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The universal subject of Rick Meghiddo’s documentaries often goes overlooked. In fact, the subject commonly serves as a background for the real action of a story.
However, Meghiddo, a UCLA alumnus, firmly believes in the importance of bringing the background of films to the surface. Through his architectural documentaries, he hopes to bring attention to architecture’s universal influence.
“(Architecture) affects everyone’s life. The problem is that the awareness of it in general is very low,” Meghiddo said. “And that is what I was trying to do when I started to do architectural documentaries.”
Meghiddo’s most recent film, “Westwood L.A.,” explores the landmarks of Westwood, including UCLA. The film premiered at Westwood’s public library on April 22. As a longtime resident of the area, Meghiddo said he wanted to highlight Westwood as a place that could influence other cities. He believes Westwood, despite its problems, is a well-balanced neighborhood with influential achievements.
Psychologist and Meghiddo’s longtime friend Dr. Judith Hecker has kept in touch with Meghiddo since they met in the 1970s and is familiar with Meghiddo’s work as both an architect and a filmmaker. She said she was very moved by “Westwood L.A.”
“It’s very important in life for every city to have a sense of what it is about them,” Hecker said. “I was very glad that (Meghiddo) chose to do Westwood to demonstrate that (importance) so that we don’t think that this area came about just yesterday. It has a really big history and is also connected with the urban population of Los Angeles.”
Before he moved to Westwood, Meghiddo traveled across the globe to pursue a degree in architecture. He was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but has also lived and worked in Israel, Italy and Los Angeles. He said that each location’s distinct style has given him new experiences that have influenced his work.
After studying at Technion’s Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning in Israel, Meghiddo and his wife moved to Los Angeles to study at UCLA’s Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning, which was merged into other professional schools in the 1990s. He and his wife practiced in the area for 15 years, focusing on sustainability, urban farming and space awareness. He previously worked with UCLA Architecture at the Urban Innovation office in the 1980s.
Although he has worked in the field for nearly 35 years, Meghiddo did not begin filmmaking until 2012. At that point, he decided to “reinvent” himself as a filmmaker of architecture documentaries. Within this short span of time, he has produced about 30 documentaries, ranging from four to 30 minutes in length. He said he keeps the films brief to accommodate short attention spans. Several of these documentaries are available on Vimeo and YouTube.
While his work as a filmmaker is relatively new, Meghiddo said he has been interested in film since he was 17 years old. Through his documentaries, he hopes to educate viewers on the basics of architecture and the importance of spaces for people.
“We may not be conscious all the time of how (architecture) affects us, but it does,” Meghiddo said. “You see it every day. UCLA is a pretty good architectural environment. You may know the difference between a good classroom and a bad classroom. When you have a good classroom, you’re focused and your attention is greater than when you’re in a bad one.”
Samuel Aroni, a professor emeritus of the Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning and the director of special academic cooperative projects, knew Meghiddo before he entered the School of Architecture and Urban Planning. Although he never taught Meghiddo, he knew of his portfolio and worked closely with him during his two years as a student at the school. Aroni has maintained a close friendship with Meghiddo and watched several of his documentaries.
“(The documentaries) were very good in terms of describing both architectural buildings as well as urban design and urban planning situations,” Aroni said. “He’s particularly capable at integrating architecture planning and also in describing not only the built environment as an architect but also the broader issues relating to planning: social, economical issues.”
Meghiddo connects architecture to broader issues because he said he believes that everyone can make a contribution to improving their community through their own specialty.
“You cannot solve all the problems of the whole Earth, but you can do the best you can within what you’re doing, whether it’s saving or designing or building something,” Meghiddo said. “I’ve tried to do that most of my life mainly through architecture. Now I’m trying to do it through filmmaking.”
Correction: Meghiddo and his wife practiced in the Los Angeles area for 15 years. He previously worked with UCLA Architecture at the Urban Innovation office in the 1980s. Meghiddo’s name was also misspelled twice.