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As We Saw It – Part 7: Emotional Rome Streets, People, Architecture: A Personal Journey

Coming back to Rome is always emotional. It triggers pleasant memories of our days as students of architecture, of lifelong friendships, of great teachers, of great art, architecture, lifestyle.

To link the central theme of “As We Saw It,” ‘what makes a city great,’ with what we chose to document through film and photography, we focused on ‘the city’s emotional intelligence’ and its connection to our own emotions. To do that, we decided to record streets and piazzas rather than buildings, with few exceptions, such as the Pantheon, the MAXXI and the church of Sant’Andrea Della Valle.

View of Rome – Piazza di Spagna

Piazza navona

Formative Past: Architecture and Cinema

We were “adopted” by Bruno Zevi soon after we joined his History of Architecture class. Besides tutoring our theses, he also invited us to his home to have lunch with Carlo Scarpa and connected us with Edgar Kaufmann Jr. in New York, who opened for us the gates of Wright’s Fallingwater.

Our relationship with Pellegrin was also unique. He co-tutored our theses, and we worked for him on important projects: many competitions for schools, the University of Barcelona, Goree Island’s master plan in Senegal, Palazzo Aldobrandini’s restoration in Rome, and research on futuristic habitats.

Professor Bruno Zevi – Photo: Elisabeth Catalano

Architect Luigi Pellegrin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we moved to Rome to continue our studies in architecture, going to the movies was an essential way of learning Italian fast. We were also lucky. In the vicinity of where we first lived, in the Parioli neighborhood, there was a cinema club at a church that showed every week movies followed by a Q&A with the directors. Among many others, we treasure having listened to Roberto Rossellini (Rome, Open City; Paisan; Stromboli ) and Gillo Pontecorvo (The Battle of Algiers; Kapò; Burn!)

After graduation, we moved to Rome’s Historic Center, minutes away from the Trevi Fountain and from Pellegrin’s studio. Our same-floor neighbor was Adriana Chiesa, who, at the time worked at La Medusa, one of Italy’s leading film distributors. We were friends when Adriana met and fell in love with cinematographer Carlo Di Palma (Divorce Italian Style, Red Desert, Blow-Up, Hanna and her Sisters, Radio Days.)

Carlo had a rich experience with directors like Michelangelo Antonioni (he shot Antonioni’s first color film, Red Desert) and with Woody Allen. He also worked for Bernardo Bertolucci, Lucchino Visconti, Roberto Rossellini, Francesco Rosi, and Pier Paolo Pasolini. I remember his comments about Igmar Bergman (“he worked like a scientist”) and about Federico Fellini (“a magician; he ‘hypnotized’ his actors, shooting without sound and talking to them while shooting.”)

The MAXXI – Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI Secolo

Coincidentally with our visit, Zaha Hadid’s-designed MAXXI held two exhibitions that we wanted to see: one dedicated to Zevi’s 100th birthday, titled “Zevi’s Architects. History and Counter-History of Italian Architecture 1944-2000.” The other, “Tel Aviv the White City,” dedicated to the Bauhaus architecture in the city.

As a historian and critic of architecture, Zevi’s influence in Italy during the second half of the 20th Century was impacting. He published several pivotal books, such as Architecture as Space, The Language of Modern Architecture, A History of Modern Architecture, Erich Mendelsohn, was the editor of the magazine L’Architettura for over fifty years, taught history of architecture in Venice and in Rome, and was militant in the Radical Party, which he represented in the Chamber of Deputies from 1987 to 1992.

Zevi brought Frank Lloyd Wright’s ideas of Organic Architecture to the Italian peninsula, which influenced many architects, such as Carlo Scarpa, Luigi Pellegrin, Paolo Soleri, Marcello D’Olivo, Giovanni Michelucci and Aldo Loris Rossi, to name just a few.

The exhibition on Tel Aviv’s Bauhaus architecture, although very compact, provided an idea of the city’s rich past, which includes over 1500 buildings of the period.

Rome’s beauty is the ultimate urban beauty because it has been shaped by time, uninterruptedly, over more than two thousand years.

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

'>As We Saw It – Part 6: Berlin 2 – Shifting Art Bits Fragments of Berlin's Contemporary Art Scene

Berlin is today “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave” for thousands of artists from all over the world. It is estimated 20,000 artists are living and working in the city. Why?

Berlin is home to hundreds of galleries and art museums that boast unparalleled collections. For the ambitious artist, this city is overflowing with opportunities for installations and exhibitions that could help put their work on the map. In fact, it is often the case that artists first gained notoriety in Berlin before moving to other cities like LA, New York, or London. They have been attracted to the German capital by cheap rents, masses of studio space and the city’s carefree, freewheeling spirit. There is a conceptual openness as well as a propensity toward the radical, rebellious, and the innovative that is unrivaled elsewhere, even in other cities with established art scenes like Paris. Cultural projects are generously funded and supported by many large and powerful institutions in the city. The ever-so avant-garde contemporary art scene is able to flourish in this environment.

Our first visit to Berlin had been “before the wall.” It was time for a renewed visit. Besides architecture, there was so much to see from the world of art, historical and contemporary, that we had to be very selective in our choices during the span of time available. With the help of our Parisian friends Bernard and Catherine Légé , and the orientation that our Berliner friend, artist Franka Hörnschemeyer, we only touched the tip of the iceberg.

Our visits included the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum, an original railway station from the mid-19th century, turned into an art museum in 1996;  the Berlische Galerie and the König Galerie; and the extraordinary end revealing German Historical Museum.

With an atmosphere buzzing with creative energy, no serious member of the contemporary art world can stay away from Berlin for long. It’s become an essential stop on the art circuit, acting as a junction between east and west.

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.

As We Saw It – Part 3: Paris Green Urbanity Green Open Spaces as Urban Design

Vision and political will are a good combination. This is the case of Paris 2018, looking into the future with pragmatic imagination.

Anne Hidalgo, Paris’ first female mayor

Stephane Malka Architecture, Paris

Parisians have a high consciousness level of sustainability and climate change. They are now led by their Mayor, Anne Hidalgo, who has decided to turn their city into a green capital of the world. Besides seven major projects under construction to transform famous squares into pedestrian and bike-friendly areas, urban farming has now new legislation that promotes growing vegetables on roofs and public spaces.

in the accompanying documentary, we have chosen three examples of green urbanity: the Parc de Bercy, the Parc de la Villette, and the Promenade Plantee. They show how building green, when integrated with urban design, architecture and public art, can be transformative.

PARC DE BERCY

Designed by architects Bernard Huet, Madeleine Ferrand, Jean-Pierre Feugas, Bernard Leroy, and by landscapers Ian Le Caisne and Philippe Raguin, the park is made of three gardens connected by footbridges: The “Romantic Garden”, which includes fishponds and dunes; The “Flowerbeds”, dedicated to plant life; and “The Meadows”, an area of open lawns shaded by tall trees.
In the north-east of the park stands the Cinémathèque Française (the former American Center) designed by Frank Gehry, and on the raised terraces are the 21 sculptures of Rachid Khimoune’s “Children of the World” installation, created in 2001 to honor children’s rights.
The park has also a covered skatepark and is adjacent to a major sports arena, the Palais Omnisports, with a sitting capacity of 20,000.

PARC DE LA VILLETTE

The Parc de la Villette is a 37-acre / 55 hectares area that houses one of the largest concentration of cultural venues in Paris. These include the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie (City of Science and Industry, Europe’s largest science museum), three major concert venues, and the prestigious Conservatoire de Paris.
The park was designed by Bernard Tschumi, a French architect of Swiss origin, who built it from 1984 to 1987 in partnership with Colin Fournier, on the site of the huge Parisian abattoirs (slaughterhouses) and the national wholesale meat market, as part of an urban redevelopment project. He conceived thirty-five architectural “follies“ to give a sense of orientation to the visitors.
In architecture, a folly is a building constructed primarily as an ornament but suggesting through its appearance some other purpose. One can only imagine what a system of follies could do for a city like Los Angeles, to provide orientation within its vast urban grid. Since the creation of the park, museums, concert halls, and theatres have been designed by several noted contemporary architects, including Christian de Portzamparc, Jean Nouvel, Adrien Fainsilber, Philippe Chaix, Jean-Paul Morel, and Gérard Chamayou. These include City of Science and Industry, ]La Géode, an IMAX theatre inside of a 36-meter (118 ft) diameter geodesic dome; The City of Music, designed by Christian de Portzamparc which opened in 1995 and it includes also a museum of historical musical instruments with a concert hall, also home of the Conservatoire de Paris; the Philharmonie de Paris which opened in January 2015 designed by Jean Nouvel.

