Cathedrals of Culture: Berlin Philharmonic (Clip) / Wim Wenders / 2014
He first visited it in the 1970s to see a Miles Davis concert. "I had never seen anything like it," Wenders enthuses. "I remember that I felt, physically: 'Now I'm entering the future! This is it: modernity!'"
Disconcertingly, the building tells its own story, in a female voice. "I am his crowning achievement," it says of Scharoun. "I am a huge musical instrument myself with an exceptional spatial structure."
As a modern architect, Scharoun was dismissed as a "degenerate" by the Nazis. There is a certain irony, then, that his Berlin Philharmonic building was fervently championed by the Philharmonic's principal conductor Herbert von Karajan, a former Nazi party member.
"Without Von Karajan this building would not have been made," Wenders insists. "Its very concept of putting the orchestra (and the conductor!) into the centre of the room was revolutionary and needed the complete backing by the orchestra and its director. At the time Herbert von Karajan was a powerful figure. He understood Scharoun's vision, and I guess he also understood how much it was putting him into the centre of attention. So in this case his vanity worked in favour of the architect's dream." ➡︎
Wenders' contribution as director aptly captures the utopian and ocean-liner-like aspects of Scharoun's revolutionary concert hall, which was the first to place the orchestra at the centre, and Wenders does, thankfully, pay tribute to small details of the building's upkeep. But with its staged moments of user interaction, and with Scharoun's statue coming to life, the film feels like a promotional exercise, more suited to the Philharmonic's lobby than cinemas across the world. ➡︎
◼︎ Cathedrals of Culture: the documentary that tries – and fails – to find the souls of buildings / Oliver Wainwright / The Guardian / 2014
◼︎ Berlin Film Review: ‘Cathedrals of Culture’ / Peter Debruge / Variety / 2014
◼︎ Review: In ‘Cathedrals of Culture,’ Buildings to Love / Nicolas Rapold / The New York Times / 2015
◼︎ With Cathedrals of Culture, Wim Wenders Aspires to Capture the Souls of Buildings / Marsha McCreadie / The Village Voice / 2015