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The Socialist, the Architect and the Twisted Tower

by Fredrik Gertten, Producer and director
The Cinema Guild, New York, 2005
DVD, col., 59 mins.
Sales: $295; rental, $85
Distributor’s website: http://www.cinemaguild.com/.

Reviewed by Andrea Dahlberg


Malmö is the commercial centre of southern Sweden that is undergoing a transition from being an industrial city to a knowledge based economy. Older industries are being replaced by those in the technology and communications sectors bringing radical changes in the physical and social landscape. The Western Harbour district was once an industrial area with a world-famous shipyard but now houses companies in the IT and telecommunications industries. It also houses Santiago Calatrava's controversial apartment building that is the tallest in Sweden and the second tallest in Europe. The building was inspired by a sculpture of a "Turning Torso" by Calatrava, a Spanish architect, engineer and sculptor based in Zurich. The sculpture so inspired Johnny Orback, the MD of HSB Malmö, a Swedish housing corporation, that he persuaded Calatrava to turn it into an apartment building for the city. "Turning Torso" consists of nine cubes with a total of 54 stories, with a 90° twist from base to top. After encountering numerous problems, the project was completed in August last year and has won several major awards, including "World's Best Residential Building" at MIPIM in Cannes, 2005.

This excellent one-hour film charts the development of the project from conception to near completion. The director and producer, Fredrik Gertten, has obtained outstanding footage that shows, first hand, the kinds of problems thrown up when two visionaries (Orback and Calatrava) attempt to create a landmark building rather than another apartment block in a regeneration area. Ultimately, Calatrava triumphs, but Orback is forced to resign. Some of the most interesting parts of the film show the Swedes struggling to work outside the familiar context of their own culture: Swedish contractors are used to taking over the realisation of such a project and are not used to working in partnership with an architect, let alone one as powerful as Calatrava ; Orback is attacked by local people who see building apartments for the affluent as a betrayal of post-war Swedish housing policy.

This film will be relevant to anyone interested in architecture, regeneration and the work of Santiago Calatrava but above all, it is a riveting story well told.



Updated 1st October 2006

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