PROMENADE PLANTÉE

The Promenade plantée (also called Coulée Verte – “Green Stream”) is an extensive green belt that follows the old Vincennes railway line. Beginning just east of the Opéra Bastille with the elevated Viaduc des Arts, it follows a 4.7 km (2.9 mi) (2.9 mi) path to the Bois de Vincennes.
At its west end, near the Bastille, the parkway rises above the surrounding area and forms the Viaduc des Arts, over a line of shops featuring high quality and expensive arts and crafts. The shops are located in the arches of the formerly elevated railway viaduct.
The design was created by landscape architect Jacques Vergely and architect Philippe Mathieux. The Viaduc des Arts was designed by architect Patrik Berger, who also designed the recently completed Canopy of Les Halles.
The project is an ultimate example of “walking urbanity,” with multiple experiences along its path. It includes different types of gardens, it traverses existing buildings, it crosses boulevards. Twenty years later, Promenade Plantee inspired the now successful High Line in New York.

The creation of a humane urban quality does not depend only on the quality of a city’s buildings. The design quality of open public spaces, way beyond landscape architecture, is critical. It the demands imaginative long-term thinking accompanied by political vision and will.

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.”

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

'>As We Saw It – Part 1: Parisians Paris Part 1 of 4 Parts that covers Paris' living, architecture, spaces for people and the arts.

“As We Saw It” is a series of work-in-progress short documentaries centered around the question “what makes cities great?” While not pretending to provide scholarly answers to such a complex subject, we tried to document things relevant to it that caught our attention.  

Our journey covered Paris, Berlin and Rome. Each of these cities was observed from a different perspective. In Paris, living in a friend’s apartment, we tried to become “local residents” for two weeks. Helped by the guidance of our old Parisian friends, Bernard, and Catherine, we experienced some places rarely visited by out-of-towners.

We had not been in Berlin since before its unification.  “Reading the city” was a difficult objective to achieve in brief time. We also tried to live like residents by sharing an Airbnb apartment in former East Berlin together with Bernard and Catherine.  With some insights from our Berliner friend, sculptor Franka Hörnschemeyer, we managed to get a sense of the city’s urbanity and art world, and also documented some great architecture and museums.

In Rome we were staying at a small hotel near the Pantheon. We felt “natural” in the city of former seven-formative-years’ residence. We knew well the territory.  Acquainted with most of its main monuments and museums, our journey focused on daily life in its great urban spaces. We revisited Zaha Hadid’s MAXXI Museum, where exhibitions on Bruno Zevi and Tel Aviv Bauhaus architecture were held.

Part 1 – Parisians Paris

Cities’ streets, public spaces, and buildings are the physical expression of its residents’ values: their believe-systems, their lifestyle, their trades, the way they utilize technology, and their self-expression through arts and architecture.

We were guests in an apartment located in the 7th arrondissement, on the Rive Gauche. The Faubourg Saint-Germain neighborhood offered a good mix of the city’s grandest sites combined with a village-like atmosphere. In the past the building we lived in had been the residence of Andre Malraux while he wrote “The Human Condition,” and of Couve de Murville during most of his life.

One of the many attractions we had at a walking distance was the Raspail street market. Twice-weekly a traditional market, on Sundays, it transforms into an organic market with fifty or so stalls certified for the quality of their products. Another exciting market to visit in the 5th arrondissement was the one on Rue Mouffetard, which is a market street rather than a street market.

One of the places we discovered was the Canal Saint-Martin and its double lock near the Place de Stalingrad. It is one of the places that attract Parisians to relax. All along the canal, during the last Sunday of June,  180 choral groups of 5,000 voices sing on twenty locations, 2:00 to 8:00 pm.

On June 21, the beginning of summer, Paris celebrates Music Day. There are free concerts all over Paris, bands playing at every corner and Parisians celebrating all day and all night in public places, bars, and nightclubs.

For lovers of dancing salsa, tango, foxtrot or rock ‘n roll, there is nothing like the free dancing places along the Seine.

Quality of life in a city is not made only by its sources of entertainment accessible to all, but it is an important layer that contributes to making a city great.

'>Jasper Johns in L.A. and Vanguard Art Today Who are today's Jasper Johns? What is really 'avant-garde' today in art and architecture?

