Moonlight on 18th Street
‘Cinema influences the way I conceptualise and theorize space. It also helps me visually communicate an idea.’
Moonlight on 18th Street was a two part studio project where two vacant lots were filled on the 18th Street Corridor in Kansas City’s Crossroads District. Referencing film noir’s aesthetic and highlighting some of his personal Hollywood muses, Sekou began to explore architecture’s rise of post-digital renderings to visualize what these respective spaces could be.
Who influences you graphically?
DROPXLIFE, Ben Swantek, and La Mar Taylor are currently my favorite artists. They’re the creatives on The Weeknd’s team. They do his album artwork and tour posters. A lot of their recent work pays homage to the 80’s neo-noir graphic style, which is my personal favorite. When I was like 6 and7 I started watching Akira, Blade Runner, Blue Velvet, all these 80’s neo-noir classics I had no business watching, because I was so visually engaged in these films. That’s filmmaking that understood how much the visual narrative can add depth to the written one. Over the years, that’s transitioned into my footing as a designer, especially with renderings.
What defined the drawing format of the proposal? How might an animation be more suited or expand the project in a different direction?
The Crossroads District hosts a First Friday’s event where they have street performances, open galleries, food trucks, etc. It’s essentially an afternoon/evening event but it’s really popping during the night time. You’re right in the downtown area so you see the city lights, all the bars open up around this time, and you pretty much get a feel of what Kansas City nightlife is about. So for this project, I wanted everything to resemble a dramatic depiction of nightlife. Frank Miller’s SinCity and David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive were the first aesthetics that came to mind, which is why the images are mostly black and white with reds, blues, and greens being the only colors shown and have that blurred glowing effect to it.
As far as animation goes, I think it’s a powerful tool for storytelling and I wish there was more of a push to do that in architecture. With the rise of VR in architectural practice, there is an emerging interest in emphasizing perspective and personal experience when occupying a space, but it’s from a very hyper-realistic approach. I feel like that’s very limiting because there’s a myriad of ways you can visually narrate an experience of a space without it being hyper-realistic. A great example of that would be Oslon Kundig’s “The 5th Façade Project”. It’s a video that consist of a series of built and conceptual investigations into rooftops, which they dubbed the neglected top layer of cities. What’s so cool is that it’s told from the perspective of a man recollecting his memory from what his cryonic technician is telling him. I feel that if my project took this direction, it could’ve expanded the possibilities of what this space could’ve of have been – telling a narrative of a personal stroll through Kansas City’s nightlife with these two buildings being plot devices for the story. I mean, it’s not too late for me to do that either. As many of my professors would say, a project is never complete, it’s just due.
What is your take on color?
I love it! This project was kind of niche for its overall look but I love using color in my projects. Two of my biggest architectural inspirations are Ricardo Legorreta and Ricardo Bofill. Studying them showed me that color has aesthetically, environmentally, and culturally relevant applications to the built environment.
What dictated the choice of characters used?
The idea to use actors from the 40s, 50s, and 60s, was completely random but it fit into the concept. I tend to place celebrities in my renderings but in a very subtle way, this time, I wanted to do something more obvious. For the dance studio rendering, I wanted to use notable figures with dance backgrounds like Gene Kelly, Eartha Kitt, and Audrey Hepburn while also paying homage to my favorite movie musicals of that time with West Side Story, Funny Face, and Singin’ in the Rain. It all ties into how film truly inspires the ins and outs of how I design.
Sekou is going into his 4th year in the Master of Architecture program at The University of Kansas School of Architecture and Design. He currently lives in Kansas City, Missouri and works as an intern at a public interest design firm in Kansas. He formerly served as the president to the revived National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS) chapter at KU. Along with exploring new methods of visually communicating architectural ideas, he is also very committed to the political and social role of the architect in today’s society. Sekou recently finished a project located in Dallas that uses a museum typology to narrate the complexities of the LGBTQ community in America. This upcoming semester, he will be working on a housing project that aims to shift the idea of affordable housing to affordable living – incorporating methods of mixed-use spaces, sustainable practices, and the importance of growing one’s own food. Transitioning into the professional world, Sekou aims to join the current push towards a better architectural practice while discovering solutions for better representation and opportunities for architects of color.