The Museum of the Dream Factory

The French architect Christian de Portzamparc has been chosen to design a film museum in what was once Mary Pickford territory–the scrappy section of Hollywood south of Sunset Boulevard. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences chose Portzamparc to design the museum because "film has shaped his outlook on life." One suspects that if Portzamparc were designing a tea cozy museum he’d talk about how his world view has been shaped by embroidery, but the connection between architecture and film is more extensive that one might imagine. Both architecture and narrative film are fundamentally concerned with the construction of space, which at one time was the main preoccupation of architecture before it fell in love with its own photographic images. Much of the continuity system of editing addresses the unfolding of space. Architects and directors share a common temperament as imperious control freaks who have a hard time getting their own ways. Not only do architects and directors have uneasy relations with their employers, their mediums have complex, and sometimes vexed, relations with their audiences.  Architecture is a public art form, but the public doesn’t always appreciate architecture, or even notice it. The cinema is a popular art form, but it struggles to create monuments that persist in the culture at large.

Finally, both film and architecture increasingly rely on computer-generated illusions. Portzamparc’s museum will be constructed in an architecturally barren patch of Los Angeles, mapped in the image above as, tellingly, a cartoon. He will be asked to deploy his curvy forms to create the illusion of cultural permanence in a neighborhood defined by transience–of its low-rent businesses, its vanished film production facilities, its abandoned homes of the half-forgotten stars of Hollywood’s glamour age. Portzamparc will need special effects worthy of George Lucas or Cecil B. DeMille.

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