10 OF THE BEST ARCHITECTURE DOCUMENTARIES TO WATCH IN 2017
Inspiration is a funny thing: when you need it is nowhere to be seen, and just when you’re not expecting it, it can blindside you in the least convenient of places.
This entirely fresh selection looks past the panoply of stars to bring you more of the best architectural documentaries which will provoke, intrigue and beguile.
So grab some popcorn, turn down the lights, and enjoy the show!
URBAN POETRY | Joe Gilbert
English / 2015
The Barbican Estate in the City of London is arguably England’s most iconic example of Brutalist architecture. This film explores the history of the estate from the perspective of its residents.
EERO SAARINEN: THE ARCHITECT WHO SAW THE FUTURE | Peter Rosen
English / 70 Minutes / 2016
A renewed interest is emerging in mid-20th century architects and artists who exploded the comfortable constraints of the past to create a robust and daring modernist America. Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future examines the life of an architectural giant who envisioned the future. His sudden untimely death at age 51 cut short what continues to be one of the most influential legacies in American architecture, a body of timeless work that stands apart from the clutter of contemporary design and continues to inspire architects today.
Rotterdam 2040 | Gyz La Rivière
English / 60 Minutes / 2014
Rotterdam 2040 is a film about the city’s future, departing from the principle of Gyz La Rivière that you can not look ahead without considering your past (something that hasn’t always been Rotterdam’s strongest feature). At high speed, La Rivière reconstructs the history of Rotterdam from the time before the bombings until now, and expands the developments to the year 2040 (100 years after the bombing and the 700th anniversary of the city).
THE LAND OF MANY PALACES | Adam James Smith, Song Ting
English / 60 Minutes / 2016
In Ordos, China, thousands of farmers are being relocated into a new city under a government plan to modernize the region. The Land of Many Palacesfollows a government official whose job is to convince these farmers that their lives will be better off in the city, and a farmer in one of the last remaining villages in the region who is pressured to move.
THE HUMAN SCALE | Andreas Dalsgaard
English / Danish / 77 minutes / 2012
“It’s either cars or humans,” says revolutionary architect Jan Gehl when asked how to accommodate the nearly 6.5 billion who will be living in cities by 2050. From N.Y.C. to Chongqing, this provocative and controversial film challenges status quo notions of urban planning and offers hope on making cities more sustainable and livable for all.
FREI OTTO: SPANNING THE FUTURE | Simon K. Chiu, Michael Paglia, Joshua V. Hassel
English / 2015
Frei Otto: Spanning the Future is a documentary about the incredible life and work of Frei Otto. As an architect and engineer he laid the foundation for contemporary lightweight architecture, and his ideas are still awe inspiring decades after he revealed them. This fact was cemented when he was named the 2015 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize.
SECOND NATURE: A DOCUMENTARY FILM ABOUT JANNE SAARIO | Yves Marchon
English / 18 minutes / 2010
Second Nature is a 20-minute documentary on Element team rider and budding landscape architect, Janne Saario of Finland. The short film allows a glimpse of Saario’s thoughts and dreams, which float between design, art and skateboarding. Though it also reveals the important concurrence of post-industrial areas, sustainable concepts and natural environments, and unfolds the demanding obligation, towards today’s generation and those to come, to create positive and inspiring, local communities.
MUMBAI: MAXIMUM CITY UNDER PRESSURE | Markus Kneer + Daniel Schwarz
English / 15 minutes / 2014
The short Urban-Think Tank film examines the critical issues impacting on sustainable development in the megacity of Mumbai, and what can be learnt from the economically and socially vibrant villages of informal neighborhoods that make up the city.
REACHING FOR THE SKY | Mark Hemel
English / 60 minutes / 2013
This film threads its way through the “personal and professional dilemmas of young architect Mark Hemel — the architect who built the highest television tower in the world.
ORDOS 100 | Ai Weiwei
English / 60 minutes / 2012
Ordos 100 is a construction project curated by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei. One hundred architects from 27 countries were chosen to participate and each design a 1000-square-meter villa to be built in a new community in Inner Mongolia. The 100 villas would be designed to fit a master plan designed by Ai Weiwei. On January 25, 2008, the 100 architects gathered in Ordos for a first visit to the site. The film Ordos 100 documents a total of three site visits, during which time the master plan and design of each villa was completed. As of this date, the Ordos 100 project remains unrealised.
What are your favorite architecture documentaries? Let us know in comments!
Thanks for reading! :)