Thinking Like an Architect

Over the last month, I’ve been surprised by how engaged I am in a film class I signed up for on somewhat of a whim. The topic of the class is art direction for movies and TV, and the instructor was formally trained first as an architect, so one of our first units focused on architecture. As we studied architectural movements throughout history, we paid special attention to what elements of these styles can signify in the context of storytelling. While I’ve been interested in art and architectural history for a while, the last time I had broad survey coverage of the history of architecture or art was in AP Art History in high school, so it’s been a while. I immensely enjoyed the lectures and readings (architecture textbooks in Spanish) for how they strengthened my sense of chronology and provided me with an opportunity to refresh this dormant knowledge and have a clearer sense of what innovations or change in attitudes defined each architectural movement.

The survey was also exciting for me because the instructor emphasized iterations of these movements in Latin America, and I know very little about architecture in the region. While I’m familiar with Republican, Neoclassical, and Neocolonial architecture from the many government buildings and other institutions in the US that have deployed these styles, it was illuminating to consider how the movements manifested differently in Latin America. We also briefly spoke about a few famous Latin American architects, namely Rogelio Salmona (who designed some of my favorite buildings in Bogotá), Felix Candela (who is Spanish, actually, but lived in Mexico for many years), and Oscar Niemeyer.

IMG_7835
Rogelio Salmona’s red brick masterpiece, the Torres del Parque apartment buildings, surrounding the Plaza de Toros in La Macarena, Bogotá, Colombia.

While a fair share of class time was dedicated to covering facts and drilling architectural vocabulary, the instructor also cued up trailers and scenes of movies whose production designers deployed knowledge of architectural history to design spaces for characters that advanced themes or key concepts of the film. Then after 6 hours of lecture, we had 8 hours or so of architecture excursions, during which we walked around neighborhoods of Bogotá, identifying architectural styles and appropriation as well as considering how these spaces could be used for filming.

In theory, the activity seemed amazing: none of the many art history and architectural history courses I’ve taken truly required me to identify architectural elements that could place a building in a movement or analyze the broader implications of such architectural elements. In practice, these walking tours were enjoyable but also very long and exhausting. With the air pollution here (which I’ve complained about already), any outdoor activity, and especially one that involves walking along main thoroughfares, is bound to induce headaches and a sore throat.

I wasn’t eager to carry extra weight, so left my camera at home for the first excursion, but I’m glad I brought it for the second outing–posting some quick shots of select buildings we discussed below.

 

 

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