City Documentary

United Kingdom





Park Avenue & East 53rd Street is a film about and the Seagram Building and a New York City street corner on which it stands. It is written and directed by Paul Newland, with a voice over by Asheq Akhtar, camera by Tom Lecky, synthesizer by Ben Edwards (aka Benge), and archival footage from the film Birth of a Building (provided by the Hagley Museum and Library). Drawing primarily on the geographer Doreen Massey’s theoretical work on space, Park Avenue & East 53rd Street is an experimental, poetic attempt to use digital video and sound to explore the ways in which a specific urban location might develop a character (or characters) – through a process of ‘becoming’ - that could not have been imagined by architects and planners. The film also seeks to examine how far representations might affect the identity or even the life of an urban space. The film asks: what are the potential ‘uses’ or ‘potentials’ or ‘experiences’ of architectural spaces, as opposed to their original plans and design intentions? Employing contemporary iPhone footage of a street corner by the Seagram Building in New York City (a celebrated corporate architectural structure emblematic of modernity and US capitalism), alongside stock documentary footage of this building being constructed in the late 1950s, Park Avenue & East 53rd Street uses a voice-over to examine links between personal memory, nostalgia and loss, but also poetry, visual representations, architectural design, history, and the everyday rhythms of an urban place. By writing the voice-over/voice-off to be performed in a variety of modes of delivery – such as personal reminiscence, dialogue, academic lecture, omniscient expository narrator (direct address) – and mixing this voice with an evocative synthesizer soundtrack that serves to evoke the rhythms of the modern city as industrial complex - the film becomes a meditation on how far specific places in cities might be understood to be in a process of ‘becoming’ (Massey), and how representations might facilitate this ‘becoming’.

Avatar 86


Paul Newland

park avenue east 53rd street
Film Reel
Film Reel
Film Reel
Upcoming screening:

Selections and Awards: