Posts tagged with "Set Design":

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Seoul’s semi-basement dwellers get financial boost from the city after Parasite

Hot off the staggering success of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite at the 92nd Academy Awards, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is extending a helping hand to those living in the city’s cramped and famously flood-prone semi-basement apartments. As reported by English-language daily the Korea Herald, a total of 1,500 households living in semi-basement apartments, or Banjiha, will be eligible for up to ₩3.2 million (approximately $2,654) to invest in new flooring, improved HVAC systems, air purifiers, smoke detectors, and other items that are in need of replacement or altogether lacking in Seoul’s halfway-subterranean homes. According to the Los Angeles Times, there were over 360,000 semi-basement apartments in South Korea as of 2015, with a majority located in the country’s ultra-dense capital region. Many of the units were originally built as bunkers in the 1970s—an era when military tension with North Korea was at a boiling point—and later converted into ultra-cheap rental units with little regard for comfort or safety. Although a more affordable option compared to high-rise apartment blocks that a majority of Seoul residents call home, Banjiha are dark, damp, poorly ventilated, and often too compact to support the number of people living in them. Seventy-eight percent of Seoul’s semi-basement dwellers are in the bottom 30 percent income bracket, per city statistics cited by the Korea Herald. The Banjiha upgrade initiative, spearheaded by the city in partnership with the Korean Energy Foundation, will begin accepting applications from households in March with plans to expand the range of applications eligible to apply in subsequent years. The financial aid is being dispersed as a larger effort to help low-income Seoul residents improve and boost efficiency in their aging, with priority given to semi-basement apartment dwellers. Featured prominently in Parasite as the primary residence of the scheming Kim family, Seoul’s semi-basement apartments have garnered a significant amount of attention since the film’s release. As detailed by AN in a recent article, Bong used the built environment—specifically two very different modes of housing, the dreary semi-basement apartment and the ultramodern, quasi-suburban luxury home—to propel the film’s pointed social commentary. “Banjiha is a space with a peculiar connotation... It’s undeniably underground, and yet you want to believe it’s above ground,” the Times quoted Bong as saying following Parasite’s premiere at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. “There’s also the fear that if you sink any lower, you may go completely underground.” While the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s Banjiha-earmarked financial aid program won’t lift semi-basement dwellers fully above ground, it does function as a life preserver of sorts, helping to prevent thousands from sinking even further. Just call it the Parasite Effect.
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Lair puts a spotlight on the homes of famous movie villains

