The recent 2014 Tribeca Film Festival screened a remarkable number of films on displacement. People were displaced from their homes—often forced but sometimes voluntary—for financial reasons, discrimination, landlord harassment (or irritation), and natural disasters. In the film Below Dreams, which takes place in New Orleans, a character says “Everybody needs a room.” Here are a few seekers. An arts colony of puppeteers, performers, acrobats, and magicians live in the Kathputli Colony in the Shadipur neighborhood of central New Delhi in a 50-year old shanty town built on government land. Tomorrow We Disappear follows Puran the Puppeteer, Rahman the Magician, and Maya the Acrobat as their way of life is threatened. The land they live on has been deeded to a developer who plant to build Raheja Phoenix, the city’s tallest skyscraper. What distinguishes this population is that they are working artists, not beggars. It’s a universal problem—think of the evicted residents of Carnegie Hall studios.The poignancy of their problem and the limited solutions offered are palpable. A true New York real estate and relationship story is Love is Strange (screenshot at top), where a long-time gay couple (John Lithgow and Alfred Molina) marry, promoting the firing of the main breadwinner by the Catholic school where he teaches music. Forced to sell their beloved apartment, which they bought when it went coop after decades of renting, they wind up with a mere $17,000 after the 25 percent flip tax, broker’s fee, and sales tax, so they wind up living separately, bunking in with friends and family, in very unhappy circumstances. They apply for subsidized housing, instructed to do so directly to developers for low-income apartments in mandated set-asides awarded by lottery (they qualify by making less than $20,000 between the two). By chance they score a rent-controlled $1,500/month apartment on Morton Street, but by then it’s too late for them. One Year Lease (winner Best Documentary Short) chronicles the short-lived stay of a gay couple in a Manhattan apartment they’ve lovingly fixed up. The building is owned by a persistent, unintentionally funny landlady who lives directly above, and who we only hear on the many voicemail messages she leaves. First friendly, if intrusive—she worries about their cat, wants their discards—she grows more irritated as they clearly ignore her requests/demands. They flee after one short year due to nudging. Filmmaker Casimir Nozkowski grew up at 70 Hester Street, a former Roumanian synagogue (Congregation Shaarey Shamoyim) cum illegal whisky still cum raincoat and plastic shower curtain factory that his artist parents, Thomas Nozkowski and Joyce Robins, rented in 1967. The 1860-1880 (date uncertain) building was sold in 2012 forcing his parents to vacate. The two-storied apartment, with the railed upper balcony floor for Jewish women worshipers and the lower floor for men, round stained glass star window and skylights, is filled with art, and is a loving reminder of a rich, happy life lived here. At least the building is slated to become gallery and cafe space. Of Many is the story of a rabbi and an imam, both at NYU, who work together to catalyze multi-faith collaborations between their student worshipers. The safe space they find is rebuilding homes after natural disasters in New Orleans and Joplin, Missouri: disaster knocks down the house, and then it breaks downing barriers. The Gaza strip, however, proves more difficult. Also of interest is Beyond the Brick: A Lego Brickumentary. In addition to Bjarke Ingels talking about his Lego Towers (exhibited at Storefront) and his upcoming Lego Museum, we also meet Adam Reid Tucker, a self-proclaimed “failed architect” who is now the firm’s architectural artist. On his own steam, he crafted a architectural landmarks in Legos that was noticed by the firm which decided to create sets for sale called Lego Architecture. They now include the Willis Tower, John Hancock Center, Empire State Building, Guggenheim Museum, Fallingwater, Sydney Opera House and more. Other Lego projects that focus on the built environment are the MIT City Scene Project which is “visioning” Cambridge, Mass, and Zoom, an educational mapping program being used in Brazil and elsewhere. A few films make use of interesting architectural settings: In Order of Disappearance features a Modernist cast-concrete and stone house in Norway as the home of a mob boss (what is it with Modernism as a symbol of villainy?) with armchairs of molded women’s faces pointing outward and a room filled with white hand sculptures, which is contrasted with another mob boss’s headquarters in a prop rental house full of chandeliers, wooden bureaus, vitrines, and tables. A nearby unnamed city has new skyscrapers with different building tops, some stepped, some sloped, set against a snowy white backdrop. Incident Urbain features two men talking about the Dominique Perrault Building, the Biblioteque Nacional, as they wander through it. There is much discussion about the use of glass and the cinema Perrault was forced to build under protest, while the film intercuts between architectural models and the built buildings. Back home, Match begins with Patrick Stewart’s dance teacher giving instruction at Diller, Scofidio + Renfro’s Juilliard rehearsal rooms at Lincoln Center. He goes home to Inwood with shots of an arched subway station entrance, a flight of pedestrian steps, and rooftops vistas of the George Washington Bridge.
