Film stills

Even in this light, I can tell where your eyes are looking.
"To Catch A Thief"


But just look at the goodies she brought with her.
"Breakfast at Tiffany's"


Don't be like me. Salvation doesn't lie within four walls.
"La Dolce Vita".

I want to describe the luxuries of the space, not explain the luxuries of the space. Then re-edit it until it becomes my own narrative.


The Evolving Outline

(post of Nov.17)

The Glamour of the Goldern Era of Hollywood
- Glamour is experienced mainly through visual ephemera.
- Its appeal was most powerful to those who lay outside the realm of privilege and success
- Up until the 1960s, magazines and photographers worked off real social environments After the collapse of formal high society, and the demise of the well-bred or debutante model, it was the iconic images of the past that provided the most potent source of inspiration. Contemporary glamour is itself derivative; self-generating and self-referential.

Introduction to 3 movies
"To Catch a Thief", "La Dolce Vita", and "Breakfast at Tiffany's"

Siting (the Milieux)
-a mapping out of all the locations of each of the 3 films (hotels, shops, driving routes, vistas, districts)
- The urban scene was one in which the rich and fashionable were constantly seeking to establish exlucsivity in a context in which public places and commercial institutions, to some degree, were open
- Certain areas acquired an aura of desirability through the presence of the rich, their patterns of competition and display, and the institutions of consumption and entertaiment.
-The commercial and entertainment establishments that sprang up within these areas were crucial tools of reinformcement and diffusion of this image. With the rapid development of the commercial sector, shops and stores came to occupy an increasingly important place in the visual and sensory experience of the metropolitan life.

-global retail areas – urban public spaces (brand zones; city as “added value”; omotesando jewel boxes)
-In the history of glamour, cities are always important. The very idea of the modern city is bound up with wealth, power, beauty, and publicity. To exist, it requires a high degree of urbanization, the social and physical mobility of capitalist society, some sense of equality and citizenship, and a distinctive bourgeois mentality.
-monetarily-propelled public spaces (& social interaction); connected “family tree”
-genius loci of the late capitalist city
a. window display, lighting
b. dimensions, ratios
c. s, m, l, xl (tag, bag, rack, shelf, boutique..)

-look up Tschumi, Veblen, Walter Benjamin, Foucault

Clothing (the Skin)
-the role of couture (in each film); criteria of couture….influence of cinema and vice versa

Paparazzi (the Dogs)
-on and offscreen lives of the stars (how architecture hides and emphasizes gossip)

Objects (the Things)
-the objects of desire; curiosity cabinet; not an encyclopedia; curation,
-what criteria denote luxury status (“gemstones to jewelery” Roland Barthes; detail, taste, distinction)
-modern day, links to business, sale environment pyramids
-faith, transcendence, ecstacy, myth, sacrifice, ritual, community, identity
-luxury item as new ecclesiastical relic (church built around unique article)
-litany, pilgrimage, rite of passage (shopping)
-icons and ads (the immaterial world created around the object)

-look up Bourdieu (Luxury is the fetishization of this condition; necessary for sense of identity; “sign-value”), Baudrillard, John Berger, Kingwell


Ways of Not Seeing

I must quote parts of this article of Mark Kingwell:

"John Kenneth Galbraith noted that “no one has really read very much social science if he hasn’t read The Theory of the Leisure Class at least once,” adding, “The book yields its meaning, and therewith its full enjoyment, only to those who also have leisure.” Veblen himself, in the last sections of the book, indicts the tenured ease of academic life as one of the clearest examples of conspicuous waste, and Pierre Bourdieu’s great work on social distinction concludes its survey of taste as a class-based exercise with a keen sense of how intellectual and cultural capital underwrite each other."

"We are fetched by a beautiful thing, as we are by beauty in general, because of the “promise of happiness” it holds out. Sudjic’s desirable things go on repeating that promise, day after day; although the promise may be bogus, the seeking itself is not, and that’s why it is never just about position—Veblen’s reductionism is too extreme. But that’s also why we go on believing the promises even though we know they’re empty, even when we realize that consumer goods reliably generate the unhappiness of restless aspiration. It’s the language of the soul we should be parsing, not the language of things, our shared entrapment in the caverns of human desire. This project of psychic spelunking is as old as Plato and as fresh as last week’s clearance sale."

