Kommunalka – Labyrinth of a residental community

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Railway station as agora

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Pruitt Igoe ? Whose death?

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Interview with director Chad Friedrichs of ?The Pruitt-Igoe Myth?

J.T.: You?ve done films on presidential lookalikes and enigmatic musicians. What inspired you to do a film on Pruitt-Igoe?

C.F.: I was doing some research on how to decorate my home that I just bought in mid-century style. In the process of researching modern architecture, I came across Pruitt-Igoe. It was fascinating to me because encoded into this idea of modern architecture was the idea that you could have social change come about and Pruitt-Igoe was viewed as this failure of it. And then slowly as I researched it I came to decide it was a much deeper story than an architectural one.

J.T.: You make tremendous use out of the archival footage, and it is effective in helping tell the story. Can you tell us about the process of going through and picking out stock video and photos?

C.F.: We had made a couple of arrangements with local archives and we gradually accumulated wonderful footage over time. So that?s one of the reasons the film took 4 and a half years to make. In a way it opened up new creative avenues I hadn?t considered going into the film. Obviously there are a bunch of old images of Pruitt-Igoe in decay, and there are few of Pruitt-Igoe when it was brand new, but having access to all of this wonderful old footage all of a sudden opened up a new way of storytelling. And, in a way for me, it humanized the project and the experience of the residents who lived there.

J.T.: How did the process of making this film change your overall perception of the Pruitt-Igoe legend?

C.F.: Well, I guess one thing is that it makes me think of it in terms of other than a legend, other than this myth we are addressing in the film. Now, whenever I approach Pruitt-Igoe, I try to think of it in terms of not too different from the impact that was taking place in St. Louis during the day. Before, I looked at Pruitt-Igoe as a stand-alone entity. Now I will think of it as something that was deeply affected by St. Louis? decline in the post-war years. That would be number one. Number two, I tend to think at it from a resident?s perspective as opposed to something viewed from the outside. I think that?s how people approach Pruitt-Igoe for the first time is that as an outsider and viewing it as a homogenous experience where residents lived the same way. We know that many of the residents had diverse experiences in Pruitt-Igoe. Some turned to crime, as is the legend, and others lived very profitable and normal lives in Pruitt-Igoe. So those are the two big differences I?ve taken away is viewing in its context and thinking of it from the perspective of those who lived there.

Justin Tucker, April 05, 2011
Source: Insidestl.com

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Interview with Jord den Hollander director about the film Mission Statements

Tell us about your new film, Mission Statements, The Architecture of Diplomacy.

JdH: After finishing my last film on Africa, I had the idea to make a film about the Netherlands because everybody was talking about the identity of the country because of the immigrants. They said that they have knocked our identity but we are all the same, we are all individuals and I thought of a means to tell this story. The Dutch government in the 90s started the programme of promoting Dutch architecture through commissioning embassies. A couple of new embassies developed in Africa and South America and then the government suddenly had to respond to that question: if you want to build in another country and you want to show your face what do you show? I had a plan to film a couple of embassies that could tell that story. So here again architecture was used to tell a story other than just a building.

You not only show how the architects communicate history and identity through architecture but also how people make use of these symbols that makes the film very humorous.

JdH: We started shooting with idea not only showing the building but the thoughts behind it through the story of the architects. But I also wanted to show how the average Dutchmen who live in those icons accept these. You see that there is a conflict because these average Dutchman might not be interested in culture that much because they are diplomats they used to talk to people they are not interested in space and suddenly they were confronted with this conceptual idea of bringing out architecture with all these ideas, links to historical facts. All these different levels came in and you could see that the people normally not used to that now using it as means of dialogue. There are lots of things to laugh in the film because you see that conflict.  In the end you come to the conclusion that it is so good the use culture as means for understanding another world.

The same dialogue happened between the client and architect?

