Karl-Heinz Klopf

A TROPICAL HOUSE

2015
HD, surround, 51 min
Sales and distribution sixpackfilm

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Following his formally taut 2013 film Tower House, A Tropical House is Karl-Heinz Klopf’s second cinematic meditation on an architect’s own home, in this case, that of the Indonesian architect Andra Matin, completed in 2013 and located in Bintaro, a suburb of Jakarta.

Tower House was composed of almost exactly 40 90-second 360º pans moving step-by-step up the building. A Tropical House is made almost entirely of static, medium or long shots, with each succeeding, horizontal view revealing the home, floor by floor, and from a variety of angles. (The few moving shots provide rushes of delight.) The views are dispassionate, almost ‘Asian.’

The house itself is simple enough: long slabs of concrete or wood walls and ramps with large open gaps between. Or, one can say: the house is composed of large tracts of air and light with interruptions of wood and concrete. There is also a large pond, lawns, a frangipani tree in another pond, and lots and lots of cats—not to mention family and friends and workers, all of them engaged in a variety of activities in this serene yet lively home. For all of its physical weight, the entire ensemble seems almost to float in the air. The house is open.

The seemingly simple building becomes an object of fascination as its many carefully designed spaces are given over to the viewer. And, for all of its presentness and intimacy—the surfaces of the materials and changes in light; the full-bodied soundtrack of wind and water, urban clatter and birdsong—the voice-overs (by Matin and his wife) also reveal that the house has been made out of its author’s childhood memories. A Tropical House is a film that takes its time (as much as it needs, but no more), and a house whose spaces is the film we see. (Arturo Silva)

SAH award statement

Citation of the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) 2017 Award Committee:

Tower House (2013) and A Tropical House (2015) represent two poetic interpretations of two very different houses designed by architects for their own families in very dissimilar places. Takamisu Azuma erected the Tower House on a twenty-foot meter lot in the center of Tokyo in 1966. Slowly winding its way from entry level to views of the surrounding metropolis from its uppermost window, the director leads the viewer on a lyrical journey through the carefully arranged spaces of this important house. As narrated by the architect’s daughter, we come to understand the rich and intimate history of the place and the important role it played shaping her understanding of the idea of family. In contrast, A Tropical House gracefully examines the home of the Indonesian architect Andra Matin, which he and his family completed in 2013 in a lush suburb of Jakarta. 

The director lovingly casts the camera’s gaze across the luxuriant landscapes that surround and invade the house, but also chronicles the warm, extended community that forms of this home have engendered. Both films purposefully allow the viewer ample time to observe the gritty textures of raw concrete and rich warmth of wooden surfaces, but also the opulent role that light plays in shaping our understanding of these materials and the spaces they enclose. Members of the jury were deeply impressed by the richness and poetic nature of the cinematography and carefully controlled editing. One cannot leave either of these films without feeling a strong a personal connection to both of these very intimate and stunning architectural creations. 

(2017 SAH Award Committee: Kenneth Breisch (Chair), Craig Buckley, Therese O’Malley)

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