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Architecture & Design Film Festival – Kyle Bergman Q+A

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Here in New York City, it’s Architecture and Design Month “Archtober” (ärk’tōbər)! It’s the fifth annual month-long festival of architecture activities, programs and exhibitions taking place during the month of October.  Around the globe, there are a bounty of cultural festivals that also celebrate excellent architecture and great design and, this month, we’re highlighting some of the world’s best. Let’s start here at home in NYC with the Architecture & Design Film Festival… 

 

Now, in its seventh year, the Architecture & Design Film Festival returns to New York, October 13 -18, with an invigorating selection of feature-length, short, and documentary films. Expect to be engaged and entertained by lively discussions with architects, designers, filmmakers and industry leaders. We caught up with Kyle Bergman, the founder and director of the Architecture & Design Film Festival.

 

Q: How did the festival get started?

A: I’m an architect by profession and I’ve always thought about the great connection between architecture and film. To me, they’re two sides of the same coin — architecture and film are ways for us to tell stories. They share similar characteristics, for one, they are both public acts. Both art forms consider light, scale, proportion, and it’s really a balance between art and science. Merging architecture and film was something that came natural to me. I really wanted to develop a film festival that engaged the general public as well as the design community.

 

Q: What is the film selection process?

A: We accept submissions year-round. We preview around 250 films and try to stick to a schedule of 25-30 films. However, this year we ended up with a selection of 33 films, which speaks volumes about the high caliber of submissions we received. Our selection process is “organic”, and we don’t adhere to criteria; we care more about how the films capture the creative design process.

 

Q: Were there themes that came together in making selections for this year’s programs?

A: No, we don’t start with themes, it generally evolves. But a Nordic theme became apparent when we were finalizing our program schedule. For instance, we’re showing Jytte Rex’s acclaimed portrait of the late Henning Larsen, and The Infinite Happiness, which features the giant 8 House designed by Bjarke Ingels. Festivalgoers may even detect mini-Irish and family themes.

 

Q: Can you describe the physical and emotional duress of putting on a festival like this?

A: I may disappoint you with my answer… I’m a firm believer that if you like what you do, you don’t even think about it.

 

Q: Tell us the best and worst part of your job.

A: The festival is something that I started, so I’m proud of that. But I would say the best part of my job is having the opportunity to increase architecture and design dialogue, and make it more appealing to a wider audience, not just for design professionals. Then, there are the filmmakers…I feel that the festival puts a spotlight on these talented filmmakers and showcases their passion and dedication to their craft.

 

Don’t miss out on the nation’s largest film festival celebrating architecture and design. Tickets and the program schedule are available here.

FunHaus: A New Way to (Re)View the New Whitney

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This post is the first in our new series “FunHaus” where we explore the people, places, and things we love.  Enter the FunHaus! 

“A new standard for online journalism,” commented Bencharif on the The New York Timesreview of the new Whitney Museum.

We couldn’t agree more. The review, if that’s still the right word for it, was a collaboration between writer Michael Kimmelman, a team of graphic artists, and the architect Renzo Piano – produced entirely without photography of the new museum. The goal was to “create a seamless experience that would leave readers with a greater understanding of the building than could be achieved in a more traditional story form,” wrote Graham Roberts, one of the graphic artists. Mission accomplished.

Architecture lends itself marvelously to video. It’s a visual medium, obviously, but also a kinetic one. Time is one of its components: buildings are designed to be moved through (see our recent post on architecture as experience by guest blogger and architectural historian, John Kriskiewicz). Designers looking to get their work published, even without photography, should consider creating similar fly-throughs with their existing 3-D models.

Kimmelman’s words are punctuated by several kinetic experiences. The reader/viewer passes through walls, zips backwards along an interior corridor, zooms in and out. The videos move fast, but one of the lovelier moments is a lingering slideshow of historic images of the uptown building.

No buttons to press, no links to follow; the experience is automatic. This curated approach is not to everyone’s taste. M Hagood in Brooklyn said, “I am giving up, because the design keeps hijacking my page and sending me off on a visual roller coaster. Look, I like design. I teach design. This is just a pain in the behind.” Overall, however, the reception was enthusiastic. Richard in Denver gets the last word: “The best review overall in decades.”

The Heart and Soul of Buildings: Architecture as Experience

0d6d80f68c0b625a9730654d355e5863This month, we’re focusing on the experience of architecture. We welcome our special guest blogger, architectural historian John Kriskiewicz, Assoc. AIA, who takes us on a journey through two iconic New York buildings to illustrate his views on “architecture as experience.” 

A native New Yorker, John holds a professional degree in architecture from Pratt Institute and is a board member of DOCOMOMO New York/Tri-State.  Over the past two decades, he has taught courses focused on architectural and planning history at Parsons School of Design, The Cooper Union, Fashion Institute of Technology, Stern College for Women, and Manhattan College, while designing tour programs and lectures for many of New York City’s institutions and corporations. His many exhibitions and articles have revealed history and preservation issues to a broad audience. John admits to a special affinity for New York’s extensive infrastructure, as well as its Mid-Century Modern heritage.

“When I enter a dwelling, I experience atmospheres one after the other – sequences of light and shade, of narrowness and space. There is a scenography, a dramatic structure for the space. Architecture is great cinema.We design buildings like films, whose power lies in leading us through worlds and catching hold of our emotions.”  – Architect Thomas Willemeit of the Berlin-LA-Beijing firm Graft , 2015

The importance of scenography and sequence was understood by architects trained according to Beaux-Arts philosophies at the end of the nineteenth and the early twentieth century. They knew this carefully choreographed procession through space as “marche”, the French verb “to walk”.

