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Filmmaking Resume Segments of Documentaries Shot over the Course of Several Years

This documentary is titled Filmmaking Resume as a reference to short bits of architectural footage shot over the course of several years, and published in Architecture Awareness, Cultural Weekly and in this website.

 

Although I have also created short films on art, politics, and cultural events, my focus here is on architecture-as-space, the essential language of architecture. This short documentary illustrates fragments on the works of twenty recognized contemporary architects. As such, it expresses how good design can resonate on a much deeper level and lead to a higher quality of life.

 

In dealing with the human condition in the 2020 decade, some of my future films are likely to focus on topics such as housing, sustainability, and open urban spaces.

Doc Snippets Selected Documentary Segments

On a recent event at U.C.L.A., the 43rd Congress of the Romanian Academy of Arts and Science, I was invited by its Interim President, Prof. Ileana Costea, about what I do as an architect-filmmaker. I decided to edit “an extended trailer” of selected segments from my films. I called it “Doc Snippets.”

Beyond some short notes on my architectural practice and of my passion for film since I was a student, I saw the question “Why are architectural documentaries important?” as the most relevant. Why?

The transformation of the planet to accommodate 10 billion people by 2050 will demand the active input of all its inhabitants, which would include self-help. Architecture awareness is critical to confront planetary challenges such as climate change, sustainability, population growth, mobility, food production, conservation of natural spaces, visual pollution, and over-crowding.

My films, most of them on architecture-related subjects, try to inform the viewer about the relationship between quality-space and human scale, and about meaning in the configuration of spaces.

Photo © R&R Meghiddo, 2018. All Rights Reserved.

As We Saw It – Part 5: Berlin 1 – Architecture Contemporary Architecture Landmarks in Berlin

Berlin is regarded as one of the most exciting architectural experiments in the world, with a cultural life second to none. On our first visit to Berlin since its reunification, our goal was to try to understand why the city has become a mecca for artists, a place of attraction to architects and filmmakers, internationally recognized as one of the hottest cities of the 21st century.

Our visit only scraped at its surface. It is impossible to look at the present without consciousness of what happened between 1933 and 1989. In the film, I tried to convey some archival footage of that period.

Buildings in Berlin tend not to be just buildings. They are manifestos, propaganda, memorials, battlefields. Our first impression of the city as a whole was one of a disjointed urbanization in search of identity. Some areas seemed too large or too flat, too distant or too close, too insipid box-like structures produced from economical calculations and returns on investment.

We noticed that most of the notable architectural works designed by foreign architects. Fortunately, the Berlin Philarmonic, Hans Scharoun’s masterpiece, remains as a reminder of great after-war architecture.

Our architectural choices were arbitrary. The Reichstag, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the Jewish Museum, the Sony Center, Potsdamer Platz and the German Historical Museum Extension Hall.

The Reichstag Dome: The People Above the Government

The Reichstag project is a superb piece of urban, architectural and political surgery.  It is the dominant component of a democratic of troika, together with the Chancellery and the Paul Löbe parliamentary building. The dome sits on top of the Bundestag, the German parliament, and it symbolizes that the people are above the government.  A mirrored cone in the center of the dome directs sunlight into the building. A large sun shield tracks the movement of the sun electronically and allows light, carefully filtered, to wash down into the chamber.

The dome can be climbed by a vertiginous double-helix made of two lightweight steel ramps, which years later inspired Foster for his design of London’s City Hall.

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Designed by architect Peter Eisenman, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a vast field of concrete slabs in the historic heart of Berlin, which before the Nazis came to power, had the largest Jewish population in Germany. Paradoxically, the monument is a few hundred yards from the site of Hitler’s bunker.

No other country had erected a monument to “the biggest crime in its history” in the middle of its capital, Wolfgang Thierse, the president of Germany’s parliament, said during its inauguration. Covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or stelae, arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field, the project was designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere.  The whole memorial aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.  An attached underground “Place of Information” holds the names of approximately 3 million Jewish Holocaust victims, obtained from the Israeli museum Yad Vashem.

The Jewish Museum

The Jewish Museum in Berlin is the masterwork of the Polish-born musician-turned-architect Daniel Libeskind. The zinc-clad structure is designed to create a sense of disorientation, interspersed with feelings of claustrophobia and panic. Corridors tilt, cross and funnel to nothingness. The world outside is glimpsed only occasionally through slit windows.

Libeskind’s building has no entrances or exits of its own. There are promises of doors, but they turn out to be dead ends. Nothing now is soothing. Every edge is jagged, every corridor unremitting. The floors slope. The concrete walls oppress. You are not in charge of your own destiny.

Libeskind has expressed the hope that his creation would “communicate memory across receding distances and deletions, across a landscape both vivid and imaginary, across light, both dim and exhilarating”.

The Garden of Exile denies us the relaxation we expect of a garden. It is a plantation of concrete columns from which Russian olive trees cascade.  Nothing is as it should be here. The ground won’t stay still, and the sky itself appears displaced. People wander this disconcerting garden a long time, uneasy and reflective. Walking here might not teach us the experience of exile – how could it? – but it parts us momentarily from ourselves and reminds us of the fragility of the familiar. You certainly come back out on to the street sadder and wiser than when you entered.

Sony Center and Potsdamer Platz

The Sony Center, designed by Helmut Jahn and Peter Walker as landscape architect, is one of the most impressive public spaces in Berlin. Its roof structure is iconic and came to symbolize the whole Potsdamer Platz itself. It is one of the few buildings in the area which offers a public plaza which is always lively and happening.  It is the star of the show. Its huge atrium covered by an umbrella-shaped roof contains a cinema, a shop selling Sony gadgets, and the remains of the ground floor of the old Esplanade Hotel.

Potsdamer Platz, an important public square and traffic intersection in the center of Berlin, about a thousand yards south of the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag, is the result of extensive competitions, designs, and planning. Nineteen of the buildings in the area were conceived and designed by an international team of architects headed by Renzo Piano.

Renzo Piano’s master plan for the area called for typical Berlin blocks courtyard buildings with a maximum height of 9 stories. British architect Richard Rogers designed a project on commission from Daimler Chrysler. It contains offices in the first two blocks and residential in the last block. Retail functions occupy on the ground and lower floors. Rogers reinterpreted the constraints and designed courtyard buildings with an eroded corner. This would open up the courtyard, allowing sunlight to reach in and air to circulate through. The courtyard is then covered with a transparent membrane to provide climatic control.

Berlin Philharmonic

The Berlin Philarmonic is Hans Scharoun’s most important work, the embodiment of organic architecture principles, in which the buildings are designed from within. In this case, the built form reflects and establishes a balance with the music contained within.

The main hall presents a vineyard-style arrangement of the stage and audience, with terraces rising around a central orchestral platform. This feature led to the tent-like design of the hall’s ceiling, with a higher center draping down towards the edges; a move also reflected on the building’s outside appearance.

The sequences of spaces leading to the hall play with tension and release. Low, small entrance areas lead to a vast, multi-layered foyer. Here, stairs in all directions, movements up and down, and a multiplicity of shapes play with the visitor’s senses. A smaller corridor leading to the hall damps the excitement and builds expectation which is then rewarded by the spectacular hall.

German Historical Museum Extension Hall

Chinese-born, U.S.-based architect Ieoh Ming Pei designed a small extension to the German Historical Museum.  The four floors of the Exhibition Hall are devoted to the Museum’s temporary exhibitions.  Pei said the project presented him with three challenges: the new building had to be integrated into the classical ensemble around it, it had to be connected with the baroque architecture of the German Historical Museum, and lastly, it had to be a magnet for visitors.

DZ Bank

The DZ Bank building is an office, conference, and residential building designed by Frank Gehry. Located at Pariser Platz, the bank has an austere classical facade which reflects historic forms and materials. The inside of the building forms a contrast to this. The large hall is covered by a vaulted glass roof in the form of a fish. The jewel of the building can be found in the center of this hall: a sculpture made of brushed high-grade steel, which is . simultaneously the skin of the conference room for around 80 persons. Room for events with up to 500 guests is provided by the forum in the basement.

