The film My Architect, the story of Louis Kahn’s son on a mission to discover and understand his father, won over the hearts and praise of even the lay-est of architectural laypersons. The effects of which—a fresh spotlight on the work and life of a brilliant designer—did not fall on blind eyes. Tomas Koolhaas is making a film about his father, Rem Koolhaas—see the Facebook page!—called REM set to debut in 2013. It also appears from rough clips that the CCTV building in China will play a central role in the story. Awesome! We can’t wait to see this quaint little film about a humble and modest architect and his role in designing the media headquarters for political oppression and censorship in China. We’ll get the popcorn! An interview with a homeless person inside the Seattle Public Library: Footage from February 2012 of the completed CCTV building: Koolhaas talks with workers at the CCTV building while it's under construction:
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Bringin' it back to the old school, to the days of 3D online meet-up spots and avatars, when chat rooms were actual digitally-modelled rooms, "Breaking Out and Breaking In" was a "distributed film fest," where users watched movies at home and came together in the comments section of BLDGBLOG to discuss the films. It was a blurring of the real and the digital. In partnership with Filmmaker magazine, the series focused on films which were either about bank heists (breaking in) or prison escapes (breaking out), positing them as "the use and misuse of space." Films were watched during a period of four months, and the festival culminated with a panel discussion at Columbia's GSAPP featuring two FBI agents alongside designers and critics. The panel was moderated by Studio-X director Geoff Manaugh, and consisted of Jimmy Stamp, writer and editor from Yale University, Matt Jones, designer and principal of Berg, Special Agent Brenda Cotton, bank robbery coordinator with the FBI, and Thomas McShane, a retired special agent from the FBI Art Crime Team. The discussion explored a variety of questions, including how criminals need to understand buildings differently from architects as they attempt to subvert them and what the alternate routes and spatial scenarios of crimes reveal about hidden architectures within buildings. Through a close analysis of classic heist movies and escape films, and with the help of the virtual pop-up space of the online comments, the film fest attempted to answer these questions. The panel zoomed out, looking at the practice of breaking in/out in general. Jimmy Stamp explained how in academia they took a very rational approach to analysis of crimino-spatial activity, but after a writer from Law and Order visited the school, they were taken aback at how emotional and real these stories were. "These were actual people being murdered," he said. While a student at Yale, Stamp co-organized a crime and architecture symposium called "Fugitive Geographies," but also worked as a bank designer in San Francisco, designing odd, maze-like structures, which to his surprise, clients often loved. Using check counters as barriers against robbery, sometimes counter-intuitive plans were favored. Stamp quipped, "As long as your bank is harder to rob than the one next door." Brenda Cotton, who had the most practical experience with bank heists made some interesting comparisons of Los Angeles to New York, having worked in both cities. Los Angeles has freeways and parking, which make it much easier to rob a bank there. In New York, there is less parking and more congestion with less access to freeways. Also, surveillance in New York is much better. When a bank is robbed, the first thing the FBI does is canvass for security footage. It can come from banks, nearby businesses, the subways, and the NYPD. McShane recounted stories of various NYC criminals who used nefarious architectural experiences to rob people. The Fly was especially athletic and would climb buildings, sneaking into windows and handing valuables down to friends waiting below. He also noted that museums are guarded by people making very little money, and are thus vulnerable to heists. Designer Matt Jones explained that crime is a series of designs and counter designs. Cameras were designed, then facepaint to obscure the camera's watching eye would be invented, so cameras that were immune to the facepaint would crop up. Scott MacCauley, editor-in-chief at Filmmaker, spoke of his time making films, where consideration must be made for realistic movies. For instance, you can't bounce around from neighborhood to neighborhood and maintain the spatial drama that is required for a heist movie. Overall, an entertaining night, which ventured outside the box (and into the tunnel) for architectural insight from a well-rounded panel.
Norman Foster, who, as writer Mark Lamster has noted, “even in his 70s, has the look of a heavy in a Guy Ritchie film,” skis, sketches, and visits his childhood home in Manchester, England, in the film How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?, a documentary produced by the architect's wife that screened on January 25, at the IFC Center. Directed and dreamily photographed by Norberto Lopez-Amado and Carlos Carcas, the film moves seamlessly between irresistible images of Foster's buildings, and the man himself, dashing between projects, reflecting on his career, and earning praise from scriptwriter Deyan Sudjic on everything from his work ethic to his wardrobe. “Everything inspires me,” says Foster early in the film. “Sometimes I think I see things others don't.”
1976: Movies, Photographs and Related Works on Paper Paul Kasmin Gallery 515 West 27th St. Through February 11 British-born James Nares has lived in New York since the mid-1970s, when Lower Manhattan was “a beautiful ruin,” according to the artist. While most celebrated for his large, single-stroke kinetic paintings, the artist has a long track record of documenting his fascination with movement and bodies in motion dating back to the days when he delved into many other media such as films and chronophotographs. The exhibition features five films including Pendulum (1976), in which Nares clocks a large spherical mass swinging from a footbridge, against the industrial backdrop of downtown Manhattan—evocative of the foreboding, dreamlike qualities also seen in Giorgio de Chirico’s surreal paintings.