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At this year’s SXSW Festival, engineering took center stage in the documentary DamNation (directors Travis Rummel & Ben Knight), which won the Documentary Spotlight Audience Award. It begins with America’s rash of dam-building under FDR when these mammoth structures were considered man-made wonders. Hoover and Grand Coulee are the large-scale examples, but there were about 80,000 smaller dams built across the country. That level of admiration has collapsed as we have come to understand that dam construction went overboard and the consequences were detrimental to wildlife and the environment—and may not have provided the energy, shipping, irrigation, drinking water, and flood control that was expected (who knew that high levels of methane gas are released from reservoir surfaces?). About a quarter of existing dams are considered highly hazardous, and only 2,540 actually produce hydropower, accounting for approximately nine percent of U.S. energy supply. Further, dams block salmon and other fish migration (if it stops the water, it stops the fish…and the entire ecosystem) and degrades water quality by blocking flow. The politics of “reclamation” is questioned. The argument for dam removal is eloquently and humorously made. Think of the definition of dam: “To obstruct or restrain the flow.” Also scaling an engineering feat, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, is the film Impossible Light (director Jeremy Ambers) which chronicles Leo Villeareal’s 25,000 LED lights Bay Lights project, the world’s largest light sculpture at 1.8 miles long and 500 feet high. The nightly dust-to-dawn light show is streamed online at thebaylights.org. Considered the ugly stepsister of the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge is actually complex of two bridges (one double-suspension, the other cantilever) comprising one of the longest spans of any in the States. The bridge has been enlivened by this installation which was a political and technical accomplishment as much as an artistic one, not unlike the erection of the bridge itself. Another determined artist who scales buildings is dancer Elizabeth Streb. Not just a choreographer, she has been called an “extreme action architect” for the gravity-defying movement she calls “Popaction.” In Born to Fly (director Catherine Gund), we not only follow her dancers in their Williamsburg studio but go to the London Olympics where they are suspended from Norman Foster’s Millennium Bridge, climb the spokes of the London Eye Ferris Wheel, leap in Trafalgar Square, and walk down the curved glass facade of Foster’s City Hall. Eleanor Ambos Interiors (director Andrew Michael Ellis) shows the eccentric 86-year old interior designer who has collected buildings as well as furnishings. She now rents out these spaces for events and photo shoots. The buildings were acquired to warehouse her ever-growing collection that she originally used to furnish her clients’ homes, but she just couldn’t stop. The Metropolitan Building in Long Island City is one, and others are in Hudson, NY. Losing her sight to macular degeneration has slowed but not stopped Eleanor. Print the Legend (directors Luis Lopez & Clay Tweel) on 3D printing, Font Men (director Dress Code) about typeface designers, and Pioneer Palace (director Andrew McAllister) about a town that was originally an Old West motion picture set built in the 1940s and the revived honky-tonk Pappy and Harriet’s, are among the other selections. Profiles of artists included Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace (director Jeff Dupre), David Hockney IN THE NOW (in six minutes) (director Lucy Walker), Obey the Artist (director Ondi Timoner) about Shepard Fairey, best known for the Obama "Hope" poster, and The Case of the Three Sided Dream (director Adam Kahan) about jazz multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk which will be playing at the IFC Center on June 11 as part of the Blue Note Jazz Festival.
A short time from now in a neighborhood not far, far away… filmmaker extraordinaire George Lucas may land his art and film museum in Chicago. The move comes after the filmmaker's bid to build the museum in San Francisco fell through last year. Mayor Rahm Emanuel formed a task force last week, directing a dozen civic leaders to scout out, as the Sun-Times summarized, “a site ‘accessible’ to all Chicago neighborhoods that’s large enough to host a museum ‘comparable to other major cultural institutions,’ but does not ‘require taxpayer dollars.’” The task force is co-chaired by businessmen Gillian Darlow and Kurt Summers. Emanuel gave the group until mid-May to find a homebase for the Star Wars creator, who last year married Mellody Hobson, president of the Chicago investment firm Ariel. Lucas now lives in Chicago part-time, but Lucasfilm Ltd. and special effects company Industrial Light & Magic are still based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lucas had originally scoped out a spot in the Presidio, but was rejected by the Presidio trust—the nonprofit that oversees the federally owned land at the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge. Lucas' was one of three proposals for The Presidio's 8-acre mid-Crissy Field site, all of which The Presidio Trust rejected earlier this year, saying in a statement "We simply do not believe any of the projects were right for this location." Spokesman David Perry has described the 95,000-square-foot museum as the “history of storytelling” and the “world’s foremost museum dedicated to the power of the visual image.” Chicago is home to many museums, both well-known like the Art Institute and the Field Museum, and a bit more odd—say, the International Museum of Surgical Science. But the Lucas museum, which will include film memorabilia as well as works of art from the likes of Norman Rockwell and Maxfield Parrish, would be a big get. San Francisco is still vying for the return of its film Jedi, but we’ll see in one month how Rahm’s empire might strike back.
