ADFF Kicks Off with World Premiere of Leaning Out!

By Katie Suh

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The 10th season of the Architecture & Design Film Festival (ADFF) kicked off in New York Tuesday night with the World Premiere of Leaning Out, directed by Basia and Leonard Myszynski. This moving documentary tells the untold story of the World Trade Center’s lead structural engineer Leslie E. Robertson, the legendary man who oversaw the construction of the world’s tallest skyscraper at the time.

Young Les with WTC sketch_Composite for Leaning Out_Courtesy LRobertson_

Image: Courtesy of Leslie E. Robertson.

The film begins with the tragic events of September 11, 2001 – the day the Twin Towers came tumbling down. Even today, 17 years later, we are still haunted by grief and sadness when we pass by the 9/11 Memorial, which stands exactly where the Twin Towers originally stood, tall and proud.

Leaning Out delves into the prolific life of Robertson, touching upon his early life and his successful career as a structural engineer, working on projects like the World Financial Center in Shanghai and the Lotte World Tower in Seoul. The film chronicles the story of the Twin Towers through Robertson’s eyes – from the innovations he brought to the Towers’ design, to the enormous sense of guilt he still carries over their collapse on 9/11.

The film also offers a unique lens into the Towers’ role in preserving lives. The structures were able to resist the impact of both crashes, thereby allowing people to escape through the stairwells, which remained largely intact until the buildings collapsed. And because the buildings collapsed vertically, rather than toppling over onto other buildings, thousands of lives in the surrounding areas were spared. Despite the many lives lost that day, and although Robertson is still burdened by guilt, Leaning Out shows us that his innovative designs actually helped to save many people who might have otherwise perished.

Twin Towers in orange light_Courtesy Les Robertson

Photo: Courtesy of Leslie E. Robertson.

Ultimately, the directors take us on a journey to discovering a brilliant man who, in his post-war experience and in the wake of 9/11, became an activist and a pacifist. Leaning Out poses a juxtaposition between loss, survival, and healing through the intricate weaving of the storyline by the film’s directors Basia and Leonard Myszynski.

Les by steel beam from WTC_Leaning Out_Photo Credit LMyszynski_2017

Photo: Courtesy of Leonard Myszynski.

Leaning Out is on view Friday, Oct. 19th and Saturday Oct. 20th. For more information, click here.

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