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Capturing interactions: an architectural workshop.

Susanne Eeg

16:56 min

ARCHITECTURE HAS HAD A STARRING ROLE in movies and documentaries since the beginning of filmmaking. But recently the boundaries between the disciplines have become more fluid as architects increasingly incorporate the film medium into their work. Both employing cinematic techniques as processual tools and as documentation with a broad appeal to a wide audience.

The Copenhagen Architecture Festival investigates the role and impact of architecture in our lives and the world we live in. Each year, the festival explores and presents ideas on the relation between the architectural world and human life through a broad public program of talks, films, performances, workshops, seminars and exhibitions in collaboration with various institutions and (inter)national partners. Additionally to festival activities CAFx has since 2016 hosted a yearly summer school exploring the obvious and the unspoken relation of architecture and film.

The interest in this niche is growing within both professions, and the Copenhagen Architecture Festival aims to explore not only the intersection between the two disciplines but also the architectural filmmakers. Providing a platform for both the artistic works as well as education and learning.

THE SUMMER SCHOOL 2018: under the heading "Architecture as Social Integration" the CAFx Summer School 2018 focused on architecture which facilitate connections between people in a small Danish town.

Skagen is the northernmost town in Denmark, located on the top of the Jutland peninsula. It is widely known for the Scandinavian artist colony "Skagensmalerne", who assembled and worked in Skagen from the late 1870s until the turn of the century. But it is also one of Denmark's main fishing ports, and the unique nature in the area in addition to the large number of architectural and cultural sights attract up to two million tourists annually, making it what you might call a seasonal town.

Since 1980, the population of Skagen has decreased by almost 50% and the city is currently home to around 8.000 inhabitants - a sharp contrast to the vast number of tourists that fill the streets during the summer. Since the EU's eastern enlargement in 2004, many Eastern Europeans have come to Denmark to work. The outskirts of Denmark have experienced a particularly large influx. Out of the 8.000 inhabitants in Skagen, about 300 Romanians have only minimally integrated into the community. They typically work in the factories, the hotels, restaurants and campsites.

Skagen has integrated fishermen, alternative artists and other newcomers from near and far throughout its history. The summer school investigated how the town meets and incorporates newcomers into the social structure in 2018. The participants sought out the spaces of social integration and worked with documenting and/or staging in order to create short cinematic portraits of the architecture of these cultural intersections.

THE PROGRAM: THE TEN PARTICIPANTS came to Skagen from nine different countries to spend a week together. They all had an architectural background but some only recently started studying the topic while others had been working as trained architects for a few years. Few of them had had actual training in filmmaking – but they were all excited to learn, and so this was going to be an intense week for all.

They were met with a tight schedule and a big question – what does "architecture as social integration" mean and how do you capture it on film? And so they set off on a journey through Skagen in the intersection of film and architecture with only motivation and interests as the driving force.

The first two days were spent on introductions to the town, the topic and the techniques. The participants biked around town with local architects and they met up with informants individually - from the elderly Danish couple in the allotment garden, to the Romanian restaurant owner and the young guy from the middle east working in the fish factory. While they were discovering the everyday lives of the locals and the local architecture, they also met their tutors - documentary filmmaker Lea Glob, scenographer Maja Ziska, photographer Sidsel Becker and anthropologist Tine Sønderby, who shared their thoughts and knowledge about the topic and disciplines through lectures and short intense workshops on both architecture, film and the exploration of spaces of social integration.

After the first couple of days of introduction a little more than a day was spent on locating a site to portrait and developing a concept as well as a production plan, and finally each participant had just three days to film and edit a short cinematic portrait of the chosen architecture as social integration.

THE TOPIC: CREATING A FILM in only three days is a challenge – especially for amateurs. Besides guidance from the tutors a few restrictions and rules helped the participants to focus in on the essence of the topic and the chosen spaces. Overall each film had to include a meeting between two defined characters which described a space as that of social integration. There was to be no music. Duration between three and five minutes, and the director had to appear in each film and somehow introduce the film in no more than 200 words.