Attention Frank Lloyd Wright fans! You can satisfy two Wright cravings with this one event. Head over the the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum to catch a screening of Kenneth Love's lush new documentary Fallingwater: Frank Lloyd Wright's Masterwork with Reflections of Edgar Kaufmann Jr. The film, which was supported by the James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation, the Estate of Edgar Tafel, and the Laurel Foundation, will be screened in the museum's New Media Theatre on October 21 and 28 and November 4 and 18 at 1:00 and 3:00 pm. The screenings are free with the price of admission to the museum. It's the perfect marriage of content and container. Wright would approve.
For those who need an even bigger WTC fix, PBS's long-running science program NOVA has a detailed, hour-long program on the engineering of the site, including an in-depth look at the materials used on site, as well as lengthy interviews with the architects, engineers, and contractors working on the colossal project. Thanks to unparalleled access granted by the Port Authority, NOVA gathered footage for the episode over a five year period, so expect lots of dramatic time lapse video.
Tim Burton Los Angeles County Museum of Art Los Angeles Through October 31 Best known for directing films like The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns, and Beetle Juice, Tim Burton and his work as an illustrator, writer, and artist are being honored with a retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. This new show celebrates the way that Burton has managed to put his own spin on movies in an industry known for its fear of the unknown. With over 700 items on display, including drawings, paintings, photographs, film and video works, storyboards, puppets, concept artworks, maquettes, costumes, and assorted cinematic ephemera, visitors get a glimpse into the mind of this modern day Renaissance man. Though the show debuted on the east coast at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the LACMA version of the show, organized by Britt Salvesen, offers its own take on the Burbank native’s body of work. Burton collaborated with the exhibition designers to transform the museum’s Resnick Pavilion into an appropriately “Burtonesque” environment. He also created several new pieces for the exhibition, including what the museum describes as a “revolving multimedia, black-light carousel installation that hangs from the ceiling.”
With summer weather quickly approaching, it's the perfect time to kick back and dream about a sweet bungalow by the beach... in Queens. Endangered bungalows throughout New York City have been on the radar for some time now, but documentary filmmaker Jennifer Callahan has focused on the fight to preserve the few bungalows left on the Rockaway Peninsula in her film Bungalows of the Rockaways, which will be screened tonight at Tenement Talks at the Tenement Museum. The filmmaker got Estelle Parsons to do the voice over and Columbia's Andrew Dolkart to comment on historic value. Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden talks about the zoning surrounding the enclaves. Even Council Speaker Christine Quinn's dad, 83-year-old Lawrence Quinn, weighs in with his memories of the bungalow. But for the most part, the residents of Rockaway do most of the heavy lifting. The film traces the history of the bungalows from their 17th century origins in Bengal, India, on though to their arrival in England, then New England, and eventually on to their landing in NYC and in Rockaway, where they replaced tent communities of the working class. Callahan doesn't shy away from the sordid bits of Rockaway history, such as segregation. The communities were primarily divided between African Americans, Jews, and Irish, with the blacks responsible for getting the bungalows cleaned and ready for when the whites showed up for summer vacation. Later, when Robert Moses arrived on the scene, his slum clearance displaced scores of African Americans. Many crowded into the bungalows under appalling conditions. There's no need for a spoiler alert in revealing the ending. Suffice it to say, though the Planning Commission and Parks have stepped up efforts to retain the neighborhood's character, the area has yet to be landmarked and without a historic designation, the bungalows are not protected.
Chicago has been getting a lot of screentime over the last few years, standing in for Gothman in Batman Begins and enduring the wrath of the Transformers. A blockbuster of a slightly more highbrow sort is in the works, with an adaptation of Erik Larson's bestseller The Devil in the White City. The Sun-Times and others reported this week that Leonardo DiCaprio will portray the serial killer H.H. Holmes. The story is set amid the preparations for 1893 World's Columbian Exhibition, and the story of construction of the fair grounds, one of the major developments in the City Beautiful movement, as well as the growth of Chicago as a whole, forms a parallel narrative. Daniel Burnham and Frederick Law Olmsted play major parts in the story. Their roles have yet to be cast. Whoever lands the roles had better start growing their facial hair now. Burnham sported an impressive, bushy mustache. Architecture fan and patron Brad Pitt has been growing some questionable whiskers over the last year, but maybe those hooded eyes are more Clooney-esque? Burnham had nothing on the older Olmsted though. Check out that beard! Who has the chops for that? Jeff Bridges, anyone?