Tacita Dean: JG Hammer Museum 10899 Wilshire Boulevard Los Angeles Through January 26, 2014 JG, the latest work in film from British-born, Berlin-based artist Tacita Dean, is inspired by her correspondence with British author J.G. Ballard and the connections between his short story, “The Voice of Time,” and Robert Smithson’s landmark earthwork, Spiral Jetty. Shot entirely on 35mm anamorphic film, JG utilizes Dean’s patented system for aperture gate masking. The labor intensive, decidedly analogue process allows the artist to expose and re-expose negatives, live on location, for a meditative, collage-like effect that melds images of the barren Utah and Central California landscapes with forms of mountains, planets, pools and Smithson’s Spiral Jetty. Spoken text, drawn from Ballard’s written work and correspondence between Dean and the author, accompanies the film. Dean’s films have been exhibited since the mid 1990s. They focus on subjects such as artists, architecture, and landscape, and are characterized by long, static shots, stillness, and a contemplative evocation of place. JG is being shown at the Hammer Museum’s video gallery in Los Angeles through January 26.
This Sunday the Tribeca Grand Hotel will be hosting a screening of Andreas Dalsgaard's documentary, The Human Scale. Sponsored by the Tribeca Trust, the film will be followed by commentary from architectural critic and author Michael Sorkin. The movie examines human happiness within the context of urban life and was screened in New York last year as part of the Architecture and Design Film Festival. Tickets for the event can be purchased here with all proceeds benefiting Tribeca Trust's public space initiative.
In November, the Los Angeles City Council named Armet & Davis' Johnie’s Coffee Shop, the restaurant at the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax, a historic cultural landmark. That’s a win for preservationists concerned with the legacy of the Googie style, the auto-oriented, steel-and-neon aesthetic that spawned diners and coffee shops across Southern California from the 1940s through the 1960s. It might also give a leg up to locals interested in seeing Johnie’s returned to its original use. Because Johnie’s Coffee Shop isn’t a coffee shop, and hasn’t been for over a decade. Since 2000, it’s been closed to the public and used exclusively for filming. The restaurant’s film credits, both before and after its conversion to a 24/7 theatrical set, include The Big Lebowski and Reservoir Dogs. But while the best use for a building like Johnie's might have a stronger community orientation, in the meantime its co-optation by the film industry isn't all bad. When it takes over a building, the film industry buys time for preservationists and others hoping to breathe new life into an under-used landmark, Adrian Scott Fine, Director of Advocacy at the Los Angeles Conservancy explained. "It's kind of an advantage that Los Angeles has over other cities," he said. In addition, "People discover buildings through film," Scott said. "Johnie's, some of the films it's been in, it's clearly the star of the film." Approximately two years ago, the Los Angeles Conservancy honored Mad Men and its creator, Matthew Weiner, for the way in which it showcases midcentury modern architecture. Weiner has been active in efforts to preserve Los Angeles landmarks, Fine said, and the show has featured preservation-themed plot lines, including the demolition of New York's Penn Station. This all got us thinking: what other LA architectural landmarks are now used primarily as stage sets? The answer, it turns out, is quite a few. From one of Julia Morgan’s earliest Hearst commissions to a 1958 Pereira & Luckman high-rise, here’s our list of Los Angeles masterworks currently in the hands of the film industry. Herald Examiner Building (Downtown, Broadway and 11th Street) Media magnate William Randolph Hearst commissioned 2014 AIA Gold Medal recipient Julia Morgan to design a new headquarters building for the Los Angeles Examiner newspaper in 1913, ten years after the paper’s founding. When the Herald Examiner, the Los Angeles Examiner’s successor, went under in 1989, the Hearst Corporation held on to the structure. In 2008, Brenda Levin (who cites Julia Morgan as her role model) was set to renovate the building—but then the economy tanked. Plans to rehabilitate the building, and build two Morphosis-designed residential towers adjacent to it, were put on indefinite hold. Today, the Herald Examiner building is used exclusively for filming. Scenes in The Usual Suspects, Dreamgirls, Spider-Man 3, Zoolander, Castle, Bones, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, plus music videos by Eminem, Shakira, and Christina Aguilera were shot there. Interior location sets include an apartment, bar, jail, and police station. Park Plaza Hotel (Westlake, 607 South Park View Street) Art Deco and Corporate Moderne architect Claud Beelman designed the Park Plaza Hotel as Elks Lodge No. 99 in 1925. During the 1932 Olympics, the building hosted several indoor swimming events. The Park Plaza, which is listed as a Los Angeles historic-cultural landmark, features four ballrooms: the Grand Ballroom, whose decorated ceiling beams were modeled after a palace in Florence; the Art Deco Terrace Room, formerly the Elks Lodge meeting room; the Bronze Ballroom, distinguished by its copper-gilded columns; and the smaller Gold Room, named for the gold-leaf detail on its Corinthian columns. Both indoor and outdoor spaces, including the Tuscan Patio, can be rented for filming, weddings, and other events. Greystone Mansion (Beverly