’Coast Modern’ film celebrates West Coast Modernist Architecture
Like many of us, filmmakers Mike Bernard and Gavin Froome are drawn to the romantic modernism of North America’s West Coast, the landscape where the architecture of glass, wood, concrete and steel could be at its most expressive and fertile.
Coast Modern begins with Arthur Erickson’s 1972 Eppich House, with Bernard and Froome’s camera going on to pan lazily through some of the lesser known marvels of post-war architectural design, a mouth-watering array of domestic design that offers up a truly utopian vision of how things could be, as well as visiting many of the classics, including Rudolph Schindler’s Sachs Apartments in LA, the Case Study Houses and The Sea Ranch near San Francisco
And yet there’s a shadow of regret underpinning the whole enterprise. As one of the interviewees puts it, ’modernism is a beautiful failure - you can’t call it a success when 90% of people do not want to live in a Modernist house.’ Tear downs are still all too common as the relentless march of neophilia sweeps away many perfectly decent buildings.
The tide is slowly turning in favour of the old, however. Douglas Coupland goes further, citing Wallpaper’s early focus on this once obscure arm of international modernism as one of the main drivers behind its recent revival (and the film also makes a sly dig at the hipsterisation of modern design).
Coast Modern might appear to be preaching to the converted, with hazy, dreamy photography that shifts between crisp focus and fashionable blurs and a cast of commentators - architects, writers and designers - extolling the virtues of these relentlessly verdant sets for a very singular type of domestic life. But it’s the feeling of longevity and life and the slow assimilation of building and landscape that stands out, decades of interaction between place and nature that can’t be recreated overnight.
Hopefully Coast Modern will open up closed minds a little further, bringing more people into the light, space, air and nature that defined a truly fertile phase of architectural design.
Coast Modern will be screened at the Architecture & Design Film Festival in New York, which runs from 18 to 21 October