March 7, 2013

A Designer’s Winter Hibernation Film List #5

As we see our final harmless snow flurries for the season, we have our final ten movies for this series A Designer's Winter Hibernation Film List. These special selections come from our own David Craun, and from film curator & blogger Tim Peyton. Some take place in colorful and mysterious cities and spaces, and in many cases, these cities and spaces live and breathe as actors themselves.

Amelie (2001)

Amelie (2001)

DAVID CRAUN, Senior Associate, Bialosky + Partners Architects For design inspiration, I often find myself turning away from architecture and towards other artistic mediums like film that can spark my imagination and change my point of view – this, to me is the true meaning of inspiration.  Oddly enough, the following five films can all be categorized under Romantic Comedy, a result that even I was surprised by when compiling the list.  If you think about it, however, fusing Romance + Comedy results in a full expression of human emotions.  Evoking an emotion through design, or “delight”, (as Vitruvius would say), is one of the most difficult but essential aspects of good design.  Also of note are two underlying themes in the following films that were not, altogether, intentional.   The first being that 3 of 5 films are foreign films and the other two are very low on dialogue – forcing the viewer to focus more on the visual and emotional aspect of the films.  The second being that 4 of 5 films are indirectly about architecture, either by character or by setting, which clearly points to the fact that we architects and urbanites are truly doomed romantics.

  1. Moonrise Kingdom (2012) : The story of two twelve-year-olds who fall in love, make a secret pact, and run away together into the wilderness. (Wes Anderson’s most beautiful movie to date - a hard won title over Life Aquatic – also stunning!).
  2. Sidewalls (2011) - A clever romantic comedy examining with charm how the architecture of a city conditions the lives of two of its residents. (A great depiction of modern urban planning and the love/hate relationship of high density living by its residents – not to mention a subplot involving an aspiring architect finding other means for creative output).
  3. (500) Days of Summer (2009) : A nonlinear romantic comedy about a man who falls head over heels for a woman who doesn't believe in love. (Also indirectly about architecture and an aspiring architect stuck in an unrelated, but creative career).
  4. Paris, je t’aime (2006) : Twenty acclaimed filmmakers from around the world look at love in the City of Lights in this omnibus feature. (With 18 short films in all, there is a little something for everyone – oh, and the city itself is the main character, as you might have guessed).
  5. Amelie (2001) : One woman decides to change the world by changing the lives of the people she knows in this charming and romantic comic fantasy from director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. (Possibly my favorite film of all time – delightful, quirky and absolutely beautiful).
2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (1967)

2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (1967)

TIM PEYTON, Film Curator, Akron Film + Pixel and Film Blogger

  1. Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003) : Like Mike Daviessic book 'City of Quartz' , Thom Anderson's archival essay film "Los Angeles Plays Itself"  is a radical look at the mesmerizing and highly misunderstood metropolis that is Los Angeles. Anderson uses hundreds of copyrighted film clips throughout the history of Hollywood and constructs a film about Los Angeles that speaks most profoundly about how the unconscious works in creating perceptions of places, thus also people and culture,  and how these images can be misleading and distorting. Anderson uses the power of editing and splicing found images as agency to reclaim the city he loves and lives in.  Film as political discourse in the most intimate way.
  2.  2 or 3 things I Know About Her (1967) :  Staring into a coffee cup, Godard as narrator whispers “I have to listen more then ever, I have to look around me”.  In this sprawling philosophical film that is about nearly everything under the sun we follow Julliette Jansons (played by Marina Vlady ), a Parisian housewife who decides to start prostituting herself in order to make more money. Godard whispers essay-like observations concerning his fears of consumer culture while the beautiful camera work by Raoul Coutard shows us the construction on the new banlieus ( the suburbs ) of Paris. Godard's thesis is that buildings and environments help construct ideologies. We need to look around ourselves and listen to what they are saying.
  3. The Shining (1980) :  This film really scared me as a child and it actually was not till a few years ago that I became re-introduced to it and then found myself obsessing over it.  Everyone looks terrified in the movie, like the spectre haunting the hotel is an illness of fear. The illness's symptoms are making Shelly Duvall bruise and decompose, while it seems like Jack Nicholson is working his way threw the incubation period of a rabies infection. It's not the actual hotel that is the star structure of the piece but the art and set design that is the interior of the film. The red carpets and the red bathroom, this bathroom being the location of one of my favorite scenes in film history were through a series of questions and answers Nicholson comes to know that he has always been the caretaker.  This is architectural horror at its scariest.
  4. 24 city (2008) : In this moving film that is part documentary part narrative, we meet the real workers of an airplane engine state – owned factory in Chengdu, China. In these interviews with three generations of people we learn about their time living and working at the factory that is in the process of closing to become an apartment complex also called “24 City”. The film is beautifully shot and has the unique position of having an actual living memory of a building and a time and place in this rapidly changing and continuing urban experiment that is modern day China.
  5. Journey to Italy (1954) : An aging couple, whose marriage is on the rocks, take a trip to Italy- a place whose very landscape is a museum of history and art. The structure of the film works in repetitive stages, we see the couple fight (Ingrid Bergmen and George Sanders) then the husband takes off to drink and flirt while we are left with his wife who travels to old religious sites and catacombs by herself. Eventually this leads up to the husband and wife's pinnacle fight at the ruins of Pompeii where they witness the archaeological unveiling of a couple embracing who have been mummified for centuries. Because of the way the structure of the film works we experience the tension and anxiety of a couples' quarrel and uncertain future and then we also experience, in an almost documentary style, the reflection of time, history and art while being at these magnificent locations, that like the film, is were built as an alchemic process that brings out the most that life has to offer in us.

