Recommended by two of our group, Soft City was written in the early 1970s when Raban lived in London, and is “a vivid, often funny portrait of metropolitan life, Soft City is part reportage, part incisive thesis, part intimate autobiography, and a much-quoted classic of the literature of the city and urban culture.”
An interesting (and much later) piece by Raban himself: http://www.jonathanraban.com/article.php?id=29
I’ve mentioned it in previous post(s), but don’t forget tomorrow night’s ‘Triumph of the City‘ debate, at which I’ll be a panellist. I know, standards are slipping.
Am very excited that Hubertus Siegert, director if the 2001 documentary film Berlin Babylon, will be joining us for a screening of his film, with a chance to chat about it afterwards.
The doc follows many of the key architects and other players in the ‘euphoric’ first wave of Berlin’s reconstruction in the late 1990s, including Renzo Piano, the late Günter Behnisch and others as they muse on the business of reconstructing huge areas of the city from scratch.
Plus it’s got a soundtrack composed by Einstürzende Neubauten, which you can’t say about many architecture documentary films. Or indeed most films.
As usual, 7.30pm at Hudson’s Cafe, Schönleinstr 1. Be punctual, as we want to have some time at the end!
On Wednesday 14th November, I’ll be taking part in a panel discussion entitled “The Triumph of the City?“, a satellite event of the Battle of Ideas event earlier this month in London.
One of the other panelists, Alistair Donald, is co-editor of a recent book of essays - The Lure of the City: From Slums to Suburbs, so I propose to do this as our book club book for the following week, by way of a tie-in.
Book club will be at 7.30pm at Hudson’s Cafe, Schönleinstr 1.
Have decided to do this on Tuesday (30th October), to avoid a Wednesday clash with Halloween, but also with an event at the AdK. So a chance to see HouseLife, the documentary about the Rem Koolhaas-designed private house in the south of France.
Unlike most archi docs, HouseLife follows a week in the life of a starchitect design through the eyes of its cleaning lady, as well as a number of other people tasked with cleaning its inaccessible glazing and attempting to fix the never-ending leaks.
As usual, 7.30pm at Hudson’s Cafe, Schönleinstr 1.
Sorry for the couple of reschedulings recently, meetups currently as follows:
Wednesday 24th Oct – architecture book club – Jane Jacobs’ “Death & Life of Great American Cities” (see earlier post, below).
Wednesday 31st Oct – architecture film at Hudson’s, hopefully ‘HouseLife‘ – the film about the house in Bordeaux designed by Koolhaas / OMA – RESCHEDULED - SEE LATER BLOG POST
Both events at 7.30pm at Hudson’s Cafe, Schönleinstr 1.
Also, I haven’t been yet, but don’t want to miss the TU’s exhibition about the Berlin IBA of the 1987, marking its 25th anniversary - RE-VISION-IBA ’87 _ Themen für die Stadt als Wohnort
Sad news that Hardt-Waltherr Hämer, the father of ‘careful urban renewal’ (’behutsamen Stadterneuerung’) and director of the Altbau half of the IBA 1987, died on Thursday.
Hämer was a key plyer in the movement against the excesses of modernist planning of the 1960s and 70s, which in Berlin reached its nadir with the redevelopment of Kottbusser Tor in Kreuzberg. He took the (at the time radical) view that cities could be revived by retaining the existing built fabric and working with local residents to improve their own homes and environment. This stood firmly against the orthodoxy of the time – the scorched earth policy of urban renewal through large scale demolition and rebuilding, including major new road networks, which was of course much more profitable for investors and contractors than Hämer’s ’slow architecture’ approach.
His much publicised and successful project to put these ideas into practice at Chamissoplatz in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district led to his heading of the Altbau element of the International BauAustellung of the 1980s in West Berlin. The legacy of his work here was later to be largely ignored during the redevelopment of Berlin following the fall of the Wall, with rabid gentrification, displacement of long-standing communities and the general blandifying of large parts of the city.
[Rescheduled from 17th Oct, sorry for any inconvenience]
I propose Jane Jacobs’ “The Death and Life of Great American Cities“, which is one of those books I hear endlessly referred to but have never actually read.
I’m a little nervous that it’s now 50 years old, and may seem on the one hand a little dated, on the other a bit ‘obvious’ (although many of the issues she writes about are clearly still major urban problems. Perhaps this should be the theme of our discussion: have Jacobs’ tirade against modernist planning become a new orthodoxy (or at least the lip-service that planners and architects all have to pay)?
And I think we can add some balance by picking more recent books for future meetings. I’ve been invited to join a panel debate in November, entitled “The Triumph of the City?“, and thought we might consider a book co-written by another of the panelists, Alastair Donald – “The Lure of the City: From Slums to Suburbs“.
As ever, all book suggestions welcome, especially for German or Berlin-based writing on architecture and urbanism that would have broad appeal (and isn’t just about the war…). Possible future book suggestions: Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, Colin Rowe’s Collage Cities, and more.
7.30 pm at Hudson’s Cafe, Schönleinstr 1.
So, finally getting things moving with our first archi film night, this coming Wednesday. Free entry, imported British beers, cake and more.
As usual, at Hudson’s, Boppstrasse 1, nearest U-Bahn Schönleinstraße.
Although I’m planning some ‘pure architecture’ films, including Rem’s Houselife, and Berlin Babylon, they’ll be mixed with movies that ’swim in an architectural sea’. Terry Gilliam’s Brazil is one such: a film from the days before CGI (but all the better for it) – a kind of darkly comic take on Orwell’s 1984, sharing at least one film location (Battersea power station) with the ’straight’ version of 1984 that came out the previous year. Yet Brazil is by far the better of the two films.
Gilliam has a madly architectonic eye, with virtually every scene a reference or in-joke about a particular building or failed utopian plan. It’s also a distopia where nothing mechanical or electronic ever works properly, a state of affairs with which I have much sympathy (and possibly the only film whose villains including heating and plumbing engineers?).
Anyway, it’s a great cast and an endlessly inventive film, that should be enjoyable even if you’re not a nerd like me.
This coming Wednesday (12th Sept) am planning to go along and see Richard Sennett at the AdK, but the following Wednesday (19th) I propose holding our first film night at Hudson’s. Think we should also have another social night, plus another book club, dates proposed as follows:
Wednesday 19th – Film night
Wednesday 26th – A general meetup
then book club early in October, TBC.
I’ve invited suggestions for films before (thanks for those who commented) and general consensus is to avoid the really obvious ones like Metropolis and Bladerunner. But below is a list of list of some suggestions – the choice for the first film night will probably depend on which are easy to track down, but all suggestions / comments welcome.
Short of time to give info and links etc, so you can look these up!
George Lucas’s THX 1138
The Cabinet of Dr Caligari
Jacques Tati’s Playtime (or maybe ‘Mon Oncle’?)
The Fountainhead (of course)
A Clockwork Orange
Brazil (Terry Gilliam’s best film?)
My Playground (doc about Parkour)
The Ghost Writer
AEon Flux (for the Berlin buildings, less for the story)
Houselife (about that house that Rem Koolhaas did)