A City in Flux

Thirty years after the fall of the Wall, Berlin still struggles with its urban form. It is a city in flux, complicated, with an urban fabric that seems to resist all attempts to reorder it, a reminder of the more messy, contradictory and organic qualities that all cities should have but are elsewhere being replaced by homogeneous commercialism and more extreme segregation of rich and poor. It becomes charming, full of life and the envy of other cities, not for its beauty or its wealth, but because of its vitality.

Photo © Rick Meghiddo, 2018. All Rights Reserved.

As We Saw It – Part 2: Paris Builds Recently built: Louis Vuitton Foundation, Foundation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, New Palais de Justice, The Canopy of Les Halles

The four recently completed architectural works that accompany the documentary “Paris Builds” send powerful messages of what is possible to elevate the quality of life in the city.

Side View

Gehry’s Louis Vuitton Foundation is not only an architectural masterpiece and a new icon in a city where icons abound, but it also brings an example of what is possible to cover urban spaces, an alternative to Buckminster Fuller-like geodesic domes.

Renzo Piano’s Foundation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé is a hidden gem that exemplifies what is possible in a small site surrounded by historic buildings.

Paris’ new Palais de Justice, also designed by Renzo Piano, responds to a very complex program – ninety new courtrooms built vertically – while confronting sustainability and the creation of new green spaces on roofs.

Also, the Canopy of Les Halles, designed by architects Patrick Berger and Jacques Anziutti, sensibly responds with daring technology to an urban place crossed daily by tens of thousands of people, in a historic location that Emile Zola called “The Belly of Paris.”

The Louis Vuitton Foundation

Commissioned by Bernard Arnault, head of the LVMH luxury brand empire, the complex houses his collection of modern and contemporary art and hosts temporary exhibitions. Built on public land with private funds, it will be given as a gift to the city in 55-years time.

Inserted in the middle of Bois de Boulogne’s woodland park, the building is an assemblage of white blocks, so-called “icebergs,” clad in panels of fiber-reinforced concrete, surrounded by twelve immense glass “sails” supported by wooden beams. The sails give Fondation Louis Vuitton its transparency and sense of movement while allowing the building to reflect the water, woods and garden, and continually change with the light.

The ground-level entrance hall is designed as an active social space, featuring a restaurant and bookstore. The ample, multi-purpose space directly adjacent to the entrance hall may be used as an auditorium accommodating 350 persons, an exhibition space, or an event venue.

The upper floors accommodate straightforward gallery spaces. Of the 11,000 m2 across which the building spreads, just 3,850 m2 are exhibition rooms. More than 3,600 glass panels and 19,000 concrete panels that form the façade were simulated using mathematical techniques and molded using advanced industrial robots, all automated from the shared 3D model. The new software was developed specifically for sharing and working with the complex design.

The structure of the glass roof allows the building to collect and reuse rainwater and improves its geothermal power. Besides, the Foundation has attained its overall goal to reach HQE (Haute Qualité Environmentale) certification noted as Très Performant. The steps taken to achieve this level of certification could be considered equivalent to LEED Gold.

The Foundation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé

The new headquarters of the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, by architects from Renzo Piano Building Workshop, is an unexpected presence, a curved volume glimpsed floating in the middle of a courtyard, anchored on just a few supports. It is complemented by a group of birch trees, a floral island set in the dense mineral context of the city.

This “organic creature” is located in the courtyard of a 19th-century block that includes a complex of historical Hausmann-era buildings. This structure houses the headquarters of the Foundation Jerôme Seydoux-Pathé, a foundation dedicated to preserving the history of the French film company Pathè and to promote cinematography.

