Monday, August 11, 2003

I haven't had time to post lately. I'm preparing to move into an architecturally significant apartment building designed by R.M. Schindler. Most of Schindler's buildings have not aged well; the building I'm moving into certainly needs a good renovation, which I suppose it will receive eventually, since it's protected as an L.A. Historical Building. I'm spending the next few weeks sanding and painting and buffing and cleaning in an attempt to bring the apartment back to its mid-century modernist glory. The Phaidon book on Schindler by Judith Sheine has a passage about the Laurelwood apartments, excerpted below.

The Laurelwood apartments comprise twenty two-bedroom apartments (and two storage units) on a sloping site. They are organized along a central pathway and, angling away from the path at 15 degrees in plan, they step up the site to the top of the hill and then down again, at a 15-degree angle facing downhill. Schindler described his design as trying to give each tenant the feeling of living in their own house and described the reasons for the layout of the design:

"A two-story unit, containing an apartment on each floor, was repeated ten times, grouped in such a fashion as to give each apartment an unobstructed outlook and good exposure. The garages were located near the street and the access to each apartment is obtained through a central garden court. The main windows are turned towards the outside of the lot, and each ground story apartment is given a private garden patio.

"Each second story apartment received a private roof terrace on top of the next unit with unobstructed outlook in all directions.

"Each apartment contains a living-room, dining-room combination, which is separated by glass partition from the kitchen and breakfast nook, in order to obtain the utmost feeling of spaciousness."

The interiors of the apartments are simpler versions of the later Armon house, with glazed nooks protruding into the living/dining space. The exterior vocabulary is relatively simple, enlivened by the planning and massing of the units and the overhanging planes of the roofs. The Schindler Frame construction provided tongue-and-groove decking for the ceilings of the upper units, and Schindler also gave the lower units wood ceilings. He created soundproof air spaces between the walls of the adjoining units and between floors. The exterior is largely of stucco, and the interiors are plaster below the door-height datum and wood above the datum. Plywood built-in storage further articulates the interior spaces. Wood trellises and vertical screens along with curving pipe rails articulate the exterior. The predominant color for stucco and exterior wood was green, to blend in with the foliage, which grew to turn the access path into a linear garden court.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Saw Glauber Rocha's 1964 film Black God, White Devil. Rocha was a member of Brazil's Cinema Novo movement. He also wrote a manifesto called An Aesthetic of Hunger. Black God, White Devil is called Deus eo Diabo na Terra do Sol in the original Portuguese. I assume they translated it this way (rather than the literal God and the Devil in the Land of the Sun) in reference to Frantz Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks. Philippe Jalladeau describes the film: "Manuel, a herdsman, and his wife Rosa are on the run because of a bloody conflict with their 'coronel'. The couple joins mystics gathered around Sebastião, a black man who predicts the coming of an apocalyptic upheaval which will turn the Sertão into the sea and the sea into the Sertão. Ignored by Manuel, Rosa's eagerness brings about a violent break-up with the messianic preacher. As they keep travelling, the couple meet the survivors of the gang of cangaceiros led by Lampião. His lieutenant, Corisco, wants to raze Sertão to the ground. He is chased by Antonio das Mortes, the fazendeiros' henchman full of the importance of his murderous fate. The conclusion, announced by a blindman and sung by the chorus, shows Manuel that the earth belongs neither to God nor to the Devil." This is one of the most powerful films I've seen in a long time. The camerawork is reminiscent of early Pasolini, the editing draws on Eisenstein, and the violence prefigures Sam Peckinpah's later blood operas. And the soundtrack is simply amazing. Rocha's films really need to be more readily available -- in fact, Latin American cinema in general needs to be more readily available.

Which will die first? Friendster or flash-mobs? Or are they both already over?