Sunday, January 16, 2011

How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?

This is the story of an architect—which I suppose requires me to reference Martin Mull's quote, "Talking about music is like dancing about architecture."

No, it's not really relevant, since there's no dancing in this movie, but I bet you didn't know Martin Mull said that.

So, Norman Foster is the guy who builds these sorts of buildings: Click. Swoopy, glassy, bright, sci-fi-ish looking buildings. Recently, for example, he built the Peking airport for the Olympics.

This is a nice, short movie, that mostly curbs the documentarian's urge to use as much of the dozens of hours of footage he shoots as he can.

The movie veers briefly into politics. Not in a polemic way, but more of a reflective look at Mr. Foster's world view. Which is surprisingly fascist. Communist. Whatever word the kids are using these days to describe a totalitarian world view.

I shouldn't say that: It wasn't all that surprising, on reflection, nor is it necessarily all that statist. Architects basically do with people what computer programmers do with bits, but people are very unruly. And freedom is often ugly and inefficient. So Foster's pining about certain kinds of control is predictably about aesthetics.

I think architects are all trying to play SimCity.

Anyway, fun movie. Perhaps not as interesting as Sydney Pollack's Gehry, but maybe Foster's buildings don't leak as much.


  1. Who's Martin Mull? He sounds like a thoughtful guy. Music is one of my favorite things to write about.


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