The 839 m2 headquarters are located in Paris’ 13th arrondissement and their construction has been completed in September 2014. The clever use of the site includes a main entrance on a restored and preserved facade along the Avenue des Gobelins which features sculptures by Auguste Rodin. This stone-made building is not only a historical landmark, but also an icon and symbol for the Gobelins area of Paris.

New Paris Palais de Justice

Since the Middle Ages, Parisian justice has been dispensed from the famous building that surrounds the Sainte-Chapelle on the Île de la Cité. However, over the years an increasing shortage of space has resulted in many good offices having to be located in a multitude of locations spread out over all four corners of the city. The new Paris law courts at the Porte de Clichy will enable the judicial institution’s courtrooms and offices to occupy the same building.

The new law courts stand 160 meters high, has an internal area of around 100,000 m2 and accommodates up to 8,000 people per day. The building’s facades are fully glazed. On the three blocks of the tower, fine blades extend the glazing beyond the facade, exalting its verticality. The building’s primary structure, robust and orthogonal, ensures flexibility over the long term that will be able to accommodate future requirements and any changes in the way the justice system operates.

In developing the scheme, the architects sought to reduce the apparent scale of the building by breaking it down into four volumes of decreasing size.

50 desks within the reception areas minimize visitor waiting time, while three atria ensure that space is filled with natural light. A system of vertical and horizontal circulation routes lead to the 90 courtrooms above. The subsequent three volumes, which contain around ten-story each, include offices and meeting rooms: the second is the domain of the magistrates, the third of the public prosecutor’s offices, and the fourth and final volume houses the presiding judges.

The stacked system results in large roof terraces — around a hectare in total — which have been landscaped and planted with trees and other vegetation. From an environmental standpoint, the project employs a range of strategies including the use of natural ventilation, the incorporation of photovoltaic panels on the façade, and the collection of rainwater.

The Canopy of Les Halles

The long-awaited cultural center and metro station created by architects Patrick Berger and Jacques Anziutti on the site of a historic Paris marketplace is now a new urban reality. The design at Les Halles is known as the Canopy due to its enormous umbrella-like glass roof, which comprises 18,000 pieces of glass supported by 7,000 tons of steel.

Construction on the €1bn (US$1.42bn) project, funded by the City of Paris, began ten years ago following several architecture competitions to choose a design popular with both politicians and the public.

The completed Canopy and the center below replaces a deeply unpopular concrete shopping complex – nicknamed ‘the hole of Les Halles’ – which was built in the place of the market’s original 19th-century glass and iron buildings designed by architect Victor Baltard. They were demolished in the 1970s in an act many critics have described as cultural vandalism.

The new center features shops and high-end retailers, some of which are located underground, and these combine with leisure facilities such as a new library, a conservatory for the arts and a hip-hop center, all underneath the 270,000sq ft (25,000 m2) roof – described by Berger as a “translucent envelope”.

Explaining the design, Berger said: “The shape, its spaces, and its materialization arise from a confrontation between the state of things and the emergence of new energy to Les Halles. “The Canopy is designed as a substance. The ceramic glass material means that light diffuses in the day and it becomes a chandelier at night. It’s also a shelter at an urban scale against the weather, protecting a global space where one can travel at all times and in all seasons. The morphology of the architecture is the result of a balance between the building’s program and its dynamic location.”

Sustainability, Vanguard Art and Pop Music Two Trailers and a Music Video Share Time and Space

One: My Green Journey Trailer (2:30)

Two: Jasper Johns and Vanguard Art Today Trailer (2:30)

Three: My Believer Music Video (3:21)

The connection of three short videos on sustainability, vanguard art an pop music is time and space. They were all three produced during May 2018;  all three share space here. Why?

The trailers and posters for My Green Journey (17:48) and for Jasper Johns and Vanguard Art Today (35:34) were done in connection with my submission to several film festivals, as part of the required press kit (both films on Vimeo Private for now). My Believer, a music video, was produced in connection with an advanced video editing class that I took at Golden West College.