Hills, 501 Doheny Road) The lavish Beverly Hills estate known as Greystone Mansion was designed by Gordon B. Kaufmann beginning in 1925 for Edward Laurence Doheny, Jr., son of Los Angeles’s original oil magnate. Kaufmann, who would go on to design both the Hoover Dam and the Los Angeles Times building, designed the fifty-five room mansion in the Tudor style. The estate gained notoriety soon after construction finished, when Doheny, Jr. was found dead of an apparent murder-suicide. The City of Beverly Hills purchased the property in 1955, and built a reservoir on the site. The grounds of the mansion are open to the public, while the interior is available for filming and events. Greystone Mansion is featured in movies including The Muppets, The Social Network, What Women Want, Air Force One, and Ghostbusters. Los Angeles Theatre (Downtown, Broadway and 6th Street) In the ultimate Hollywood irony, the Los Angeles Theatre now just plays one on TV. The film palace was designed in 1931 by S. Charles Lee, after the Fox Theatre in San Francisco. A popular theater designer, Lee’s other Los Angeles buildings include the Alex Theatre, the Saban Theatre (formerly the Fox Wilshire), the Star Theatre, and the Tower Theatre. The Los Angeles Theatre, which the Los Angeles Conservancy calls “[t]he most lavish . . . of Broadway’s great movie palaces,” features a six-story lobby with a Louis XIV-inspired sunburst motif, plus a glass-ceiling ballroom and a nursery decorated with a circus theme. The building is available for rent as a film location, and for special events, live stage performances, and film screenings. "[The film industry] has certainly been instrumental in keeping the theaters going, where historic theaters are certainly one of the most difficult [building types] to adapt," Fine said. "I'm not sure, if you look at other cities with historic theaters, if we hadn't had the filming industry doing things, we probably would have lost them." Los Angeles Center Studios (City West, 1501 W. Fifth Street) When the Los Angeles Center Studios’ original tower, designed by Pereira & Luckman, was completed in 1958, it was the tallest structure in downtown LA. Hexagonal in shape, the International Style building is entirely unornamented, except for the aluminum sunshades at the base of each window. By 1998 the building, which was originally designed as part of Union Oil’s headquarters, was threatened with demolition. A group of developers bought the complex and converted it into a full-service TV, film, and commercial production studio. The Pereira & Luckman tower is now dedicated to entertainment and creative office space.
Last year, just around this time, AN sat down with Los Angeles-based cinematographer Tomas Koolhaas to discuss his highly anticipated film, REM, about his Pritzker Prize-winning father. Casting aside the dusty architectural documentary formula of conceited talking heads and lifeless shots of seemingly uninhabited buildings, the younger Koolhaas set out to explore the “human condition” around some of his father's most high profile projects. Now the film is nearly complete, but with grant money running dry, the filmmaker has turned to Kickstarter to pull in the final funds to push through the post-production process, and has released two new clips to promote the project: the film’s first official trailer and an interview with "the Rem Koolhaas of hip-hop," Mr. Kanye West. As Tomas Koolhaas told AN last year, "my concept has always been more focused on human interaction with the work, just because I find that more interesting, and it’s the least explored aspect." From "free runner" bouncing off the walls of the Casa da Música in Porto, Portugal to Chinese migrant workers constructing the CCTV building in Beijing and a homeless man spending his days within OMA's Seattle Central Library, Koolhaas' film seeks to capture a variety of modes of interaction that people and buildings engage in. By turning his attention towards these real-life stories that highlight the diverse intersections of human life and architecture, Koolhaas hopes to capture varied social, physical, and cultural experiences of a building instead of the same armchair theories that are fed to us in most design documentaries. And what does Kanye West have to do with all of this? Why don't you just watch and see for yourself.
The Cultural Landscape Foundation has released the latest documentary in its ongoing Oral History series, which documents the lives and careers of pioneering landscape architects through in-depth interviews, archival footage, and on-site videography of their most noteworthy projects. The most recent edition focuses on Laurie Olin, recipient of the National Medal of the Arts and one of the nations most esteemed landscape architects. Through 29 segments amounting to over 90 minutes in total, the documentary charts Olin’s seminal career from his early years in Alaska and at the University of Washington, to his professorship and the University of Pennsylvania and his work on such influential projects as New York’s Battery Park City, Bryant Park, and Columbus Circle. The documentary series is part of the foundation’s multifaceted Pioneers of American Landscape Design initiative, which aims to identify and promote significant designed landscapes and explore the personal and professional histories, design philosophies, and significant projects of their designers. Past subjects of the Oral History project include M. Paul Friedberg, James van Sweden and Carol R. Johnson. Check the foundation’s website for additional information and a wealth of highly informative videos.