Lair: Radical Homes and Hideouts of Movie Villains By Chad Oppenheim / Andrea Gollin Tra Publishing $75.00 Bad people don't always have good taste, but when they do, their homes are the stuff of architecture history. Curzio Malaparte was attending fascist rallies in between stays at his cliffside retreat, the various owners of Lloyd Wright's Sowden House committed unspeakable crimes behind its stony facade, and Philip Johnson's sordid past all but eclipses his career as one of the most accomplished architects of the 20th century. While most of us may not be able to tour the homes of these baddies or live in anything remotely like them ourselves, the homes of movie villains are at our disposal however many times we wish to visit them. Chad Oppenheim of Miami-based Oppenheim Architecture and writer Andrea Gollin have come together to shine a spotlight on the homes of the silver screen that lurk in the shadows to draw an undeniable connection between low morale and high design. Their book, Lair: Radical Homes and Hideouts of Movie Villains, pries open 15 of the most diabolical abodes and renders them in silk-silver linework over depthless black paper, all of which were exquisitely illustrated by Carlos Fueyo, a VFX and CG supervisor behind some of the most visually sumptuous blockbusters of the last decade. Lair makes evident that the average movie's art production team is at its most creative when given the opportunity to imagine homes as sinister and calculated as the villains that would commission them with dark money. An eye-opening interview between Oppenheim and Star Wars set decorator Roger Christian uncovers the inspiration behind the Death Star, arguably the most famous evil lair in cinema, albeit one that doubles as a weapon capable of obliterating planets many times its size. "When it came to the Death Star," Christian explained, "that was inspired by the Reich architecture of Albert Speer, obviously. When you look at Nazi architecture, it's very black with red on it. Very simple and very daunting—and strangely beautiful." Fueyo's illustrations render the highly articulate surface of the Death Star with all the wonderfully arbitrary detailing of the original and managed to produce a perspective cutaway that offers a glimpse into the orderly, clock-like work of its scaleless interior. The divergent paths of the light and dark sides of the force are as apparent in the contrasting austerity between the Empire's home base and the humble desert residences of the Jedi as they are in any of the other cinematic choices made in the production of the blockbuster film series. About a third of the 15 lairs are owned by various Bond villains, from Ernst Stavro Blofeld's sub-volcanic hideaway in You Only Live Twice (1967) to Karl Stromberg's spider-like marine research laboratory in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). While Bond trots around the world as a stylish nomad, his enemies stay put in increasingly eccentric abodes that speak to their character just as effectively as their words or actions. The sensuous architecture of Los Angeles-architect John Lautner makes more than a few cameos and is otherwise the unsubtle inspiration for a number of the evil lairs throughout the movie series. A rarely-seen interview between Lautner and Marlene Laskey on the Elrod House, a home the architect designed in 1968 that was extensively featured in Diamonds are Forever (1971), reveals that the home was built with surprisingly few restraints, thus imbuing the structure with a number of eccentricities suited to the fictional supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Good design often comes at a price, either through its exchange with one's soul or a sum of money that no one person should reasonably have. While real-life crooks reveal little of themselves to the public by trade, the homes featured in Lair grants its readers a more-than-generous look into the lives lived by a fictional class of villains.
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Parasite reveals class divides through elaborate stage set design

South Korean film director Bong Joon-ho has, in recent years, become an increasingly notable figure among those in the global film community. His latest work, Parasite (2019), expertly straddles the line between art-house and popcorn thriller as it tells the story of a destitute family of four, the Kims, conning a much wealthier family, the Parks, into full employment by posing as unrelated professionals in the service industry and integrating themselves into the richer family's lives. While its protagonists excel at filling each scene with elegant dialogic tension and balletic physical gestures throughout, it is the film's architecture and general production design that ultimately both deepens and carries the film's plot to its tragic resolution (note: this review contains no spoilers). The Kims live in a cramped semi-basement with a casement window at the dead-end of a dreary alleyway as their only natural light source. When Kim Ki-woo, the family's son, is invited to the Park home to interview under the pretense of being a university-level English tutor, he - and us, in turn - are stunned by how the other half lives. He approaches the property via a tidy, narrow street with a fortress-like wall punctuated by a heavy steel door. Ki-woo pushes it open to ascend a sweep of exterior stairs leading to a grand courtyard garden that seems only a dash smaller and less guarded than Versailles. An immaculate modern-style home overlooks the courtyard with streak-free floor-to-ceiling windows, through which Ki-woo sees an expansive, multi-level interior. The spatial layout of the Kims' semi-basement home “really reflects the psyche of the Kim family,” Bong explained in an interview. “You’re still half overground, so there’s this hope and this sense that you still have access to sunlight and you haven’t completely fallen to the basement yet. It’s this weird mixture of hope and this fear that you can fall even lower. I think that really corresponds to how the protagonists feel.” And while the audience is told that the Parks' sprawling home and grounds were designed by Namgoong Hyeonja, a fictional architect that built the home for himself before vacating four years ago, they were, in actuality, an elaborate stage set built specifically for the film. Production designer Lee Ha-joon revealed that the first floor and garden were built in an empty lot, while the austere interior spaces were built on a soundstage. “We had to consider the cinematic factors," Lee explained, "but also had to create a house so real that the audience could accept the idea the characters were actually living in it."  The film cuts back and forth between the opulent simplicity of the Park residence and the tightly-packed squalor of the Kim home as the protagonists argue that rich people are nice because they can afford to be. “Hell, if I had all this money,” says Kim Chung-sook, the family's mother, as she gestures to the cavernous, sparsely-decorated interior of the Park residence, “I'd be nice, too!” Throughout Parasite, wealth presents itself in the form of architectural design that is serene yet equal parts boastful and territorial, while its more prevalent and common opposite is indeterminate, circumstantial and perpetually cluttered. Private, empty space, the film convinces us, is a rare luxury in itself.
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Did Rihanna's Savage x Fenty NYFW show appropriate Fascist architecture?

