Architecture Documentaries to Watch in 2018

The new year is here! And with it, a new slate of documentaries we're dying to see.

Of all the media forms, film seems to be the most adept at making a personal connection with viewers, offering a behind-the-scenes look into the lives of a great architect, the construction, and performance of a project or an issue that is confronting the entire architecture community. This year's films are no exception, as we get the chance to learn about the daily routines of Bjarke Ingels and Paulo Mendes da Rocha, projects by Tadao Ando and Glenn Murcutt, and the troubles of urbanization and gentrification.

Check out this year's list below, and find more great architecture documentaries with our Architecture Documentaries to Watch in 2017, Architecture Documentaries to Watch in 2015, our top 40 Architecture Docs to Watch in 2014, and our 30 Architecture Docs to Watch in 2013.

BIG TIME / Kaspar Astrup Schroder

1h33min (2017) / English

As one of the highlights of contemporary architectural production, ahead of the Danish BIG office, Bjarke Ingels is now considered one of the largest and most promising names in the creative industry. With an uneasy profile, always in search of new challenges - trying to overcome them, and above all creatively inspiring, in this documentary Ingels is portrayed from a professional and personal point of view, to understand the universe that stimulates him.

With obvious but intriguing statements, the architect makes us always reflect, as in "the best thing about being an architect is that you build buildings." Impressed with the concept of designing buildings, a system that allows unusual and surprising combinations, is one of the points mentioned during the film.

Tudo é Projeto (It's all a plan) / Joana Mendes da Rocha and Patricia Rubano

1h14min (2017) / Portuguese

Directed by Joana Mendes da Rocha and Patricia Rubano, the documentary portrays the life and work of the Pritzker 2006 winning architect, Paulo Mendes da Rocha, through interviews and conversations between him and his daughter. Considered the most recognized Brazilian architect in the world, he is the author of iconic projects such as the Official Pavilion of Brazil at Expo 70, in Osaka, the Brazilian Museum of Sculpture (MUBE), in São Paulo, the Sports Club of the Paulistano Athletic Club, the renovation of the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, the Sesc 24 de Maio (in partnership with MMBB), among many others that are still under construction, such as Cais das Artes, in Vitória (a partnership with Metro Architects). we are given the opportunity to get to know his thinking side, which is extraordinarily thought-provoking.

Workshop for Peace; The Construction of the UN / UN headquarters

54min  (2016) / English

In just 54 minutes, this documentary narrates the constructive process of the emblematic headquarters of the United Nations in New York, a building designed in collaboration by Oscar Niemeyer and Le Corbusier through a commission led by Wallace K. Harrison. In the film, facts are portrayed as the choice of the project, phases of the construction and still an interview with Niemeyer.

I am Gentrification: Confessions of a Scoundrel / Thomas Haemmerli

1h38min (2017) / Swiss

Approaching the urbanism and transformations in the Swiss urban space as the main focus, director Thomas Haemmerli points out in some places where he lived, such as São Paulo, Zurich and Mexico City, and the gentrification process clashes.

 Ponto de vista / Ingrid Mabelle

30min (2015) / Portuguese

As the result of a journalism course completed in December 2015, the documentary seeks to portray through ten different points of view, how the dynamics in the alteration of the geographical space could ensure that the residents of the Elevado Costa e Silva, current Elevado Presidente João Goulart, do not suffer from the process of gentrification - replacing less wealthy residents with others with greater purchasing power. The film also points out historical data and different opinions in interviews of residents, urbanists, and experts, exposing the current market value in the surroundings of the Elevado building, which in recent years has been receiving too many proposals and interventions.

Urbanized / Gary Hustwit

1h25min (2011) / English

Directed by Gary Hustwit, the documentary presents an insight into the design of contemporary cities under different aspects faced in their idealization. He also understands different opinions of some of the most renowned architects, urban planners, politicians, builders and thinkers, such as Rem Koolhaas, Alejandro Aravena, Norman Foster, Joshua David, Oscar Niemeyer and James Canton.

It is worth highlighting that more than half of the world's population lives in urban areas, and more than 75% will live up to 2050. But while some cities are experiencing explosive growth, others are in the process of condensing. The challenges of balancing housing, mobility, public space, popular participation, economic development and environmental policies are rapidly becoming a universal concern. Yet most discourses on these themes are disconnected from the public domain. Thus, the film proposes new approaches to deal with the advantages and disadvantages of urbanity.