 

Jasper Johns’ exhibition at The Broad, titled “Something Resembling Truth,” is revealing. It illustrates the integrity of a life-long research and provides a stimulant example to the young generation. At a time when art flows in all directions without clear distinction and criteria between serious or trivial, committed or casual, Johns shows us how one can be an explorer of meaning and forms of expression without falling into platitude. 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. 

The show raises some questions: What is really ‘avant-garde’ today? Who are today’s Jasper Johns? Are there any ‘Leo Castelli-like” art dealers around? Are today’s architects connected to the art scene, and artists connected to architecture?

Fast backward: the display triggered some memories. During the late 1960s we were students of architecture in Rome. Since the National Academy of Modern Art was next door to our school, we visited it frequently. The Gallery’s director, Palma Bucarelli, was a strenuous promoter of Abstract Expressionists as well as Neo-Dada, Pop, Minimalist and Conceptualist artists. It was during that time when we first came across some of Jasper Johns’ paintings.

In parallel, while working as apprentices at the studio of architect Luigi Pellegrin, we listened to time and again his insights on the new American art. Opening a publication illustrating contemporary American art, he would say “Look at this well: it is acid, it is crude, it is purposefully not-finished. It reflects our time.” The design of his house in via Aurelia carried some of these attributes.

When we traveled to the United States to visit and photograph Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture across the country, we started our trip in New York. It was 1971, and we were in our twenties. At the time, Soho was the epicenter of contemporary art. Leo Castelli had just opened two branches of his gallery on 77th street, one on the second floor of 420 West Broadway, and an even larger one at 142 Greene Street. It was there we saw newer works of Jasper Johns, along with those of several vanguard artists of the time: Frank Stella, James Rosenquist, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Bruce Nauman, Sol LeWitt.

A month later, when having a private stopover at Phillip Johnson’s glass house in New Canaan, we visited, within his estate, Johnson’s ‘buried’ panting gallery and his underground sculpture gallery. They both contained multiple masterpieces of contemporary art.

Did we see any reflection of the art-of-the-times in architecture? Wright was out of all trends. The architecture of the establishment  “didn’t talk” to the on-going art vanguard. A rare exception was John Johansen’s Mummers Theater in Oklahoma City, built in 1970, outrageously demolished in 2014. Bruce Goff and Herb Green’s architecture were in-between organic and dissonant.

Fast forward to the present. The Broad exhibition of over one hundred Jasper Johns’ works, spanning sixty years of his career, is not a retrospective.  Works from different decades and in various media have been curated thematically, to demonstrate Johns’ career-long preoccupations.

And today? Art is breaking away from the confines of museums and art galleries. Perhaps the more strident example street art is the work of JR, which surpasses in scope that of Christo. He is not alone. There is a good number of forefront artists breaking new ground in film, video art, dance, sculpture, painting, music.

And in architecture? It is a tough call. Gehry led the way to liberate architects’ forms of expression, but the results come with many question marks about their social content. There seems to be an infatuation with the endless possibilities offered by new 3-D technology, but is… are these result also socially responsible?

And The Winner Is… Q&A with the five Foreign Films directors nominated for the Golden Globes Awards 2018

“And the Winner Is…” brings segments of a Q&A with the five Foreign Films directors nominated for the Golden Globes Awards sharing their thoughts and experiences on the making of their latest films. Angelina Jolie, Ruben Östlund, Andrey Zvigagintsev, Sebastian Lelio and Fatih Akin sat next to each other at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theater and answered questions posed by the moderator, Mike Goodrich, on their films: FIRST THEY KILLED MY FATHERTHE SQUARELOVELESSFANTASTIC WOMAN AND IN THE FADE respectively, dealing with contemporary themes addressing the world today.

The day preceding the Golden Globs Awards night we sat at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theater in Hollywood surrounded by a public of creative people from the filmmaking community. The Q&A was moderated by Mike Goodrich. The directors, in spite of being competitors, were friendly and unassuming. Although my preferred film among the very good five was Ruben Östlund’s The Square, whom we had encountered the preceding day at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica, I was very impressed by the humanity, eloquence and thinking of Angelina Jolie, well beyond her beauty and talent as an actress. Being acquitted with Cambodia’s genocide – back in 2008 we were commissioned to design a memorial in Long Beach, which has the largest Cambodian community outside of Phnom Penh – I thought that They Killed My Father First was important to raise the public’s awareness of the Cambodian tragedy.  The film was well crafted, besides its content.

