Architecture has always been widely portrayed in films, especially in documentaries. In recent years, the film industry has found a wide variety of subject matters in architecture. These have been used to create great cinematic gems. Fans of both disciplines have many reasons to cheer, as the broad catalogue of architecture documentaries listed below is impressive.
BIG TIME by Kaspar Astrup Schroder.
This documentary details famed architect Bjarke Ingels’ path to success. It covers seven years of said path, marked by milestones such as the W57 skyscraper and 2 World Trade Center building in New York.
One of the main appeals of this documentary is that in addition to looking at Ingels’ professional life, it also deals with his innermost anxieties. Consequently, his designs and concepts are contextualised by his fears and the peculiarities of his highly distinct personality. As a result of his unique way of being, Ingels’ was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people at just 43 years of age.
VIDA Y MUERTE DE UN ARQUITECTO (LIFE AND DEATH OF AN ARCHITECT) by Miguel Eek.
This documentary tells the story of José Ferragut, Mallorca’s most prominent architect, who was found dead in a field in 1958. The investigation was deemed inconclusive due to lack of evidence at the time. However, 50 years later, the film re-examines the many facets of the case, and with good reason, as the Mallorca-born artist had many enemies because of his activism against property speculation and his homosexuality.
SPIRIT OF PLACE by Catherine Hunter.
It’s a documentary about an architect facing one of the greatest challenges of his life. At the age of 80, the Australian architect Glenn Murcutt (winner of the 2002 Pritzker Prize) left his comfort zone and took on the huge project of building a mosque for the Islamic community of Melbourne. Although exciting, the project was also complex in technical and functional terms, since he had to marry modernity with the traditional use of a mosque.
The documentary by Australian filmmaker Catherine Hunter follows Murcutt on his new professional adventure. Once again, as seen in other architecture documentaries, the human and the technical blur and merge to offer a comprehensive portrait of the architect. Additionally, the documentary covers his complicated relationship with the community for whom he is building the new mosque.
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT: THE MAN WHO BUILT AMERICA by Ian Michael Jones.
Another biography, this one is about one of the world’s most famous architects. This BBC production takes a detailed look at the career of the American architect Frank Llyod Wright. It is old through the eyes of Welsh-born architect Jonathan Adams, who travels to the US to delve into the professional and personal life of the great man.
This is a must-watch film for architecture lovers as it showcases Wright’s 70- year career. Furthermore, it includes interesting facts about buildings like Fallingwater, one of the greatest houses of the 20th century, and explores the inspiration behind the concept of organic architecture.
ESCALA 1:5 by Patricia Tamayo and Alberto Abadia.
This documentary series looks at the renovations of The Sala Beckett space in Barcelona. Made by the independent production company 15-L, the series is comprised of five, 10-minute-long episodes. All the episodes are presented by the architects Ricardo Flores and Eva Prats, in collaboration with Toni Casares, Director of The Sala Beckett space. Moreover, the documentary includes contributions by the playwright and former Director of the National Theatre of Catalonia, Sergi Belbel, artists Soraya Smithson and Antoni Miralda, and designer Curro Claret.
Stairs, ceilings, doors and floors: each episode looks at the different areas the architects’ worked on while repurposing an old building and transforming it into a new creative space in Barcelona.