What to See at the Architecture + Design Film Fest


New York plays host to a wide swathe of film festivals, and the Architecture + Design Film Festival — which runs through Sunday — is one of the city’s more focused such celebrations. That said, the offerings at this year’s event are almost as varied as the contemporary design landscape: there are traditional biographies, there are building profiles, there are psychological explorations of the design process. In sum, more than 20 films to choose from (check out the impressive full schedule). Here’s our guide to navigating the myriad screenings.


Concrete Love — The Bohm Family, 2014, 7 PM,

Gottfried Bohm, the leading German practitioner of Brutalism, tends to get short shrift in discussions about architecture in the States, even though the movement he ascribed has gained popularity in recent years. This film might just remedy that: “Concrete Love” is the first film about his life and work, one that seeks to understand his oeuvre by delving into his familial legacy. His architect sons Stephan, Peter, and Paul all feature prominently in the documentary, but the narrative arch revolves around the death of Bohm’s wife Elisabeth and the reflections on architecture, art, and legacy that result in her wake. Directed by Maurizius Staerkle-Drux.

The Strange and the Familiar: Architecture on Fogo Island, 2014, 8PM

You might not be able to find Fogo Island on a map, but it’s still worth knowing that the tiny patch of land off the coast of Newfoundland lays claim to a stunning, unusual hotel. Designed by Todd Saunders, a Fogo Island native now based in Norway, the Fogo Island Inn foregrounds this documentary as a crux for examining the natural landscape it so elegantly engages. Directed by Katherine Knight & Marcia Connolly.


Ove Arup: The Philosopher Engineer, 2013, 4 PM

Without the calculations and specialized knowledge of structural engineers, most of the mind-boggling work of the world’s most lauded architects would be technologically impossible. Yet in the economy of architectural glory, these backstage wizards of structural wonder receive far too little credit. This documentary about the Norwegian structural engineer, Ove Arup, seeks to remedy that. Arup, in fact, is one of the most renowned structural engineers of 20th century architecture, and this glimpse into his life, his building philosophy, and the culture of collaboration he fostered at his namesake firm — which, today, remains one of the most respected architectural engineering offices in the world — sheds some light on his lasting impact on architecture and the essential role of engineers in building design. Directed by Taghi Amirani.

Under the Skin of Design, 2015, 9 PM

There is, of course, the oft-cited aphorism that all design is political, and this film explores why and how that is by documenting the relocation and construction of Ravensbourne College in London. Through extensive interviews with architect Alejandro Zaera-Polo of the Foreign Architecture Office, this film provides a peek at Ravensbourne’s idiosyncratic, startling facade, and the politics that lie just beneath its exaggerated surface. Directed by Audrey Aquilina.


Modern Ruin: A World’s Fair Pavilion, 2014, 6 PM

The New York State Pavilion represented the state’s copious ambitions when it was built for the 1964 World’s Fair, but not it sits abandoned in Queens. Its current state is particularly shocking given that its architect, Philip Johnson, was already lauded as one of the most important designers of the 20th century when it was built. This film documents the structure’s heyday, its conversion to a roller rink, and its fall into disrepair — all as a plea for its renewal. Directed by Matthew Silva.

The Infinite Happiness, 2015, 9:30

The filmmakers moved into Danish architect Bjarke Ingels’ much-lauded “8 House” in Copenhagen, with the intention of documenting their subjective experience of architecture. What follows is a deeply personal meditation on the work of the youngest starchitect. Directed by Ila Bêka & Louise Lemoine.

— Anna Kats (@coldwarcasual)

(Photo: still from “Concrete Love,” directed by Maurizius Staerkle-Drux, 2014.)