Dante Ferretti: Design and Construction for the Cinema Museum of Modern Art The Roy and Niuta Titus Galleries and the Film Lobby Dante Ferretti: Designing for the Big Screen The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters Through February 9, 2014 When you enter the Film Entrance to the Museum of Modern Art at 11 West 53rd Street, you are greeted by two large lions. No, you are not 11 blocks south at the New York Public LIbrary, nor are you in Venice, Italy. You are entering the world of Dante Ferretti, the 70-year old multi–Academy Award–winning art director of films, opera, exhibitions, and even two New York City restaurants, Salumeria Rosi (design inspired by a scene in Federico Fellini’s Satyricon). Large, muscular, physically confident objects dot the floor—the clock-face from Hugo (Martin Scorsese, 2011), Art Deco chandeliers from Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1975), and Arcimboldo figures comprised of vegetables, fruits and flowers (Milan World Expo, 2015). But these are actually lightweight, ephemeral objects made of fiberglass and not meant to last beyond the creation of the film or duration of the event. The clock and chandeliers were on the cusp of being tossed when curators Jytte Jensen and Ron Magliozzi salvaged them. We then descend from the lit ground floor to the darkened subterranean levels where the movie theaters nest and magic happens. Blueprints and models midway down indicate Ferretti’s working practice. Particularly noteworthy are his dividing lines for elements to be built in 3D butt up against a green screen for digitally rendered CGI. As film viewers, we see them seamlessly. The lowest level features a cinematic labyrinth, which echoes Ferreti’s own proclivities for intricate passageways and mazes, let alone the labyrinth of the mind. It is easy to get turned around in a labyrinth, but as Ferretti is our guide, we can rest assured that we will find our way to the end. This immersive 12-screen video maze is technically ingenious using Gerriet’s EVEN “front and rear” pure white screen fabric with identical distribution of image on both sides. Intentionally, the visitor can see projected images both from the correct orientation as you would seated in a cinema or in front of a monitor, and backwards. Upon seeing the screens for the first time just before the exhibition opening, Ferretti declared they would have to be changed since the material appeared too opaque. But once he saw the projection, he was amazed that the image penetrated to the verso without dimming or distortion. The BenQ MX822st projectors deliver short-throw, bright, sharp contrast images. No matter how many visitors are inside the labyrinth, no shadows are thrown. Scenes from many of Ferretti’s films are shown, and with the clips clocking in at different lengths you’ll never see the same combination twice. (This is the first time that MoMA insisted that clearances from all actors and guilds be obtained, rather than simply the studios, so it is doubtful that this sort of undertaking will take place again.) Mirrors at the end of the wall seem to extend the labyrinth to infinity. In fact, the original 1939 Titus lobby by Philip Goodwin and Edward Durrell Stone had full-length mirrors [see photo at top]. The walls are lined with paintings, which is how Ferretti starts the process. He paints wide-screen canvases depicting key moments in the film with central perspective, pronounced light sources, grids and catacombs, often in a palette of dark reds and browns. The directors then respond to Ferretti’s concept, whether Fellini, Scorsese, Pasolini, Franco Zeffirelli, Anthony Minghella, Kenneth Branagh, Neil Jordan, Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton, Julie Taymor, Claude Chabrol, David Cronenberg, Jonathan Miller, or the many others for whom he has created worlds of the imagination for their films. Ferretti divides his output into three categories, which are represented in the screenings of 22 features shown in MoMA’s theaters: the historic “period” films (Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, 1975 and The Aviator, 2004) “fantasy” (Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, 1988 and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, 2011) and “contemporary” (Elio Petri’s Todo Modo, 1976 and Scorsese’s Casino, 1995). What does Ferretti surround himself with in his studio to create these designs? Classic Italian modernism.
DOC NYC New York City November 14-21 IFC Center and SVA Theater This year the 4th DOC NYC documentary film festival boasts 132 films and events: 73 feature-length, 39 shorts, and 20 panels. Tucked into the schedule are films about architecture, design, and the arts amongst a wide array of subjectmatter. Only one, If You Build It, was also seen at the recent Architecture & Design Film Festival, so here’s your chance to view a new crop and to see the ones you’ve missed. Rebuilding the WTC documents the process of rebuilding at Ground Zero for six years with time-lapse photography, paintings, drawings, and interviews with the working men and women on site. Tiny: A Story About Living Small chronicles one couple’s documentation of their efforts to build a micro-house from scratch in the Colorado mountains raising questions on sustainability, good design, living in houses smaller than the average parking space, and countering the trend of MacMansions. In Michel Gondry’s (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) charming self-drawn animated film on linguist Noam Chomsky, Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?, he cites Frank Gehry’s work as 3D Mondrian. Toxic Hot Seat unpicks the history and consequences of regulations mandating fire-retardants for furniture, starting with the tobacco industry’s successful lobbying to blame house fires on upholstered furniture rather than lit cigarettes, and the resulting deadly chemicals inhabiting our interiors. PHOTOGRAPHY. Photographer Ishiuchi Miyako muses on the personal artifacts of Hiroshima victims: “To most people they’re only objects, but to me I see