Why was The Square my preferred film? Because I saw it as one of those films that mark a “before and after” point of reference, like La Dolce Vita in the 1960’s. It is a breakthrough in filmmaking, and I am glad that the Cannes Festival acknowledged that by awarding it the Palme d’Or. Many professional critiques disagree, and in fact, contrary to my predictions, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association did not award it, neither did it award Jolie’s film, which I considered the second best. The critique is that it is “disjointed.” Sure, and that’s the point. Östlund is perfectly coherent in the way he presents his social critique in a language consistent with the message. In a way, its satirical aspect reminded me the films of Luis Buñuel and the plays of Eugene Ionesco.

Fatih Akin’s input at the symposium was genuine. In the Fade is a very good thriller, but I agree with him that he would not have been there without the participation of Diane Kruger’s fabulous acting. The importance of this film dealing with terrorism and neo-nazi racism is that it focuses on the victim, rather than on the terrorists or the police investigators.

In Fantastic Woman, Sebastian Lelio confronted a difficult subject in telling the story of a transexual as a social message, to a great extent thanks to the performance of its star, Daniela Vega. He acknowledges that before the film he had had many prejudices about the subject, and only after long research he changed his mind.

Last but not least, Andrey Zviyagnitsev’s Loveless develop a theme that, unfortunately, it is quite universal: the victimization of children from an ugly divorce. The filmmaking is masterful in a  classical cinematographic way of painting a drama, but, like In the Fade, it is essentially a thriller.

Why would a filmmaker of architecture documentaries step on the field of feature films’ critique? An easy answer is ‘why not’? But the truth is that I see architecture as the ultimate expression of life itself, and it is nourished by all the arts and sciences. In many ways, I find that architecture and filmmaking have a similar process. As a personal note: in my first year at the School of Architecture of the University of Buenos Aires, we had a course named “Cultural Integration,” taught by Jorge Romero Brest. As part of the course, we had to go to watch assigned good cinema (Fellini, Antonioni, Tati, Kurosawa) every Saturday morning, and write a review by Monday. It was the way the school saw how to develop critical thinking in students that didn’t know a jota about architecture.

“And The Winner Is…” Obviously, YOU! 

Copyright R&R Meghiddo, 2017, All Rights Reserved.

Seen, Done, Thought, In-the Making On Photography, Films, Architecture, and 2018 Challenges

The turn of the year offers an opportunity to summarize what we have seen, done and thought, and to program a new year. I am sharing with you selected photos we shot, films we watched and produced, architecture we recorded or selected, relevant books I read, and some thought on “The State of the World,” and what we can do to create a better tomorrow.

IMAGES

Showing images is the best way of “making a long story short.”

Click on: Selected Photography 2017.

Selected Photography 2017

Selected Photography 2017

The selection is personal and eclectic. Some have value as a document of an event rather than for its quality as a photograph.  The gallery includes panoramic photos, images of historical value (such as of architects Eric Lloyd Wright and Dion Neutra getting together in Malibu during Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th birthday celebration, and civil rights activist  Dolores Huerta, who coined the slogan “Yes We Can – Si Se Puede,” borrowed by Obama ; film directors, producers and actors at Q & As’ we frequented;  Richard King’s memorial and the spreading of his ashes; and some people we met. As a coda, I also added recent underwater photos sent by our daughter Gabby from the Maldives Islands, southwest of Sri Lanka and India; and a few shots of us.

“Stars” included veteran director Marcel OphulsAlexander Payne (“Downsizing,”) Kathryn Bigelow (“Detroit,”) director Joe Wright and actor Gary Oldman (“The Darkest Hours,”) Annette Bening (“Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,”) some images of nature in Idyllwild, and even a bird visiting my desk.

This year I also published for the first time a selection of photographs shot during our “Frank Lloyd Wright pilgrimage” back in 1971, when we visited over one hundred of Wright’s buildings across twenty-five states. 

http://archidocu.com/the-wright-way-2/ 

The Wright Way Photos.

The Wright Way Photos.

SELECTED FILMS SEEN IN 2017

We had a busy year watching documentaries + Q & As’ (presented by the International Documentary Association – IDA ) We also saw many feature films at the American Cinematheque,  at the WRAP, at the LA Jewish Film Festival, and at the Israel Film Festival. I share the list of some of them. They are all very good. The ones in bold letters are “must see.”