  1. My Green Journey

This documentary is a brief “autobiography of a vision.” It tells of Ruth Meghiddo’s path from architecture to urban farming and shows how sustainability can be improved by using the principles of permaculture design. Combining earthy pragmatism with futuristic visions, she shows how her concepts of permaculture and eatable gardens within our habitat may help to transform the world we live in.

2. Jasper Johns and Vanguard Art Today

What was supposed to be a short video reporting on Jasper John’s exhibition at The Broad evolved into a short documentary that illustrates Johns’ path from being an unknown artist in New York during the 1950’s to becoming one of the leading artists during the 1960s and 1970s. My research lead to the questions “what is vanguard art today? Who are today’s Jasper Johns working within the present reality? Is there an equivalent in architecture?” The documentary tries to establish a link between one of the most important artists of the 1960s avant-garde, and some of today’s avant-garde artists in multiple disciplines and media: painting, sculpture, film, video-art, choreography, architecture. It provides a stimulant example for the young generation of artists.

3. My Believer

My Believer is an experimental music video, my first and so far only one covering this genre. It is the result of my explorations during an advanced video-editing class that I recently took at Golden West College, taught by Thien A. Pham, a professional editor.

A long story short. In taking care of my “continuous education” in filmmaking, I enrolled in the class during the Winter semester of 2018. There were about students, out of which I was one of the few older than twenty years old and the only one above the teacher’s age. During the classes, we reviewed films’ techniques and special effects, and edited trailers, commercials, and segments of feature movies. Thien A. Pham, originally from Viet Nam, also gave us some insight on Chinese and South Korean filmmaking, which rarely reaches the American Public.

One of the assignments was to edit a music video. We were given the original music of “Believer,” created by Imagine Dragons, and also some clips produced by Adam Henderson, winner of the Adobe Creative Cloud’s Grand Prize.  We were asked to re-edit the visuals freely while covering the entire original recording. Although neither the music nor many of the clips on violence were “my cup of tea,” I took the opportunity to experiment.

Advanced Video Editing Class “selfie” by Thien A. Pham. May 22, 2018.

Radio Day A Radio Interview Hosted by Nancy Pearlman

 Radio Day from Rick Meghiddo on Vimeo.

 We went to the open-house day of the “Pearlman Cabin” in Idyllwild, designed by John Lautner.  While being at the event, Nancy Pearlman asked me if I would be willing to be interviewed for her  KBPK 90.1 FM Environmental Directions program. I said, “Yes, when, where?” “Today, here,” she said. “OK,” I answered, surprised.

Pearlman Cabin, Idyllwild. Architect: John Lautner.

Pearlman Cabin, Idyllwild. Architect: John Lautner.

Nancy Pearlman

Nancy Pearlman

Nancy Pearlman is an award-winning broadcaster, environmentalist, college instructor, anthropologist, editor and producer and who has made safeguarding the earth’s ecosystems a career. Since 1977, she has hosted and produced the country’s longest-running environmental radio show: Environmental Directions. 

I thought the main subject of the radio interview was going to be John Lautner. Unscheduled, and spontaneous, we touched many subjects: Wright, organic architecture, sustainability, Lautner’s architecture, the cabin’s integration to nature, Idyllwild, organic architects, Ruth’s Farm Urbana, solar energy, desalination and irrigation in Israel, population growth and a view of the future.  Several weeks later Nancy sent me an unabridged copy of the recorded interview, edited by Robert Payne. I decided to produce an abridged version of it, including relevant images and background music. The result is in the documentary included here.

John Lautner / Bob Hope Residence

John Lautner / Bob Hope Residence

John Lautner is one of the few Frank Lloyd Wright’s disciples I appreciate for his originality. He absorbed the essence of Wright’s philosophy without becoming an imitator of “the Wright’s style.”

I met him once. The encounter was circumstantial. During the late 1980s, a couple of clients we had planned to buy the Concannon Residence in Bel Air, designed in 1960, and wanted us to remodel it. We went to visit the site. The house was in very bad shape. It had been abandoned for more than five years by its owner, and puddles of water from leakings were everywhere.