The topic "Architecture as Social Integration" guided the participants to understand space as character and challenged their storytelling abilities. One thing is to be able to identify a space as the architecture of social integration - be it in the fish factories, restaurant kitchens, local halls, laundromats or libraries. Another thing is to make the spaces tell a story of facilitating connections between people, making the building (and not the people) talk on camera. This was an intense and strenuous process for all and it shaped the short films in distinctive ways demanding a simple but strong conceptual approach.

In "The Arrival" Cemre Önertürk tries to communicate directly with a building that has been closed down. She uses her body to become part of the architecture and force the building back to its original purpose as a train station or a portal of integration for the bodies of the travelers.

In "Encounter" Bayan Mujahed takes a cool distant approach to an equally cool and contemporary building documenting the architecture almost as a continuation of the sea – a machine producing sailors to steer the ships onto the horizons.

In "Windowstills" Christina Voumvouraki throws herself and handful of buoys into a concept of trying to create a temporary community of spaces with a shared action and a lot of window sills.

These are some of the examples of how the topic of "Architecture as Social Integration" after an intense week of work shaped films by not only capturing footage of the built environment, but almost trying to squeeze words out of bricks and add personal layers to spaces to emphasize the spatial stories.

The Arrival

Copenhagen Architecture Festival (CAFx), Cemre Onerturk

How would it feel to arrive without anyone to welcome you?

This video is part of a series produced during the 2018 CAFx Summer School. The theme was "Architecture as Social Integration".

The CAFx Summer School, part of the Copenhagen Architecture Festival, brings together students from various countries in the pursuit of architectural exploration through film. The 2018 program was hosted in the small port town of Skagen, Denmark. This location may be viewed as a case study for the effects of renewed migration to a place with a steadily declining population. This provided students with an opportunity to speak with residents and select locations characterized by evidence of social integration, defined by Program Director Susanne Eeg as "facilitating connections between people, making the building (and not the people) talk on camera".

One of small town's notable landmarks includes the Skagen train station, the last stop on the line. This stark, bright yellow station, designed by Ulrik Plesner in 1919, facilitates transportation to nearby towns and the rest of Denmark. However, it currently stands empty, lacking visitors at the time of filming.

This is the focus of "The Arrival", written by Cemre Onerturk, as she explores the permeability of the station through several creative approaches in the course of one day. Arriving at the station, she would expect to be "welcomed" although her film proves otherwise. An initial reaction to an empty building would be to reach for the door handle, hoping it will open. Onerturk follows this same course, but upon finding it locked, leaves behind a few of her rings on the door handle. A second attempt to understand the building is framed by tossing her coat over the wall, followed by inserting her shoes into the wall crevices. After being rebuffed by the door, she returns again to try and pick the lock but her attempt is unsuccessful, surrendering the earring she uses to pick it. The final attempt to make sense of this space involves scaling one of the walls, but unable to cross further, she leaves behind her coat propped on a stick, resembling a ghost of her presence there.

The strength of Oneturk's video shines through her innocent expectation of the station- a hope for a space of social activity. However, upon finding it locked, she uses her body to determine whether the structure can support various forms of activity. The attempts, contrasted by a time-lapse view of the front of the station, reinforce her determination and efforts to see whether the building will budge. She pairs the frames with audio of footsteps and background activities, such cars driving by, in contrast to the silent building. Her actions, although intuitive at first, increasingly become bolder as she struggles to intercept the façade. Her final act of leaving a representation of herself marks these attempts to access the impermeable station. Perhaps she yearns to experience the interior as it once was - bustling with residents and travelers reaching the small town.

(Story by Pilar Pereyra, The Architecture Player)


Architect: Ulrik Plesner
Mentioned project: Skagen Station (rebuilt in 1919)
Project location: Skagen, Denmark
CAFx Architect (Tutor for the project): Susan Eeg
CAFx Director: Lea Glob Sørensen
CAFx Anthropologist: Tine Sønderby
CAFx Photographer: Sidsel Becker
CAFx Scenographer: Maja Ziska

Denmark 2018
Duration: 6'34"