The Columbus we know best is not in Indiana. But Kogonada’s eponymous feature film shifts our attention to a lesser-known Midwestern city in Indiana, one with a progressive reputation and a travel destination for architecture aficionados. Columbus introduces this exceptional city with its rich modernist heritage to a larger audience. Atypical in its blend of a documentary style and narrative, it was screened at Sundance to surprising critical success and presented at the prestigious BAM Cinefest. The debut film marks Kogonada’s transition from videographer to filmmaker. The impeccable framing and characteristic lingering shots reveal Kogonada’s deep involvement with the work of director Jasujiro Ozu, the subject of his unfinished dissertation. The long slow takes that heighten the dramatic presence of the characters and a meticulous attention to place and historical context suggest the influence Neorealist auteurs. With this cinematic foundation, Kogonada goes on to develop a hybrid approach to filmmaking. The result of his efforts is an indelible portrait of place. Indeed, we leave the theatre with a feeling we have been there, led through a small selection of modernist buildings on one of the official architectural tours. Unlike most cities, with their abandoned city centers, spotty pockets of skyscrapers, and suburban sprawl, Columbus has an astonishing number of ground-hugging public buildings and businesses, and the film explores the impact this architecture has on the city and its inhabitants. But Kogonada has a more ambitious and complex project in mind. The film is driven by a spare, somewhat improbable narrative. Jin, played by John Cho, is a translator stranded in the city while his semi-estranged father, a famous architectural historian, is hospitalized for a coma following a stroke. We witness his encounter with Casey, played by the highly lauded Haley Lu Richardson, a tour guide who has relinquished her studies to take care of her heroine-addicted mother. Casey leads Jin through the city, introducing him to her favorite buildings. She, an ardent supporter of her town’s rich architectural heritage, tries to convey how she is personally affected by the buildings. She describes the moment she first “saw” them and what they meant to her. Casey claims most people “don’t give a shit about architecture,” but Deborah Berke’s First Financial Bank speaks to her in a profound way. Are we to suppose that it offers a sense of order in her otherwise chaotic life? Can we then understand how modern architecture engenders that sense of stability in a complex world? Casey explains that Berke deploys a basic asymmetry, and then works to create “a delicate balance” among the parts. They discuss the merits of James Polshek’s claim that architecture is “responsible for healing,” as they stand before his bridge leading to the hospital. Two Saarinen churches elicit questions about religion and modern architecture. These and other issues constitute the conversations between the two characters as they meet and move through the city exploring the buildings. We observe them observing, we see what they see, and are invited to ponder the questions with them. To clarify and enrich our understanding of the modernist architecture, the camera sets up a kind of compare-and-contrast as it moves from the public buildings to the interiors of Casey’s modest, low-lit home where she resides with her mother. Close cropped shots of quotidian details conjure the claustrophobic, yet cozy environment in striking contrast with those of the lavish Edwardian Irwin Inn where Jin resides. “Not very modernist,” he claims, stating the obvious, yet at the time of the final renovation in 1910, it was praised for its modern use of electricity, telephone, intercom, and even a hydraulic elevator. We wander through lavish rooms pausing over the British oak furniture, silk lined walls, tiles from France and Wales, and explore the extravagant gardens in long takes as leaves on a single tree flutter in a gentle breeze. These images provide the backdrop for an asexual yet emotionally charged and intensely intimate friendship between the two as they recount their lives and struggles. The terse dialogue is punctuated by long silences as we await their self-realizations. But somehow, despite the careful structure and fine acting, the storyline of their relationship ultimately fails to move us. The architecture of the plot is revealed in the way that structural systems are deliberately exposed in some buildings. Perhaps this parallel was Kogonada’s intention? Ultimately, the contrivance of the plot lessens the transformative impact of the story. On the contrary, what moves us most is Elisha Christian’s cinematography. Each shot seems deliberate, designed to reveal the way buildings work. One watches indistinguishable figures moving through passageways in the distance while the actors converse in the foreground. A skateboarder surprises us as he glides across the screen only to disappear into the shadows through a hallway in the background. Perhaps the most powerful moments occur when Casey discovers that her mother has resumed lying to her. We see Casey, hidden in the dark, telephoning one of the cleaners working through the night, her red shirt punctuating the brightly lit office. This scene calls to mind Krzysztof Wodiczko’s projection piece at the Venice Biennale in 2009, in which he created a Venetian arcade along the interior walls of the exhibition space. Between each column was a scrim with what appeared to be shadows of the piazza beyond, rather like a camera obscura. Wodiczko conjured life in the streets, and we hear barely audible fragments of conversations coming from the invisible piazza. In contrast, what we see in Columbus is a single, solitary figure moving through stark, pristine spaces. The only sounds are those of the tete-a-tetes of our characters. What pervades this film is the silence of Edward Hopper’s paintings and a profound loneliness mediated by the promise of modern architecture.