Last month, while the city was awash with runway walks during New York Fashion Week, perhaps no show received as much media frenzy as Savage x Fenty, Rihanna’s eponymous lingerie brand. With set design by Willo Perron in Brooklyn's Barclays Center, the show was more Super Bowl half-time show than fashion show. It featured everything from performances by Migos, DJ Khaled, 21 Savage, and celebrity-models Bella Hadid and Laverne Cox, to big choreographed dance numbers. Among the lingerie-clad, star-studded runway was an instantly recognizable architectural reference: Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, a monumental relic of Italian Fascist architecture. Swaying models appeared in the grid of classical arched windows, almost identical to the original building’s, posing in Savage x Fenty lingerie. The iconic travertine building, a modernist take on the Colosseum, was built under Mussolini in 1943 in Rome’s EUR district for the ill-fated 1942 world fair. According to WWD, the Moroccan setting of Savage's campaign shoot was supposedly the main driver of Perron’s set design, which doesn’t explain much about the unexpected Italian references. The connection, however, isn’t necessarily an arbitrary one; Philippa Price, creative director of the Savage x Fenty show and longtime Rihanna collaborator, has cited Bob Fosse as a major inspiration in designing past Rihanna performances. Fosse was well known for using Greco-Roman imagery, such as classical statues and antiquated fluted pillars, Sweet Charity (it's also no coincidence that the musical was based on a Fellini film). This isn't the first time the Palazzo has captured the imagination of the fashion world. The building is currently occupied by the luxury fashion house Fendi, whose move there was not met without criticism. "The architecture his regime commissioned propounds a notion of ‘good taste’ that is deeply similar to that of the fashion industry," wrote Owen Hatherley in The Architectural Review, "shamelessly elitist, wilfully sinister, hierarchical, Classical, its apparent minimalism belied by an obsession with the finest possible material and the severest cut." In contrast, Rihanna has largely built Savage x Fenty on its vision of inclusivity and diversity, which has landed it much praise and branded it as the self-described antithesis of the Victoria's Secret Show.
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The Brady Bunch house gets thoroughly renovated for a new reality show

After it was announced last year that television channel HGTV was behind the $3.5 million purchase of the Brady Bunch house, originally built in 1959 in Studio City, California, fans were left in the dark about what might lay in store for the iconic home. That is until HGTV announced the premiere of its latest reality show: A Very Brady Renovation. The 90-minute premiere episode aired on September 9, which begins with Property Brothers Drew and Jonathan Scott and a few of the original stars of The Brady Bunch conducting an in-depth tour of the home. That included informing the audience that the majority of The Brady Bunch, which aired on CBS from 1969 to 1974, was actually filmed on a soundstage, while the home purchased by HGTV was merely used for establishing shots (a common trick when filming TV shows). They then announce that the goal of A Very Brady Renovation is to replicate the well-known soundstage set interiors within the home. The house has been completely renovated, and subsequent episodes will reveal the project's incremental progression. In order to recreate the original show’s 15 unique interiors within the home, the team had to build out an additional 2,000 square feet, requiring the construction of an extra floor, and expanding the home's footprint into more of the 12,500-square-foot lot. This proved to be a heady challenge, as the house had to maintain its relatively modest street presence. The additions were necessary to replicate the show’s truly cavernous living room interior and its particularly iconic staircase. No detail, however, was seemingly too small to ignore: the distinct 1970s-era fabric patterning found throughout the original stage sets was almost entirely recreated with the aid of documents courtesy of CBS, while antique stores throughout Southern California were scoured for furniture identical to what was featured on the show. What will happen to the home after it has been renovated, however, has not yet been disclosed, but it will likely be revealed at the end of A Very Brady Renovation.
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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood ingeniously blends existing and fabricated scenery

