1

A documentary series on architecture, broadcast on TVE’s channel 2 on Wednesdays at 21.00 (a slot that has made me hate football). Also accessible on the TVE website.

2

Although I’m happy to see that some photographers are trying to break this tendency. Ana Amado’s work on Torres Blancas is more fragmentary than is usual, and her scrap views explain the project better than a cold general photo. There is also the work Antonio Navarro Wijkmark frequently does with the designs of Batlle i Roig, also based on the logic of the scrap view. Fortunately, these two are not the only ones.

Inside #escalahumanatve

Photo: Matilda Vidal de Llobatera

Having been involved with Escala Humana 1, I can now confirm something that my earlier experiences with audiovisuals had already seemed to suggest: that producing a television series is very similar indeed to creating a work of architecture.  It’s easy to see why. Both things are done by means of projects that are structurally identical. First, ideas are sketched out, written down, drawn, planned and budgeted. Then comes the construction phase (the filming), where all that detailed planning is basically used to facilitate improvisation and produce something that then goes to the cutting room for post-production. The magic doesn’t appear until all the preliminary steps have been completed.

I’ll try to illustrate the complexity of the process with four ideas.

1_ Why film books.

The team of specialists in cultural production at Escala Humana previously spent a good few years making programmes about literature. Try putting yourself in the director’s shoes. A book is something with a front and back cover containing pages written by someone who, basically, knows how to do just that: write. Not speak. And not act on camera. You put the book in front of you, and it starts transmitting a message.  Filming it is boring. Boring as hell. Boring and abstract. In Escala Humana, the resources previously used to illustrate the world of books on television without a) shooting a complete film or b) giving an impression of pure cheesiness were used to highlight aspects of architecture that are as important as they are abstract, and which are therefore difficult to film: from design processes to accessibility, gender responsive urban development and recycling. And all with minimal use of plans and schematics.

2_ Conserving Stendhal’s Syndrome.

The camera crew, which was mostly made up of women, shot Rafael Moneo’s church of Iesu at the end of an exhausting week. We’re going to film a church that’s got a supermarket, they said, with an air of resignation. And then a message pops up on WhatsApp:  “Jaume, why didn’t you tell us this is SO beautiful? We’re in tears!”  Immersed in so much publishing, we automatically assume everyone knows about the projects we talk about. But that’s not the case. The camera crew recovered their composure, got their equipment out and started filming. As for me, I ’ve seen very little architecture-related cinema. Embarrassingly little.  The CompetitionMy Architect and not much else. But this scant grounding in conventional production enabled us to maintain an original, fresh tone, far removed from that of printed publications. Photographs of contemporary architecture tend to zoom out2,television to zoom in. Pictures in magazines tend to be static, ours dynamic. We do, however, pay close attention to how architecture is portrayed in cinema: always as a setting for some kind of action.  And that’s how we filmed the different projects featured in the series: through action, movement, usage.

3_ Editing fixes everything.

The language of television is based on editing. That’s where programmes are really made, by splicing together short film clips and giving the whole thing rhythm with all the art of a conjurer: the narrator’s voice, the music and the graphics all tell you what you have to look at  and when.  Editing is like Photoshop for television, but just like Photoshop for images, not much can be done without a good raw materials.

4_ The multidisciplinary thing.

Look at the photo. The person holding up the sheet to reflect the light is Jaume Clèries, the director of the programme. In television, everyone does everything: scriptwriters present, producers apply make-up, cameramen edit… Our programme was only possible thanks to a very enthusiastic team working far beyond their job specifications. The trick has been to work together. Obviously, we have writers, producers, editors with specific tasks, but not for one moment have those tasks dimmed the team’s all-rounder spirit.  All this feeling, all this enthusiasm is present in the final result and (I’m convinced) constitutes the programme’s principal strength. Anecdotes have come so thick and fast that it would be easy to do a gossip magazine spinoff. We could call it Escala Deluxe, and it would be a smash.


Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor
Notas de página
1

A documentary series on architecture, broadcast on TVE’s channel 2 on Wednesdays at 21.00 (a slot that has made me hate football). Also accessible on the TVE website.

2

Although I’m happy to see that some photographers are trying to break this tendency. Ana Amado’s work on Torres Blancas is more fragmentary than is usual, and her scrap views explain the project better than a cold general photo. There is also the work Antonio Navarro Wijkmark frequently does with the designs of Batlle i Roig, also based on the logic of the scrap view. Fortunately, these two are not the only ones.

Autor:
(Barcelona, 1975) Arquitecto por la ETSAB, compagina la escritura en su blog 'Arquitectura, entre otras soluciones' con la práctica profesional en el estudio mmjarquitectes. Conferenciante y profesor ocasional, es también coeditor de la colección de eBooks de Scalae, donde también es autor de uno de los volúmenes de la colección.

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