There are some great architecture movies out there. Some feature fantastic worlds where entire new ways of living are projected through cities we can only dream of. Meanwhile, films like Metropolis, Inception, and Logan’s Run all take us to new worlds based on new architecture.
Other films, like Urbanized and The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, help us understand our built environment, examining urban issues in a critical-journalistic exposé. Still others use architecture as a key plot device, but it is not often that architecture itself is the subject of cinema, as it does in Space Caviar‘s 99 Dom-Ino.
The Italian research and design collaborative — of which co-founder Joseph Grima is an A+Awards Juror — developed the film as part of the Monditalia exhibition at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia. As part of the Fundamentals theme, the movie highlights one of the most basic building blocks of Modernist architecture: The reinforced concrete frame, which was famously published by Le Corbusier in 1914 as the Maison Dom-Ino.
This new slab-and-column frame was meant to liberate domestic space from the restrictions of the bearing wall, offering new ways to connect the interior to the exterior and free architecture from its structural shackles. This system was employed in many ways over the course of the next century as a “stylistically agnostic vernacular that articulates modernism’s impulse to colonize the landscape,” as Space Caviar puts it. The film showcases 99 particular instances where the concrete frame was deployed across the Italian landscape.
The beautiful scenes show a wide range of types: some are unfinished, some exposed, some large, some small, but they work together as a larger aesthetic and ultimately political whole: the conquest of the landscape by Modernism and its modular, replicable system of construction. While the images are not explicitly violent, they lend a subtle poetry to the subtle compositions. You can almost feel the warm Italian breeze flowing over the tragic paradox of natural beauty and the more dubious history of these concrete constructions.