Designing the City of the Future
Skip to main content
Walker News

Designing the City of the Future

Institut du Monde Arabe. Photo: Pete Sieger, courtesy of the Walker Art Center
Institut du Monde Arabe. Photo: Pete Sieger, courtesy of the Walker Art Center

Three years ago, Architecture Minnesota magazine launched Videotect [architect + video], an annual video competition designed “to bring more voices and more creativity into public debates about key built-environment issues.” The first year’s topic, the Minneapolis skyway system, drew 25 entries, each 30 to 120 seconds long. A jury of architecture, advertising and arts notables selected, as the winning video, an animation inside a dead-end skybridge.

But viewers also loved a hilarious 3-D rap battle (which gave rise to the Videotect mantra “Don’t be a hamster, be be a man”) (which, despite the name, didn’t require special glasses to appreciate), and another great entry, a National Geographic-style archaeological excursion into the origins of the Minneapolis skyway system. Clearly, the creators of these videos had taken their work seriously. But they also were having a lot of fun—as did the standing-room-only audience in the Walker Art Center cinema.

The 2012 topic for Videotect was transportation, and the videos—more technically advanced than the year before—once again presented sometimes goofy, sometimes poignant, often hilarious points of view on various transportation choices, their environmental impacts, and how design should be more involved in creating sustainable transport. As juror David Frank said about the selection process, “Some of [the videos] were so funny that we were worried that would detract from the message. Some of them hit the message so hard we thought it was like clubbing you over the head with it. So we had to wrestle with the right balance of how the story was being told and what the story was.”

The Videotect 3 screening took place March 7 at the Walker: this year’s topic was “City of the Future.” The competition’s call for submissions asked, “Will the buildings of tomorrow be more healthful or responsive to you than the ones you occupy today? Will your city have more or less green space? And can your answers to these kinds of questions reveal the ways in which design enhances livability? Give viewers a glimpse of the future in a 30- to 120-second video. Entries will be judged on their ability to entertain viewers and get them thinking.”

The event included (as in other years) a screening of the eight submissions most viewed on the Videotect web page. From this pool of favorites, the audience selected a Viewers’ Choice Winner: a funny short by Four Humors Theater in which three men bravely donned spandex to convey the perils of the virtual office.

For  this year’s Honorable Mentions, however, the jury (R.T. Ryback, Renee Chang, Peter Remes and Zechariah Thormodsgaard) selected an audience favorite that Trekkies anywhere would appreciate, “Video Trek”; a beautiful documentary, “Working with Nature,” that included shots of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West in the Sonoran desert and shots of city skyscrapers; and “Bobbie Jones,” a wonderful claymation adventure in which Bob returns to the sustainable lifestyle of Lower Canada from oil-saturated and gun-totting Texas, capital of Kingdom Come.

New this year: These videos, as well as the Grand Prize-winner, “Big Hair, Big Ideas,” will be screened at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival next month. For that reason alone, the jurors’ selection this year couldn’t be more perfect. A public-service announcement on climate change, with reference to a Bill Joy TED Talk, “Big Hair, Big Ideas” is threaded with whimsical humor and imagines a future filled with vertical farms and domesticated penguins, and food truck cuisine comprised of Asian carp sushi and millefoil seaweed salad.

Delightfully shot and animated, the winning video exquisitely balanced meaningful storytelling and resonant humor. Similarly, Videotect offers cultural creatives the opportunity to enlighten and entertain audiences with their perspectives on design and 21st century life—giving us the chance to laugh, reflect and reconsider our relationship with the built environment anew.

You can watch all the 2013 Videotect submissions online, on the competition’s web page.


Camille LeFevre is a Twin Cities arts journalist and dance critic.

Viewfinder posts are your opportunity to “show & tell” about the everyday arts happenings, interesting sights and sounds made or as seen by Minnesota artists, because art is where you find it. Submit your own informal, first-person responses to the art around you to editor(at), and we may well publish your piece here on the blog. (Guidelines: 300 words or less, not about your own event/work, and please include an image, media, video, or audio file, and one sentence about yourself.)

Get Walker Reader in your inbox. Sign up to receive first word about our original videos, commissioned essays, curatorial perspectives, and artist interviews.