Review: Arquitectura Emocional 1959
This is a love story.
It is also a film about architecture. Yet Arquitectura Emocional 1959, directed by León Siminiani, is not a love story about architecture. Rather, a love story within it.
Andrea and Sebas are two university students in Madrid, in their first year studying Philosophy. They just met. They have a crush. Siminiani elegantly weaves the threads of love and philosophy against a backdrop of post-World War II Madrid, full of revolution, from small bohemian university gatherings to the visit of Che Guevara. Siminiani’s skillful narrative uses architecture to paint both a unified city fabric and the differences between the two lovers: Andrea lives in an affluent, low density apartment building, which we see in detail through both visual and narrative tools. Sebas is in the city’s new public housing program. Both are fully articulated through the film melding between video, historical photography and the respective blueprints. This is fluid storytelling.
The love story ensues. At times it levels out, at others it crescendos. There comes a moment of silence, a pause. In some love stories, this is but a moment to breathe. In this story, it is a moment of change. The lovers drift apart. They drift away.
The following chapter in the story moves higher. From the detailed, street-level narration of the architecture the two lovers shared thus far, now the lens moves to the macro scale of urban planning. The story no longer shows how the couple shares the same footsteps; instead, it uses old city maps to show how they live in the city, so close yet so very far from each other.
There is a moment where Sebas will walk to Andrea’s apartment building to reconnect. She is not there, so he leaves her a message, foreboding the next chapter: “I’ll wait for you on your bench in September.”
Spanish architect and urban planner, Secundino Zuazo, when he designed Andrea’s affluent apartment building in 1922, was his generation’s most promising city builder. Shortly after, he designed the social housing development Sebas lives in, across the city. The two buildings could not be further in spirit, style, and purpose. They were conceived by the same hand; a hand that in turn, designed the urban axis connecting them. Neither Andrea nor Sebas know who Zuazo was, nor did they know, of course, that the doorway, the stairwell and the windows of their love story, were drawn on paper by the same hand.
In a poetic conclusion to the film, Siminiani sums up this story of love, life and architecture: “…but if one morning in September of 1959, after classes, Andrea decided to sit down on her bench to wait for Sebas, it would be reasonable to assume that architecture, perhaps, had something to do with this love story, ending in a circle…”
This is a story about people. And love. Within, around, and between architecture. As is life.
Arquitectura Emocional 1959 is part of the Architecture & Design Film Festival (ADFF) 2023/24 season and can next be seen at ADFF Chicago on February 2nd
Yorgos Foussias is Creative Director of Toronto-based MOODfoundry.