Architecture and Film
[…] The film shows the grammar of architecture, and so it becomes a tool to form new ideas in architecture. More than that, it also becomes a tool to rediscover some specific aspects of filming in general: more precisely, those aspects concerning space and movement. Unexpectedly, the visit to the Swiss Architecture Museum Basel could be quite precious even for the film student or filmmaker.
The Swiss Architecture Museum in Basel (S_AM Basel) has got us used to viewing exhibitions that result from large, comparative studies between architecture and other disciplines. In these exhibitions, the interdisciplinary nature of architecture is always expressed through a highly documented material: a theoretically grounded work that is fundamental to architecture. With “Constructing Film. Swiss Architecture in the Moving Image”, the S_AM Basel adds an essential tile to its comparative mosaic. It is an introductory, 50-minute film by Florine Leoni and Evelyn Steiner – the main curator at S_AM – addressing the question of filming architecture.
Here, it is not about the presence of architecture in films (which would be a specifically filmic concern), but it is entirely about filming architecture. Architecture remains the object of inquiry and the film, or, more generally, the moving images, the tool of analysis. If the film, composed of hundreds of film excerpts, initially appears with a didactic tone, we are soon fascinated to discover the multiple relationships between vision, movement, and architecture. Accompanied by excellent sound editing (by Tobias Koch), this patient analysis reveals itself as a useful exercise in learning about the potential of each aspect of architecture. The isolation of different modalities of seeing and moving throughout the space helps certain architectural elements stand out. The film shows the grammar of architecture, and so it becomes a tool to form new ideas in architecture. More than that, it also becomes a tool to rediscover some specific aspects of filming in general: more precisely, those aspects concerning space and movement. Unexpectedly, the visit to the Swiss Architecture Museum Basel could be quite precious even for the film student or filmmaker.
Leoni & Steiner’s film is the only point of access to the other two parts of the exhibition: a room with ten video interviews, which offer further theoretical investigation on the subject, and a final room that is nicely set with dozens of monitors, on which the visitor can individually watch all of the one-hundred films whose excerpts comprise the introductory film. On their own, these two parts of the exhibition could seem quite scattered to the visitor, but, after viewing the introductory film, they become a way to confirm what one has learned from the video and a way to discover further particular aspects of the relationship between film and architecture. Therefore, it is not only the introductory film but the organization of the entire exhibition that is quite effective and convincing.
With this exhibition, we realize how even a purely instrumental treatment of film can be of great interest to the film-lover: it provides not only an opportunity to recognize that film may be the predominant common language today, but it is also a way to appreciate the virtues of an analytical attitude when approaching the exhibited film, in order to go deeper into the potential of the film language.
Text: Giuseppe Di Salvatore
First published: May 04, 2016