February 21, 2013

A Designer’s Winter Hibernation Film List #4

Even though Northeast Ohio has had teases of spring, the past two days prove we still have some winter days ahead. So bundle up with flannel blankets and the fourth installment of A Designer's Winter Hibernation Film List, where both a designer from our office and a local design/film voice offer their top movies with a design/architectural/spatial element. This time, we have a documentary-geared list from our office's Dave Berlekamp that exposes truth and histories from graphic design to urban design. Timothy Harry, Assistant Director at the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque offers a list that samples eye-opening perspectives of spaces/environments from all across the globe.

Visual Acoustics (2011) on the Bialosky + Partners Architects Cleveland Design Blog

Visual Acoustics (2011)

DAVE BERLEKAMP, Bialosky + Partners Architects If you hear "documentary" mentioned and your initial thought is "boring, low-budget educational film", this list will certainly make you reconsider.  My appreciation for a good documentary is not just in its production quality, but the fact that these films visually expose us to the reality around us.  

  1. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011) : This has been one of the most unexpectedly fascinating documentaries I have seen in a long time.  For most Westerners, the complexity and art of sushi cuisine is not as apparent as it is in its country and culture of origin.  The film focuses on the world's top sushi chef, 85-year old Jiro Ono.  Located modestly in the basement of a Tokyo office building, Ono has perfected his craft of sushi cuisine over a lifetime of focus and a restless work ethic.  Viewers can expect to gain a new appreciation for their work and the value each of us brings to our respective trades.
  2. Helvetica (2007) + Objectified (2009) + Urbanized (2011): I am going to cheat here slightly by grouping three documentaries into one, but really, Gary Hustwit's films need to be seen in succession as a trilogy.  Each film takes a closer look into the worlds of graphic design, industrial design and urban design, through interviews with a wide range of leading designers in the respective fields.  Any designer would benefit by seeing the cross-pollination between disciplines that these films highlight and celebrate.
  3. The Art of the Steal (2009): This fascinating documentary takes a close look at the (sometimes not-so-pretty) inner workings of art curation and dealing in the true story of the relocation of the Barnes Foundation collection from Lower Merion to downtown Philadelphia, a move that continues to spark heated and emotional debate.  This film will certainly give you a greater value and appreciation for the art that you view in museums and galleries around the world.
  4. Visual Acoustics (2008) : Highlighting the life work of the late Julius Shulman, this film offers commentary and depth to some of the most significant modern architectural photographs of the mid to late 20th century.  Credited with exposing the modern architecture movement of the West coast, Shulman celebrated American architecture as a whole through his self-taught photography.  Shulman's work, highlighted in this film, brings an understanding of architecture to the greater viewing audience, regardless of their prior exposure to architecture, and a renewed sense of purpose and meaning for those ingrained in the profession.
  5. 180˚ South: Conquerors of the Useless (2010): Perhaps one of the most inspiring films I have ever seen, this film follows Jeff Johnson's trip from California to Patagonia, Chile as he retraces Yvon Chouinard (founder of Patagonia) and Doug Tompkins' (founder of The North Face) similar trip in 1968, which is credited with setting the course for the pair's future.  Johnson, a climber, surfer and environmental enthusiast, brings an open & honest mentality which documents and exposes environmental injustices and the impact of our modern society's desire for progress.  This film will inspire you to shed the excesses of modern-day living and turn to a much simpler, truer way of looking forward.  (Warning: this film may make you want to quit your day job and road trip down to Chile.  Be advised.)
Samsara (2011) on the Bialosky + Partners Architects Cleveland Design Blog