“Marche” is the sequence we experience at Carrère and Hastings’s New York Public Library of 1911 on Fifth Avenue.

Ascending a set of broad stone stairs, from the level of the sidewalk, to a spacious terrace, we are encouraged to pause a moment to take in our surroundings, just above the heads of the crowds on the avenue behind us. In front of us, we survey a wide, white marble façade. The triple arched entry beckons us forward, up a higher set of white marble stairs, to the entrance portico. Here we are in transition, neither quite inside nor out. Through a low bronze door we are compressed for a moment, then we are released into an eruption of space. Surrounded by creamy white marble lit by both electric and natural light that pulls us ever upwards, towards the vast reading room. This most spacious, brightest, most elaborate public space, is the heart and soul of the building.

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Through this choreographed sequence of spaces, materials, and light, we’ve made a journey from the quotidian, into the realm of the intellect. An architectural metaphor for the process of enlightenment.

Often, the most dispiriting of architectural experiences is air travel. Eero Saarinen’s whimsical 1962 Trans World Airlines Flight Center, now part of Jet Blue’s Terminal 5 at Kennedy International Airport reminds us of a different era. In his words,

We wanted passengers passing through the building to experience a fully-designed environment in which each part arises from another and everything belongs to the same formal world.”

Saarinen’s concept, provided the passenger with a similar journey from the everyday into the glamorous world of air travel. A “jet-age” reinterpretation of “marche”.

For this example I must revert to the past tense. There are plans, however, that may allow us to experience what was, once more.

New York International Airport at Idlewild, planned by architect Wallace Harrison as “Terminal City”, placed TWA at a prominent bend along the circumferential roadway.

Designed to be experienced first through the windshield of a private automobile or taxi, this location was critical to the initial experience. Like the Beaux-Arts Public Library on its broad terrace, we are given the opportunity to comprehend the whole from the roadway before we enter. The building’s iconic silhouette was both a progressive corporate symbol and widely understood metaphor for flight.

If architecture is “frozen music”, TWA is Bossa Nova. Like that lyrical fusion of samba and jazz, TWA is smooth, sensual, expressive and Modern. Thin shell concrete, sinuously forms a porte coche, as we stepped from the car. Through glass automatic doors into a day lit, sculptural space, matte white circular tiles grew into fantastic forms; bridges, terraces, reception desks, arrival and departure boards. Up a half flight to a “TWA red” carpeted terrace. There, a sunken, red upholstered seating area where we could pause to survey a panorama of jet craft, through a broad, curved glass wall.

No need to descend to the tarmac to then climb up a rolling stair to the entry door of the plane, like all other terminals of the day. Instead, we walked from the daylight of the terminal terrace through white tubes awash with a luminescence whose source is hidden beneath the crimson carpeted paths. Gradually ascending, our destination was momentarily hidden by the arch of the tube, and then revealed: the “flight wing”. Here once again, daylight poured through glass walls and “jetways” connected directly to the aircraft.

From automobile drop off to aircraft, a seamless journey, made memorable by attention throughout to space, form, color, material.

From different eras, designed for different functions, yet The New York Public Library and The TWA Flight Center share that unmistakable, memorable quality of architecture as experience.

Five things to stop saying in your press releases

Public Relations Nightmare Ahead SignSome of the most needless words in press releases are also the most common.

Many wasted words are holdovers from the early days of PR, when press releases were written on stone tablets. Others are borrowed from the corporate jargon that emerged since the advent of the corporate website.

It’s not just the words but also the number of them that are strung together to say so little. The elements of a bad press release are so familiar that they seem obligatory. And therein lies the problem. Like a virus, they never die.

Here are five common flaws to avoid.

For immediate release.  Stop the presses! A company just issued a press release. This line often tops releases. In most cases, the sense of urgency is a bit overblown. It’s an old joke in newsrooms to hold a printout as if it’s hot coal, saying “hot off the press” or something silly like that. You can get off to a better start by removing this piece of old furniture.

We are excited. We’ve all seen the “we are excited” quote so many times that it is easy to fall into the trap of sounding just like all the other excited people quoted in press releases the world over.

Whether you are thrilled, delighted or ecstatic is beside the point. Instead, make an appeal to the emotions of your readers. Why is your news interesting, important or beneficial to them?

Innovative solutions. This corporate phrase has done its duty and has earned its retirement. It conjures stock images of smiling office workers pointing at computer screens in a brightly lit office on the homepage of a once stylish website that’s due for an update.

If you think about it, all companies are in the business of providing solutions. Except for companies that are in the business of creating problems. And we know how well that goes. Instead, tell people what your company does and why it is good for them.

The self-aggrandizing quote. “We are thrilled about our exciting innovation, which is just the latest example of our company’s preeminent position in the solutions industry. It is no wonder we are the market leader in the thing that we do,” said Brag Toomuch, CEO of Boring & Bland.

Don’t be that guy. Use quotes as an opportunity to explain the big-picture significance of your announcement. Why does it matter to the world outside of your headquarters?

Continued on page three. There is no page three. The optimal length of a press release is one page. Two pages is a pardonable offense. Press releases are often written by committee. Passages get added as the work moves up the chain. Aim for one page. Accept the reality of two. Save page three for the “urgent, exciting, solutions” that you’ve “proudly” avoided.

 

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