JdH: The client was very open and liberal and they choose the best architects they could think of. If you ask someone to come up with an icon to your country you have to think about that. All the architects started with finding out how they could relate to that country and not bring themselves in. When someone is only talking about themselves is boring. But if you ask the other, there is a dialogue. And the architects all understood that they have to do something with what already existed there. So they made use of traditional architecture, of historical facts. In Berlin Rem Koolhaas made use of the epic history of Berlin and the East West divide. The buildings show an adaptation towards the other countries, it is completely different from the embassies that were built in the 19th century where people really wanted to express their identities.

Daniella Huszár and Noémi Soltész, October 8, 2011.

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Shopping Town USA – Victor Gruen and the Shopping Mall

Anette Baldauf, co-director of the film The Gruen Effect on the legacy of Victor Gruen

 Victor Gruen was one of the most influential architects of the twentieth century: He is regarded as the father of the shopping mall. How fundamentally his concept would change the world was something that not even this immigrant from Vienna, who was noted for thinking big, could have foreseen. In the nineteen fifties, Gruen built large-scale “shopping towns” in the suburban sprawl of the United States. Based on the model of European city centers they were not only to facilitate shopping but also to strengthen social ties in the isolated suburbia with a mix of commercial and social spaces. However, in the context of an increasingly consumption- and speculation-driven economy the polyfunctional shopping center turned into a gigantic sales machine, which had a formative impact on the development of cities all around the globe. Thus, in architecture, the Gruen Effect describes the maelstrom introduced by seductively designed sales spaces that makes us give up purposeful shopping and get lost in the shopping experience. Since the principles of the shopping mall have little by little been transferred to downtown areas, today this phenomenon produces the city as the place of commercialism, the staging of lifestyle, distinction and event; it outlines the creation of a type of downtown, which serves the gods of consumer culture and defines consumption as the prime principle of urban planning.

 Already in the interwar period Victor Gruen, born Viktor David Grünbaum in Vienna in 1903, attracted considerable attention with the conversion of several small shops in Vienna. In 1936, renovating the shop of the textiles retailer Singer, Grünbaum moved the shop’s structure several meters behind the sidewalk thus creating an ambulatory space open to the public at the intersection between the street and the store. Framed by large shop windows and centered around a dramatically illuminated glass vitrine, the space created in the overlap area invited the passers-by to wrest themselves from the ongoing flow of movement of the street and to contemplate temporarily the textiles in the shop windows and the hustle and bustle of urban life.

 Two years after the Singer shop’s opening, the magazines Glas. Österreichs Glaserzeitung, Architectural Review and L’architecture d’aujourd’hui presented Grünbaum’s works in Vienna. The compilation of the projects – Bristol Perfumery (1935), Deutsch Men’s Fashion (1936), Guerlain Perfumery (1936), the already mentioned textiles retailer Singer (1936) and Richard Löwenfeld Ladies’ Fashion (1937) – illustrated a clear continuity of the Grünbaum interventions: Vast shop windows and dramatic glass fronts turned small shops into phantasmagorical display surfaces. They extended the concept of the shop window to the entire shop and defined it as a stage of urban life. At the same time, the interventions perforated the borders between theater and the everyday, street and shop, private and public space. In this interspace, the shoppers could be present and absent at the same time, here and simultaneously distancing themselves from the constraints of everyday life.

 Together with his first wife, Alice Kardos, and helped by a friend in the disguise of a SA trooper, Viktor Grünbaum successfully escaped from the Nazis on June 9, 1938, first to Switzerland and then to the USA. Just one year after his arrival in New York City he was asked by the businessman Ludwig Lederer, another refugee from Vienna, to design a boutique on Fifth Avenue together with Elsie Krummeck, then his second wife. Grünbaum, who called himself Victor D. Gruen after obtaining US citizenship, presented the following vision to Lederer: “To create an atrium open to the sidewalk along Fifth Avenue where rushed pedestrians can gather like in a refuge. … Six individual small glass cabinets would project from the two side walls and the back wall of this atrium, a full glass door in the back wall would offer both insight and entry to the shop´s interior … The atrium’s roof would consist of transparent glass and invisible sources of light on top would evenly illuminate the open forecourt. In the middle of the new outside space I envision a glass vitrine? this cabinet as well as the commodities on display will be lit by hidden, very strong spotlights like those used in the theater.?