Samsara (2011)

TIMOTHY HARRY, Assistant Director, Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque

  1. The Mill and the Cross (2011, Sweden/Poland) – Rutger Hauer stars in this unique, one-of-a-kind film in which Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s 1564 masterpiece, “The Procession to Calvary” comes to life.  It’s an amazing film which feels as if you stepped right into a painting.  The rugged architecture and landscapes are indelible of that time.  A must see.
  2. Red Desert (1964, Italy) – A poetic film from the iconic director, Michelangelo Antonioni.  Red Desert was a highly manipulated film where the director had his film crew paint on grass, buildings, fruit, hair, trees, and sand to assume a soulless and stifling industrial landscape.  The unassuming acting from the lead actors creates a desperate and lonely feel to this famous film.
  3. La Jetée (1962, France) – This legendary film takes place in a post-apocalyptic world within the mind (or dreams) of the main character, a man obsessively and repulsively drawn to a meeting  that took place before the world was thrown into a nuclear calamity.  The scenes of this world are strangely evoked through dreamscapes.  La Jetée inspired Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys.
  4. Samsara (2011, USA) – From the director of Baraka comes this visually arresting, non-verbal film that takes place in remote, exotic locations.  The images create an amazing snapshot of our planet from the banal to the beautiful.

    Samsara will play at The Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque Fri., April 5, at 9:40 pm & Sat., April 6, at 7:00 pm

  5. On the Bowery (1956, France/USA) – One of the best American films (and largely forgotten) this non-fiction feature film follows natives of New York’s Bowery neighborhood in 1955.  The black-and-white imagery of the neighborhood (now long gone with Whole Foods and Gap stores replacing the bars and dark alleys of that era) and the characters that are followed make for an unforgettable image of what then was a dangerous neighborhood.

February 7, 2013

A Designer’s Winter Hibernation Film List #3

Presenting the third installment of the blog series, A Designer's Winter Hibernation Film List, where both a designer from our office and a local design/film voice offer their top movies with a design/architectural/spatial element. This post features one of our newest BPA designers, Ted Ferringer. Additionally, Ted Sikora, director of Hero Tomorrow, and Professor Diane Davis-Sikora offer a joint list of films. (You'll notice all of today's film connoisseurs featured Manufactured Landscapes.)