Posts tagged with "Polshek Partnership":
Despite its slow gestation, Battery Park City is widely considered a resounding success today, particularly in the areas of sustainable design, which was required of many of the complex's latter day projects. Standing out among even these green stalwarts is the recently completed Riverhouse, designed by Polshek Partnership and shooting for LEED Gold, though the project now provides a bit of a cautionary tale for ambitious developers. According to the Journal, two tenants recently sued the projects' developers for $1.5 million for breach of contract and fraud because the building was deemed not as green as it had been billed. Among the issues:
[The suit] says the owners' engineers "found a deviation of 49%" over the LEED standards "in the cumulative size of holes and cracks allowing infiltration of cold air." The complaint also alleges that air temperature for heating the apartment was too low, which the owners say is a sign that the building isn't maximizing energy efficiency.The paper goes on to suggest that the suit may simply be a means to get out of the now exorbitant $4.2 million three-bedroom apartment. The more important lesson, though, may be on the strengths and weaknesses of sustainability in general and LEED in particular. After all, Riverhouse had once been aiming for the crown of first Platinum-rated residence in the city, yet now it has settled for Gold, a sign of the difficulty in meeting such standards. And yet the findings by the plaintiff's engineers that the project is not even performing at that high level are both surprising and not -- for rarely, if ever, are these buildings tested after the fact. (Then again, who needs to test a building's efficacy when you've got Operation Green to make your case?)
Last night, the Museum of the City of New York hosted the first installment of their summer long prohibition-era themed parties on the newly renovated Polshek Partnership-designed terrace overlooking Central Park.Though not so secret, the Museum’s Speakeasy was complete with Roaring 20’s music and old-fashioned cocktails that were commonly seen on old New York City menus during Prohibition, including the Manhattan, the Bronx, and my personal favorite Planter’s Punch.
Recipe Courtesy City Room: 2 ounces dark rum ¼ ounce grenadine Equal parts sour mix and either pineapple or orange juice to fill Club soda (optional) Maraschino cherry for garnish Lemon or orange slice for garnishThe Speakeasy at 1220 Fifth will be open every Wednesday night from 6-9pm through August 26th. Admission is $12 ($10 for members) and includes one free drink and access to the Museum’s first floor galleries where you can view the Mannahatta/Manhattan exhibit. Be sure to stop by and tell them The Architect’s Newspaper sent you!
We just got our invitation to the Municipal Art Society's annual MASterworks awards. Contained therein are the heretofore unannounced winners, as well. (You can find all four after the jump.) Sadly, the party is invite only, but it's at the new glassy, glamorous Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons, so if nothing else, you can wander by Tuesday night and press your face to the glass, making puppy-dog eyes at we revelers therein. It'll be the perfect Oliver Twist/recession moment. If you're lucky/pretty, we might even sneak you in the side door. Best New Building: The Standard Hotel, by Polshek Partnership (Read our feature here.) Best Restoration: The Lion House at the Bronx Zoo, FXFowle Best Renovation/Adaptive Resuse: Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, Lyn Rice Architects Neighborhood Catalyst: Times Square TKTS Booth, Perkins Eastman/Choi Ropiha (Read more here.)
Last Thursday, AN hosted the kick-off event for Meatpacking District Design '09, a conversation between executive editor Julie V. Iovine and hotelier André Balazs at his latest creation, the Polshek Partnership-designed Standard, New York (which Julie wrote about back in February). If you couldn't make it, though, no sweat. For your vicarious pleasure, we've posted a highlight video, plus the full talk, both in video and audio formats--here at AN we're platform agnostic--plus a slew of photos of the party, the swanky new digs, and the now-in-bloom High Line. Highlights:
Full Length Interview:
Audio: Shared Space in the Public Realm: André Balazs & Julie V. Iovine
In addition to their scholarly and artistic value, many historic houses and period rooms are the rescues of the nascent preservation movement. On view since 1938 at the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY), two 1880s Aesthetic Movement rooms from the Rockefeller Mansion on 54th Street are finding new homes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and at the Virginia Commonwealth Museum. MCNY deaccessioned the rooms as a part of its renovation, led by Polshek Partnership. The dressing room will go to the Met, as a part of their chronological sequence of period rooms, currently being reinstalled. The bedroom will go to Virginia, the home state of Catherine Arabella Duvall Yarrington Worsham, the woman who commissioned the firms Pottier & Stymus and Sypher & Co. to design the rooms. Shortly after their completion, Worsham sold the house to John D. Rockefeller, who kept the interiors intact. In 1937, John D. Rockefeller Jr. gave the two rooms to MCNY and a third to the Brooklyn Museum.