Think about it.

"Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty. It is not. It is the opposite of vulgarity."
-Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel

"Living in the lap of luxury isn't bad, except that you never know when luxury is going to stand up."
-Orson Welles



Our architectural education, among many other things, creates a strong sense of appreciation for fine craftsmanship, innovation, and quality of materials, yet not necessarily always the salaries to acquire them. This is a cruel irony I am still trying to come to terms with. And by virtue of looking at movies, I recognize the paradox of the issue of authenticity with a form of media that is inherently fictional. But it is in this construct that allows for the evolving nature of luxury to be unveiled -- by a sort of distorted mirror principle.

Since writers are by nature outsiders, often standing at the edges looking in (in line with the characters I focus on), then writing this thesis about luxury makes me an outsider, squared. Still, the credo of writing floated to the surface of my thoughts: write about what you know. My exposure to luxury, in terms of travel, goods, and services, is by global standards a healthy average. I am not immune to the omnipresent marketing and advertising of designer brands that infiltrate our modern lives. Yet, I am also not one to (too easily) buy into their hallow promises of status and respectability. Still, I fall prey.

I have tried on more than one occasion to chase the fashionable milieu dream. Visits to the south of France, Rome, and New York always included specially planned outings to the boutique of the moment, the restaurant du jour, the famed and illustrious hotel. But today, when it hardly makes any difference whether you walk into a Louis Vuitton store in Xiamen or Stuttgart or Denver, the face of true luxury eludes us. I recall back to the time I was in Santee Alley in Los Angeles, looking at an array of counterfeit merchandise, the crooked and weathered wooden table it was placed upon, the dirty tarp that covered the niche for the storage of more of the same. The smell of cheap leather and over-use of glue, the dull clang of shoddy metalwork clasps in highly-recognizable logo shapes. Not to mention the alarming probability that these untaxed profits will go on to fund illegal firearms or drug trafficking. And finally, it came full circle during the documentary of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) called “Living in Emergency”. The incredulousness and irrelevancy of seeing an LV scarf wrapped around the head of an MSF national volunteer from Liberia as he was helping usher a gun wound victim in a DKNY shirt into the free hospital NGOs have set up in the war-torn country. That's when I realized what our general sense of self-presentation of wealth has become -- a rootless, thoughtless, fully-compromised mirage of symbols.

I want to find the root of this change. I want to figure out the mechanisms with which this propagated. I do not want to reverse the evolution nor do I want to shut the gates for exclusivity. But if everything boiled down to false homages and fabricated authenticity, at least I need to know the originating source. And perhaps even find a cure to undo this spell.


Deluxe by Dana Thomas

How did I miss this read? At least I'm on it now.

Googlebooks preview

(Thanks Andrea!)


diagrammatic outline of thesis, another attempt


movies and architecture

This is an old project (4A!) that was an experiential map of personal perception and exploration along the Via del Mandrione towards Rome.

A building can only be experienced when walked through, when inhabited.
The unfolding of spaces is comparable to the unreeling of scenes in a film.

In this way, mass media dominates daily life, and we see in visual staccatos and hear in sound-bytes. Film aids architecture by inspiring the average filmgoer to take an interest in the built environment and to experience within the realms of cinema what they may never experience in real life. Film also returns to architecture a mass medium where both the trained and untrained can become the critique.

However, architecture will remain when film is gone, as architecture affords film its temporal structure.

(Source: Thomsen, Christian W. & Krewani, Angela. Hollywood: Recent Developments. Stuttgart: Axel Menges, 2005.)

Team: M Karimi / J Lee / D McNinch / R Micacchi / S Neault / A Ng / K Schwartzkopf / M Tataryn


original movie posters

“Cinematographic posters are like popular songs: they take you back to certain moments of your life, preventing you from losing them. They take you back not only to the film, but to their season, the atmosphere and the tastes of an era.”
Federico Fellini

The film poster is still often first point of entry to film; a synthesis of art and the market. It establishes the first scene, focussing on star quality, and creating mood. It becomes the calling card for film itself; captialising on allure. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was the main vehicle for publicity on walls of towns and cinema entrance halls, following a film as it moved from second and third showings and into provincial theatres. After a film’s release these posters were usually sent back to the distributor at the end of the run and destroyed. Due to its disposable nature, originals are rare. The average print run in Italy was 2000-3000 copies.

tester map for La Dolce Vita scenes


A Time and Place

This is a timeline of the 3 movies with the chosen scenes and their locations.


playing dressup

test layout templates