27 June 2011

BDP: 5 Cities, 5 Places, One Day

As mentioned in a previous post Building Design Partnership (BDP) turns 50 this year (1961-2011). The book '61/11 Continuous Collective' is reviewed here but BDP have also commissioned a short film by Camilla Robinson, producer and director of Dapper Films, as part of the celebrations. In the film five BDP-designed buildings are visited throughout the course of one day, with footage of the buildings interwoven with commentary from local people and those who inhabit and use them. The buildings span the practices' 50 years of existence: Glasgow Science CentreArmada Housing, the Netherlands; Hampden Gurney Primary School; Halifax Building Society Headquarters, Halifax; and Liverpool One, representing the wide range of typologies that BDP work with.

Speaking to BDP about the film (here), Camilla Robinson, who has worked for numerous art and architecture companies (including Living Architecture and MVRDV), said that the difference with this commission and others was that "BDP were not interested in showing interviews with the architects and instead chose to focus on the life of buildings after they had effectively let them go." Camilla, who comes from a family of architects, has chosen to "tell the story of the buildings through the people who inhabit them" and found it an "exciting challenge to communicate a more three dimensional and sensory understanding of what a building can mean to different people." 

It is the commentary from local people that is most unique, such as one man who has the following to say about Halifax: "When you look at it from the outside it is a strange looking building but there aren't that many like it. It's a one off really" (with pride in his voice at this last part). Hearing from these people provides an insight into how the building has been taken into the local landscape, in a way that a standard interview with the original architect or design team can not. The various voices are interwoven into the narrative, with a range of people heard, from young children at Hampden Gurney to someone who has spent over a decade working at Halifax. The idea of the architect 'letting go of a building' is an interesting one to explore in film because it is exactly this condition through which the built environment is experienced.


The video can be viewed on YouTube here and Vimeo here.