Concannon Residence

Concannon Residence

Since Lautner was still an active architect, I suggested to visit him and check if he wanted to do the job, or if he had any particular suggestions. We went to his office, on the 7000-block of Hollywood Boulevard. In the middle of the waiting hall there was a huge model of a house at scale 1:20. When we entered his private office, a tall man with a grave voice stood up and shook our hands. I explained to him why we came. Facing my clients, he asked “with whom of you two shall I talk? I deal only with one person. If you have any differences of opinion, you solved them at home.” After listening what they had to say, he decided to delegate the project to us.  Before leaving, he handed to me a complete set of working drawings.

Our clients had indeed different opinions. So much so, that they ended up divorcing before the house was bought, and the project vanished. Recently, thirty years later, I learned from Lautner’s daughter, Judith, that the Concannon Residence had been demolished.

 

Stevens Residence, Malibu.

Stevens Residence, Malibu.

Segel Residence

Segel Residence

The problems ahead of us are not only quantitative, they are also qualitative. The message is how to create spaces for people in tune with resources and Nature.

 

 

 

 

Renzo Piano and Kerry Brougher at theThe Samuel Goldwyn Theater

Architecture + Cinema + Hollywood Work-in-Progress: The Academy Museum of Motion pictures in Context

Rendering of Academy Museum. Courtesy of Renzo Piano Building Workshop

The work-in-progress of the Academy Museum in Los Angeles, designed by architect Renzo Piano, is scheduled for opening in 2019. In “Architecture + Cinema + Hollywood”, the three are connected through images of the museum’s construction at the present time, historic and contemporary examples of architecture, mementos from classic movies, metaphors of Hollywood, and segments from my previous films.

We live immersed in architectural spaces throughout our lives. Filmmaking tells us stories through space, light, motion and human scale. The Acadamy Museum of Motion Pictures offers an opportunity to make tangible the connection between the two sisters’ arts.

 Both crafts have many things in common. They both are realized with the help of a team guided by a creator. On both disciplines, a spatial sequence is critical. In architecture, we perceive space as we move. In cinema, the spatial movement comes to us linearly, as may have been defined through editing.
Both disciplines interact with the other arts. Both must control sound, operate at different scales and deal with significant costs for their realization. Both create stages, one for everyday life, the other as a background for a story.
Architecture’s fundamental difference lays in its materiality. It deals with the law of gravity and with the nature of materials: strength, weight, texture, color, shape, durability. Yet the thinking process of architectural design and filmmaking is the same: we first dream, then we program/script, then we design/shoot, then we build/edit and finally we occupy/distribute. Criticism follows!

Architect Renzo Piano

Prof. Bruno Zevi

What does the museum’s “program/script” tell us? There are two main components: exhibitions and movie screenings. The exhibitions will be housed within the 1939 May Co. building, at the corner of Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard. The main screenings will be presented in the new 1,000-seat state of the art theater.
To emphasize the contrast between the existing building and the theater, Piano chose to formalize the later with a sort of molded sphere “suspended in space,” mostly cantilevered, standing on mayor pillars. This approach reminds me both Michelangelo’s structural support of Saint Peter’s dome and John Johansen’s Mummers Theater in Oklahoma City, more than Bucky Fuller’s dome.
The overall context couldn’t be more eclectic. Within the LACMA campus, old and new “connect” only by adjacency. Michael Heizer’s “Levitated Mass” , reminding us that we are still standing on the Earth, is in total contrast with everything else. The Petersen Automotive Museum, at the opposite corner of the intersection, wraps around with metal ribbons a Bernard Tschumi-like red box, bringing to the scene a sort of caricature of adaptive-reuse. In a way, the whole area represents ultimate Los Angeles’ exiting disjunctions.

Using filmmaking techniques to communicate architecture, short of providing the physical experience of moving through space, can bring to the viewer much more than a succession of single frames. It can create associations with other places or stories, it allows for multiple perceptions in seconds, it can use drawings, photography, and art to illustrate a point. The film at the top of this blog tries to express that.