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Preservation and progress

ADFF: Tulsa celebrates architecture and design icons and forward-thinkers

“Pioneer,” a permanent, large-scale wooden sculpture by artist Stephen Talasnik, is the subject of a documentary of the same name shown at this year’s ADFF: Tulsa

Over the course of four days, Circle Cinema will host the Architecture and Design Film Festival: Tulsa (ADFF: Tulsa), the nation’s largest film festival devoted to those topics, presented by the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture (TFA).

Founded in 1995 by members of the Eastern Oklahoma Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, TFA, is an organization that encourages architectural preservation and acts as a catalyst for community development.

As public interest in local architecture and cityscape continues to grow, TFA Board President Shane Hood envisions an expansion of the organization to be more inclusive of other areas of design and art—an attitude ADFF: Tulsa seems to embrace.

“There’s a growing enthusiasm and appreciation,” said Hood. “We’d like to grow the momentum and partner with other arts-based organizations to engage and appeal to an even broader audience. We anticipate that this film festival will help expand that reach.”

Programs and discussions at ADFF: Tulsa will cover interdisciplinary artists, mid-century architectural icons, contemporary trailblazers, and graphic and interior designers—all who shape our environments and experiences through images, structures, and words. Many of the programs will be followed by panel discussions and Q&As.

Notable speakers at the festival will include Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and The New Yorker Architecture Critic Paul Goldberger: popular culture television producer and documentarian Mike Dorsey; and filmmaker and Metropolis Editorial Director Paul Makovsky.

Of the 20 films in the festival, most offer visual narratives of their subject’s illustrious careers—icons like mid-century modern masters Eero Saarinen in “Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future,” Richard Neutra in both “The Oyler House: Richard Neutra’s Desert Retreat” and “Windshield: A Vanished Vision,” E. Stewart Williams in “The Nature of Modernism: E. Stewart Williams, Architect,” and Eileen Gray in “Gray Matters.” 

Festival-goers can also celebrate contemporary doyens like Frank Gehry at the screening of documentary “Getting Frank Gehry” and progressive eccentric Paolo Soleri in “Citizen of the Planet.”

Some films are interdisciplinary, including subjects like Piet Oudolf’s poetry of landscape in “Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall: Five Seasons with Piet Oudolf,” or the structural portraits of modernist architecture in “Pedro E. Guerrero: A Photographer’s Journey.”

“Our festivals have become an annual destination for all types of people enthusiastic about design,” said ADFF: Tulsa Director Kyle Bergman. “There are films profiling famous figures and stories ranging from forgotten postmodern buildings to complex urban issues. These films also explore a search for meaning.” 

To Bergman’s last point, “The Happy Film” shows rock-star designer and typographer Stefan Sagmeister making himself his design project. In his pursuit to become a better, happier person through a variety of methods—including meditation, therapy, and drugs—Sagmeister explores the fundamental human experiences and entanglements of art, sex, love, and death. If we can shape our environments and objects, he wonders, is it within our reach to shape ourselves? 

The festival’s emphasis on modern, postmodern, contemporary, and futuristic ideas appeal
to TFA.

“While TFA has a mission of historic preservation,” said Hood, “we’re also advocates of quality future contemporary development. If architects were focused on the past and on revival styles during the oil boom in the ‘20s, we wouldn’t have all of our art deco—same thing in the mid-century with modern architecture. If we were looking back, we would have missed out. While it’s important to preserve our art deco and mid-century modern architecture in Tulsa—in future developments, to continue to relive our past over and over doesn’t leave much room for progress.”

An underlying theme of the diverse film selection at ADFF: Tulsa is the artist’s role is to disrupt the status quo and inspire the masses, acting as both documentarian and an agent of change. 

Architecture and Design Film Festival
Thursday, Apr. 20 – Sunday, Apr. 23
$35 for opening night, including a reception; $9.50 general admission, $7.50 students, seniors, TFA and Circle Cinema members

For more from Nicci, read her article on MUSED. Organization.

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