Even when his work is inspired by the industrial back lanes of Los Angeles, there is a certain European fatalism in the work of Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto Moura.
He seems to have an architectural end game in mind when he is designing his work, considering how it will stand not just when construction is completed, but also when the structure has fallen to neglect and abandonment.
"A good building always makes a beautiful ruin," he says.
This film by Thom Andersen systematically examines 17 of Moura's projects. Some are plans that have never actually been built, such as a pedestrian bridge in which the stairs are the sole visible support for the structure. Many of the works on view incorporate ruins of past structures, such as a marketplace Moura transformed by taking out a roof and making an exterior space out of an interior one.
Andersen, whose works include the documentary/lecture Los Angeles Plays Itself, is an arts professor at the California Institute of the Arts and is also himself an artist, accomplished at creating new constructs out of old material, the way Moura works with granite blocks lifted from previously enjoyed structures.
Anderson's documentary style is as straightforward as a blueprint. He riffs through the 17 Moura works and ends with an interview in which the architect asserts what has already been said during Andersen's narration (which abundantly borrows from Moura's own texts). Moura adds supplementary insights about the artists who inspire him, mainly jazz musician Miles Davis.
But mostly, the film is a tribute to Moura's style, often showcasing his work in an interesting visual method in which, instead of 24 frames per second, he delivers two or three frames per second.
You can probably guess what this looks like if you've ever had any substantial experience of the online service Vimeo.
Reconversão screens at 7 p.m. Friday, Saturday, and Thursday at Cinematheque during its ongoing Architecture+Film series.