Opinion

Who Needs Bricks When You’ve Got Pixels?

Production outfit The Third & The Seventh has made a movie that allows us to experience architecture better than ever before, showing iconic buildings in multiple perspectives simultaneously and suffusing them with soft, unearthly light. Viewers would be excused for thinking that these clips were shot on a real camera, but the really amazing part? It’s all three-dimensional computer rendering, created by hand. Incredible.

After an introduction sequence, Alex Roman throws us into a surreal library where books fill the gridded walls, then spans across Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion. The 12-minute film echoes through important works of architecture like a pinball bouncing through history, alighting on beautiful moments from each building: the joining of rafters, criss-crossing angles and walls. This is an architectural guessing game that I definitely lack the knowledge to complete, but the journey is astounding nonetheless.

Roman’s computer-generated textures and lighting are immaculate, and his sense of cinematography leaves the viewer little reason to doubt the reality of the subject being filmed. I would love to think that this film is real, because it feels real to me: it recreates the awe and grandeur of standing in a really magnificent space. But when you get to the flying books and floating lanterns, the suspension of disbelief is broken. That only heightens the magic, though.

Particularly astounding are Roman’s renderings of Santiago Calatrava’s Quadracci Pavilion at the Milwaukee Art Museum with its wings that raise and lower to filter light, as well as the film’s peak, a trip through the center chamber of Louis Kahn’s Philips Exeter Academy Library. The Library’s atrium filled with cascading books is a jaw dropping sight, real or not.

For more fun, check out Alex’s film focusing in on Kahn’s Exeter library.

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