Calder, and Louise Nevelson. Guerrero had the ability to capture their work and essence with environmental portraiture.
Bowlingtreff is the strange story of a bowling alley created under the radar in East Germany just before the collapse of the GDR. An exuberantly designed postmodern underground club by Winfried Sziegoleit, with a sensational skylight entry, the remade a 1926 public works building features 14 lanes, cafe, pool tables, and gym. It was constructed by members of the public when funds ran out. Denise Scott Brown and Paolo Portoghesi respond to the place with great delight. Sadly, today it is abandoned and up for sale.
Stefan Sagmeister’s The Happy Film was reviewed by The Architect's Newspaper earlier this year.
For full information on the ADFF, visit here.
For a small city, Columbus, Indiana has an impressive collection of modern architecture. Despite a population of only 44,000, the city has works from John Carl Warnecke, Eliel and Eero Saarinen, I. M. Pei, and many more notable modernists.
Columbus will provide the backdrop for the feature directorial debut of Kogonada, a filmmaker well known for his video essays. According to Variety, the film will feature Star Trek star John Cho and indie darling Parker Posey.
Columbus's modern architecture was the inspiration for the film's story. Kogonada told Variety that "After visiting the town, I felt an immediate sense for a film that would take place there, which would implicitly explore the promise of modernism (an ongoing quest for me). The story revolves around a man and young woman from opposite sides of the world, each mourning the potential loss of a parent.”
Cho will play the son of an architecture critic, while co-star Haley Lu Richardson will play the daughter of an addict. The pair finds a bond through their estranged parents and their love of architecture. Posey will play the role of a former student and current girlfriend of Cho's father. The film is currently shooting in Columbus, which has been called the "Athens of the Prairie" because of its status as a mecca for midcentury modernism. The city has no less than seven National Historic Landmarks, and a biennial design exhibition is in the works starting in 2017. Columbus is also the home of Cummins, Inc., a Fortune 500 corporation that specializes in engines (see our article on preserving an architectural gem Cummins commissioned.)
Considering that architecture is a focal point of both the location and the plot, we can hope to see some of the city's iconic buildings featured in the film. Some likely locations might be the Art Nouveau style Fire Station One by Leighton Bowers, Eliel Saarinen's First Christian Church, or his son Eero's North Christian Church, the last building he designed before his death in 1961. Other well-known locations include several of the city's bridges, and Friendship Way, a brick-lined alley with sculptures and neon lights.