Alone in Berlin, Neruda, Hidden Figures, Gigi Gorgeous, Hell on Earth, Nobody Speaks, Dolores, Trophy, Icarus, Intent to Destroy, City of Ghosts, New York Times Op-Docs, 11/8/16, God Knows Where I Am, I Call Him Morgan, Step, One of Us, The Work, Oklahoma City, Finding Oscar, Atomic Homefront, The Rape of Recy Taylor, Under One Sun, An Inconvenient Sequel, Detroit, Columbus, I Am Evidence, Arthur Miller – Writer, Kedi, Chasing CoralBen Gurion, EpilogueCries from Syria, The Divine Order, The Final Year, MachinesFoxtrotCall Me by Your NameDownsizing, Film Stars Don’t Die in LiverpoolThe SquareHuman Flow, I Am not your Negro, Intent to Destroy, Strong Island, Phantom Thread, The Post.

Documentarians are real contemporary heroes. Many risk their lives in bringing to us images of genocidal wars, human brutality, racism, inequality, global warming, migration tragedies, political and corporate corruption, and also beauty in nature, indigenous cultures and extraordinary human beings. Most of this is produced following prolonged research, scouting, shooting, hard-editing work, meager budgets and scarce distribution.

They are a unique mix of artists-journalists working with passion, combining filmmaking excellence with the search for truth. Their work contributes to expanding our consciousness of the world we live in.

FILMS PRODUCED IN 2017

My own production this year was intense. With fifteen published titles, most of which have been published in Cultural Weekly, they exceeded two hours of film. This year I crossed the mark of sixty short documentaries. The ones published during 2017 are:

Tangoing with Paul & Amigos (12:13) A non-scripted experiment.

The Wright Way – An overture (17:21’)   The Wright Way Hint (2:36)  Both the “Overture” and the “Hint” were preliminary warm-ups towards  The Wright Way feature documentary (work-in-progress.)

Tongva Park and the Angelbird (5:33′) This open public space is the best architecture that we have documented this year in Los Angeles.

Architecture + Cinema + Hollywood (29:52) Renzo Piano’s Academy Museum under construction provided an opportunity to link the museum’s content with the Hollywood context and with architecture.

Idyllwild Idyll (9:12) “Back to nature,” this documentary includes the little-known Pearlman Cabin designed by architect John Lautner in 1957.

Netflix Night (2:55’) A not-scripted documentation of my first visit to Netflix.

Normality “Lo-Normali” /(4:56’) It summarizes the documentaries I shot in Israel during 2016.

Radio Day Unabridged (26:11) and  Radio Day (16:43) Both the full version (“Unabridged,” which includes questions on Israel) and the short version are the result of a radio interview hosted by Nancy Pearlman, to which I added visualization later on.

Architecture in a Nutshell (9:20’) An introduction to principles of architecture.

Human-Made Plastic Ocean (3:55) A Plastic Ocean premiere in Beverly Hills. See full cast.

Hanukkah’s First Candle (40:32) The lighting of Hanukkah’s fifth candle in a Greater Los Angeles home was not only the place for the gathering of people from many backgrounds and areas of the the city, but also for the screening of “Never Again is Now,” a new documentary telling a unique story of survival in the Netherlands during the Nazi occupation, and sending a message about the danger of raising antisemitism in Europe and elsewhere, including the United States.

Mormon Temple Visit (1:51) A brief first visit to the secluded Mormon Temple in Los Angeles.

Food for Thought (2:58) Farm Urbana, as presented in “Food for Thought,” proposes practical solutions to help the rapidly growing urban population’s access to fresh food close to home.

FILMMAKING PLANS

The Wright Way, my first feature documentary, is on the way. It is to be a cry-out documentary about how some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s ideas and principles can help to inspire and appeal the young generation to create a sustainable future of livable cities and human settlements. Not a biography, it looks at Wright with fresh eyes and will suggest alternative scenarios for the future of the human environment with a sense of urgency.

ARCHITECTURE

Although 2017 has produced many new projects, I found most of them dominated by “acrobatics,” infatuation with 3-D renderings, and little concern confronting an urgent agenda towards sustainable quality mass-production, to narrow the gap between population growth, decaying cities, climate change and poverty. The production of Organic Architecture was practically zero. I chose to produce a short documentary on one of the exceptions, the  Tongva Park in Santa Monica (see “Tongva Park and the Angelbird” listed above.)