them as living creatures. I’m willing them into existence, saying, ‘please become visible’” which she does in her haunting photographs that infer the stories of their owners in Things Left Behind. Another photographer, Saul Leitner, deals with the triple burden of clearing an apartment full of memories, becoming famous in his 80's and fending off a pesky filmmaker in In No Great Hurry. A mysterious nanny, who secretly took over 100,000 photographs that were hidden in storage lockers and discovered decades later, is now the subject of an exhibition at Howard Greenberg Gallery (through December 14) and the film Finding Vivian Maier. ARTS. If you followed the trail of moving the 340-ton granite boulder across 105 miles, through 22 cities to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art last year for Michael Heizer’s installation of Levitated Mass suspended over a V-shaped walkway, here’s a chance to follow the process. 88-year old outsider artist Al Carbee makes art featuring Barbie dolls in Magical Universe, while Grey City depicts the struggle of a Brazilian graffiti art whose works are painted over by the city of Sao Paulo. The graphic mindscape and journals of Leonardo pop to life in the third dimension in Inside the Mind of Leonardo: 3D, and three Italian master tailors display their disappearing Old World Craft in Men of the Cloth. MUSIC. On the music front, there is Punk Singer Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre (and wife of Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz); Revenge of the Mekons, the British punk-turned-country bank that’s been together since 1977 and is admired by Luc Sante, Jonathan Franzen, Mary Harron, and Fred Armison (who was married to the lead singer); We Always Lie to Strangers about the phenomenon of Branson, Missouri, the “live music capital of the world”; Harlem Street Singer, about the blind Reverend Gary Davis, whose blues and gospel mentored members of the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Peter, Paul & Mary and played with Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, and Brown McGhee; Pleasures of Being Out of Step, a portrait of 88 year-old jazz writer Nat Hentoff, who champions the idea of free expression as the defining characteristic of the individual; the exhilarating 20 Feet from Stardom about heard-but-not seen backup singers; We Don’t Wanna Make You Dance, a twist on the 7 Up series of revisiting the same cast of a white teen funk band over time; and Mercedes Sosa: Voice of Latin America on the Argentinean singer’s 60-year career. View the full schedule here. Films and directors: Finding Vivian Maier, JOHN MALOOF & CHARLIE SISKEL Grey City, MARCELO MESQUITA & GUILHERME VALIENGO Harlem Street Singer, TREVOR LAURENCE & SIMEON HUTNER If You Build It, PATRICK CREADON In No Great Hurry, TOMAS LEACH Inside the Mind of Leonardo: 3D, JULIAN JONES Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?, MICHEL GONDRY Levitated Mass, DOUG PRAY Magical Universe, JEREMY WORKMAN Men of the Cloth, VICKI VASILOPOULOS Mercedes Sosa: Voice of Latin America, RODRIGO H. VILA Pleasures of Being Out of Step, DAVID L. LEWIS Punk Singer, SINI ANDERSON Rebuilding the World Trade Center, MARCUS ROBINSON Revenge of the Mekons, JOE ANGIO Things Left Behind, LINDA HOAGLUND Tiny: A Story About Living Small, MERETE MUELLER & CHRISTOPHER SMITH Toxic Hot Seat, JAMES REDFORD & KIRBY WALKER 20 Feet from Stardom, MORGAN NEVILLE We Always Lie to Strangers, AJ SCHNACK & DAVID WILSON We Don’t Wanna Make You Dance, LUCY KOSTELANTZ
2013 Architecture & Design Film Festival Tribeca Cinemas 54 Varick Street New York 212 941-2001 “Erecting a building is like making a movie….both processes involve blending light and movement into space and time. A model is like a script: at best it’s a promise and at worst it’s a safeguard. And, as with a script, a moment comes when you have to test your model against reality. You must start shooting the film, start erecting the building." —The Interior Passage We can see these starts when the two art forms come together in the 4th annual Architecture & Design Film Festival at the Tribeca Cinemas where 25 films will be screened through October 20. This year, the trend is toward process films that chronicle movements and initiatives (planning, education, preservation), portraits of buildings more than individuals, and Modernism referenced even when it’s not the direct subject. The festival kicks off with The Human Scale (which also opens at the IFC Center on October 18). The film asks, “What is the scale for measuring happiness in a city?” and uses Danish architect and urban design theorist Jahn Gehl’s work concentrating on the pedestrian and cyclist to pose answers. Referencing Corbusier, Gehl said, “If anybody at any time wanted to pay professionals to make a city planning idea which would kill city life It could not have been done better than what the Modernists did.” The film focuses on Copenhagen, New York, Dhaka (the fastest-growing city in the world with 1,000 new residents per day), Christchurch, NZ, Melbourne, and Chonqing, China. “You Measure What You Care About” shows how data sets of people’s behavior led to pedestrianizing central Copenhagen. Similarly, Jeanette Sadik-Khan, NYC Commissioner of Transportation, looked at how 90 percent of Times Square real estate was allotted to cars, which only accounted for ten percent of use. This statistic was flipped to give over 90 percent to people in plazas, bike lanes, and Bikeshare stations. Another side of the Bloomberg administration’s legacy can be seen in My Brooklyn, which could almost be an ad for Bill deBlasio’s “Tale of Two Cities” New York. Examining gentrification vs. diversification, the film zones in on downtown Brooklyn and the redevelopment of the Fulton Street Mall which was the third-most-profitable shopping area in the five boroughs (behind Fifth and Madison avenues). With rezoning, this vibrant retail area that catered to African-American and Caribbean populations, has been transformed into a luxury, high-rise residential area despite