40 Architecture Docs to Watch In 2014

Gehry’s Vertigo. Image Courtesy of Living Architectures

This time last year we published our 30 Architecture Docs to Watch in 2013 featuring a fantastic range of films telling the tales of some of the world’s greatest unsung architectural heroes. We now bring you eleven more for 2014, looking past the panoply of stars to bring you more of the best architectural documentaries which will provoke, intrigue and beguile.

1. The Edge of the Possible (1998) / Daryl Dellora

“Jørn Utzon, acclaimed architect of the Sydney Opera House, tells the story of the design and construction of his masterpiece in person. Having been awarded the first prize in an international architecture competition to design an Opera House for Sydney he flew to Australia in 1957 to begin work on the construction of the greatest building Australia has ever seen and, indeed, one of the finest achievements of modern architecture. Utzon was forced from the project in 1966 and has never returned to Australia. What defeated him in the end was politics. This film charts the dramatic course of the creation of a masterpiece and includes a rare interview with Jørn Utzon as he reflects on his role in the compelling story of the conception and construction of the Sydney Opera House.”

Buy from Film Art Media / 50 mins

2. Koolhaas Houselife (2013) / Ila Bêka & Louise Lemoine [French, Subtitled]

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“First project of the Living Architectures series, Koolhaas Houselife portrays one of the masterpieces of contemporary architecture. The film lets the viewer enter into Rem Koolhaas‘s house’s daily intimacy through the stories and daily chores of Guadalupe Acedo, the housekeeper, and the other people who look after the building. Pungent, funny and touching.”

Buy from Living Architectures (DVD book) / 58 mins

3. ‘A Girl is a Fellow Here’ – 100 Women Architects in the Studio of Frank Lloyd Wright (2009) / BWAF

“At a time when few architectural firms would hire women, Frank Lloyd Wright unhesitatingly employed women, giving them both training and the opportunity to practice. Ultimately, over 100 women architects and designers worked with Wright, many of them going on to remarkable careers of their own. In his studio in Oak Park and at both Taliesin Fellowships, Wright trained and practiced with women as draftsmen, designers, and fellow visionaries. They are Frank Lloyd Wright’s unknown legacy, and their practice forms a legacy for all women working in architecture today.”

Buy on DVD / 20 mins – you can also read a great interview with the director here.

4. Coast Modern (2012) / Gavin Froome & Mike Bernard

Coast Modern is an independent documentary showcasing the pioneers of West Coast Modernist Architecture, and the homes that have become their legacies. Stepping inside the most inspired dwellings on the west coast, we feel how the light and space of a classic Modernist home can work in collaboration with the natural environment. Dion Neutra tells us that the way to live is to have ‘the comfort of being inside, yet you have the feeling of being outside’, and it is this established principle that contemporary Modernist architects are emulating and evolving.”

Buy from iTunes or on DVD / 55 mins

5. My Father, the Genius (2002) / Lucia Small

My Father, the Genius. Image Courtesy of Beverly Willis
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“When estranged father, dreamer, and visionary architect Glen Howard Small bequeaths his daughter the task of writing his biography, she answers instead with a provocative film about his precarious career and thorny private life. At 31, Glen Small, founder and faculty member of the internationally acclaimed Southern California Institute of Architecture, was a rising star. At 61, he can barely pay his bills. In My Father, The Genius, filmmaker Lucia Small digs deep to explore the delicate tension between her father’s obligations to family and his life-long passion to “save the world through architecture.”

Buy on Amazon / 84 mins

6. Mendelsohn’s Incessant Visions (2012) / Duki Dror

“He drew sketches on tiny pieces of paper and sent them, from the trenches, to a young cellist , who was waiting for him in Berlin. She thought he was a genius and after WW1 she helped him become the busiest architect in Germany. When she planned to leave him, for a communist poet, he built a perfect house for her, entirely planned by him, from the lakeview living room, to the silver-wear and her evening-gowns. When the Nazis came to power, they escaped the house and Germany forever. Erich and Louise Mendelsohn have wondered between continents, between world wars, between success and failure. The buildings that Erich built around the world, scattered as a trail of their journey, have changed the history of architecture.”

Rent from Vimeo or buy on DVD.

7. Bird’s Nest – Herzog & de Meuron in China (2008) / Christoph Schaub & Michael Schindhelm

“Superstar architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron must negotiate between two cultures, two architectural traditions, and two political systems to build the new National Stadium for the Olympics in Beijing. Both projects involved complex and often difficult negotiations and communications between two cultures, two architectural traditions and two political systems. Herzog and de Meuron, the Basle-based architects, find themselves working with China’s largest state construction company, Chinese artist and architect Ai Wei Wei, lawyers, and countless government bureaucrats.”

Buy or rent from Amazon / 88 mins

8. The Socialist, The Architect and The Twisted Tower (2005) / Fredrik Gertten

“The intriguing inside story on building Turning Torso, Europe’s highest residential building. Two men with a lot at stake: World famous architect Santiago Calatrava designing his first sky scraper and the managing director of a small-town cooperative housing company, a former politician, who used all his influence to make it happen. And now costs are running wild…”

Buy from WG Film / 59 mins

9. Inside Piano (2013) / Ila Bêka & Louise Lemoine [Multiple languages, Subtitled]

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Inside Piano is composed of three films on three symbolic buildings of Renzo Piano‘s career. A visit throughout the prototype-building of the Centre Pompidou. An immersion in the soundproof world of a submarine floating in the depths of the Parisian underground. A journey aboard a luminous magic carpet of a highly sophisticated architectural machine. A humorous, caustic and quirky point of view.”

