Blockbuster movies and buildings are somewhat related; both take multi-million-dollar budgets to produce, individuals work in large teams and coordinate with one another towards a single deliverable, and they both contribute to the development of society and culture. The relationship between film and architecture is prolific, especially when considering the work being produced at SCI-Arc.
An unparalleled example of what can happen when an institution dedicates substantial efforts to redefine the boundaries of contemporary architecture, SCI-Arc generates an incredibly intense and diverse learning experience, something the school takes pride in. The independence to navigate unchartered territory and the school’s fearless attitude in this pursuit mean that it always holds some mystery in terms of where it is going.
For students in the M.Arch 2 program at SCI-Arc, a selection of highly speculative Visual Studies seminars taught by faculty member Ryan Tyler Martinez has provided students with intellectually informed, hands-on experience in the practice of filmmaking within the context of the school’s Robot House. Operating at the intersection of robotics, cinematography, physical models, and motion graphics these seminars have been founded on the belief that film and animation is one of the forces expanding its reach within the school, and that one of the primary standards by which students and faculty are judged is the quality, creative freedom, critical insight, and formal and technical innovation of the film projects that are being produced.
For the fall 2017 term, Martinez’s course builds upon last year’s seminar, co-taught with Matthew Au, which focused on documentation and mechanical reproduction. Over the course of the semester students worked in teams of four to produce a series of short film studies and experiments organized around three primary categories: Setting, which closely examined the collection, measurement, conventions, and limitations of assembling a film; Record, which introduced issues of film movement, animation, and lighting; and Post, which with the previous two categories began extending the production of the film beyond simple documentation.
This semester’s focus is film manifestos. Using Programs and Manifestoes on 20th-century Architecture and Sylvia Lavin's Architecture Beside Itself as a point of departure, students are constructing a narrative about an opinion or strategy for how one could practice in today’s context given that the proliferation and popularization of online social movements and image-based media sites has weakened the capacity of the image to serve as a visionary tool. The use of film in architecture has allowed architects to showcase multiple images simultaneously, allowing for the transmission of a comprehensive story, narrative, or vision.
Martinez's course, “Manifesto”, seeks to not only help students develop an understanding of cinematography tools and techniques for representation and documentation purposes but to also critically question what role film has in architecture school.
Having an undergraduate training in architecture, M.Arch 2 students are acutely aware that drawings, renderings, models, and graphics are the media through which architectural ideas are conveyed, but as these seminars are demonstrating, when those images and objects get edited into a film or animation-- which is the final deliverable for the class-- the added layer of chronology and temporality to how the work is viewed produces a much different experience than a traditional architecture review.
The rigorous undertaking of this vein of Visual Studies seminars are key to the M.Arch 2 program at SCI-Arc, as it is specifically designed to operate as a laboratory to identify new possibilities for the integration of emerging techniques and technologies.
Placing an emphasis on ambiguity, intricacy, and methods that push student projects intellectually and visually, these seminars aid in expanding students’ digital, analytical, and expressive toolsets, ultimately contributing to the scale, sophistication, and diversity of production for which SCI-Arc Graduate Thesis projects are recognized.
The Graduate Thesis Program at SCI-Arc represents the culmination of the master curriculum and it is the most significant test of the students' and school’s ability to synthesize and produce critical and rigorous architecture. Divided into two semesters long, thesis at SCI-Arc is the place in the curriculum where students are asked to produce a personal and original contribution to the discipline of architecture. Past Graduate Thesis projects and discussions are featured on the Academic Programs playlist on SCI-Arc Channel. Additional student work is regularly shared on the school’s Instagram account @sciarc.