Designing Dreams: Modern Architecture in the Movies Paperback – Sep 2000
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Albrecht begins his book with a quick overview of modernist thought as it was developing in Europe in the years following the First World War. He then moves onto how these radical new ideas were embraced by the French and German film industry of the 1920's. With the rise of facism, many of Europe great modernist artists and architects fled Europe and found a new home in the booming Hollywood film industry.
The section of the that I found most interesting was Albrect's description of modernist styles favored by the different American movie studios. From the Bauhaus modernism of Paramount to the Streamline Modernism of MGM, Hollywood was an enthusiastic and early adopter of modernist tenants. In Depression era United States, modernism was harbinger of a new and better age to come.
This book is filled with numerous photos of stage sets from the 1920's and 1930's. It is a pleasure to see these idealized versions of the modernist credo. By 1931, Philip Johnson could have a museum show in New York and herald the rise of a new "International Style" of architecture. The value of this book is that it shows how cinema was the perfect incubtor and then spreader of modernist architectural thought througout the world. A must have book for all those interested in the birth and spread of modernism.
At first, I was confused by Albrecht's introductory chapters, because they were all spent talking about the development of modernism. However, I started to see the matching patterns between all the chapters, towards the end of the book. In creating a look of modernism, the beginning of the book talks about the number of artists and architects who developed a vision of modernist architecture, as their ideas and designs were always tested against each others at various world fairs and conventions entitled `Progress of the Future.'
What was neat though was that, later on in the book, Albrecht spoke of the filmmakers who would take on futuristic movies, and how they would have to predict what the future of the world would look like by thinking about how society would change, what transportation would be like, what would happen to social classes, etc. Interestingly enough though, Albrecht also speaks of the designers who, while they made present day films, were always trying to predict the future too, by showcasing the latest in women's fashions and newest developments in interior design. Considering that movies, back then, would have to travel the nation rather than be released all at once, producers had the pressure of making a product that could withstand a shelf life of one to two full years.
In turn, what I took away from Albrecht was that, in order to design dreams, we as filmmakers must always think ahead into the future. The movies of the 1930s and beyond were winners because they showcased a wonderful future to its audiences by giving them the latest insights into fashion and interior design. Those filmmakers who created fantasy films were challenged, on the other hand, to show what our cities would truly evolve into. Like the architects who created modernism itself, all designers are responsible for predicting the future, to some extent.
Lastly, I was greatly taken in by the idea of how modernism was created. It seems like its creators wanted to create a look of architecture that would blend in perfectly with paved roads, steel cars, and concrete highways. After all, Victorian and Classical structures simply would not fit in with the modern creations of the Industrial Revolution.
Therefore, those architects challenged themselves to visualize what a future world would look like, and thus, moderism was born. In turn, to me at least, modernism is not about concrete walls and minimalist looks - but rather, it is a constant attempt to accommodate for what humankind will need in the future, rather than to conform it to a style that worked in the past. Albrecht's book communicated that idea to me perfectly.
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