Questions about Architecture of Infinity

Answered by Christoph Schaub
You have made several films about architecture. What is it that fascinates you about architecture?

Architecture is far more crucial to our existence, than we actually perceive it to be. Typically, we perceive spaces and buildings in a very subconscious way. That is how, architecture’s emotional effect fascinates me, which generally acts on our subconscious, but can be implemented in a very deliberate way. I’ve learnt, architecture is in fact always present, always enveloping us in different ways and when you intently pay attention to it, it speaks to you – with different intent, with different effect.
Coming across this kind of architecture is fascinating – also and especially when it comes to films.  

What was your understanding of architecture with this new film?

In this film, I try to broaden the term architecture. Try to understand architecture in the sense of a spatial experience in a more universal way. In the film, I base the experience on spaces with sacred effects.  Of spaces that aim to instil grandeur, overpowering or protection. This effect can also be achieved in a secular structure, or in nature or art. Architecture also broaches the subject of infinity in a very basic sense, because a building essentially cuts out a part of what is infinite. Architecture could stand for what is finite within infinity. Churches exemplify the Hereafter, as the alternative to finite life on earth. Nowadays, we humans search in nature and in art for a similar, (non-religious) experience – a feeling of rapture, perhaps spirituality.

How did the idea for this film come about?

I have always been fascinated by churches, by their exterior shape, the space itself.
I never really knew why, because I’m an Agnostic and against the institution of the Christian church. At the beginning of my development work, I was much more focused on the architecture itself, or rather the history of churches. But I became more and more interested in the emotional, philosophical appreciation of these spaces and not the art of their design and construction. I started to gain a clearer understanding of my ambivalence towards these constructions. I understood, I’m better off talking about the effect these spaces produce. This approach then almost automatically became the focal point of my reflection.

What makes ARCHITECTURE OF INFINITY different to your other films about architecture?

With every one of my previous films on architecture, I chose a different approach: a building, an architect, a city, contextual construction etc. - those were the themes. Here, the emotional effect of spaces is what interested me. The term “room” for me had to encompass more than just its architectural sense. My starting point were sacred structures, because they have a strong emotional effect - they have to, due to their function, meaning and the intended philosophical-religious effect.

Is this film your most personal documentary...?

Yes, it is my ‘most personal’ film in the sense that the narrative is defined by my interests, my experiences and emotions. However, it was important for me that the film simultaneously reflects the experiences and emotions of numerous people. It should be universally accessible and in no way impersonal. The first-person narrative helped me establish that balance.

By which criteria did you choose the protagonists and the buildings?

Two things were important. On the one hand, the protagonists and constructions had to inspire my narrative interest. On the other hand, they had to go well together. I always imagined a scenario where the protagonists would meet around a table, share good food and wine and they’d have to get along splendidly, like and respect one another – in short: They could spend an inspiring evening in each other’s company.

What were your biggest artistic challenges with this film?

I think, to bring the film’s different levels together to relate to each other in an interesting way.
On a visual level, the narrative about architecture and landscapes, which naturally tends to be more static and - you could say - more objective and then the ‘inner’ images, which are more animated and of course, more subjective. On a sound level, the interplay between the sound design and Jojo Mayer’s music was a challenge. And finally, the task of constructing a voice-over that is personal and at the same time informative, at certain moments. We always said, the narrative voice has to trigger something in the viewer – an interest, an emotion or a memory. Another possible answer could be that working with the visual artist Ramon Giger, the editing artist Marina Wernli and the musician Jojo Mayer were productive Vis- à-vis and inspirations.

How did you approach the editing process, or rather, how did you and the editor Marina Wernli find the film’s structure?

The editor Marina Wernli and I went through an extensive editing process in close collaboration. Even though the important elements were already defined in the shooting plan, we wanted to - or had to – newly invent the actual narratives. The editing makes use of an associative principle and thus also poses philosophical questions. Which isn’t easy. It requires time, i.e. many discussions and versatile experiments are necessary for the ‘truth’ to be unearthed. A ‘truth’ that doesn’t aim for objectivity, but should instead be subjective. But it has to be able to be understood and accepted by outsiders, by those not in the know.  

What was your personal experience on the making of this film? Did making this film change you in any way?

‘Changed’ is a bit exaggerated! I did however learn a lot and understand and see many things, even about myself, in a new light throughout this process. During the making of this film a lot changed regarding the subject matter, i.e. my interest in it changed. I realized that I wasn’t just making a film about sacred architecture, but that I also had to tell stories from my own life. That’s how I realized that sacred architecture became less and less the focal point of my interest. That is why the protagonists hardly talk about their designs, but instead more intently, through architecture, talk about philosophical questions, which are essential to our existence. During the work, I also noticed that I can broaden the term of space. I can equally reflect on the inner space of a human being. Which allowed us to find an image for an architecture of infinity. The inner space can be considered as infinite – an inner space at least doesn’t have any visible limits, no beginning and no end – no centre either. In the real, material world, on the other hand, it’s impossible to imagine an “architecture of infinity” in a concrete sense. Fundamentally, I can say: The work on this film has been very enriching for me, because at the end of the process, I’m standing in a different place than where I was at the beginning. It allowed be to discover a part of myself, which I hadn’t known in that way.

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