the promises of local developers. The real estate feeding frenzy and deal making is examined in the vein of another recent film, Gut Renovation, also from the personal point of view of a displaced white female Brooklyn resident. Frustration with the corporate world and abundant idealism led two architects, Emily Pilloton and Matt Miller, to start Studio H: a design/build high school curriculum with the mantra “Design, Build, Transform” heard in If You Build It. Their approach is a practicum in design thinking, and they were invited to teach a class in rural North Carolina by a forward-thinking superintendent who was soon dismissed. (They agreed to stay on without salary.) The students learn basic tools to visualize their ideas—drawing, model-making—which were turned into inventive, practical projects like chicken coops and a farmer’s market structure for their economically depressed town. A formative influence was Miller's Cranbrook thesis project, a house he constructed in Detroit that would be deeded to a family contingent on their payment of utilities for two years but went unmet and was abandoned. He concluded that the end user has to have a stake in the process. Optimism was also a motivator of the “pilgrims and émigrés” of Cape Cod in Built On Narrow Land. This spit of land at the tip of the peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Cod Bay became a haven for freethinkers, artists, and the modernist architects who gave a physical form to their lifestyle. The Bohemian Brahmans who owned large swaths of land that enabled this development was embodied by Jack Phillips (of the Phillips Exeter Academy family), an amateur architect who briefly studied with Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer at Harvard, and became the Pied Piper for mid-century modernism here. His instructors followed him, as did Serge Chermayeff (father of Ivan and Peter), Georgy Kepes, Paul Weidlinger, Charlie Zehnder, and other modernists and Bauhaus alumni that taught in Boston at MIT and Harvard. Gropius’s daughter Ati, and Ruth Hatch who commissioned the stunning Jack Hall–designed Hatch House are among the witnesses who lead us through this summertime oasis amidst the more conventional New England Cape Cod gabled cottages. Modernist architecture in Moscow, which was borne from a similar forward-thinking spirit that embodied the Russian Revolution, has a more problematic fate today. The title of the film, Away from All Suns!, is taken from Nietzsche who wrote: “The advent of modernity had swept away all foundations. Modernity is liberation and total destruction...What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Where is it moving?... Away from all suns?” This unmooring is threatened by commercialism, illegal destruction, and new building as we are shown life behind the walls of three buildings: Ogoniok Printing Plant and Zhurgaz Apartment House (1930-35), the only surviving El Lissitzky building currently under threat; Communal Student House of the Textile Institute (1929) by I.S. Nikolaev, built to house 2,000 students and now under “restoration”; and Narkomfin Communal Apartment House (1928-30) by Moisei Ginzburg and Ignaty Milinus, considered the model for Corbusier’s Unité d'Habitation and currently on UNESCO and World Monuments Fund watch lists, is now a ruin occupied by guerrilla artists before it is turned into a hotel. We also get a brief glimpse of Tatlin’s Tower being paraded through the streets. Modernism is more cherished in a few building portraits: The Oyler House: Richard Neutra’s Desert Retreat, is a much-loved house in Lone Pine, California between Death Valley and Sequoia National Park. Commissioned by the unassuming Richard Oyler, who boldly wrote to the famous architect, charming Neutra and causing him to fall in love with the site. Neutra created an un-ornamented, post-and-beam structure with expansive glass that fit organically into the site (they even dug a swimming pool out of giant rocks in a mini-quarry). The realtor, Crosby Doe, who specializes in mid-century modern houses, said the experience of seeing the Oyler House for the first time was on par with Macchu Picchu. The house is now owned by actress Kelly Lynch and screenwriter Mitch Glazer (she is interviewed), who also own John Lautner’s Harvey House in Los Angeles. Another adored building is Fagus—Walter Gropius and the Factory for Modernity. Built in 1911 in a small town near Hannover, it was the architect’s first major building that he chronicled extensively in photographs. Light, elegant, and beautifully proportioned, it is still used as a factory for making shoe laces, run by the original commissioning family. A palace for work, Bauhaus archivist Annemarie Jaeggi said it “defies gravity.” The Interior Passage portrays a more contemporary building, Sanaa’s Rolex Learning Center at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, the prestigious institute of technology. It follows the selection process from 12 invited firms including OMA, Zaha Hadid, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro through the difficult engineering tasks solved by bridge builders to make this low-slung, flowing building stand up (the large central shell was cast in one pour over two days and nights, a mammoth logistical feat involving 20 simultaneous mixing trucks). A fascinating mingling of Swiss precision and Japanese minimalism, this film doggedly stays with the process until students fill the single expansive, unbroken fluid space of undulating floors and ceilings punctuated by glass-walled and domed bubbles. It takes the library as a building type one step beyond OMA’s Seattle Public Library. Perhaps the person who is able to best put architecture into a wider context is the Pritzker Prize winner in Tadao Ando—From Emptiness to Infinity. He thinks “we have to intensively deal with the present,” and encourages a young employee to communicate more with people, rather than just his computer because “this impacts on architecture and our society. Because communication, life, and architecture belong together.”
