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Architecture, Storytelling + Film

Adam Goss and Red Mike founded the digital media company Spirit of Space in 2006 to “promote a greater awareness of designed environments for the architectural profession and the wider public audience.” The company recently shot two videos at San Francisco International Airport’s renovated Terminal 2, designed by Gensler, and we sat down with Adam and Mike to talk about video production as it relates to architecture and their impressions of the new T2.

How did you get involved with video production?

Adam: We were trained as architects and began experimenting with video while studying abroad in Milan, Italy because we were both interested in film and saw a lot of potential in it.

Mike: We had that academic freedom to push ourselves and saw how effective film could be. There's so much specialization in architecture today, and digital media is a part of it. It is part of the design output, and it is part of the design process.

How can digital video be part of the design process?

Mike: When explaining design process to someone through traditional forms of architectural representation, it’s hard to know what draws people's attention or whether or not their eyes are glazing over. Our work shows architects and designers what people see when they step into a space and what aspects are the most prominent.

Adam: For one of our first film projects, we were documenting the design process of the Aqua Tower in Chicago, and the whole design revolved around site lines that come out of the building. So we shot footage from all the site lines, and then brought that footage back into the office. That way, if the designers realized "Hey, maybe that site line doesn't work," they could change it because of the way we did our research with film. We still think digital video can become a design tool in a more literal sense. That's something we're continually playing with.

Mike: As architects, we have to understand that most people don't have as heightened a sense of awareness as designers. So to understand the perspectives of everyday people, we conduct lots of on-site interviews. We're trying to show what happens in space, and what might catch someone’s eye.

Your videos take spaces and create mini-narratives. How do you draw a story from a building or an interior?

Adam: We capture the raw, serendipitous aspects of a project. So how we experience a space dictates the story. As we go through a building, we walk around with flip cameras to explore various ways to shoot the space. With film, every space can tell a million stories, so we have to determine the key elements from the architect's point of view and how we can share this in a way that everyone understands.

Mike: In every film, you wear three hats. The first hat is as the planner of the film, which involves figuring out how you are going to capture the space in a 2D format. The second hat is actually getting that information to come through your camera lens. The third hat is as the film editor. The editing process is where you compare the storyboard to the footage and decide what works best. During the editing process, we often discover new opportunities and angles that we weren’t aware of and that can only be discovered after filming a space in a holistic sense.

Adam: Architects primarily deal with spatial qualities so they sometimes forget that it’s the emotional aspects of a building that resonate with people the most. We try to pull those experiences out in each of our productions.

What stood out to you about the new design of T2?

Adam: The way-finding at T2 is just amazing. You can walk straight through the terminal, and that creates a very linear story. You come in through this beautiful lobby, go past security into the Recompose area, and then walk down this main street which leads to an even bigger atrium. From there you can shop, relax or go to your gate. It's a very sequential process, and the design elements not only guide you but also pull you to the side where you can take a moment to breathe or check out some art. There’s so much going on at T2. We could have made one film focusing on the kids' areas. It's amazing how all the different spaces fit together. It did not feel like an airport. I had a hard time comparing it to other terminals.

Mike: When we were planning the film, we were thinking about how security at airports has become such a tremendous hassle after 9/11. At T2 it is just the opposite. You can get coffee and hang out with people in the waiting area before going through security, so passengers don’t stress out about it. Our film purposefully left security out because the passengers at T2 told us they don’t even think about it. The story became about how easy it is to move through the different areas of the terminal.

Make sure to check out the slideshow below that shows the storyboards Adam and Mike used during pre-production. To flip through the pictures, click on the icons that appear at the bottom of the slideshow.

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