Los Angeles may be popularly thought of as a city with relatively little regard for the history of its built environment in favor of a ceaseless self-transformation, yet countless examples of the buildings completed during the movie industry’s Golden Era of the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s, as well as a few fortunate survivors from before that era, remain intact to this day. The production team behind Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, set in 1969, made ample use of what was available while developing innovative techniques for what was not. Following the friendship of actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they narrowly come into contact with the sordid details of the Manson Family murders, Once Upon a Time takes its viewers through grand, unobstructed views of the city as it appeared half a century ago. A period piece with this much exposure, of course, required a detail-oriented crew to revert the city to its former glory without the extensive aid of digital set extensions. Barbara Ling, the lead production designer of Once Upon a Time, claims to have placed over 170 sets and facades in between preexisting structures to convincingly frame the film in the late 1960s. Lengthy stretches of Hollywood Boulevard, for example, were shut down for production to allow for long sweeping shots of the street as high up as a bird’s eye view. During the street closures, the elements completed off-site were brought in with cranes and quickly set into place. During several close-up shots, the posters and other period-accurate materials in the background were borrowed from Tarantino’s own collection of vintage memorabilia (including the same advertisement for Tanya suntan lotion advertisement famously displayed on the cover of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s book Learning from Las Vegas from 1972). But the film also takes advantage of what the city would never dare destroy. Once Upon a Time begins with Rick, Cliff and Marvin Schwarz (Al Pacino) inside Musso and Frank Grill, the “Oldest in Hollywood,” which is celebrating its centennial this year. Because its interior has been virtually unchanged since it first opened on Hollywood Boulevard, it is only in the transition from interior to the exterior that movie magic is employed, in which the production team skillfully recreated the restaurant’s original parking lot entrance based on old photographs. According to Variety, the restaurant staff even pulled out the original plateware from their storage room. The same creative mixture of reality and fabrication is most brilliantly applied near the end of the film, in which a gorgeous series of sunset shots seamlessly combines the city’s existing neon signage, such as that for the 1963 Cinerama Dome, with those that have been lost to time. But perhaps the greatest challenge met by Once Upon a Time is persuading its audience that Los Angeles is a beautiful city. “Los Angeles may be the most photographed city in the world,” Thom Anderson argued in his 2003 documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself, “but it’s one of the least photogenic. It’s not Paris or New York. In New York, everything is sharp and in-focus, as if seen through a wide-angle lens. In smoggy cities like Los Angeles, everything dissolves into the distance, and even stuff that’s close-up seems far off.” While Tarantino’s three previous movies set in the city—Reservoir Dogs (1992), Pulp Fiction (1994), and Jackie Brown (1997)—succumbed to the global stereotypes by depicting it as a gritty hellscape befitting the crime and corruption taking place under his direction, Once Upon a Time portrays Los Angeles with an unapologetic charm rivaled only by Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974) and Rebel Without a Cause (1955). Attention to detail and historical accuracy will likely make Once Upon a Time an essential reference for film and architecture buffs alike. As Tarantino contemplates his next and possibly last film (which will, no doubt, be another period piece), one can only hope that his focus on the built environment will somehow be even sharper.
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A look at the flimsy architectural stage sets of William Leavitt

