The Oculus book talk on the new book, How to Study Public Life, at the Center for Architecture with Jan Gehl and his co-author Birgitte Svarre was like seeing the documentary The Human Scale come to life—only with a sense of humor.
Gehl’s urban theories have gained a lot of traction, not least in New York City. Jeanette Sadik-Khan went to Gehl’s native Copenhagen two weeks into her job as commissioner of NYC’s Department of Transportation (along with fellow commissioner of City Planning, Amanda Burden) and experienced the city’s pedestrian-over-cars public plazas, rode bicycles on protected bike lanes, and absorbed the lessons of the city that is repeatedly named the most livable in the world.
Up in the Air
Whitney Museum of American Art
Through February 9, 2014
Circles and squares; past and present; inside and outside. These are some of the elements that combine architecture and the moving image in T.J. Wilcox’s Up in the Air, a contemporary cyclorama of his Union Square penthouse studio view installed in Marcel Breuer’s Whitney Museum building.
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.
New Film, Reaching for the Moon, Traces Life of Poet Elizabeth Bishop and Architect Lota de Macedo Soares
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.*
At this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, Reaching for the Moon by Bruno Barreto, one of the most celebrated filmmakers from Brazil (Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands) was originally titled “The Art of Losing.” That is the refrain of Elizabeth Bishop’s poem, “One Art” which chronicles ever-increasing losses—keys, names and places; then personal mementos; escalating to homes, cities and continents; and finally love. The love and then loss of this film is Bishop’s affair with self-taught architect Lota de Macedo Soares, the woman behind Flamengo Park in Rio de Janeiro.
New York City
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.
Film festivals are sneak previews of what to look for throughout the year, both on the big screen and through streaming services like Netflix. There are a surprising number of films circulating that are informed by architecture and design, including standouts like Twelve Years and Slave and Spike Jonze’s Her. In Stray Dogs (NYFF), a girl asks her mother why the walls of their apartment are so mottled. Her mother says houses are like people, with wrinkles on their face; their walls are so scarred because during a heavy rain the house cried tears. Not all tales are so sad, but It’s always a wonderful surprise when the physical space plays such a prominent role. Here is a selection you should be sure to catch that were previewed at the recent Toronto and New York Film Festivals (TIFF and NYFF).
At the National Design Awards Ceremony at the White House on September 20, Michelle Obama confessed that Barack really wanted to be an architect—but he wasn’t talented enough. This was recounted by Henk Ovink, senior advisor to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, at the 4th Municipal Art Society (MAS) Summit, held October 17-18 in New York City. During the event, the themes of Innovation and Leadership heralded the upcoming New York mayoral election and the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy.
The Summit is a testing ground for MAS’s current and future work, and there couldn’t be a clearer indication that this institution has moved beyond the shadow of its most historic achievement—the saving of Grand Central Terminal—decades ago. MAS’s commitment to New York as a livable, globally-competitive city that is socially, economically, and environmentally resilient—note that last watchword—is a hallmark of President Vin Cipolla’s leadership. In more than 40 sessions over 2 days, here are some of the highlights of the Summit.
2013 Architecture & Design Film Festival
54 Varick Street
“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.
Walking along the farthest block of West 34th Street, navigating past queues waiting for MegaBuses going to Boston, Philadelphia, and other cities, is a small white tent behind a chain-link fence. There begins another journey to a world that will exist only until next May. It is the High Line at the Rail Yards, the last stretch of the beloved park between West 30 and 34th streets, still raw before it joins the two completed sections running to Gansevoort Street.
You are first greeted by a dense, green self-seeded landscape, including a tree ripe with green apples. As you gingerly step over battered wooden rail ties and metal tracks, the vista opens up to the portion called the Spur, which runs parallel to the Hudson River with only the West Side Highway in between. Ships pass by, helicopters land, the Javits Center, the Starrett Lehigh Building, and the new Hudson Yards construction site surround you—and then you encounter the first of seven sculptures by Carol Bove sited along the tracks. Read More
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. Read More