Susan Morris sends along her recommendations for the Tribeca Film fest, which ends Sunday, including her favorite, My Queen Karo, above. For those interested in films that include architecture, a number of entries in the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival may be of perplexing interest. Striking, in particular, is the number of films where homes are the sights of hothouse mayhem. Here’s my guide to who did what to whom and, above all, where. It’s moving day in the wry Academy Award-winning short The New Tenants (directed by Joachim Back) for a bickering yet loving gay couple who move into a drab apartment in an outer borough. Unbeknownst to them, a murder has taken place there, and, one-by-one, the oddball characters who reveal the apartment’s grizzly history are the un-welcome wagon that disrupts their lives. Dream Home (directed by Pang Ho-cheung) with the tag line is “What would you do, if someone blocked your view?” takes the greedy building bubble of high-rise apartment blocks in Hong Kong to an extreme. Purportedly based on a true story, a woman whose life has been shaped by the teardowns that destroyed her childhood neighborhood and replaced it with massive high-rises (and where gangs assist the government in ejecting tenants). Her compulsive aspiration is to acquire an apartment in the building that replaced her childhood home with a view of Victoria Harbour. This desire leads to a calculated murderous rampage. The director said she’s “killing astronomical property prices….[in a] bloody protest against the property developers who continuously inflate Hong Kong’s housing market,” only to be thwarted by the subprime mortgage crisis once she acquires her flat. Even the opening title sequence is laced with blueprints in three languages. Open House (directed by Andrew Paquin) begins with a realtor touting the spatial flow of a cold, sterile house to prospective buyers. The house soon becomes a prison for the owner after a psychopathic house hunter hides in the basement during the open house event, and entraps her in the crawl space while he plays house with his girlfriend. The director wanted to explore impulses “even darker than the physical horror of home invasion.” The Disappearance of Alice Creed (directed by J Blakeson) is a DIY guide for converting an abandoned apartment into a soundproof, secure kidnapping lair. Inspiration came from David Lean’s BRIEF ENCOUNTER where lovers borrow a friend’s apartment for a tryst that in turn inspired Billy Wilder’s more cynical THE APARTMENT where a striver lends out his place for multiple flings and films in general, said the director, that are “based around one location – Repulsion, Shallow Grave, The Shining and so on. That sense of growing unease you get from The Shining really inspired me.” My pick is My Queen Karo (directed by Dorothée van den Berghe) that sensitively mines the director’s own experiences growing up in a utopian squat in 1970s Amsterdam. Parents Raven and Dalia with their 10-year old daughter Karo leave Belgium for Holland to start a commune based on shared money, shared ideals, shared sex, and a commitment to a redistribution of realty by ending property ownership. Inside the loft they commandeer, even the space is shared; it is only demarcated, at Karo’s request, by a taped-off outline on the floor delineating her “room.” The squat veers from being a shelter to theater set to fortress. In addition, there’s Please Give (directed by Nicole Holofcener) with its almost mainstream cast including Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt. Kate (Keener) and Alex (Platt) have purchased the next-door apartment in their Lower Fifth Avenue building, which is still inhabited by the crotchety, elderly Andra. While they await the moment they can enlarge their home, the couple work in their 10th Avenue store specializing in mid-century modern furniture purchased from “the children of dead people” who sell off their deceased parents’ possessions. In Every Day (directed by Richard Levine), a television writer who works at the Steiner Studios in the Brookyn Navy Yard, enjoys her lucrative recompense in a penthouse apartment atop the Hotel on Rivington. Short films of interest include Walkway (by Ken Jacobs), an expressionistic rendering of a wooden walkway that throws out the notion of terra firma; Collision of Parts (by Mark Street) a kaleidoscope of New York City and other urban streetscapes with facades set in motion while walking, running and driving; and Berlin (by Martin Laporte), comprised of B&W and color stills of the city depicting symbols of workers on building facades, transportation structures (train and metro stations), graffiti covered doorways, statuary, and spontaneous public art.
If you couldn't make it down to D.C. last month for the Environmental Film Fest, it's still not too late to catch one of the entries, A Necessary Ruin. The movie tells the story of the untimely destruction of Buckminster Fuller's Union Tank Car Dome, a piece of railroad infrastructure that was the largest clear-span structure when it was completed in 1958 before being summarily destroyed three years ago. Its epic story will be told
tomorrow night next Friday at the Center for Architecture, followed by a lively discussion with Jonathan Marvel, all part of the current show, Modernism at Risk. You can watch the trailer after the jump.
In this week's Friday review, Mark Lamster parses Don Argott's new documentary The Art of the Steal, a film that critiques the relocation of the Barnes Foundation from suburban Merion, Pennsylvannia to downtown Philadelphia. Whatever your view of the move, the trailer makes the film look like stimulating viewing. Opens tonight in New York and Philadelphia and On Demand. In select cities nationwide beginning March 12.