museum of the ephemeral image (BFF)
bff Theater for the Boston Film Festival. 

In the early 1960s a young architecture professor made a deal with a recently graduated student to enter into a series of architectural competitions together. They decided that, if they were to win a competition, they would begin an office in the city of that project. A few months passed and a competition was announced for the Boston City Hall, which was seen as the centerpiece to massive urban redevelopment in that city. The pair entered the competition and, to the delight and dismay of many, won. The project was built almost exactly as had been proposed. Critics praised the building and the architects’ careers were begun.

From its inception the building has elicited extreme responses. Upon the unveiling of the model, a well-ranking city official was heard to have gasped, “What the fuck is that!?” Just a few years later the building was considered (in a poll conducted by the AIA) to be one of the most important buildings in the United States, ever. Only a few years later, the building was widely derided as an eyesore and the current mayor has made a series of proposals to move all of the city’s operations into a new building and to demolish the existing building. Aesthetics aside, the Boston City Hall offers a wealth of interesting architectural (and perhaps political) lessons; the use of materials’ inherent properties; understanding of structural patterning; integration and exposure of HVAC systems; a non-nostalgic understanding and use of history; and the relationship of an architectural expression to program. Such lessons echo the program intentions for ARCH 351. Perhaps we might take a closer look?

Rather than attempting to analyze the building in its entirety, we will focus our gaze onto a fragment of the building and site. We will begin, not unlike the surgeon, with an anatomical cut, a section. This section cut and the model that you will derive from the cut will be the site for your project. We will suspend disbelief and imagine that the City Hall building is now a ruin and all that remains is the cut that you delineate. Not unlike an anthropologist, or an enlightened architect, you will need to develop your project beginning with the artifact you have unearthed. The analysis will not be reductive or diagrammatic. We will, rather, seek to discover real possibilities and possible realities.

You will not be asked, required, nor encouraged to invent a “concept” for your project. Rather, we will investigate various ways of looking and seeing the world through the work of three filmmakers: Michelangelo Antonioni, Alfred Hitchcock, and Andei Tarkovsky. Each author offers a rich understanding of how one might perceive and imagine the world. Students will first analyze the work of the three directors and then utilize similar strategies to develop an architectural project. Issues related to film – to include, narrative, plot, framing techniques, sound, light, color, etc. – will be translated into a personal and architectural response.

Lui Nuo Lui + Zach Crocker: New Horizons 

In a world where we are constantly bombarded with images flashing across billboards and television sets ranging from the newest celebrity news on cnn to the new paul walker movie recently released, people have become somewhat numb to how we perceive images and specifically film. Often times it takes somewhat of a slap in the face to be woken up from the constant feed of media and begin to look at something often seen ordinarily with an entirely new horizon of sight. That is particularly what we are trying to do with the Boston Film Festival. So few times does good film come around and even fewer times are we in a conscious state to simply remember it much less possibly appreciate it. We can’t guarantee that by the design of this film festival one will appreciate a movie more, but what we will say is that by altering the human perception of watching the film by altering the viewing experience you will watch a film in a way traditionally unheard of and will blend two horizons of film and an altered state of being to form a new horizon of awareness.

li lieu Danielle Lieu + Tao Li: Void 

For the Boston Film Festival, the City Hall was sliced into numerous sections in which we were asked to design a project. When placed side by side, the integration of two sites creates a distinct void. Rather than disregard the site conditions given by the remains of Boston City Hall, the void is instead used as the core of the project and an essential link to the program.

The void is activated through a series of spatial and proportional shifts that affect the floors, ceilings, walls, and produces a dynamic effect through the interplay of light and shadow throughout the day and night. Further, the void acts as an intermediary between the worlds above and below.

lo m Esther Lo + Dana Manea: Dynamic Analysis 

A building that has intrigued and raised strong opinions in everyone from its very beginning. Criticized for being too empty, too dark, to aloof, too opaque or simply just too ugly, the city hall has become a landmark in its own way. Maybe this criticism was what made it more interesting? A building of contrasts, it is playful and rigid at the same time. The regular grid system gives it an inflexible feel, yet the pattern is carefully broken to create interesting spaces. Made out of concrete, the city hall feels heavy and somber. Yet, the dominantly top heavy design gives it a floating sensation. The vast plaza was created with the intent of bringing people together into the civic center, yet it is almost always deserted and the cold wind makes visitors feel very unwelcome. Loved by few, hated by most, either way the Boston City Hall became an emblem of the city, and also a starting point for our project.