Screenings: The Architecture & Design Film Festival 2011

October 18th, 2011 no comments
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Last week, we shared some highlights from the recent Red Hook Film Festival, one of many cinematic events taking place in New York this month and next. Next up, running from this Wednesday the 19th through Sunday the 23rd, is the Architecture & Design Film Festival.

The Architecture & Design Film Festival was founded by architect and festival director Kyle Bergman in appreciation of the relationship between film and architecture. “Designing a building and making a film are a similar process;” Bergman says, “both are a balance of art and science, both tell stories, and both are labors of love.” For this, its third year of screenings, ADFF returns to Tribeca Cinemas with 31 features, documentaries and shorts, curated into 15 thematically-arranged programs of 1-4 films each. Download the schedule and a list of the films organized by program, or check out the website for more in depth information about each program or film. But first, read on for some highlights from the event:

Still from Antwerp Central

Program 2: Antwerp Central
Friday, October 21st, 10:00pm // Saturday, October 22nd, 9:15pm

The feature documentary Antwerp Central (2011, directed by Peter Kruger) follows the growth of the Belgian rail system through the lens of one railway station. Spanning three centuries, the station has been witness to the modernization of a city. The film will take the viewer “on a journey through the physical and mental space of Antwerp’s railway cathedral, from its construction to the present day.”

Program 4: Pool Party
Thursday, October 20th, 6:45pm // Saturday, October 22nd, 9:30pm

The two films screened as part of Program 4 take a look at the lives of spaces and objects specifically designed for the public good. Pool Party (2010, directed by Beth Aala) tells the story of McCarren Pool, an abandoned Great Depression-era public pool that became one of New York’s most significant music venues. Built on the border of Greenpoint and Williamsburg in 1936 and abandoned in 1983, the pool “quickly became a haven for gangs, junkies, graffiti artists and the homeless.” Pool Party intermixes never-before-seen archival footage with the stories of neighborhood residents to create a narrative of a neighborhood gentrified. Featuring some of the great musical performances staged there, the film celebrates “this unique music venue during its final season” (the concerts have been moved to the Williamsburg waterfront, to allow for renovation that will return the McCarren site back to its original function). Rounding out Program 4 will be Gather, Give, Grow (2010, produced by Archeworks), a short film featuring the work of the Mobile Food Collective (MFC), a traveling cultural center that aims to educate the public about the local food movement. The film uses MFC to illustrate design’s ability “to build community and inspire social change,” using a small-scale, mobile intervention.

Program 5: The Pruitt-Igoe Myth
Thursday, October 20th, 8:30pm // Sunday, October 23rd, 8:30pm

Focusing on how to read an urban intervention, Program 5 takes a look at two contested projects in two drastically different cities, St. Louis and London. The Pruitt-Igoe Myth (2011, directed by Chad Freidrichs) examines the story of the demolition of St. Louis’ most notorious housing project. Heralded as an architectural masterpiece at its opening and demolished within a decade, Pruitt-Igoe became one the most cited examples in arguments against Modernist architecture and public housing programs. The Pruitt-Igoe Myth seeks to revisit that muddled narrative and reveal the true history of this housing development in the context of 1950s and ’60s urban renewal and suburbanization. Also part of Program 5, Into The Garden of Glass and Steel (2010, directed by Aristotelis Maragkos) is a documentary that explores Canary Wharf, a modernist city within the city of London, before expanding to imagine the built environment of a dystopian future in which “technology has taken over society and mankind now makes all decisions based on instincts.”

