Constructing the Chrysler Building (1929-30)

6 minutes

Gradations

2 minutes

Last acre

12 minutes

The wolf dividing Norway

29 minutes

The evolution of cynicism

5 minutes

‘Quite a height, ah?’ A tour of the Chrysler Building by those building it

The Chrysler Tower … stands by itself, something apart and alone. It is simply the realisation, the fulfilment in metal and masonry, of a one-man dream, a dream of such ambition and such magnitude as to defy the comprehension and the criticism of ordinary men or by ordinary standards.
The Architectural Forum, October, 1930

Today, it’s easy to mistake the Chrysler Building for just another skyscraper dotting the New York City skyline. But upon its completion in 1930, and until it was surpassed by the Empire State Building in 1931, it was the world’s tallest manmade structure. At the time, the tower was notable not just for its sheer mass, but for its polarisation of architecture critics, with detractors deriding the building as an unsightly novelty, and a monument to the grand ego of its car magnate namesake, Walter Chrysler. But, as is clear in this footage filmed by Fox Movietone News, while the building might have originated as a ‘one-man dream’, it was built on the backs of fearless ironworkers – self-proclaimed ‘roughnecks’, who constructed it without harnesses or hard hats. This footage from 1929 and 1930 of the building’s construction – including the placement of an iconic 61st-floor Art Deco eagle – showcases how these workers were less comfortable delivering canned lines for the cameras than they were sitting atop beams hundreds of feet high.

This footage was accessed and published by Aeon with the permission of the University of South Carolina’s Moving Image Research Collections, an archive that ‘preserves films and videos produced outside the American feature film industry to make them available to present and future audiences’.

Delight as the hard-edged world melts into a full-rainbow spectrum of reality

Created by the Japanese director and designer Daihei Shibata for the Japanese educational TV programme Design Ah, the short video Gradations relishes in the blurring and stretching of visual borders. With a Zenned-out soundtrack augmenting the pleasing imagery, the short serves up a series of brief sequences in which commonplace visuals – from city lights to coffee and milk – shift from binary to an increasingly gradated spectrum. Beyond its oddly satisfying effect, the piece suggests hidden worlds of complexity even in the most mundane places. For more design wizardry from Shibata, watch Unendurable Line.

Via The Kid Should See This

Director: Daihei Shibata

A world of shacks and shanties is a place of makeshift beauty on England’s margins

At the beginning of the 20th century, a number of impoverished Britons set out in search of their own Arcadia. They found it, for a time, in poorly developed strips of land that had been neglected or abandoned by others. This cheap or sometimes even free land gave these pioneers a place to build their own humble shacks out of old bits of wood and boat, creating utopias that came to be called ‘Plotlands’. Life in the Plotlands continues still, and is precarious, improvised and marginal – yet full of rugged beauty. The UK filmmakers Jacob Cartwright and Nick Jordan capture that makeshift, unconventional beauty in this short documentary, set to Peter Warlock’s inimitable composition The Curlew (1920-22) and filmed on the salt marshes of Lowsy Point near Barrow-in-Furness in northwest England.

Directors: Jacob Cartwright, Nick Jordan

Narrator: Judy May

The divisive debate over hunting Norway’s endangered wolves

During the 1960s, wolves nearly vanished from Norway’s landscape due to overhunting; now, there are no more than 70 wolves left in the country. Although the wild predators – known to prey on farmers’ livestock – received protection under law in 1971, the debate between hunters and conservationists over the fate of the remaining endangered population has been heated and divisive ever since. The Wolf Dividing Norway shows how this debate culminates in December 2019, as groups on both sides of the conflict wait to hear whether the government will authorise the annual winter wolf hunt. With unprecedented access to remote communities at the heart of the debate, the Norwegian documentary filmmaker Kyrre Lien humanises the frustration coming from both sides, providing a sensitive look at one of Norway’s most polarising topics.

Director: Kyrre Lien

Cynicism was born when Diogenes rejected materialism and manners

Plato once described the philosopher Diogenes of Sinope as ‘a Socrates gone mad!’ It’s a good comparison. Like Socrates, Diogenes gave the bird to respectable society. He undermined status and manners in the 4th century BCE with his bottomless reserve of shamelessness and irreverence, opting to live on the streets like a stray dog. But, of course, there was a method to his madness. In this short video by TED-Ed, the Irish philosopher William D Desmond explains how Diogenes lived an authentic and ascetic life in accordance with nature, and how in doing so he founded the philosophy of cynicism – an iconoclastic tradition that continues to illuminate and infuriate today.

Video by TED-Ed

Director: Avi Ofer

Writer: William D Desmond

‘Quite a height, ah?’ A tour of the Chrysler Building by those building it

The Chrysler Tower … stands by itself, something apart and alone. It is simply the realisation, the fulfilment in metal and masonry, of a one-man dream, a dream of such ambition and such magnitude as to defy the comprehension and the criticism of ordinary men or by ordinary standards.
The Architectural Forum, October, 1930

Today, it’s easy to mistake the Chrysler Building for just another skyscraper dotting the New York City skyline. But upon its completion in 1930, and until it was surpassed by the Empire State Building in 1931, it was the world’s tallest manmade structure. At the time, the tower was notable not just for its sheer mass, but for its polarisation of architecture critics, with detractors deriding the building as an unsightly novelty, and a monument to the grand ego of its car magnate namesake, Walter Chrysler. But, as is clear in this footage filmed by Fox Movietone News, while the building might have originated as a ‘one-man dream’, it was built on the backs of fearless ironworkers – self-proclaimed ‘roughnecks’, who constructed it without harnesses or hard hats. This footage from 1929 and 1930 of the building’s construction – including the placement of an iconic 61st-floor Art Deco eagle – showcases how these workers were less comfortable delivering canned lines for the cameras than they were sitting atop beams hundreds of feet high.

This footage was accessed and published by Aeon with the permission of the University of South Carolina’s Moving Image Research Collections, an archive that ‘preserves films and videos produced outside the American feature film industry to make them available to present and future audiences’.

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Elizabeth I of England (c1588), artist unknown. One of three known as the Armada portraits and on display in Woburn Abbey. Courtesy Wikipedia

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