"There is of course no guarantee that introspection, any more than strolling the mall, will prompt political change. For that we would need luxury taxes, limits to cheap borrowing, and other structural curbs on competitive consumption. Nor will consideration of our own place in the consumer economy necessarily lead to changes in what we value: this is theory, not therapy. Meanwhile, various inventive cultural escape hatches—hi-lo cultural slumming, the dandyism
of camp—seem jejune if not flatly contradictory. There is nothing outside the system, and attempts at escape are always just higher-order versions of distinction. You can’t win, and you can’t stop playing."

"Here’s some advice: stop worrying about it. The point of analyzing desire is neither victory nor freedom; it is, instead, to indicate an alternative scale of value, according to which idleness and play—the everyday gift of cultural d├ętournement—are cherished as the most divine, because least encumbered, dimensions of human life. If we could see that, maybe the closed promises of consumption would give way to the open invitation of thought itself."


(New and Improved!) Abstract

Glamour and luxury cannot survive without one another. The former is the appeal, the latter is its justification. Based upon a visual language of signifiers, an audience is required for their existence. And these associations concretize into myths when placed in the centre of the popular consciousness; physically, on a public stage for the displays of this wealth. These various realms, grand hotels, theaters, nightclubs, restaurants, and boutiques, make up the fashionable milieux. This is the channel through which social privilege can interact with the city. The way a place acquires the aura of desirability depends on the balance between exclusivity and accessibility. The institutions of consumption, display, and entertainment are the tools for the reinforcement and dissemination of this aura. The architecture of these elite enclaves is the driving force of the sensory experience to a city.

The movies of the golden age of Hollywood captured the time when playgrounds of the nouveau riche were being established. Cote d'Azur, Rome, New York, and Paris acquired unprecedented respectability and reverence through these injections of Hollywood glamour. "To Catch a Thief", "La Dolce Vita", and "Breakfast at Tiffany's", have sustained appeal because they fuel dreams of escape or the allure of self-transformation. That is why these films deal with an outsider's impression of luxury; a legendary heterotopia and the assault to gain access into it. These films are used to triangulate the key components of the architectural discord in motion. The built form proves that luxury has a format, bounded in space and time.


The Golden Age of Hollywood

A slightly newer direction has emerged for my thesis, which will take me on delightful movie binge for the next couple of days where I will watch all of the following:

Darling (1965)
La Dolce Vita (1960)
Topkapi (1964)
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
To Catch a Thief (1955)
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

Details to follow.


the approval matrix

Click image to enlarge.

Above is "The Approval Matrix" from New York Magazine. Their "deliberately oversimplified guide to who falls where on our taste hierarchies." It's so simple the way the quadrants can define despicable highbrow or brilliant lowbrow and everything in between. The events are a teeny bit dated as this is from the April 20, 2009 issue. But I should make my own version pertaining to luxury objects and current architecture. Last night I went to see Terry O'Reilley and Mike Tennant talk about their radio show and now book "The Age of Persuasion" at the Toronto Reference Library during their Author Series. During the book signing, I asked him if his work extends beyond bringing people into the store. What about the persuasions that occur within it? Retail interiors and their messages to consumers? Or architecture on a larger scale? The entire building as advertising for a city? He said that he hadn't done any talks on that yet. But maybe he'll tap into that in the near future. And then he proceeded to sign my notebook like this:

On the approval matrix, I say that would land in the highbrow brilliant quadrant :)


to maximize sales

Notes from "Visual Merchandising" by Tony Morgan.
Windows: "If the store was a magazine, windows are its front cover."
Product Adjacencies: guide the customer (and sales)
Floor Layouts: platinum, gold, silver, and bronze zones


garbage man

Packaging really is everything. Enshrouding ugly/almost worthless content with attractive aesthetics is a staple in the department of selling today's "luxury brands".

Artist Justin Gignac began selling New York City garbage in 2001, to prove a co-worker wrong.
Looking around the dirty streets of Times Square for his content, he also has special edition cubes like The Republican National Convention and Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. Acting a bit like a contemporary Cornell box, the act of assemblage and irrational juxtaposition creates a collection of other's rejected paraphernalia.