HD, stereo, 62 min
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Tower House is an experimental documentary about the house of the same name built in Tokyo by Takamitsu Azuma in 1966. Tower House was built on a 20-square-meter plot of land and from the moment of its creation was regarded as a symbol of living in the center of a modern metropolis.
The architect designed the house for his family in the form of a continual vertical room, wherein the staircase is the most significant structure of the interior. It connects the individual rooms, which are “piled” one on top of the other without any doors separating them.
The inspiration for this film came from the concept of the staircase as a connecting structure: these stairs become directing elements. Beginning at street level and spiraling upwards, the specially-adapted camera films panorama shots from one step to the next, right up to the top floor. In one uninterrupted, spiraling motion, the viewer is given a complete look at the building, its bare concrete walls and all of the living spaces all along the way to the top, ending in a view of the city from the uppermost window.
This pictorial explanation of the inner structure of the house is complemented by an audio “tour” provided in the form of a narrative spoken by the inhabitant of the house, the daughter of the architect in which she speaks about the building itself and her life in it. Simultaneous to the step-by-step and floor-to-floor ascending camera view, the story of the protagonist develops while she tells stories of her childhood memories and her present life in Tower House.
The film Tower House is not only a portrait of this fascinating building; it also deals with the urban and social changes which have taken place in Japan in the last few decades by its use of a cinematic coupling of space and history.
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)