When reflecting on the recent art and architecture scene of Los Angeles, a familiar cadre of names will typically come to mind; Ed Ruscha, Frank Gehry, John Baldessari, and Thom Mayne, to name a few. But beyond the figures that have famously channeled the city’s flair for the dramatic into their creative work, there is at least one artist that has made the spotlight his artistic subject while avoiding it for himself altogether. William Leavitt, now 78, has been quietly producing art about the uniquely modern spectacle of Los Angeles and its built environment since the late 1960s. Leavitt was stunned by the scale of Los Angeles and the hold the movie industry had on the city when he arrived in 1965. Part of a generation that reacted against the plain functionality of modernism in favor of a burgeoning commercial language designed for mass appeal, Leavitt continues to produce illustrations and sculptures which pay special attention to the architecture and interior design aesthetic present in the soap operas, furniture showrooms and suburban basements of the time. Like Ruscha and Gehry, Leavitt was an out-of-towner fascinated by the hastily constructed buildings that popped up around Los Angeles during the 1950s and 60s. But that would be selling Leavitt’s inspirations short. The artist skillfully conflated the kitsch and thinly veiled constructions of mid-century America with the sparse beauty of stage set design employed in so many of Hollywood’s movie studios and independent theatres. In 1988, he wrote about the first time he visited the backlot of a movie studio: “I loved the deception of going up to one of those perfect houses and opening the door and seeing that there was nothing but canvas and 2x4s holding it up. I thought that was spectacular: all the bricks were made of composition board.” The unique balance of image and reality on display throughout the city’s built environment is Leavitt’s primary source of inspiration. While the minimal stage sets of movies and plays are designed to appear more complete to their audiences fixed in place, Leavitt invites his audience to study his sets up close and in the round. As Ann Goldstein described his work, it “tak[es] into account the theatrical potential of the ordinary” while “considering the significance of every detail - location, lighting, atmosphere, props, and sound - and, like a set designer, he assembles a scene where every element plays a role.” One of his most well-known installations, California Patio (1972) is a sculpture depicting an entire setting: a freestanding sliding glass door between blue curtains framing a truncated woodchip garden. The materials of the entire piece might well have been purchased at a local hardware store, yet they become more than the sum of their parts; the 2x4s holding up the structure are more cleanly nailed and the sandbags more delicately placed than what is typically hidden from the screen or the stage. Leavitt’s illustrations, meanwhile, are reminiscent of those used by art directors to describe a stage set to a production crew. In Electric Chair (Interior) (1983), for example, efficiently depicts a sparse basement in which function and utility might be easily be confused for one another.
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For season three of Stranger Things, they built an entire mall

