'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer is one of the most enduring paintings in the history of art, but despite its popularity, the painting itself is surrounded by mystery. Who was this girl, why and how was it painted, and why is it so revered? This film takes us on a journey through the masterpieces of the extensively-renovated Mauritshuis in The Hague in the Netherlands to try to answer many of the questions surrounding this enigmatic painting and its mysterious creator.
The spectacular sculptures and paintings of Michelangelo seem so familiar to us, but what do we really know about this Renaissance genius, and who was this ambitious and passionate man? A virtuoso craftsman, Michelangelo's artistry is evident in everything that he touched. Spanning his 89 years, this episode takes a cinematic journey from the print and drawing rooms of Europe through the great chapels and museums of Florence, Rome and the Vatican to explore the tempestuous life of Michelangelo.
Monet, Cezanne, Degas and Renoir are some of the world's most popular artists. Their works, and that of their contemporaries, fetch tens of millions of dollars around the globe. Who were they and how exactly did they paint? To help answer these questions, this film focuses on the man credited with inventing impressionism as we know it - 19th-century Parisian art collector Paul Durand-Ruel. It was his brave decision to back these radical artists and then, on the verge of bankruptcy, to exhibit them in New York in 1886 that created impressionism as we know it. Thanks to his sales to enlightened wealthy Americans that subsequently filled US galleries with impressionist masterworks, Durand-Ruel kept impressionism alive at a time when it faced complete failure. This film tells his remarkable story, along with that of the impressionists themselves.
We start with an immersive journey into the life and art of Venice's famous view-painter Canaletto. The film also offers the chance to step inside two official royal residences - Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle - to learn more about the artist and Joseph Smith, the man who introduced Canaletto to Britain. The programme visits some of the sites immortalised in Canaletto's views, from the Rialto Bridge to the Piazza San Marco, and the Palazzo Ducale to the Church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo. Featuring contributions from Royal Collection curators and the world's leading experts in Venetian history.
The Mona Lisa: bewitching, seductive, world famous. In the minds of millions, she is the ultimate work of art. Yet behind the enigmatic smile, she remains a mystery, fuelling endless speculation and theories. But is that all about to change? Is the world's most famous painting finally giving up its secrets? Presented by Andrew Graham-Dixon, this landmark film uses new evidence to investigate the truth behind her identity and where she lived. It decodes centuries-old documents and uses state-of-the-art technology that could unlock the long-hidden truths of history's most iconic work of art.
2015 • Design
Industrial designer Helen Kerr works on everything from soap pumps to geo-mapping the island of Manhattan. Her team uses materials that can be broken down at the end of an object’s life, so each piece can be put back into the recycling stream.
Nicholas Kennedy works with the ghosts of printing’s past, by using salvaged equipment. His style of “anti-design” or “found design” insists that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you create. He suddenly makes the dying art of bookmaking seem very much alive.
Trevor McIvor and his partners design buildings that take advantage of the innate heating and cooling characteristics of nature. From an off the grid “cottage” that requires no artificial cooling, to a green-roofed sound studio rising out of the earth, nature dictates the design flow.
Patty Johnson has worked in South America, The Philippines, and South Africa, collaborating with indigenous groups in the creation of high-end design products that are sustainable in communities with low employment. For her current project, Patty travels to the devastated country of Haiti.
Sarah Hall designs architectural glass for buildings around the world. Now she installs one of her most ambitious designs to date, a series of giant solar energy collecting windows in a cathedral. It will be the first Cathedral in the world to incorporate solar energy into its design.
The work of these street artists arises out of their love for the urban jungle. Their selected materials are intended to naturally grow, die, melt, or blow away in the wind. Their clever creations add dignity to derelict sites and beautify the city landscape, especially in areas of decay.
La Sagrada Familia – although still under construction in Barcelona – is a cathedral without any flaws. Almost 100 years after his death, experts are convinced that Gaudi was a mathematical genius and that each embellishing ornament of the Sagrada Familia actually serves an architectural purpose.
2015 • Design
Professor Sir Roger Penrose is more than just a fan of MC Escher's mind-bending art. During the course of a long creative collaboration, the British mathematician and the Dutch artist exchanged ideas and inspirations. Some of Escher's most iconic images have their origin in Penrose's mathematical sketches - while the artist's work has served as a starting point for the professor's own explorations of new scientific ideas. To coincide with the first ever Escher retrospective in the UK, Penrose takes us on a personal journey through Escher's greatest masterpieces - marvelling at his intuitive brilliance and the penetrating light it still sheds on complex mathematical concepts.
2015 • Design
The centuries-old tradition of folding two-dimensional paper into three-dimensional shapes is inspiring a scientific revolution. The rules of folding are at the heart of many natural phenomena, from how leaves blossom to how beetles fly. But now, engineers and designers are applying its principles to reshape the world around us—and even within us, designing new drugs, micro-robots, and future space missions. With this burgeoning field of origami-inspired-design, the question is: can the mathematics of origami be boiled down to one elegant algorithm—a fail-proof guidebook to make any object out of a flat surface, just by folding? And if so, what would that mean for the future of design? Explore the high-tech future of this age-old art as NOVA unfolds “The Origami Revolution.”