Buy from Living Architectures (DVD book) / 58 mins

10. Gehry’s Vertigo (2013) / Ila Bêka & Louise Lemoine [Spanish, Subtitled]

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Gehry’s Vertigo offers to the spectator a rare and vertiginous trip on the top roofs of the Guggenheim Museum of Bilbao. Through the portrait of the climbing team in charge of the glass cleaning, their ascensions, their techniques and difficulties, this film observes the complexity and virtuosity of Frank Gehry‘s architecture.”

Buy from Living Architectures (DVD book) / 58 mins

We couldn’t resist adding one more from Ila Bêka & Louise Lemoine (Living Architectures) to the list…

BONUS. Xmas Meier (2013) / Ila Bêka & Louise Lemoine [Italian, Subtitled]

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Xmas Meier takes us, during the Christmas season, in the heart of a working-class neighbourhood in the suburbs of Rome, which had been lifted from anonymity to international renown thanks to the church built by Richard Meier for the Jubilee. Controversy, caustic irony and free speech opposed to the faithful’s devotion. Welcome to Rome!”

Buy from Living Architectures (DVD book) / 58 mins

And – in case you missed it – here’s the run down of docs we featured last year (in alphabetical order):

11. Architects Herzog and de Meuron: The Alchemy of Building & The Tate Modern (2009) / Beat Kuert, 77 mins
12. Antonio Gaudí (1985) / Hiroshi Teshigahara, 72 mins
13. Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio (2010) / Sam Wainwright Douglas, 60 mins
14. Eames: The Architect and the Painter (2011) / Jason Cohn & Bill Jersey, 84 mins
15. Great Expectations (2007) / Jesper Wachtmeister, 52 mins
16. How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr Foster? (2010) / Carlos Carcas & Norberto López Amado, 78 mins
17. Infinite Space: The Architecture of John Lautner (2008) / Murray Grigor, 90 mins
18. Kochuu: Japanese Architecture (2003) / Jesper Wachtmeister, 53 mins
19. Loos Ornamental (2008) / Heinz Emigholz, 72 mins
20. Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003) / Thom Anderson
21. Louis Sullivan: The Struggle for American Architecture (2010) / Mark Richard Smith, 97 mins
22. My Architect (2003) / Nathaniel Kahn, 116 mins
23. Philip Johnson: Diary of an Eccentric Architect (1997) / Barbara Wolf, 55 mins
24. The Pruitt-Igoe Myth (2011) / Chad Freidrichs, 83 mins
25. Regular or Super: Views on Mies van der Rohe (2004) / Patrick Demers & Joseph Hillel, 56 mins
26. REM (scheduled 2014) / Tomas Koolhaas (see the trailer below)

27. Rem Koolhaas: A Kind of Architect (2008) / Markus Heidingsfelder & Min Tesch, 97 mins
28. Schindlers Häuser (2007) / Heinz Emigholz, 99 mins
29. Sketches of Frank Gehry by Sydney Pollack (2005) / Sydney Pollack, 83 mins
30. Unfinished Spaces (2011) / Benjamin Murray & Alysa Nahmias, 86 mins
31. Urbanized (2011) / Gary Hustwit, 82 mins
32. Visual Acoustics (2008) / Eric Bricker, 83 mins
33. The World of Buckminster Fuller (1974) / Baylis Glascock & Robert Snyder, 85 mins
34. Frank Lloyd Wright (1998) / Ken Burns & Lynn Novick, 146 mins
35. First Person Singular: I.M. Pei (1997) / Peter Rosen, 90 mins
36. Make No Little Plans: Daniel Burnham and the American City (2010) / Judith McBrien, 60 mins
37. Vertical Expectations – The Shard (2011) / Simona Piantieri, 26 mins
38. Architecture School (2008) / Michael Selditch & Stan Bertheaud, TV Series
39. Architectures (AKA Baukunst) (2001-2005) / TV Series
40. Dan Cruickshank’s Adventures in Architecture (2008) / TV Series

We’d like to thank our readers who suggested these films by commenting on our post last year. If you think there’s a great architecture film out there that we haven’t listed yet then we’d love to hear your suggestions!

Cite: Taylor-Foster, James. "40 Architecture Docs to Watch In 2014" 16 Jan 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed 01 Oct 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=467225>
  • p

    looks great, but what if we have no DVD player? Are there streams / downloads for pay? thanks!

    • Anthony Thompson

      Buy a DVD player; they’re cheap.

  • Ubik

    You should add to the 2014 list:
    Cathedrals of Culture, 2014
    3D film project about six iconic buildings: the Berlin Philharmonic, the National Library of Russia, Halden Prison, the Salk Institute, the Oslo Opera House and the Centre Pompidou
    Directors: Wim Wenders, Michael Glawogger, Michael Madsen, Robert Redford, Margreth Olin, Karim Aïnouz