The angular mid-80s architecture of a derelict shopping center in Duluth, Georgia, has garnered fame in recent weeks after the release of the third season of Netflix’s hit series Stranger Things. Avid fans of the show may recognize that Gwinnett Place Mall—an actual mall located in a suburb of Atlanta, was transformed as the setting for major moments that take place in Hawkins, Indiana’s newest attraction: The Starcourt Mall.  Production designer Chris Trujillo spoke with The L.A. Times about the search and intense-build out for Starcourt Mall, as well as why the writing team chose to center the plot on the all-too-familiar, small-town-gets-big-mall storyline. In the interview, he said it made sense to showcase how Hawkins was changing with the introduction of the mega-shopping center, right alongside how the main characters were themselves changing. No longer little kids who saved the world, everyone was growing up facing their own relationship and materialist concerns. Much of teenage life in Midwestern America at that time was spent at the mall.  After investigating a dozen structures built from 1984-85, the production team settled on Gwinnett Place Mall, a 1.3 million-square-foot space that, during its first 16 years of operation, attracted people from all over Georgia as well as neighboring South Carolina. By 2001, with the opening of both the Mall of Georgia and Sugarloaf Mills, the space began its slow descent into obscurity. Now, thanks to the production team’s massive retrofit—gutting and rebuilding nearly 40 stores and restaurants—as well as a slew of tweets from curious fans that tried to sneak a peak of the set last year, the mall has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity.  According to Trujillo, most of the filming inside the 34-year-old mall took place around its food court, a gem of 1984-era interior architecture with a soaring atrium and vaulted geometric ceilings. It was the showpiece of the mall, he told the L.A. Times. But more than that, the large, two-story interior gave way to the “dynamic camerawork” that the Duffer brothers are famous for.  In an effort to make the Gwinnett Place Mall truly feel like a time warp set specifically for the horror sci-fi series, the production team not only recreated the facades of iconic retail spaces with all period-appropriate signage and window displays, but in some cases, the entire stores themselves were redone. From Orange Julius to the Gap, Radio Shack, and JC Penny, the brief moments these places popped up on screen helped paint an authentic picture of 1980s consumerism. One of the most-filmed spots within Starcourt Mall was Scoops Ahoy, the made-up ice cream shop where Steven Harrington works. Trujillo called that project, which was built entirely from scratch, “our special little baby.” Spoilers ahead: In that ice cream shop is where Steve, Dustin, and newcomer Robin decode secrete Russian messages that lead them to discover there’s a world-ending operation taking place beneath their feet—the portal to the Upside Down is being reopened. That importance to the overarching plot helps explain why so much attention was paid to the layout of the mall. Apart from a scrapbook found on location with old images of the Gwinnett Place Mall from its heyday, the inspiration for the build-out came from the memories of staffers on the production and decoration teams. Most people on the team's leadership grew up in the 80s and 90s and made decisions for Starcourt based on what they remember it felt like to be in those spaces as a kid.  “There is a homogeneity to the architecture of malls,” Trujillo told the L.A. Times. “They’re all calibrated to be similar spaces. We had to be somewhat specific about the regionality, but I definitely brought a lot of my childhood and teenage memories of hanging out and working in malls.” Though the set is closed to the public and is already being dismantled, according to one reporter who chronicled his visit for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC), that hasn’t stopped fans from trying to take photos of the interior through fences. As a focal point of “Stranger Things 3,” Gwinnett Place Mall will forever live on in memories of fans forever, despite its soon-to-be demolition. The AJC reported in February that a sports stadium developer plans to build a mixed-use complex with a 20,000-seat cricket arena on the site.
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AN interviews Hamilton set designer David Korins about the show's exhibition

