Monthly Archives: October 2010

Great Expectations: A Journey through the History of Visionary Architecture – film review

Great Expectations: A Journey through the History of 
Visionary Architecture
Actors: Oscar Niemeyer, Buckminster Fuller, Le Corbusier, 
Tadao Ando, Toyo Ito
Director: Jesper Wachtmeister
Studio: Icarus Films
DVD release: 5 October 2010
Runtime: 105 minutes (1 disc)
Format: Color, DVD-Video, NTSC, Widescreen
DVD Features: Bonus film Kochuu
4.5 stars

Great Expectations, A Journey through the History of Visionary ArchitectureThere’s a funny TED Talk video called “Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics” about how to make a good — and a bad — TED Talk. One way to go bad is to talk about architecture. We may be safe in generalizing from TED to the general culture: architecture makes most people grow faint and causes their eyes to roll.

Which is weird, because in and around architecture is where we engage with other people the most. Buildings great and small is pretty much exclusively where we conduct the four F’s — the two familiar ones, fight or flight, plus the two even more familiar ones that everybody forgets to put on the F-list: freeze (or space out), and fuck. Architecture is where we live all the fundamentals of, well, life. From coffee to water cooler to toilet to bed, we really, really need architecture to help house us.

Architectural history and agendas ought to be taught in grade school. We ought to be taught to find beauty in a joist, or a good coat of insulation, for the simple reason that thinking about buildings and their interactions with people, other buildings, and the rest of the world — in other words, thinking about the ecology of construction — is a good thing, like reading and writing and music and math. And if we knew more about how things went together, the costs involved (both economic and environmental), we might make smarter choices about the places we build to live and work in.

It’s possible architecture and construction were taught in ancient times, as part of the normal school that goes into growing an adult(ish) human. Birds learn it, bees learn it, humans can learn architecture, too. Indeed, the root of our word “poetry” is an ancient Greek one meaning the sometimes all-too-familiar action “to make” and, by association, the agent practicing the action, the “maker.” But then, in the olden days, pigs knew how to make brick houses and wolves knew how to blow them down.

So much we’ve lost. Now our concern is getting the kids to soccer in the minivan which, when you stop and examine the interior, is a lot like a house in some ways. Continue reading

Conceiving Ada – film review

Conceiving Ada
Actors: Tilda Swinton, John Perry Barlow, Bruce Sterling, 
Timothy Leary
Director: Lynn Hershman Leeson
Studio: Microcinema
DVD release: 28 September 2010
Runtime: 85 minutes (1 disc)
Format: Color, DVD-Video, NTSC, Widescreen
DVD Features: Q&A with Swinton and Leeson about “Technolust”

conceiving adaA terrible thing happened on the way to the paperless office: a certain cadre of computer geeks got stars stuck in their eyes, blinding them to things like plot, dialogue and acting and causing them to crash face first into a big pile of chips.

That’s the sort of neo-romantic blindness we’ve come to expect from Bruce Sterling and the late Timothy Leary but Tilda Swinton? Sad, but true: Swinton seems to have this thing for Lynn Hershman Leeson that keeps her from recognizing just how idiotic Leeson’s ideas for movies are.

Of course, to say Swinton is actually in this movie is a little deceiving. She does get a bit of face time, if ghostly and barely visible (because she’s translucent) count. Swinton plays Ada Augusta Byron King, Countess of Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron the poet and the inventor, more or less, of computer programming. Ada worked with Charles Babbage on his analytical engine in the mid-nineteenth century, developing an algorithm that is generally recognized as the world’s first computer program. Continue reading