Speakers at “Viral Voices IV: Storytelling: On Media, Representation, and Narrative,” organized by the AIANY Global Dialogues Committee

This Expanded Language

“Storytelling: On Media, Representation, and Narrative,“ the fourth installment of the AIANY Global Dialogues Committee’s Viral Voices series, brought together some new and familiar faces to discuss narrative and storytelling. DesignCONTENT founder Andrea Kahn, the evening’s moderator, prefaced the panelists’ pithy presentations: “A compelling story is extremely important in conveying architecture…and representation is much more than visual; it’s how we come to understand things.” The panelists ran the gamut from purely visual to the written word. All confirmed that architects should tell the story of their work but need help in conveying that to the public. Kahn questioned how different media affect perception of the profession, process, and culture of architecture.

Speaking last and providing a coda, Sarah Williams Goldhagen, a contributing editor at Architectural Record, represented the author and long-form essayist. She made two poignant points. One, that the profession must stop talking about architecture in isolation, and should, instead, approach the subject as the built environment in conjunction with all its associated professions. Two, “critical evaluation is key, and storytelling is necessary,” which requires being at the building with your feet on the ground. By viewing the larger picture and complexities, one builds a more interesting and substantiated point of view, i.e., a better story.

Founder of the Architecture & Design Film Festival (ADFF) and practicing architect Kyle Bergman promoted film as an effective way to represent architecture. Both arts are process-driven and collaborative, but film can convey multiple viewpoints and the desires of the client and architect, as well as document movement through space and the passage of time. Bergman reminded the audience that filmmakers must have a good story, content, and visuals; one without the others doesn’t make the cut. “Just because you can use software doesn’t mean you can make good buildings or films.” He should know, after curating six years of ADFF. Screening This Was Not My Dream, a film about Casa Redux, his firm’s project in São Paulo,  Marcio Kogan, Hon. AIA, of Studio MK27, did not fail to address the three elements mentioned by Bergman. The short documentary focuses on the home’s setting, building materials, and furnishings, but it is the story of an estranged couple and their predilections for the modern and the classical that provides interest and tension – and the human element.

Returning for a fourth year, ArchDaily‘s David Basulto represented the general migration from print media to social media, and especially architects’ fervor for travel. Rather than describing ArchDaily, he delved into the Internet as a forum for users to communicate and share. Each user becomes a correspondent who ostensibly has visited the project. In moving from print to film, to video, to Internet, Basulto predicts that 3D or virtual reality platforms will soon hit the mainstream. Alicia DeSantis, graphics editor at the New York Times, recently took a step in that direction with Michael Kimmelman’s online review of the new Whitney Museum. Her team’s graphics – models, fly-throughs, photos, videos, animations – are “choreographed” through the scrolling of the text. They are not a surrogate, but expand the building’s meaning through a different means of expression. She uses “this expanded language” not to explain what it means, but what makes it meaningful. The panel showed how content makes an impact, whether by traditional means or by multimedia experience; however, no amount of technology can make a bad story good. From campfire stories to newsfeeds, storytellers must narrate relevant topics in an interesting and effective manner that makes sense to their audience.

James Way, Assoc. AIA, Co-chair of the AIANY Marketing and Communications Committee and Marketing Manager at Morris Adjmi Architects, frequently contributes to eOculus.

Event: Viral Voices IV: Storytelling: On Media, Representation, and Narrative
Location:  Center for Architecture, 07.28.15
Speakers: Kyle Bergman, Founder, Architecture and Design Film Festival; Marcio Kogan, Hon. AIA, Founder, Studio MK27; David Basulto, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, ArchDaily; Alicia DeSantis, Graphics Editor, The New York Times; Sarah Williams Goldhagen, Ph.D., Critic, and Contributing Editor, Architectural Record; Andrea Kahn, Founder, designCONTENT
Organized by: AIANY Global Dialogues Committee