The exception is  Snøhettaan international architecture, landscape architecture, interior design and brand design office based in Oslo, Norway and New York City with studios in San Francisco, Innsbruck, Singapore and Stockholm. A major new building  has opened in the south of France, framing a huge replica of one of the world’s most important examples of prehistoric cave art. Called Lascaux IV, the new visitor complex recreates the appearance and atmosphere of the caves in Montignac where the 20,000-year-old Lascaux paintings are located, but which have been closed to the public for over 50 years.

The examples that follow have been produced by committed architects and designers: Brooks + ScarpaSnohettaWhitaker StudioEric RosenPatkau Architects,  Thomas Heatherwick, and Herzog & de Meuron.

CHALLENGES

World politics had been dominated by the ascent of Trump to power. He is a symptom that denotes a sick society suffering from branding brainwashing, widespread ignorance of the world’s reality and dogmatic beliefs, all of which have been brewed during the past half-century.

Solutions will demand both talking and action, such as:

  1. Containment of Trump until 2020 through the rule of law. All other alternatives are worse.

  2. Awareness of reality as-is. Documentarians have much to say and show on this.

  3. Action-oriented assumption of responsibility, particularly by millennials.

  4. A vision of a better world in healthcare, housing, justice, the urban environment, closing the gap of inequality and much more.

     The UN goals for sustainable development are quite detailed about 17 areas of challenge.

BOOKS

From the books I read during 2017, the ones that I found the most relevant are:

Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari

Internal Ecology, by Darío Salas Sommer

No Is Not Enough, by Naomi Klein

TEACHING

Scheduled to give a six-week class on “How to Look at Architecture” at the Skirball Cultural Center and at OLLI/CSULB,  the classes will include the screening of architecture documentaries I made, to convey visually a better understanding of the importance of good design in our life.

"How to Look at Architecture" class at the Skirball Cultural Center, Jan. 16 - Fe. 20, 2018.

“How to Look at Architecture” class at the Skirball Cultural Center, Jan. 16 – Feb 20, 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.

'>Tangoing with Paul & Amigos A personal spinoff of Paul McCarthy's exhibition at the Hauser & Wirth Gallery in LA's downtown Art District

“Impacting” is what first comes to mind when visiting Paul McCarthy’s wood sculpture exhibition at the Hauser & Wirth Gallery in LA’s downtown Arts District.

The combination of crafted wood at a large scale and the integration of a Baroque language speaking a surrealistic critique of the contemporary world signals an art mutation
McCarthy titled his works “WS Spinoffs,” ”Wood Statues” and “Brown Rothkos.” The word “spinoff” is precise. In media, a spinoff is a radio or television program, film, or any narrative work, derived from one or more already existing works, that focuses in more detail on one aspect of an original work. In this case, the Snow White tale and Rothko’s paintings.
The gallery’s website includes a well-written description of McCarthy’s show, and also an 8-minute video presentation by Donatien Grau. See: https://www.hauserwirthlosangeles.com/exhibitions/paul-mccarthy-20170701
My reaction to the exhibition was more visceral than intellectual and so is my short documentary, “Tangoing with Paul & Amigos.” I made a sort of non-scripted “spinoff” that includes free association with like-minded artists and some memories from my Argentinean upbringing. The tango music is a metaphor of a dynamic nonlinear fluidity.
I tried to imagine the statues made out of white marble. The conflicts, sarcasms and subtleties they contain would become more evident, such as Bernini’s positioning the “Rio de la Plata River” sculpture in Piazza Navona as fearing that the facade of Borromini’s church of Sant’Agnese would crumble over him. Yet McCarthy’s choice of dark walnut wood is intentional. It makes harder to see the thematic at first sight. The eye is caught first by the craftsmanship and by the large scale as macro-layers of a complex composition.
Four Rivers Fountain, Piazza Navona, Rome

Bernini’s Four Rivers Fountain, Piazza Navona, Rome

The abstraction of the hanging Brown Rothkos, made of foam and sprayable polyurethane coating, resemble melting lava and brings a powerful contrast to the statues. They are both at an architectural scale.
Bown Rothkos

Brown Rothkos with Rothkos

Snow White Sculpture

Snow White Sculpture

Paul McCarthty

Paul McCarthy