Piers Taylor and Caroline Quentin explore unusual homes built underground. In Greece, they view a house hidden beneath the landscape that still boasts stunning sea views. In the Swiss Alps, they visit a house made so invisible it has to be accessed via a tunnel. Next it's over to New Zealand's South Island to a house built underground to soften its impact on the landscape as well as withstand the threat of earthquakes, before the pair inspects a Dutch house created by deep excavation, which features a huge, light-filled open-plan living space.
Piers Taylor and Caroline Quentin visit an island in Norway, spending two days in a house built on a footprint of just 100 square metres. In Spain, the pair head to a home built into a steep cliff face overlooking the Mediterranean, featuring a cantilevered terrace offering maximum sea views and a swimming pool as well as an unusual tiled roof. After viewing a house in New Zealand crafted from two separate wooden cladded structures, the duo explore a home in Canada inspired by two ships in dry dock, designed to peer over the coast, allowing the sea to pass underneath.
Architect Piers Taylor and actress Caroline Quentin explore unusual homes built in or near areas of forest. After trips to properties near Madrid and the Catskill Mountains in New York State, they arrive in Piha, New Zealand, to a house built within an indigenous forest of pohutukawa trees. Navigating very strict environmental laws, this wooden-cladded and glass-roofed property mimics the branches of the surrounding trees, while its huge sliding glass walls open up to allow the surrounding forest to become an intrinsic part of the house itself.
They begin in California, viewing a property built from the wings and tail fins of a Boeing 747. In Arizona, the pair stay in a modern house with an innovative take on an ancient technique of absorbing the heat during the day and releasing it at night. In New Zealand, Caroline and Piers view a house camouflaged using cedar cladding, while their last stop takes them to a hexagonal alpine chalet with a steel chimney core that anchors it to the mountain.
We each spend three years of our lives on the toilet, but how happy are we talking about this essential part of our lives? This film challenges that mindset by uncovering its role in our culture and exploring the social history of the toilet in Britain and abroad - as well as exploring many of our cultural toilet taboos. Starting in Merida, Spain with some of the the earliest surviving Roman toilets, we journey around the world - from the UK to China, Japan and Bangladesh - visiting toilets, ranging from the historically significant to the beautiful, from the functional and sometimes not-so-functional to the downright bizarre. Leading the journey is Everyman figure, Welsh poet and presenter Ifor ap Glyn, who has a passionate interest in the toilet, its history and how it has evolved over the centuries, right up to the development of the current design. Finally, there's a glimpse of the future and a possible solution to the global sanitation issues we now face.
2012 • Design
Cities are growing at a faster rate than any other habitat on Earth. They may seem an unlikely place for animals to thrive, but they can be a world of surprising opportunity. Leopards prowl the streets of Mumbai, peregrine falcons hunt amongst New York's skyscrapers, and a million starlings perform spectacular aerial dances over Rome. In Jodhpur, langurs are revered as religious deities and in Harar, locals live in harmony with wild hyenas. Many animals, however, struggle to cope in the urban jungle. As the architects of this environment, can humans choose to build cities that are homes for both them and wildlife?
Bicycle, an 86 minute documentary, asks the question why is cycling and the bicycle back in fashion? The film, which is directed by BAFTA winning director and keen cyclist Michael B.Clifford tells the story of cycling in the land that invented the modern bicycle, it’s birth, decline and re birth from Victorian origins to today. The film weaves bicycle design, sport and transport through the retelling of some iconic stories and features interviews with notable contributors Sir Dave Brailsford, Gary Fisher, Chris Boardman, Ned Boulting, Sir Chris Hoy, Tracy Moseley, Mike Burrows and many more plus great archive, animation and music. Bicycle is a humorous, lyrical and warm reflection on the bicycle and cycling and its place in the British national psyche.
2014 • Design
Picking up the story of design from the drab days of the late 70s, the final episode tracks the explosion of wild creativity that defined the 'designer decades' of the 80s and early 90s. By addressing wants rather than needs and allying themselves to the blatant consumerism of 'retail culture' designers emerged from the backrooms to claim a starring role in the shaping of modern life.
The story of design enters the 50s and 60s, when a revolutionary new material called plastic combined with the miracles of electronic miniaturisation to allow designers to offer post-war consumers something new: liberation.
The Genius of Design examines the Second World War through the prism of the rival war machines designed and built in Germany, Britain, the USSR and the USA, with each casting a fascinating sidelight on the ideological priorities of the nations and regimes which produced them.
In the crisis-stricken decades of the 1920s and 1930s, with the world at the tipping point between two global wars, design suggested dramatically different ideas about the shape of things to come, from the radical futurism of the Bauhaus to the British love affair with mock-Tudor architecture and the three-piece suite.
The first episode of this new series tells the fascinating story of the birth of industrial design. Alongside the celebrated names, from Wedgwood to William Morris, it also explores the work of the anonymous designers responsible for prosaic but classic designs for cast-iron cooking pots to sheep shears - harbingers of a breed of industrially produced objects culminating in the Model T Ford. Includes interviews with legendary designer Dieter Rams and J Mays, Ford Motors' global head of design.
This [film] is about patient and dedicated teaching, about learning to look and visualize in order to design, about the importance of drawing. It is one designer’s personal experience of issues that face all designers, expressed with sympathy and encouragement, and illustrated with examples of Inge [Druckrey]’s own work and that of grateful generations of her students. There are simple phrases that give insights into complex matters, for example that letterforms are ‘memories of motion.’ Above all, it is characteristic of Inge that in this examination of basic principles the word “beautiful” is used several times.”
2012 • Design