Building Characters

Frank Lloyd Wright said that architecture is the most important of the arts because it surrounds us. Thanks to Netflix, I enjoyed two films about some of its most distinguished designers, and then another on PBS.

I.M. Pei: Museum on the Mountain

A man of incredible charm and imagination, Chinese immigrant Pei has designed some of the most memorable buildings of the modern age, and pulled off the near miracle of expanding the Lourve in Paris. “First Person Singular” traces his life story to show how Pei broke away from designing cookie-cutter New York City apartment buildings for real estate developer William Zeckendorf to envisioning structures that embody a sense of place, a spirit of inventiveness, and a sense of magic and adventure.

The film elucidates how Pei’s fertile mind comes up with buildings that blend form and function with a genuine sense of beauty and awe. “Museum on the Mountain” takes an in depth look at his creation of the Miho Museum in Japan, set in a protected mountain retreat and integrated into its setting and culture. After viewing, it’s hard to ever think about buildings as simply structures again.

I.M. Pei: Building China Modern

In this “American Masters” film, Pei returns to his place of birth, Suzhou, China, to design and build a museum in an ancient neighborhood. This “American Masters” episode takes the distinguished architect full circle, showing how he takes the palette of where he hails from and integrates it with his modern design principles in an illuminating and touching fashion.

Sketches of Frank Gehry

Directed by the late celebrated filmmaker Sydney Pollock, this film not only traces Gehry’s journey to becoming both one of the most celebrated and controversial architects today, but also offers a wonderful ongoing dialogue between two artistic creators who were longtime friends. Starting with a hay barn and homes, Gehry built a career using his unconventional design techniques that culminated in his love it or hate it Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain, and in the process invites us to reconsider how structures are conceived and put together and the materials used to build them.

From The Progressive Populist, February 15, 2011


News | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 2011 The Progressive Populist
PO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652