Program 9: Detroit Wild City
Friday, October 21st, 10:15pm // Sunday, October 23rd, 2:00pm

What is the role of the architect in designing for a population to which he or she does not belong, for imagining the future of a built environment in which he or she does not live? Program 9 looks at those questions at the scale of the city and at the scale of the single dwelling. Detroit has increasingly captured the imaginations of designers, architects, urbanists, historians, artists, the list goes on. We’ve been fascinated by images of a shrinking, neglected city, projecting imagined futures onto a city demanding answers. Detroit Wild City (2010, directed by Florent Tillon) goes further into the city, taking the viewer’s understanding past the ubiquitous images of dilapidation. Questioning the futures proposed, and reigning them in, the film offers a vision of the Detroit to come through its individuals and small group efforts. The second film in the program, Think.Make.Bluff, looks at how architects can work with a population to create a built environment that weaves together the interests of both parties. Hank Louis founded the non-profit, educational design/build program DesignBuildBLUFF that takes design students through the process of designing housing for a community Navajo families. The short film Think.Make.Bluff (2011, directed by Katie Eldridge) demonstrates how each group, the students and the Navajo, is gaining from the experience.

Still from The Gruen Effect: Victor Gruen and the Shopping Mall

Program 12: The Gruen Effect
Friday, October 21st, 6:15pm // Saturday, October 22, 3:15pm

Program 12 features two films that delve into the universality of modern and contemporary space. Viennese architect Victor Gruen is considered to be the father of the shopping mall. The Gruen Effect: Victor Gruen and the Shopping Mall (2009, directed by Anette Baldauf and Katharina Weingartner) looks at how his ideas, “both influential and abused,” have contributed to an American landscape of consumption and commerce. “By tracing Gruen’s path from prewar Vienna to 1950s America and back to Europe in 1968, the documentary explores the themes and mistranslations that have come to define urban life.” In another look at a different kind of ubiquitous space, Three Walls (2011, directed by Zaheed Mawani) examines the cubicle, the symbol of the drudgery of modern office life. Three Walls “traces the development of the office cubicle from its inception in the late 1960s to its current status as the dominant form of office furniture in North America.”

Program 13: Biophilic Design: The Architecture of Life
Saturday, October 22nd, 3:30pm // Sunday, October 23rd, 4:00pm

How do we begin to make spaces places? What is the role of design in how we lead our lives and form memories? The films in Program 13 take these questions on at the scale of the city and at the scale of the home. Biophilic Design: The Architecture of Life (2011, directed by Bill Finnegan and Stephen Kellert) takes the viewer on a tour of built projects that show what a difference designing nature back into cities can make to the lives of the inhabitants.

Program 14: Robert A.M. Stern: 15 Central Park West and the History of the NYC Apartment
Saturday, October 22nd, 5:30pm // Sunday, October 23rd, 6:00pm

Program 14 is particularly New York City-centric, looking at the public face of design in our urban environment and comparing the city’s past architecture to that of the last decade. In Robert A.M. Stern: 15 Central Park West and the History of the NYC Apartment (2011, directed by Tom Piper) the architect reveals what has made New York City apartments great in the past and how he has tried to call on that history to design great apartments now. Up to the Sky – Hearst Tower, New York (2010, directed by Sabine Pollmeier & Joachim Haupt) focuses on the work of Sir Norman Foster in New York as a model of what skyscrapers have become, claiming “This is architecture for the 21st century.” Public Farm 1: The Making of an Urban Farm (2010, directed by Lilibet Foster) follows design firm WorkAC through the trials and trevails of building Public Farm 1, their winning proposal for MoMA PS1’s Young Architects program in 2008. PF1 was a self-irrigating, solar-powered working farm that pulled double duty as the Warm Up summer space, and it was constructed entirely out of cardboard tubes. The final film in the program, High Line Phase 2 (2011, directed by Ian Harris and David Krantz) takes you behind the scenes of the design process for one of the most successful public design projects in the city in the past decade, from the perspective of both participating firms, Diller Scofidio + Renfro and James Corner Field Operations.

For more information about the festival, to check out showtimes, or to see what else is playing, check out the Architecture & Design Film Festival website.


Jessica Cronstein is a project associate at Urban Omnibus. She is a designer and writer interested in the point at which the social, cultural and physical growth of a city intersect. She has just completed her M.Arch at Rice University and lives in New York City.

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