Simultaneously gripping, disconcerting, and chaotic, Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Touki Bouki is an exhilarating cinematic ride. The 1973 drama — the first full-length film by the Senegalese director — is the fantastical narration of a young couple in Dakar, eager to escape the Senegalese capital for the allure of Paris. It’s a character-driven film in many ways, primarily centered on the couple’s adventures, but it is also a subtle visual examination of the urbanism of post-independence Dakar, where the city and its architecture are essential fixtures in a surreal storyline.
Movies: The Latest Architecture and News
Of all arts, there is one that is truly capable of embracing architecture, and that is the cinema. The ability to represent spaces, moving in the course of time, brings cinema closer to architecture in a way that goes beyond the limitations of painting, sculpture, music - for a long time considered to be the art closest to ours - and even of dance. Both in cinema and in architecture space is a key subject, and although they deal with it in different ways, they converge by providing a bodily - and not only visual - experience of the built environment.
After Yang is a science fiction film written, directed, and edited by Kogonada - a South Korean-born American filmmaker known for his video essays on audiovisual content analysis. The main plot of the film follows the story of a family trying to repair their damaged artificial intelligence in a post-apocalyptic world connected by technology and nature.
Alexandra Schaller, in charge of production design and the appearance of the sets, imagined a future that translates these considerations: From the family house that recovers the original design by Joseph Eichler of the 1960s, going through the importance of outdoor space and vegetation, to each of the materials that had to be non-disposable, renewable or biodegradable.
Storytelling is undoubtedly one of the oldest informative tools; a universal language that has transcended generations and cultures, and has been adapted into different media such as video games, theater, and film. Regardless of how old the narratives are, the success of these adaptations relies heavily on production - the visual and audible elements - and their ability to allow viewers to fully immerse themselves in the storyline. In this article, we explore the magical and captivating world of Marvel Cinematic Universe, and how architecture played an important role in contributing to the movies’ notorious storylines.
The stage is set in one of the most iconic “end of the world” movie scenes: Citizens of New York City are scrambling on top of taxis, quickly attempting to escape the slow-moving giant tsunami heading their way. In the rear-view mirror of a bus, a giant wave can be seen rushing up the narrow city grid. Searching for higher ground, the main characters, Sam and Laura, run up the famed stairs into the famed New York Public Library, and just as the revolving doors shut behind them, the pressure of the water smashes the windows, and water begins to rise. Without seeing it, we know that New York City and its iconic architecture will soon be destroyed.
Writers in film and animation, specifically pertaining to the genre of anime, endeavor to incorporate varied architectural backdrops to assist them in telling their stories, with influences ranging from medieval villages to futuristic metropolises. Architecture as a subject includes a wide array of elements to study, with each architectural era further inferring its context and history through its design alone. However, in film and anime, all of the contexts behind a building’s design can be condensed into a single frame, powerful enough to tell a thousand stories.
Stefan Dechant is a production designer with over 25 years of experience in the industry working alongside reputable filmmakers like James Cameron (Avatar), Tim Burton (Alice in Wonderland), and Sam Mendes (Jarhead). Recently, Stefan served as the production designer for the upcoming Apple TV+ film 'The Tragedy of Macbeth' directed by Joel Coen. Why did this interest us immediately? Because he had the task of creating 35 Black & White, Abstract Sets.
In the following interview with Stefan, he tells us all about the inspiration behind the aesthetic, his working process between sketches and digital, and finally the stage of building all of this. Read more below.
When examining the world of African cinema, there are few names more prominent than that of Senegalese director Ousmane Sembène. His films ‘La Noire de…’ and ‘Mandabi’, released in 1966 and 1968 respectively, are films that tell evocative stories on the legacies of colonialism, identity, and immigration. And whilst these two films are relatively slow-spaced, ‘slice-of-life stories, they also offer a valuable spatial critique of the setting where the films are based, providing a helpful framework to understand the intricacies of the post-colonial African city, and the contrast between the African and European metropolises.
If you haven't seen Respect, I highly recommend it. The Liesl Tommy-directed biographical film based on the life of American singer Aretha Franklin visually takes us back to the 1960s through a successful set work. Here, Production Designer, Ina Mayhew had the job of creating a series of locations where color palettes undoubtedly evoke more than emotions: Her suburban home from her childhood in Detroit, the sassy jazz clubs of New York City, her luxurious Upper West Side apartment, and finally her ultramodern home in Los Angeles.
Jacinta Leong is a Production Designer who enjoys the creative and collaborative process of designing environments for narratives. Her work on several movies looks ahead into the future - especially in relation to technology in society. She was recently the Production Designer on the film 2067; Art Director on Alien: Covenant, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Pacific Rim: Uprising; Assistant Art Director on Star Wars Episode II-III; and Set Designer in The Matrix, among others.
We've talked with Leong to get to know her thoughts on the connection between films and architecture. The following interview explores her beginnings and inspirations, as well as her work process in the era of digital tools.
Production designer Felicity Abbott is behind the great staging of The Luminaries, a mini-series that takes place in New Zealand during the 1860s West Coast Gold Rush. In the below interview, she tells us her thoughts on the connection between films and architecture, addressing her work process and the main challenges on this set.
This article was originally published on Common Edge.
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is one of those rare movies that not only gets better with time but also presents a new layer of meaning with each viewing. Recently I’ve come to believe that it’s the most important movie about environmentalism ever made, not only because of its warning about nuclear annihilation, which is obvious, but because of its sly critique of the idea of professionalism and the nature of work.
Luca Tranchino is a production designer well known for his participation as an art director in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, the Aviator, Hugo Cabret, and Disney’s Prince of Persia, among many other productions. His work is designed to take us to magical and historical worlds. We recently interviewed Tranchino to look behind the scenes and uncover connections between film and architecture.
Representation of the real world is, without any doubt, in the genesis of cinema, an art originated from photography, by creating a sequence to convey the impression of movement to the viewer. In fact, the earliest known film recording is from 1895, picturing the arrival of a train at Ciolat station in France, a trivial event in the daily life of 19th-century European cities.
However, even though tangible reality plays a big role in cinema, one cannot ignore that the fascination caused by this art comes, to a great extent, from its capacity to create imaginary worlds, to activate mental spaces, and to unleash emotions. In this sense, the real world may often provide insufficient fuel, inspiration, or background for the directors' and screenwriters' storytelling, so the art direction and scenic design teams are required to create other intangible realities that serve as a basis for the narrative.
Annie Beauchamp on Designing the Overall Visual Look of Movies: "A Designer’s Work Helps to Drive The Plot"
Production designer Annie Beauchamp contacted me shortly after reading an article about Black Mirror series and what it can teach us about the future of architecture —something exciting for me since she was in charge of the visual look in Striking Vipers, the first episode of the dystopian series' fifth season. Beauchamp who has extensive experience working on major productions such as Sleeping Beauty, The Yellow Birds, Adoration, Top of the Lake China Girl, LEGO's Ninjago Movie, also served as an art director in nothing less than Moulin Rouge.
We've talked with Beauchamp to get to know her thoughts on the connection between films and architecture. The following conversation explores her beginnings and inspirations, her work process, as well as her views on the era of computer visualizations. In addition, we concluded the conversation with a couple of recommendations for a new generation interested in production design.