Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Lives of Spaces ... plus PLACE pizza

The Lives of Spaces

As mentioned last week, the Belfast Film Festival has been in full swing.

When the festival programme suggested that a film would be shown in Donegall Street, I wondered if they’d got it right! But sure enough, up above the Belfast Exposed gallery, up above NvTv, right at the top of a lot of stairs, there was tiered seating and a projector on the ceiling in the Studio Cinema.

It turned into an evening where an IT architect gate-crashed the world of the built environment and more traditional architects.

The festival event was based around Ireland’s entry into the 11th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice back in Autumn 2008. Without getting all artsy, in curating the exhibition Nathalie Weadick and Hugh Campbell avoided concentrating on buildings, and instead reflected the use that people made of the space within the buildings. Hence the title - The Lives of Spaces.

The Lives of Others ... pizza in the PLACE

Photographs and models of buildings are very static. So instead, they commissioned nine pieces for the exhibition that instead used film to show off the spaces and the lives they supported. Most came from architects, teamed up with a film-maker, to realise their vision of a particular space.

“In an attempt to get beyond the common abstract, distancing effect of traditional architectural displays of drawings and models, film is used as the primary medium. Film offers a vivid immediacy, a readily accessible language, and the capacity to incorporate time into the depiction of space. The exhibition consists of a series of filmic representations displayed in specially-designed armatures. Most display film on single or multiple LCD screens; some break film down into its constituent elements of sound, light and time.”

The spaces were all quite different.

  • Looking through the windows and up the hall into rooms in a bungalow, inter cut with family photos and amateur footage of a wedding reception that had been held in the home.
  • Contrasting the empty Waterford Library in its pristine, just-finished state with the book-laden people-rich environment once it had opened.
  • Comparing the spaces created by “two recently completed urban projects - one in Milan and one in Dublin”. Projected onto the big screen, the 24-like multi-screen effect entranced while the soundscape helped tell the story.

Overall it was a celebration of the communities that constructions support. Not about the pure beauty of the architectural form, but the opportunities and potential unlocked. And it made me think about the parallel tendency in the world of IT architecture to fall back on basic static designs (with lots of rectangular boxes and lines between them to represent the systems and interfaces), forgetting that it’s all about the people using the solutions and the opportunities and potential unlocked.

Hugh Campbell and Nathalie Weadick

Clips interspersed with Nathalie and Hugh’s background info. The full exhibition is coming to Ormeau Baths Gallery in February 2010, and after Wednesday night’s taster, it’ll be worth going along to see: to interact with the different pieces and explore the creators’ spaces.

The talk and screening was sponsored by PLACE (they have a blog) – a project run by the Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA) and Belfast City Council (BCC) which aims to promote good design while raising standards and best practice by educating architectural types as well as the general public who work and live in the “built environment” they are paid to create.

You'll have stood beside the door of PLACE if you've queued at the hole in the wall at the back of Boots in Belfast. Or wondered what happened to the old back entrance the old Ulster Bank branch that turned into Belfast Welcome Centre.

And it was back to PLACE afterwards that we headed for pizza and discussion. Bet there aren’t too many films in the festival with free food!

(And in slightly-stretched homage to The Lives of Spaces, this post is illustrated with images – sorry, didn’t stretch to film! – of the pizza fuelled lives occupying the narrow PLACE.)

1 comment:

Norwin! said...

Part of this reminds me of the scene in Watchmen where Doctor Manhattan tries to explain the beauty of Mars in its sterile lifelessness to his girlfriend. He didn't see the same beauty in the Earth with its chaos of human life, and didn't think it was worth saving.
I think it's easier to see the beauty in the pure design than in the physical reality. People are so messy. But perhaps it is worth trying. Perhaps it's how we save the world, by seeing the value that people add, even in their imperfection.