 Supported by dazzling sketches created by the interior designer Krummeck and the licence of architect Morris Ketchum, Gruen’s plan saw its spectacular realization on Fifth Avenue in 1939. Gruen returned to his concept of the shop window as a stage space, which he had already pursued in Vienna, and addressed the passers-by as potential performers and shoppers by means of staging a theatrically illuminated scenery. Architectural magazines, trade journals and daily newspapers euphorically covered this new inspiration in the field of commercial architecture. The New York Museum of Modern Art integrated pictures of the shop into a guide to modern architecture, which was published by the museum.

 Fifteen years after the successful opening of the Lederer boutique in New York City, Gruen managed to translate the vision of the protective refuge into the fragmented housing developments of the booming US American suburban landscape. He enlarged the scale he had tested in Vienna and New York City by the factor one thousand and thus introduced the first local shopping mall and an urban experiment of hitherto unknown dimensions. Like the illuminated  glass vitrine, which had marked the center of the arcade spaces in Vienna and New York City, the block shape of the J. L. Hudson department store marked the center of the 44,000 square meter area in the suburbia of Detroit. In this shopping mall, Gruen extended the notion of the arcade by a spacious courtyard with fountains, benches, playful sculptures and colorful mosaics which was framed by the large windows of the shops surrounding it. At the interface between courtyard and shop windows, the arcade with its colonnades created an “essentially urban atmosphere”, as Gruen explained. In addition to this, a mix of about 100 shops and numerous social life facilities, such as conference rooms, a kindergarten and a zoo, confirmed the urban identity of the 30 million dollar complex.

 “Northland Center,” Gruen declared with enthusiasm on March 22, 1954, was the “first shopping mall of the future”. Two years after completing the regional shopping center just outside of Detroit, he opened the first fully enclosed and air-conditioned shopping mall in Minneapolis, where two department stores and 72 shops and social life facilities on two floors were organized around a wide roofed interior courtyard. Gruen argued that all major European cities were built on a solid combination of commercial and social spaces. In contrast to this, Gruen criticized, the American suburbs were monofunctional landscapes that consisted of conglomerations of individual homes. To strengthen social life in the bleak suburban sprawl Gruen suggested mixing in so called “shopping towns”. As a man of great vision the self-appointed “people’s architect” propagated building gigantic projects that combined commercial and social activities and marked crystallization points of suburban community life.

 It wasn’t easy to find sponsors for a project of this scale. Gruen had to advertise his ideas: He exploited the fears of the Cold War era and presented the hermetically delimited shopping mall as a bunker and evacuation zone in case of a Soviet attack. In the context of the aggressively propagated “philosophy of containment” the shopping mall soon offered a tangible symbol of containment, which combined two key functions: Toward the inside, i.e. toward the shoppers, it signaled safety, protection and refuge. It provided a meaningful affective anchor for the residents of the mushrooming suburban housing projects. Toward the outside, in the direction of the rivaling Soviet Union and the well-wishers of communism, the mall signaled the supremacy of capitalism: It was seen as material proof of the principles of social egalitarianism and freedom of choice inherent in consumerism.

 With its iconography of the bunker, the shopping mall provided the spatial translation of the foreign policy strategy of containment and at the same time it established the materialized precondition for further, subtler forms of social and cultural “containment”. The shopping mall supported the “containment” of women, who after the return of the male soldiers after World War II retreated from the employment market and devoted their labor power to child-rearing, housework and consumption. And it provided a guarded security zone for the mostly white residents of suburbia, which, although it simulated urbanity, at the same time ensured social homogeneity. Due to this constellation the history of the shopping mall is inevitably linked to the history of racial “containment” in the suburbs.

 Gruen had advertised the concept of the “shopping town” for the first time in 1943, in the frame of a nationwide competition for the design of a city in the year of “194x”, i.e. the then unknown year when World War II would end. In the mid-fifties, when Gruen was able to realize his dream, his shopping town symbolized something much larger than Gruen himself had originally in mind. Between Gruen’s first draft and the mushrooming of shopping malls fifteen years later, the role of consumption in the USA began to change in fundamental ways: Consumerism wasn’t any longer one but the driving force in postwar America. Within fifteen years the winning powers of commercialism and the greed for profit of real estate ventures had absorbed all the social spaces, which Gruen had initially inscribed into his own concept of the shopping center. The polyfunctional “shopping towns” turned into gigantic sales machines. In the nineteen fifties, Gruen had claimed that his “shopping town” eased the life of women in suburbia and integrated shopping into life. But while shopping paved the way for the age of post-industrialism, the shopping mall became the driving force of a new economy of consumption: The mall integrated life into shopping.

 In the nineteen sixties, when the white middle class escaped en masse from the mixed downtown areas into the segregated suburbs, Gruen turned to revitalizing neglected downtown areas. His architectural firm transferred the suburban building type of the shopping mall into the inner city, introduced the urban mall as an architectural prototype and eventually provided an essential contribution to the commercialization of inner-city areas. In the end of the nineteen sixties, when many US-American cities went up in flames, Gruen returned to Vienna. In a gesture, which could not have been more symbolic, the Vienna Chamber of Architects denied Gruen the job title “Architekt” because he had failed to finish his studies as a persecuted Jew in National Socialist Vienna. Yet, the Chamber insisted that Gruen used his title with “c”- as in English “architect” – and, ironically, donated the considerable amount of 10.000.- Austrian Schilling to the chamber. Gruen himself focused his attention on the concept of the cellular city. He founded the “Zentrum für Umweltfragen” (Center for Environmental Issues; 1973) and published the “Vienna Charter”, which, as a response to Le Corbusier’s “Athens Charter”, outlined the principles of a human-oriented city of utmost compactness and highest possible interrelation. In his Vienna office, he worked on a model for the revitalization of the Vienna city center.

 “All measures I proposed encountered open resistance on the part of the municipal authorities. The planning bureaucracy consisted of specialists, who were unable to think universally and who suffered from ‘car neurosis'”, Gruen wrote in his unpublished autobiography. In the mid-seventies he proposed to turn the entire city center into a mixed use, car-free zone and though the plan was rejected, the city transformed Kärntnerstraße and Graben into a pedestrian zone, which, over the years, turned into an exclusive shoppingscape. At the same time the first European shopping mall was built on the outskirts of the city of Vienna. Thus Gruen had to face up to the irony of his life: While he had tried to transfer the old European city center to US-American suburbia, the shopping mall had advanced into European cities and threatened to destroy his model of urban life. Gruen emphasized for the rest of his life that real estate firms had hijacked his concept of the ?shopping town? and reduced it to a mere “sales machine”. He “denied paternity once and for all” and refused to “pay alimonies for these bastard projects”.

 Anette Baldauf works as a sociologist and cultural critic. Her research focuses on urban development, feminism and social movements. She is a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.


February 13, 2008.

Source: eurozine.com


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My playground – interview

Interview with Kaspar Astrup Schröder, director of the film My Playground, and Bjarke Ingels, founder of the Bjarke Ingels Group, Coppenhagen

My Playground is really two films, it isn?t only a film about Parkour, it is also a film about architecture and urban space and the relationships between people and the space they live in. Architecture doesn?t normally get looked at this way.

