Synecdoche, New York and Infinitely Repeating Cities

The trailer for the new Charlie Kaufman written-and-directed movie, Synecdoche, New York was released today and it’s every bit as weird and wondrous as you’d want it to be. A synecdoche, for those non-English majors out there, is a figure of speech in which a part of something is made to represent the whole; e.g. “all hands on deck.” The film follows the life of a failed, yet incredibly ambitious director (played Phillip Seymour Hoffman) as he attempts to stage a play inside a full-scale replica of a portion of New York City…built inside a warehouse. We learn during the preview that this process takes no less than 17 years. We also learn, as evident in the above image, that at some point during the production, another warehouse is built to encompass the already-cavernous warehouse that was originally adopted as a set — or does he build a replica of the original warehouse in itself? Intrigued yet?


Lebbeus Woods and 12 Monkeys

lebbeus woods 12 monkeys
left: still from 12 Monkeys, right: Lebbeus Woods’s Neomechanical Tower

This is old news (circa 1995), but I think it’s pretty interesting. During his lecture last week, Lebbeus Woods mentioned that he had filed a lawsuit against architect-beloved film director, Terry Gilliam. Someone in the production crew for 12 Monkeys decided to base one of their sets on Woods’ illustration Neomechanical Tower (upper) chamber.

Down to the last detail, it’s almost exactly the same. Woods, however, said that he was more upset about Gilliam’s interpretation of the image than the appropriation of it. In the film, the chair was used as a torture device and although it does look somewhat insidious, Woods actually intended the room to be ambiguous in nature. Is it a seat of punishment or a seat of authority? Why couldn’t this be where The Philosopher sits as he ponders the world with his mechanized globe?

The court ruled that the film must remove the footage but Woods allowed it to remain, happy with the financial settlement. And from what I hear, he should be.

I’m reminded of the “What Dreams May Come,” a film with sets based on Etienne-Boullee designs. And then there’s the Jedi Archives in Episode II – an exact replica of the The Old Library of Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. What other film sets have been inspired by real-world works of architecture?

Related content:


“This is so stupid looking, it’s great!”

It’s documentary fest hear in San Francisco, and the Bay Guardian reviews Sketches of Frank Gehry.

    …despite all the grotesque, garish fun houses of titanium and glass, his work also radiates a peculiar warmth and friendliness. Unlike, say, Freedom Tower overlord Daniel Libeskind, whose attempts at sentiment come off about as soft and subtle as the rigid rectangles of his horn-rim glasses, Gehry can be intimidating in scope yet warm and fuzzy in feeling. His shiny, undulating surfaces at times seem downright … feminine.

To summarize for you, while the author waxes glowingly on Gehry himself, he finds the film much less inspiring. Perhaps due to the lack of any emotional threads or storytelling mechanisms – techniques that made My Architect such an incredible documentary.

…and a cameo by “the man with glasses” never hurts, either.


Unbuilt Works Find Life in Art

Manhattan Guardian and Seven Soldiers are two new comic books from Scottish writer Grant Morrison. The New York Times reports that the comics are noteworthy not only for the gritty realism and compelling ideas that Morrison always brings to the table, but also for their representation of a Manhattan that could have been. A veritable feast for conceptual design buffs, Morrison’s New York is filled with unbuilt proposals from some of histories most noteworthy architects. Frank Lloyd Wright’s unbuilt Ellis Island Key project, for instance – shown here in the comic and in FLW’s original drawing (click for larger images). If you look close enough, the fictional Manhattan skyline also includes an unbuilt office tower by Hans Hollein, an elevated highway long supported by uber-planner Rober Moses, and a hotel proposed by Antonio Gaudi – a tower that some wanted to be built on the WTC site.

The article reminded me of Wim Wenders’ ficitonal Paris in his phenomenal 1991 film Until the End of The World This epic adventure takes place in a not too distant future that includes as part of the Parisian skyline, Jean Nouvel’s unbuilt ‘La Tour Sans Fin.’ Planned for La Defense, Nouvel’s tower was an elegant spire whose transparency increased as it rose, until it appeared to dissolve into the sky. I seem to remember reading in a Nouvel monograph that the contextual presentation rendering was so realistic, some people believed it already existed.

So Where is Gotham City?