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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Dancing About Architecture

Bob Burnett: I was once kiddingly called an “Urban Planning Geek” while serving as a Planning Commissioner in my community. And I proudly admit to being one. I take great interest in observing traffic patterns and parking. I also like to chat about “floor area ratio” and “building fenestration”.

Excellent building fenestration!

Part of the reason I’ve become so planningcentric is because GVI has created video projects about planning, architecture, affordable housing, school design, green buildings, new urbanism, etc. for the American Architectural Foundation, The US Conference of Mayors and the National Association of REALTORS among others. I’ve been able to talk to incredible people and see fascinating places. Imagine my surprise when on a recent visit to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City I came across a video monitor that was playing a multimedia presentation called “Picture a City”.

It was amazing. Here among some of my favorite artwork in the world I found myself smitten by a planning video.

To make “Picture a City”, Squint/Opera, a group of urban design savvy filmmakers/animators out of London, merged together urban planning ideas with graphic design, music, video and still photography to make a short video-styled communication tool that advocates a new approach to thinking how the city of Bradford, England should redevelop in the future. That’s right—a less than 5 minute music-driven presentation without a narration track that made perfect sense and inspired action. And in addition to being used as an effective communication tool for Bradford I had to pinch myself because I was watching it in the Museum of Modern Art! I know the late Frank Zappa once snidely said, ”talking about music is like dancing about architecture” but he never saw visual dancing about architecture that is possible the way it is now. In a production idea dancing happens when you allow the visual elements to lead the way. Your viewer is able to absorb and interpret the content – and come to their own understanding of the information in new and interesting ways they may never have considered. No white paper, cluttered 25 bullet-item powerpoint or panel discussion video will ever capture that sort of fresh thinking.

We recently produced a video called “Schools Designed for Learning: The Denver School of Science and Technology”. Like the
Bradford approach taken by Squint/Opera, the video lets the information unravel—driven by images of the school, music and the thoughts of the teachers, students and administrators of the school. I can proudly say the universal reaction has been “I wish I went to a school like that!” which is music to my architecturally dancing ears.

And best of all the video has been available not just as a DVD but as a streaming video on the American Architectural Foundation’s webpage and is on youtube where organizations and people around the world are linking their blogs and webpages to the video as an example of positive school design.

1 comment:

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