Thirty years after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, the traces of the regime seem increasingly few and far between. Among the still existing monuments, conditions are mixed: some remain pristine, others are worn away after years of exposure to the elements.
Through The Lens
The historic Liangzhu Village in Hangzhou, China has a new monumental cultural center by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando. Opened in 2016, the building has become another popular cultural site in the village following the opening of David Chipperfield’s Liangzhu Museum a decade ago.
In the bustling streets of Seoul, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza by Zaha Hadid Architects has become a landmark for its atypical architecture. A complex yet effortless building, the Design Plaza encapsulates the energy of the cultural hub in Dongdaemun, an area that has itself earned the nickname of the "town that never sleeps" thanks to its late-night fashion market.
Investigating the building's twists and turns, Andres Gallardo has photographed the structure's fluid compositions. Although his photographs display little human presence, the building itself expresses the activity that occurs throughout day and night. Beneath the walkable park on the roof, Dongdaemun Design Plaza includes large global exhibition spaces, a design museum, 24-hour retail stores and a media center, among many other facilities that intertwine across the levels.
Founded by collectors Yan Shijie and Cao Mei, the Red Brick Art Museum opened in May 2014 in the Chaoyang District to showcase Chinese and world art, since then, it has become a haven for photographers. In this photo series, He Lian focuses his lens on the museum and captures the sculptural beauty of the punctured brick walls.
Architect Dong Yugen has created a structure that is a piece of art in itself; the perforations, skylights and narrow windows manipulate light into the spaces, casting dramatic shadows and offering short glimpses outside. The grey tones implemented in the entrance to greet visitors softens the transition between the inside and outside, whilst guiding you through the building into the main hall featuring a sunken circle that can also be used as an auditorium.
A UNESCO designated World Heritage site, Red Square is the historic center of not only Moscow but Russia’s cultural life. In the 1400’s, this city center was a poor, blighted area until Ivan the Great called on Italian architects to help him build the Kremlin, or fortress. This outdoor urban space is now home to St. Basil’s Cathedral, the State Historical Museum, the GUM Department Store and Vladimir Lenin’s mausoleum. St. Basil’s is one of the most recognizable buildings in Russia due to it’s unique domes, towers, cupolas, spires and arches. Some of the best Russian history and art lives behind the distinctive red brick walls of the State Historical Museum. The GUM Department Store makes Red Square a luxuriant shopping destination. In it’s lifetime, the Square has hosted innumerable speeches, parades, rock concerts and festivals.
The architecture of containment is a fascinating area. The spartan utilitarian spaces of prisons are among the most highly considered, sophisticated and expensive there are. It’s unusual for designers to create spaces for people who experience it against their will (well, mostly) and it is a tricky balance between creating sensitive, positive places for rehabilitation and community expectations about what punishment should look like. There are different approaches around the world: the US take a particular stance; the Norwegians have another. Hollywood, of course, has its own interpretation. And it is not concerned by such trivialities as the Geneva Convention.
Film often makes a mockery of architectural features. Glass facades are obliterated by gunfire, grisly murders are set against a white modernist palette, deconstructed stairs are the cause of nasty accidents or ludicrous slapstick, and you just know a tensile fabric roof will be shredded by the time 007 is finished with it.
There is one architectural feature however that has benefited from very complimentary treatment by the film industry, and surprisingly it is a sustainable one. Green roofs and other “architectural” green spaces have been popping up regularly in mainstream movies over the past decade: blockbusters including The Vow (2012) and Source Code (2011) utilized the greenscape outside Gehry's Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park; last year the Vancouver Convention Centre was featured in both Godzilla and Robocop; and Kaspar Schroder’s 2009 uber cool documentary My Playground, about the sport of parkour (the art of bouncing off buildings made famous by the opening scenes of Casino Royale), features BIG’s Mountain Dwellings in Copenhagen. And we cannot forget two of the biggest film franchises in history: both of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit franchises feature green roofs in their portrayal of Hobbiton – home of the virtuous and incorruptible Hobbits.
The work of a Production Designer has many parallels with that of an Architect. Both are tasked with bringing to life a conceptual environment, keeping true to that concept through budgets, time pressures, logistics and regulations. Both share a similar creative process, developing the ideas and then collaborating and coordinating with a team of professionals to give those ideas physical form. However, Production Designers are concerned with creating environments to be captured on film only for a matter of moments. Not something a standard Client is likely to request from an Architect.
While the freedom of not having to fully resolve building details – just making it look that way (not to mention the added bonus of avoiding the inevitable callbacks for defects), may seem appealing, consider having to dismantle everything you have created at the end of the process. Somewhat of an anticlimax you would think.
Not so, says Catherine Martin, veteran Production Designer, two time Academy Award winning Art Director, and the creative force behind the sets and costumes of Baz Lurhmann’s films.
Since the emergence of the modern multi-storey building in the late 19th century, screenwriters and art directors have embraced the high-rise building as both backdrop and prop in the drama of feature films. It’s easy to understand the fascination. The precarious nature of a skyscraper – their height, their reliance on competent engineering and emergency systems, and their all-controlling security – provide abundant opportunities for action and disaster. And all with a built-in view.
But while Hollywood loves a high rise, it hasn’t treated them well. Plot lines usually tap into a general scepticism about the kind of engineering feats which make them possible and often carry some underlying moral message about the dangers of technology and advancement.
You would think that of all film genres, Science Fiction would be the one least likely to feature real buildings. It stands to reason that production designers would want to avoid connections with things so grounded in reality. But in fact, there is somewhat of a tradition of using modern architecture as a foundation for the creation of fictional film worlds.
Science fiction relies on an audience believing in the world they are presented with. Clever camera work, perspective design, and temporary materials can only do so much. What often tips the balance in favour of using real, Modern buildings - rather than a temporary set - is the authenticity and atmosphere they provide the Science Fiction genre.
Read about Modern architecture in Sci-Fi films Blade Runner, Gattaca, Aeon Flux, and more, after the break...