This brief foray into the contemporary music scene showcases iconic buildings through the eyes of stellar directors. Brutalist architecture, contemporary Czech design and the impact of architecture on the world around us will be exhibited via music videos from various genres that will get you swaying and demonstrate that architecture is more than just a flashy backdrop.
1 | Omi Palone – Architecture
This song by post-punk band Omi Palone pays tribute to London’s brutalist architecture of the 1960s and 1970s. Architect Ernő Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower and Balfron Tower, Alison and Peter Smithson’s Robin Hood Gardens and Neave Brown’s Alexandra Road Estate exemplify, in black and white, social housing complexes admired for their unique brutalist style on the one hand and criticised by the public for their unsightly exteriors and impractical interiors on the other. Ernő Goldfinger’s buildings have been granted listed status, while others, including Robin Hood Gardens, have met with a sorry fate, their demolition making way for new, mostly unremarkable developments.
2 | The Chemical Brothers – Go
The second single from the album Born in the Echoes is a unique mini-documentary of brutalist architecture in the Front de Seine district of Paris by legendary filmmaker Michel Gondry (director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Gondry’s keen interest in science fiction is conveyed in this video by the costumes of seven women, who, with their impressive movements, trace the silhouettes of 1970s buildings in this area, which has the highest density of towers in Paris. The architects, seeking to breathe life back into this former industrial district, opted not only for concrete, but also frequently used aluminium façades and retro protruding windows. The choreography by Michel Gondry, who has worked with musicians including Daft Punk, Björk and Massive Attack, earned a 2015 Grammy nomination for Best Dance Recording, while the costumes won an MTV Music Award.
3 | Jamie XX – Gosh
Another notable music video director is Romain Gavras, also known for his collaborations with Kanye West, the rapper M.I.A. and the Justice duo. This Franco-Greek filmmaker decided to locate the video for Gosh in the melancholic streets of Tianducheng, China, where a replica of the Eiffel Tower was built in 2007 (standing at 108 metres, compared to the original’s 330 metres). Running from the base of the tower is China’s Champs Elysees (Xiangxie Road), featuring Haussmannian-style residences. The project was originally intended to house 10,000 people but was soon dubbed a ghost town because of its low population. Today, 30,000 people live in this imitation of Paris, and the area continues to expand. There are many similar Western “made in China” cities, compelling us to reflect on the significance of both the original and the copy. In China in particular, where reproductions of Venetian and London districts can also be found, imitations are often held in high esteem as a form of craftsmanship and reverence.
4 | NCT – BOSS
The dynamic electro-hop sound of NCT, a prominent exponent of K-pop (Korean pop), serves to underscore a duel in which Ukraine’s brutalist architecture provides a fitting backdrop. The fall of the Iron Curtain made visible the architectural legacy of the former Soviet Union and the monumental displays of power and technological innovation. An important element of this was the preservation of national memory, with the Vernadsky National Library in Kyiv becoming its custodian. The striking fresco in the library foyer is called The Pain of the Earth. Created using a special technique called encaustic (painting with hot wax), it depicts the ultimate quest of science, that is, to save life on Earth. Other locations include the famous futuristic bus station, the “Ukrainian House” international convention centre, and some of Kyiv’s residential districts.
5 | Katerinha – Trippin
This singer-songwriter from North Macedonia may not yet be a household name here, but the backdrops of her Trippin video are much loved within the architectural community. This microfilm was shot at futuristic Yugoslavian monuments. The brutalist-style “spomenik” monuments from the 1960s–1980s commemorate partisan resistance to the Nazis and other occupiers, including the Ottoman Empire. One of the sites featured in the video is a memorial in Kruševo, North Macedonia. The monument resulted from a public competition won by the husband-and-wife team of Jordan and Iskra Grabul. Interestingly, they did not provide any designs to the jury, only a description of their idea, which was eventually realised in an entirely different form. Today it is known as the Makedonium after the construction company that built it. Other monuments include Tjentište, Veles, Kadinjača and Niš.
6 | Woodkid – Goliath
In October 2020, Yoann Lemoine, a Frenchman also known as Woodkid, released his second album – S16 (the symbol and atomic number of sulphur) – seven years after his first. He considers chemical reactions to be something magical, combining magnetism with toxicity. The video unfolds right here in the Czech Republic: you might be hard-pressed to recognise it, but it was filmed in the Most coal basin in northern Bohemia. In the track, the artist alludes to the biblical story of David and Goliath: “It depicts our individual and collective responsibility for creating a monster and finding a way to destroy it.” Images of devastated landscapes are an uncomfortable legacy left behind by human activity, even when it comes to architecture.
7 | Weval – Someday
The director Páraic Mc Gloughlin, who made the first-ever video for Dutch duo Weval in 2014, is fond of the dazzling interplay of different materials. This video makes for an intensely kaleidoscopic experience that reframes urban features and motifs into patterns not dissimilar to nature. The rapid interleaving and spinning evoke not only the busyness of cities, but also their perpetual expansion. Fragments following on from each other in rapid succession (5,425 images in total) allow us to observe how the emerging patterns ripple across the centuries. The first and last shots of nature are thus nothing more than very fragile shards, uncompromisingly devoured by the human footprint on this planet.
Full playlist of Music feat. Architecture: