Saturday, August 2, 2008

Shape of America

AFA #1: Empire State Building

AIA-SWO members may not be aware of Shape of America, which is a series of videos produced by the AIA presenting some of the 150 buildings chosen by a poll of the public to a list of America’s Favorite Architecture (AFA). The AIA prepared the AFA list as part of Institute's sesquicentennial celebration in 2007. It puzzled and irked many architects and architectural historians (1), who lamented the omission of a number of the most historically significant and meritorious buildings in favor of the “architectural equivalent of comfort food.” According to the critics, the AIA failed to foster a greater understanding of American architecture by deputizing the public with the task of selecting and ranking the buildings on the AFA list.

Despite the criticism of the AFA list and how it was arrived at, the Shape of America videos are interesting and well-produced; they’re worth a look. The following is the AIA’s press release announcing the web-based movie series:

WASHINGTON, July 17 – Like any good novel or play immortalized on film, The American Institute of Architects (AIA) takes a page out of Hollywood's playbook. The AIA announces Shape of America -- a series of web-based short movies starring some of the 150 structures chosen by the public for the America's Favorite Architecture (AFA) list created last year.

The web-based film series is designed to expand the public dialogue about architecture and how it impacts our lives, that began with the published survey results of the AFA list in February 2007. Shape of America is designed to be interactive. Visitors are encouraged to learn, discover, and share feedback and experiences online at

From The Empire State Building (AFA #1), to Fenway Park (AFA #113), each Shape of America movie highlights one structure from the AFA list and provides a retrospective look at it through fun and engaging stories edited into a stimulating video. In each episode, AIA architects share their opinions, insights and personal stories about architectural masterworks and encourage public discussion of the buildings and their opinion of the architecture.

"These exciting Shape of America videos captivate even the casual architecture fan, and highlight the impact architects have had in developing timeless structures for the public to enjoy throughout America's history," says Elizabeth Chu Richter, Chairwoman, Shape of America Committee, FAIA.

"Shape of America puts a human face to architecture and helps viewers understand how good architecture is created and the importance of design and sustainability in our communities," says Christine McEntee, AIA Executive Vice President/CEO. "We hope this series captures the shared vision, interest, and passion between AIA architects and the public regarding architecture and how these structures play a dominant role within the communities in which we live, work and play."

The Shape of America launches with seven episodes, each featuring engaging discussions about the structures that shape our communities, from guests such as former AIA president RK Stewart, FAIA, and Topaz Medallion winner Stanley Tigerman, FAIA, and others.

The first AFA structures featured in the web-based film series include the Empire State Building; Boston's Fenway Park; Washington, DC's National Air and Space Museum; and Chicago's Tribune Tower, with more episodes to be produced as an ongoing series.

The Shape of America web site features guest commentary, a forward to a friend option, public ratings of each building and a vote for the next structure to be featured.

(1) A couple of critiques of the America’s Favorite Architecture poll process and its results may be found here and here.

No comments: