The film by Ur­ban-Think Tank re­minds us that the Smith­sons’s ideas about the ties be­tween build­ings, users and ar­chi­tec­tural sites no longer have the value they once did

Domus - - CONTENTS - Pre­sented by Piero Go­lia

Any ar­chi­tec­tural form is only a ques­tion of the amount of en­ergy in­vested Pre­sented by Philippe Rahm

This time I had pre­pared in ad­vance, and pre­pared well. I had de­cided to speak about the film The Col­umn by the Al­ba­nian artist Adrian Paci from the first day I agreed to write this col­umn and had just been wait­ing for the right time. I waited months be­fore writ­ing about it. It is a video with a ro­man­tic feel, record­ing the story be­hind the cre­ation of a mar­ble col­umn, start­ing from a block pur­chased in China and trans­ported by sea to Europe, to Venice. Al­though noth­ing very sen­sa­tional hap­pens, the video keeps spec­ta­tors glued to the screen as it em­anates a some­what mys­ti­cal ap­peal, like a mantra. It nar­rates, in its en­tirety, the route taken by a piece of a moun­tain trans­formed by a dozen or so work­ers, who travel with the block and sculpt it dur­ing the voy­age, com­bin­ing the move­ment with hu­man ac­tion and its cul­tural im­pact, its abil­ity to lend mean­ing to ob­jects. This is what I wanted to speak about, this sculp­ture born in the mid­dle of the ocean on a jour­ney from East to West, a fan­tas­tic voy­age, one of times past, a fa­ble that is ac­tu­ally ex­tremely ma­te­rial – be­cause it also deals with the prob­lem of the artist’s need to pro­duce, be ef­fi­cient and gain time since time is a lux­ury, an as­set and it is money. This is a metaphor­i­cal jour­ney but a ter­ri­bly con­crete one. It is im­por­tant to be spe­cialised and it is im­por­tant to know what you are do­ing, how to do it and why you do it. Art leaves very lit­tle room for im­pro­vi­sa­tion. My plans were up­set a few days be­fore de­liv­er­ing this piece when I re­ceived a pleas­ant sur­prise in my email box. I found a mes­sage sug­gest­ing I watch an­other film. Struck by the pro­fes­sional pro­mo­tion and se­duced by the ti­tle, The Dis­ap­pear­ance of Robin Hood, I started watch­ing it and, al­though com­plex, I grew fond of it. It is a ten­der piece that seems made with a huge heart and deals with an im­por­tant topic.

I am al­ways in­trigued by artists who master sev­eral lan­guages and pass through sev­eral dis­ci­plines. I try to un­der­stand how and why they do it and so I watched that doc­u­men­tary un­til the end, and with a cer­tain en­joy­ment. Pre­sented re­cently in Lon­don, the film is the work of a group of in­tel­lec­tu­als and de­sign­ers called Ur­ban-Think Tank which, in this case, are the di­rec­tors or rather the doc­u­men­tary-mak­ers. Look­ing closely at the end re­sult, it seems clear that their prin­ci­pal ar­gu­ment cen­tres on the build­ing seen as a so­cial phe­nom­e­non, al­though they de­cide to tell it as a story with­out the tra­di­tional tools of the eru­dite doc­u­men­tary or flashy film-mak­ing tech­niques. Very sim­ply, with­out the ar­ro­gance of “mak­ing a film”, it is sim­ply a de­sire to cre­ate a rec­ol­lec­tion, like a mem­ory-box of im­ages and records to re­mem­ber some­thing that will for­ever be lost. The doc­u­men­tary ex­plores the ori­gins and ideas of a so­cial hous­ing es­tate on the out­skirts of Lon­don: Robin Hood Gar­dens, de­signed by the ar­chi­tects Peter and Alison Smith­son in the late 1960s. The Ur­ban-Think Tank tries thus to reignite the eter­nal dis­cus­sion on the hous­ing cri­sis be­ing faced by Lon­don and many other me­trop­o­lises to­day. Us­ing in­ter­views, the film records the his­tory of the build­ing and its com­mu­nity, nec­es­sar­ily in­ter­laced with the life of the city. The in­ter­views are sim­ple and per­sonal. They lack the sci­en­tific per­fec­tion typical of masters such as Fred­er­ick Wiseman or Er­rol Mor­ris’s de­sire to change the fu­ture. In the end, the Ur­ban-Think Tank work re­minds us that the Smith­son’s ideas on the con­nec­tion be­tween the build­ings, users and ar­chi­tec­tural sites have lost their for­mer value. Time passes and utopias pay the price. In 2017, they be­gan de­mol­ish­ing the es­tate to make way for one of the many large lux­ury re­gen­er­a­tion projects seen in all the large me­trop­o­lises to­day. What springs to mind is the com­par­i­son with the eter­nity of Paci’s sculp­ture, as if to say two par­al­lel worlds whose life only just touch. Houses, ob­jects, squares and columns, worlds that in­ter­sect with some re­main­ing and oth­ers dis­ap­pear­ing. Piero Go­lia (Naples, 1974) is an artist and im­pre­sario in Los An­ge­les. Ur­ban-Think Tank is an in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary col­lec­tive that en­gages with the themes of so­cial ar­chi­tec­ture and in­for­mal set­tle­ments.

This spread: Scenes from the film The Dis­ap­pear­ance of Robin Hood, di­rected by Klearhos Ed­uardo Pa­pan­i­co­laou and pro­duced by Al­fredo Brillem­bourg with the sup­port of Hu­bert Klump­ner (U-TT). Di­rec­tor of pho­tog­ra­phy: Daniel Schwartz

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