Architecture + Design Film Series opens tonight with a celebration of midcentury modern style

Colorado-grown Design OnScreen, a non-profit working for the preservation of modern architecture through film, has been hard at work. Just back from the Biennale Architettura in Venice in late August, the organization is now hosting its fourth annual Architectural + Design Film Series, a month of movies celebrating several eras, architects and geographical locations integral to the cultural history and heritage of modern design. Opening at 7 p.m. tonight with the debut of Modern Tide: Midcentury Architecture on Long Island at the Denver FilmCenter, the deftly curated series begins by digging into the East Coast's contribution to an often overlooked period in American architecture.

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"There's a strong argument that we make in

Modern Tide

: If people became aware of the history and the value of these buildings that are only from the '50s, you could see how beautiful and what a great impact they have," says Heather Purcell Leja, executive director of Design OnScreen. The documentary puts this viewpoint in focus: In order for preservation of these mid-century modern beach structures to occur, a value has to be established.

That value comes from an appreciation for the particular style of this era -- the late 1930s through the mid-1960s -- and the idea that architectural designs of the past can be used in present context. "Modernisn isn't just a historical style," Purcell Leja argues. "It has been updated by particular regions for the current day."

That brings to light another important point of this series' opening film: the fact that mid-century modern architecture isn't limited to the West Coast. Albert Frey, Wallace Harrison, Herbert Beckhard, Horace Gifford, Edward Durrell Stone and Andrew Geller are just some of the post-war architects celebrated in Modern Tide, along with the stories of their Long Island structures, some of which were demolished as recently as 2005.

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Created in 2007, Design OnScreen is a Colorado-based organization that not only curates architecture-oriented films for showings around the world, but produces documentaries as well. Modern Tide: Midcentury Architecture on Long Island, for example, was produced by this group.

The mid-century theme continues with screenings of Coast Modern, a look at the West Coast's contribution to the architectural style, and The Gruen Effect: Victor Gruen and the Shopping Mall, an exploration of the cultural impact of the now-ubiquitous retail center.

Over the course of the next four weeks, the 2012 Architecture + Design Film Series will show eleven films on topics ranging from modern architectural work across the globe to iconic architects and sustainability in design. For a complete schedule, visit the Denver FilmCenter's website; for more information on Design OnScreen and its work across the world, visit the non-profit's website.

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