Stranger Than Paradise (1984) Jim Jarmusch

Stranger Than Paradise (1984)TED FERRINGER, Associate AIA, Bialosky + Partners Architects This is a list of movies have been influential in developing my design thinking. Some directly speak to architectural issues, others are slightly more amorphous and tangentially related. This list is personal, it is not meant as an influential list to the architecture profession as a whole, which would surely look much different. 1. Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind (2004): Produced by Michel Gondry, Eternal Sunshine is at once a surreal, melancholic, existential and whimsical trip through the nature of love and memory. The story, based around two ex-lovers, who “meet” after jointly but separately having their memories of one another selectively erased, is told in reverse from when they first (re)meet to backwards to their first (real) meeting. As notions on the relationship between time, place, and experience in design evolve, Eternal Sunshine offers a cautionary tale of happiness without memory or experience. 2. Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006): "23 April 2005, an ordinary day, will events be remembered or forgotten?" opens this documentary that follows the French soccer great through a Spanish La Liga match between his team, Real Madrid and Villareal. Unlike a traditional movie, much less a traditional sports documentary, very little context is given to the viewer to what is taking place in the rest of the match or on the pitch. Featuring a moving score by Scottish post-rock band, Mogwai, the viewer often has little idea which team has the ball, where on the pitch Zindane is or where active play is –through editing, this documentary reminds us context can be constructed and manipulated to frame a story. While never released in the United States commercially, locally, The Cinematheque at CIA has had a few showings. 3. Notes For Those Beginning The Discipline of Architecture: Alternate Ending 1 – The Glimmering Noise (2006): Finally a movie on this list directly about architecture. Expect it is not at all. Created by one of the freshest young voices of the post-starchitect generation of designers, Michael Merideth of MOS, through a part-manifesto, part-mockumentary, part-critique, part-post modern performance art, tackles the dynamics plaguing a profession that is questioning its role and importance in contemporary society. Notes For Those... speaks directly to the insecurities designers feel explaining their work. This film is a densely layered post-crash treatise for a profession trying to find a raison d'etre as a culturally and intellectually meaningful discipline. 4. Manufactured Landscapes (2006): Featuring Canadian photographer and visual artist Edward Burtynsky's documentation of how humans have altered the landscapes of Earth. Rather than utilizing statistics, data, and analysis to convince the viewer to re-examine their relationship between human consumption, capitalism, and the environment, Burtynsky uses the emotion and beauty of visual language to craft a moving argument; the viewer is left to examine their own relationship between the haunting industrial landscapes and personal ethics. 5. Stranger Than Paradise (1984): Jim Jarmusch's first feature film, this indie flick, using a cast of non-traditional actors captures much of the detachment and emptiness of urban American living in the 70s and 80s. Jarmusch uses an attitude that was influential in capturing the detached urban cool of New York City and to a lesser extent, the Rust Belt post-industrial style grit of Cleveland as aesthetics to embrace, not ignore, while not so subtly taking a pot-shot that the money, fun, and success found in the Sun Belt of America isn't the bill of goods it is sold as.

Renaissance (2006)

Renaissance (2006)

TED SIKORA, Cinematographer, Hero Tomorrow & DIANE DAVIS-SIKORA, Professor of Architecture, Kent State University

  1. Manufactured Landscapes (2006): A documentary that follows photographer Ed Burtynsky in his quest to capture a collection of incredible, jarring man-made landscapes.   The imagery is both breathtaking and alarming in its scale and environmental impact with extraordinary cinematography, including a haunting eight-minute opening dolly shot inside a massive Chinese factory.
  2. Dreams (1990): Film legend Akira Kurosawa crafts a series of his personal dreams in this surreal collection of short films.  Kurosawa introduces us to weeping demons, peach tree spirits, and ghostly soldiers, in gorgeous settings that include erupting volcanoes,  blizzards, waterwheel villages, and a walkable path within the brush stokes of van Gogh.   The result is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced within your waking life.
  3. Waking Life (2001): Shot on cheap dv cameras, then painstakingly rotoscoped, the film is both cinematically groundbreaking and intellectually profound.  Is it a dream or an after-death experience?  We can’t quite remember, but wow.
  4. Renaissance (2006): A beautiful high contrast, black-and-white, animated film executed exclusively through the use of motion capture and computer graphics.  The film’s highly stylized 3D animation is extraordinary in its depiction of Paris (circa 2054).
  5. Cube (1997): Natali’s Cube offers a technological game of cat and mouse.  Set within and sterile giant morphing ‘Rubik’s-cube-like’ space, this 92-minute journey is sci-fi maze of terror like no other.
  6. Arts Prize Channel (2011- present): A short documentary series by Ted Sikora, now with 34 films on some of Cleveland’s most diverse and talented folks who have had the honor of winning The Cleveland Arts Prize.


January 24, 2013

A Designer’s Winter Hibernation Film List #2

The second installment of A Designer's Winter Hibernation Film List, where both a designer from our office and a local design/film voice offer their top movies with a design/architectural/spatial element. This time we have Paul Deutsch from our BPA office (who I would call an authority on the subject!) and Michael Abrahamson, a master of architectural theory/criticism.

The Fountain Head (1949)

The Fountain Head (1949)

PAUL DEUTSCH, Principal, Bialosky + Partners Architects

  1. Blade Runner (1982): I loved this movie as both a sci-fi geek and a budding architect. It paints the most realistic visual images of what a not too distant future dystopian city might feel like.
  2. Brazil (1985): I first saw this alternative film in college and had never seen anything quite like it.  It gives a taste of what an over-governed country would be like to live in.
  3. A Clockwork Orange (1971): And I thought I experienced teen angst. It is not for the faint of heart but it is truly a not-too distant future classic…from the past.
  4. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999): This movie always makes me want to be in Europe.
  5. The Fountain Head (1949): Any architect should of course see this one. It’s worth it just for Gary Cooper’s courtroom speech.
Chungking Express (1994)

Chungking Express (1994)

MICHAEL ABRAHAMSON, Ph. D Student at the University of Michigan

  1. In the Mood for Love (2000): Two married neighbors in 1960s Hong Kong are drawn together in spite of the fact that their spouses are having an affair. Kar Wai imbues this unfamiliar urban atmosphere with so much tension and sensuality that it's simply overpowering. Slow motion sequences of the central characters fetching noodles, taking shelter from the rain, and hiding from their flatmates use a repeating waltz by Shigeru Omebayashi that by the end of the film is under your skin.
  2. Chungking Express (1994): Split into two parts, this film follows a pair of Hong Kong policemen as their daily rhythms are overturned by peculiar women. Again deploying a repeating musical cue – in this case the Mamas and the Papas' “California Dreamin” - Kar Wai here explores the habits and obsessions that often arise in urban environments.
  3. Before Sunset (2004): The sequel to Linklater's “Before Sunrise,” which documented a one-night stand of two strangers in Vienna, this film follows the same couple as they walk around Paris catching up after ten years and one novel about their experience. The premise is incredibly simple, but the results are heartbreakingly real.
  4. Touch of Evil (1958) : The opening sequence of this film is one of the greatest pieces of urban choreography ever committed to celluloid. While a car bomb's timer ticks away, the film's protagonists (Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh) stroll casually through a Mexican-American border town, weaving their way through streets and arcades, eventually making their way across the border where the bomb explodes. The rest of the film is a fine procedural, but doesn't live up to Orson Welles' fantastic opening.

January 10, 2013

A Designer’s Winter Hibernation Film List #1

With the core winter months upon Cleveland, we know what’s ahead: blistering Lake-effect snow, pitch-black skies and… bundling up with movies.  In this spirit, I present here a blog series, A Designer’s Winter Hibernation Film List, to ensure even in this bitter Northeast Ohio winter you’ll stay warm and delighted. Every two weeks I'll include picks from a designer in our office plus a local film/design voice. Let's kick off with my recommendations and Steve Felix's from Akron Film + Pixel: HALLIE DELVILLAN, Bialosky + Partners Architects

Vidal Sassoon (2010)

  1. Playtime (1967): Explore building space/envelopes of Paris following a wandering Frenchman who is a bit stunned by modernity. The second half is a very curious one, with a building collapsing in the middle of a grand party – with the architect present.
  2. Vidal Sassoon (2010): Modern architecture is the spark of inspiration for Vidal Sassoon’s revolution in modernizing hair. Incredible footage of his ultra-sleek salons of the 1960s is worth the viewing alone.
  3. Wait Until Dark (1967): Audrey Hepburn stars as a young blind woman wrapped up in a criminal drug mystery. Mostly taking place in her small New York City apartment, her acute senses allow her to maneuver space without sight and become a match for the violent criminals.
  4. I Am Legend (2007): A post-apocalyptic world where nature takes back New York City. (If you're still hungry for evacuated wasteland metropolises, follow up with the History Channel's series, Life Without People)
  5. Elizabeth: the Golden Age (2007): Filled with impressive Gothic cathedrals and castles, with moments of a close focus on architectural details.

STEVE FELIX, Director, Akron Film + Pixel

2001 A Space Odyssey (1968)

  1. Primer (2004): Technologies with profound implications call for profound forethought. It's a visceral expression of the ethics and consequences of engineering unchecked by design.
  2. The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (1988): A humorous study of human behavior as it applies to placemaking.
  3. Minority Report (2002): In 2002, Minority Report made some prescient guesses about interaction design, predicting and perhaps inspiring multi-touch displays. And its vision of pervasive advertising may still be realized, if we're unlucky.
  4. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968): Full of realistic but mostly invented, extrapolated design, from chairs to computers to space stations.
  5. Koyaanisqatsi (1982): With eye-filling cinematography, Koyaanisqatsi deals with the human development as a natural force and part of landscape.


Bialosky Announces Transition Plan