 Kaspar: When I started doing these test shoots with the Parkour teams I started composing my pictures according to the buildings and the space, with these guys moving within the space it became a totally different experience. This was something eye opening to me and it made the space much more alive and dynamic. There is a suburban neighborhood of garden homes flowing over a 10-storey building called THE MOUNTAIN which BIG designed in Orestad city just outside of Coppenhagen. I filmed the top Parkour team in Denmark, Team Jiyo jumping from roof to roof and did a short film. That is why Bjarke came on board I gave him the film and he was like, ?This is amazing , we have never seen our buildings in that perspective , I want to be more a part of  what you are doing?. From this we began the discussion about preserving space, exploiting space and how you show architecture in a film. So it was a journey for everyone to make a film on Parkour but also on architecture.

Bjarke: Apart from being a good way of showing the occupancy or the potential life of a building it was also amazing at explaining the space in a way of transmitting the experience of moving around the ?MOUNTAIN? much better than any sort of architectural photography. In a way Parkour guys running around becomes some kind of an exploration of space that by having the Parkour people in the foreground and the building in the background. You focus on the life that is lived in the building but you experience the space that wraps around it. I just had a feeling that it was a really awesome way of actually communicating the architectural experience maybe better than any other medium that we had come across and we started a dialog with Kaspar about trying to engage with the architecture at all stages of realization. In the office looking at the architectural models, going to the construction site and moving around the building in the making and afterwards inhabiting the buildings as they have become complete.

 How important is it to you both as filmmaker and as architect the publics experience of urban space that you film and you build and have you talked about that with each other?

 Bjarke: Whenever you do a building or an urban space you contribute to the future life of the city and in doing that you contribute the future of the culture and the lifestyle of the inhabitants and it is important to show architecture not as some static art form with the typical architectural photography that focuses only on how light falls on a wall.  My Playground is a film of course about Parkour but is also very much how public life and architecture are intricately linked. Architecture observes human life and attempts to accommodate it then human life evolves and misinterprets the architecture to expand the realm of possibility and in turn architecture observes the evolved human life and it is this continuous loop of building and living, building and living.

Tara Farrel, November 10, 2012
Source: objectivecinema.net


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Short Shots Budapest – decision of the jury

Megvan a bejutott filmek listája!

Blahangja | Belépni tilos | Duna Tanösvény | Hangos felületek | Hódítsuk vissza a várost! | Lánchuszár | Menet | Nagyvárosi régészet | Perception | Pesti Kornél | Roadblock | Shimada bácsi kalandjai: A poszt-BKV város | Síkvidéki downhill | Tanyavilág Budapesten | Ültess!

A filmek bemutatására és a közönségszavazásra 2012. március 31-én, szombaton, 20:30-kor kerül sor a Kino Moziban, a díjátadó és ünneplés az Apacuka Varietében.

Döntő a Kinoban március 31-én, szombaton fél 9-kor.

További információ:

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Short Shots Budapest – extended deadline

New deadline of the shortfilm competition is 15th February 2012. Make those movies!

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Think big, act small

Report of Rotterdam Architecture Film Festival 2011

In March 2012, KÉK – Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Centre organizes Budapest Architecture Film Days for the fourth time in Toldi cinema. The Film Days were inspired by the Rotterdam Architecture Film Festival: its director, Jord den Hollander encouraged us to create our own festival on his 2005 visit to Budapest. This year Jord invited the Budapest team to Rotterdam, here is the report of the Festival.
Építészeti Filmnapok Rotterdamban - Fotó: Huszár Daniella + Soltész Noémi    Építészeti Filmnapok Rotterdamban - Fotó: Huszár Daniella + Soltész Noémi
The article is continued on hg.hu (in Hungarian):

Huszár Daniella, Soltész Noémi

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Short Shots Budapest

The Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Centre has opened its call for entries and will accept submissions of Budapest short length films for the 4th Budapest Architecture Film Days.

We are expecting short films and video works focusing on the transformations of Budapest?s urban spaces and built environment, in a critical and problem-oriented way: pieces should be looking at significant changes in the urban landscape and structure, new ways of using the city and the appearance of new urban functions, reflecting on the defining characteristics, moving forces and consequences of these phenomena.

 More information: http://filmnapok6.kek.org.hu/en/short-shots/

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