The fifth annual Architecture & Design Film Festival returns to New York City this month (October 16-20 in Tribeca Cinema), viewing 25 brief and feature-length films exploring the connection between film and architecture.
At first blush, the idea of a film festival on architecture and design seems a little strange. Granted, it’s difficult to deny the role of design — known or unknown, existing or set design — in providing sometimes transcendent places for films. But films about design do not tend to be as engrossing as their fictional counterparts.
Happily, festival co-directors Kyle Bergman and Laura Cardello have the ability to choose films from a far larger pool, presenting the highlights that profile legendary architects, walk us through buildings, show us a different side of a building’s occupants, or even reveal the joys of cities. The films do a lot more, but Bergman told me this season’s event will be more about urbanism, tapping into that last theme. Additionally, there are several films on houses and housing, the focus of this ideabook.
The Oyler House: Richard Neutra’s Desert Retreat
Directed by Mike Dorsey
2012 / 46 min / USA
The Oyler House is “a beautiful movie,” Bergman told me, about a working-class guy named Richard Oyler who grew up in Southern California, headed off to war and returned to work a government job.
Having a desire to construct a modest household but no comprehension of structure, Oyler has been granted some books on design from a librarian. He proceeded to fall in love with all the buildings of Richard Neutra, an Austrian emigre who played a large part in the explosion of contemporary architecture in the area in the middle of last century.
Oyler did not need to convince Neutra much, for it had been the breathtaking desert locale that made the improbable pairing happen. In this sketch by Neutra, it’s clear he piled the home in its site and oriented it toward the distant mountains, as seen in the previous photo.
The home is currently owned by actress Kelly Lynch and her husband, producer Mitch Glazer, that are interviewed in the movie. (The “archiphiles” also have a home designed by John Lautner, another famous L.A. architect.) Oyler is also interviewed, as are two of Neutra’s sons.
The Barragán House. A Universal Value
Directed by Tufic Makhlouf Akl
2011 / 30 min / Mexico
Mexican architect Luis Barragán’s own home is one of the most celebrated contemporary houses (it’s on the UNESCO World Heritage list), albeit one that departs from what’s usually considered contemporary.
Yes, the partitions are planar and kept free from decoration, but colour is used generously — nonetheless carefully.
The landscape is also an integral component of the home, if in carefully framed views or as an expansion of the home’s functions into courtyards.
Constructed on Narrow Land
Directed by Malachi Connolly
2013 / 64 min / USA
This movie tells two tales: how contemporary architects like Walter Gropius managed to construct contemporary, Bauhaus-esque cottages in conservative Cape Cod; and what happened to the houses after the property became a part of Cape Cod National Seashore at 1959. Upon the passing of the houses’ owners, the buildings became National Parks property and very few remain.
The multifaceted story looks at a few issues that are firmly contested in the United States: how to build on and also with character (it’s precarious, if this photograph is any indication), and the value of personal property when eminent domain rolls about.
The Absent Column
Directed by Nathan Eddy
2013 / 8 min / USA
Two or Three non-residential films in ADFF of attention (at least to me) include one on Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital at Chicago. Preservationists fought the city and unfortunately lost a concrete concrete construction by the architect of the famous Marina City (aka “corn cob towers”).
The Human Scale
Directed by Andreas Dalsgaard
2012 / 77 min / Denmark
The influential Danish architect and urban planner Jan Gehl is in the heart of this movie about what happens when the concentrate on building cities would be the “life between buildings,” each title of one of Gehl’s famous books. Gehl is responsible for a lot of the pedestrianization of Copenhagen’s roads (pictured here), and he brought that exact same thinking to New York City to make areas such as Times Square better spaces for people rather than cars.
Info: The Architecture & Design Film Festival, founded in 2009, occurs from October 16-20, 2013, in Tribeca Cinemas, 54 Varick St., New York City. The festival then plays in Los Angeles (March 12-16, 2014) and Chicago (April 24-28, 2014).