It has already been a busy year for creative director and set designer David Korins. Hamilton: The Exhibition, which Korins served as creative director of, opened on April 27, bringing an immersive 18-room exhibition to Chicago’s Northerly Island; that same week, the stage adaptation of Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice, with sets designed by Korins, opened in New York on Broadway. Hamilton: The Exhibition dives much deeper into the life and history of Alexander Hamilton, the person, than the stage show (which Korins also designed the set for) and expands on topics that were overlooked in the musical, such as slavery and Hamilton’s legacy after his death. To help guide fans through the exhibition, an audio guide narrated by original cast members Lin-Manuel Miranda (Alexander Hamilton), Phillipa Soo (Elizabeth Schuyler), and Christopher Jackson (George Washington). The show, which is currently staged in a 35,000-square-foot black “hangar,” was designed to be mobile and will eventually pack up and leave for other cities after an undetermined run time in Chicago. The $13.5 million exhibition actually cost $1 million more to open than the musical it’s based on, but much of that owes to the show’s high level of technological integration and attention to detail. Guests can take an interactive tour through famous scenes from Hamilton’s life, engage with games, and even watch a 3D version of the musical’s opening as it was performed in Washington, D.C., with Miranda at the helm. Tickets for Hamilton: The Exhibition are $39.50 for adults and $25 for children. Korins also served as the creative director of Treasures from Chatsworth, a show at the renovated Sotheby’s New York headquarters that will run from June 28 through September 18. Art from the Chatsworth House in England, owned by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, will be juxtaposed against supersized versions of minute details from the home that could easily be overlooked. AN recently caught up with Korins and asked him to break down how he was able to realize his two most recent projects. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. How did you go about translating a show that works around one set into an exhibit with 18 full exhibition rooms with branching paths and interactive multimedia? David Korins: Well, it was harrowing. Although, the Hamilton exhibition is decidedly not Hamilton, the show. We had way more content to deal with. In a way, using Hamilton, the man, as our through-line and as our lens into early America was helpful because it helps crystallize the story that we're telling. There's enough information about the founding of early America that we could have made an exhibition just on George Washington, or Thomas Jefferson, or James Madison, or anyone. In a way, the stage show, which obviously spans about thirty years across countless locations was one thing. But we had to use a whole bunch of artistic compression in order to make that show a dramatic piece of theater. What we wanted to do with the exhibition museum was to really able to go in to deeper and wider into the entire story of America and really kind of right the wrongs of the dramatic lives that we tried to mimic in the show. It's easy conceptually to say, "let's expand this thing into 18 or 20 galleries" because there's just so much more information. It was nearly an impossible task artistically to try and actually execute it because a stage show has no ceiling on it, there's no fourth wall, there's no wall between the audience and the performers. In this exhibition, every one of these things is a complete room. I know it's more about Hamilton the man, but it does seem like some of the rooms, this writing desk room for instance, tie into songs from the show. How did you balance how much of the musical should be in the exhibition versus how much should focus on history and Hamilton's life? DK: First of all, we're not trying to distance ourselves from the show. We, in fact, have a completely remastered, re-orchestrated, rerecorded score in every one of the galleries. I think if you look at the New York City gallery, it is very reminiscent of the architecture that I designed the stage show with. I would say that much of the spaces employ the use of very abstract, theatrical design, visual vocabulary. Part of that is because I'm the one designing it, creating it. A part of that is because you can't realistically recreate all these historical locations. Nor do I think that that would be necessarily interesting. I think one of the things that we told ourselves in the very beginning of this process was to try and do what only we can do. And then there are moments that are wildly abstract where there are swirling pieces of parchment paper floating up into a work cloud over your head. So we tried all that we could do, and I thought for two years about what I want each one of these rooms to feel like and what story we are trying to tell.
Changing gears to Beetlejuice—that's a movie where the scenery is constantly shifting around. Looking at the photos from the set, it seems like you had to reinvent the same stage multiple times during the show. How did you translate Tim Burton's aesthetic for the stage without reusing it wholesale? It doesn't exactly match the house in the movie, but I see there are references to his other work sort of scattered around.
DK: As far as technical difficulty, I will agree with what you said, and I will tell you that the show is by far the most technically challenging thing I have ever done, and it's by far the most technically challenging show I've ever seen. If the Hamilton exhibition was the biggest and most ambitious project I have ever worked on, which it certainly was by a lot, Beetlejuice was the most complicated one. That show, every single piece of scenery has a light in it, a special effect, a magic trick, a puppet pole, a speaker. Some crazy thing going on inside of it. How do we incorporate the world of Tim Burton? I think that Tim Burton is one of the great visual artists of our time. I think when you are asked to do a Tim Burton project you have to honor it and acknowledge it and try to keep up. Beetlejuice the musical is very different than Beetlejuice the movie. The thing about it is we have a whole bunch of different physical parameters, so we have to take those into consideration as opposed to making a movie. First of all, the play runs eight times a week and we can't cut away, we can't dissolve, we can't have a puppeteer just out of frame or anything like that. We have to make this thing work seamlessly for a bunch of live people in a room. Beyond that, I thought that it would be interesting to honor Tim Burton's kind of overall visual aesthetic, not just the Beetlejuice one. You have Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline—we have tons of references. So we’re storytelling in a very different way. You can't have an actor be in a different costume every single scene. We're telling the story at a much broader, more muscular gesture. How did you design a set that would be so easy to shift in such shorter amounts of time? DK: I guess the short answer is: we're geniuses. Just kidding! I think it was very important that the Maitland's home felt different aesthetically than the Deetz's home. And that the Deetz's home felt different than the Beetlejuice home. So we had to ask ourselves, what could we possibly change in six minutes of stage time, or ten minutes of stage time? And how do we do that? We came up with a really ingenious wall system that we would be able to sub out. The changing of the furniture and the mantles and the window frames and the light fixtures is exactly as you would imagine it. A lot of manpower is back there doing these, like schlepping stuff on and off in a perfectly choreographed ballet move backstage. The wall systems are similar. There are prefabricated sections of wall that click in on top of or below other sections. And they literally have to go in and every single section of wall gets changed out. I see a lot of detail went into even just the small touches in the wallpaper, sculptures, sconces, and all of that. DK: Every single piece of scenery, every single wallpaper, every single piece of furniture, every single graphic was hand-drawn. And I don't mean “hand-drawn” like drafted. I mean, literally hand-drawn, even what we drafted with architectural drawings so that they could build them and engineer them. We then went in and we hand-drew all the wallpaper. We hand-drew all the etching and the lines on all the molding so that everything single thing had a really homemade kind of quality to it.