Highrise buildings are the most commonly built form of the last century. So says A Short History of the Highrise, an interactive documentary that is a co-production of the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) and the New York Times Op-Docs which has its premiere at the 2013 New York Film Festival and will launch on the website on October 5. It explores the 2,500-year global history of vertical living in four short films: Mud, Concrete, and Glass, which draws on the Times photo archives. The fourth, Home, is comprised of images submitted by the public. The films can be stopped at any time by swiping, pinching, pulling and tapping to dig deeper into the stories, see the backs of photos, and play games. Questions like who gets to live on the top floor and why (in Roman times, upper floors were the least desirable) are asked in rhyme: “Were these vertical experiments there for elites? Or to warehouse the poor away from the streets?” We climb the Tower of Babel, the Hakka round houses of Fujian province, and medieval Yemenese Manhattan-like mud towers before arriving at New York’s luxury-serviced Osborne, London Terrace, and Dakota built simultaneously to the multi-story tenements of the Lower East Side. All are shown in still images cleverly animated: buildings grow up, skaters glide, women wink, lights turn on, and the text is read by well-known Canadian musicians Feist and Cold Specks, as well as the series director, writer and editor Katerina Cizek. The result is a delightful, visually stunning exploration that is seemingly simple, but actually stretches both the conventional documentary form and how we depict space. This endeavor is the latest of a multi-year multi-format project of the NFB called Highrise. They have harnessed the tools of the digital revolution and fused them with tools of the social sciences, architecture, and design. Cizek has been working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's OpenDocLab as an MIT Visiting Artist, and with York University’s CITY Institute. The results thus far have been a series of web documentaries that tell tales “story by storey.” World of Highrises goes from the macro to the micro--Google Streetview aerials of countries, zooming into cities, and then specific highrises accompanied by a Wikipedia entry. We are encouraged to add to the roster. Living Proof shows that downtrodden highrise renewal is not a pipe dream. Examples of successful revitalization projects around the world are shown, narrated by architect Graeme Stewart who argues that it’s not the buildings themselves that are the problem so much as the system around the building. Cited are Hansaviertel in Berlin where a ground floor apartment was transformed into a cafe with terrace, and the facade brightened with an awning and paint. The first documentary produced, Out My Window: The Towers in the World, the World in the Towers is comprised of interactive “Views from the Global Highrise.” Called a 360-degree documentary, it uses Yellowbird multi-lens panoramic video technology to look at the “concrete-slab residential highrise buildings that are the most commonly built form of the last century. On the outside, they all look the same. But inside these towers of concrete and glass, people create community, art and meaning.” More than 90 minutes of material features 49 stories from 13 cities, “not the Parises, Londons, Tokyos” but the mid-sized cities -- Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, Sao Paolo, Havana, Amsterdam, Prague, Istanbul, Beirut, Bangalore, Phnom Penh, Tainan, Johannesburg -- in 13 languages told in fragmented, non-linear fashion from the destruction of Cabrini Green in Chicago to the fallout of the Velvet Revolution in Prague, all from from very personal points of view. “One Highrise, every window a different city.” One Millionth Tower is an interactive open-source documentary which reimagines what rundown highrises can be. Many of these concrete blocks are falling apart, and considered failures. Some are torn down, some renovated, but most left to decay. In Toronto there are 2,000 such high-rise towers. In this video, a cluster of suburban Toronto towers (19 towers with 19,000 inhabitants) are matched with architects and animators. Together they envision a market, a garden, a playground in dis- or un-used spaces. On this video journey, we travel through a virtual space online in a 3D experience using HTML5, flying over a gridded ground, rather than viewing a straightforward 2D film. Utilizing Popcorn, created by the open-source web browser Firefox’s parent, Mozilla, allowed the team to add interactivity to video by linking it with social media, news feeds, and data visualizations. What you see is a series of stills accompanied by recorded conversations that are overlaid with what is re-imagined in drawings and animation. We come to understand the grim reality of the place, and the possibilities of changing that space with simple interventions--an abandoned tennis court becomes a performance arena with shallow stairs, a ravine becomes a stepped garden, a parking lot becomes a farmer’s market. Animators overlaid trees, a basketball court, bright colors, dancers, skaters, and a meditative garden. They tried to “make a photo come alive, to say `this space is alive.’ .... to slowly build the characters ... breathing and moving” transitioning from daytime to nighttime. In fact, one of these dreams actually came to pass: the Toronto residents built their own new playground. After all the brainstorming for the documetary, they applied for a grant (it took 10 days to complete the proposal) which was awarded. 90 residents together with outside help, performed the labor. In a shot from One Millionth Tower, a resident blows animated “seeds” from her hand which float across the “garden,” alight, and take root, a harbinger of the new growth that followed.