Designing for the Big and Small Screen: The World of Production Designers and Set Decorators

Join author and journalist Cathy Whitlock (Designs on Film: A Century of Hollywood Art Direction), set decorators Ellen Christiansen (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Sheila Bock (Madam Secretary), and Andrew Baseman (Crazy Rich Asians) as they take us behind the scenes of their highly acclaimed productions, and share their design secrets and talk about working as a designer in the film industry.
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The 2018 Academy Awards stage design is a maximalist fantasy

While much of the buzz surrounding the Academy Awards centers on the winners and the red carpet, there's one thing all eyes are sure to be on: the stage. And that's why the Academy has gone all out this year, with a maximalist fantasy of a set design to honor the awards' 90th anniversary, which takes place on Sunday, March 4. The crystal confection is the brainchild of Derek McLane, a Tony and Emmy award–winning scenic designer who incorporated a whopping 45 million Swarovski crystals into the design. This is McLane's sixth time designing Hollywood's most-watched stage, and it's his most ambitious–and abstract—yet. The centerpiece of the design is a crystalline proscenium, made of octagonal tiles blending crystal, metal, and mirror, while the stage itself is a dynamic design that will shift throughout the event, thanks to a combination of physical and digital effects. And, fittingly for the Oscars' 90th anniversary, the stage design pulls inspiration from a wide range of references from throughout film history, from classic Hollywood Regency design to Art Deco. It's too soon to call it, but the stage might just be the night's best dressed.
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Graham Foundation exhibit explores set design, collage, and architectural representation

The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts’ spring exhibition Spaces without drama or surface is an illusion, but so is depth will examine the proliferation of collage in architectural representation, specifically in scenography and theatrical set design. The show has invited contemporary designers to rethink the relationship between theatricality and architecture, while drawing on historical references from 19th-century toy theaters through Aldo Rossi’s Little Scientific Theater. The show features the work of a wide range of architects and artists, including Argentinian architects Emilio Ambasz and Gerardo Caballero, Portuguese firm fala atelier, Brazilian architect Marcelo Ferraz, and British architect Sam Jacob, as well as American offices Johnston Marklee, MOS Architects, and Norman Kelley.

Other contributing architects include OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen, Cecilia Puga, Aldo Rossi, Taller de Arquitectura Mauricio Rocha + Gabriela Carrillo, and Pezo Von Ellrichshausen. Artists in the show include Pablo Bronstein, William Leavitt, Silke Otto-Knapp, Gabriel Sierra, Batia Suter, as well as dramaturge Jorge Palinhos. Spaces without drama or surface is an illusion, but so is depth is curated by the Mexico City–based LIGA, Space4Architecture, Ruth Estévez, and PRODUCTORA founder Wonne Ickx.

Spaces without drama or surface is an illusion, but so is depth The Graham Foundation Madlener House 4 West Burton Place, Chicago Through May 27, 2017