Minimalism - A documentary about the important things / Matt D'Avella

1h19min (2015) / English

Directed by Mt D'Avella, the documentary produced from inquiries of the duo responsible for The Minimalists, seeks to fully examine the practice of the minimalist lifestyle in the contemporary era, synthesizing the film into a single question: less is more? It is what people who believe that material goods do not bring happiness seek to respond through the series of interviewees for which the documentary is organized.

Cholet: The work of Freddy Mamani / Isaac Niemand

1h02min (2016) / Spanish

Seeking to highlight the work of the Bolivian architect Mamani, responsible for part of the architectural identity of the country, based on a work described as rebellious and individualistic. Mamani's work is inspired by his own culture and iconography, along with the culture of his ancestors, the Tiwanaco peoples.

Dust and Lipstick on the Brazilian Central Plateau: 50 Women in the Construction of Brasilia / Tânia Fontenele Mourão, Tania Quaresma e Mônica Gaspar

58min (2016) / Portuguese

Presented by 50 women, pioneers and newcomers to the new Brazilian capital between 1956 and 1960, remaining in the Federal District for at least 20 years, the documentary presents the process of building the Brasília city. A new and feminine way of recovering the history of the beginnings of the city built from scratch and imagined by Juscelino Kubitschek, Niemeyer and Lúcio Costa.

Arquitectura in Angola / Pedro Rodrigues 

1h05min (2017) / Portuguese

The documentary explores the reality of education, the profession, and social issues posed to Architecture and Urbanism in the country, based on an initiative of the architecture students of the Metropolitan Polytechnic Institute of Angola (IMETRO) in Luanda. In the film, it is possible to identify the way in which the African architects have faced the marks left by the civil war, after independence of the Portuguese power.

It is still possible to identify narratives to the relations between teachers and students, the reality of women in architecture, the influences of architects such as Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, Oscar Niemeyer and Zaha Hadid and Vasco Vieira da Costa, Portuguese architects naturalized in Angola.

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City / Sabine Krayenbühl e Zeva Oelbaum

1h32min (2016) / English

Launched two years ago, on the centenary of American urban activist Jane Jacobs, the film aims to present a glimpse of Jacobs' past, based on his book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and on the confrontations with Robert Moses, stressing the legacy of this prominent figure in world urbanism. The urbanist symbol of the struggle for the improvement of urban space design.

REM / Tomas Koolhaas

1h15min (2016) / English

Directed by his son, Tomas Koolhaas, the documentary address part of the ideas and works of Rem Koolhaas, Dutch architect, and thinker - grandson of the architect Dirk Roosenburg and son of author and thinker Anton Koolhaas. A critic and responsible for one of the most brilliant minds in the world Architecture, Rem, is today the owner of a profile in evidence, always in search of new parameters and reinvention of the architect's role.

Suggested by Tomas Koolhaas as "the first documentary to fully explore human conditions in [the OMA] buildings and around them," it alludes to a powerful cinematic experience whose quality is unparalleled in the world of architectural documentaries. Koolhaas explains: "I think it's far better to say," explains Rem Koolhaas, "that we are challenged by people's needs."

Bikes VS Cars / Fredrik Gertten

1h30min (2015) / English

Under a very suggestive title, cinematographic production does not exclusively explore the war for space, but the process by which the unbridled growth of the automotive engineering industry has influenced the public policies of cities and how cyclists begin to partially alter the scenario. Cities like São Paulo and Copenhagen are approached, evidencing the impressive indexes.

Filmed between 2012 and 2014 in the state capital, Gertten recorded the election of the former mayor of São Paulo Fernando Haddad and the beginning of the transformations and incentive to use the bicycle. The excellent rates of Copenhagen and the fight for more bike spaces in Los Angeles are still evident. Among the testimonies are those of the Brazilian architect and urbanist Raquel Rolnik and that of journalist and reporter Aline Cavalcante.

Diller Scofidio + Renfro: Reimagining Lincoln Center and the High Line / Muffie Dunn and Tom Piper

55min (2012) / English

With just 55 minutes, the documentary highlights the story of the Diller Scofidio + Renfro office in its process of reimagining the public identities of two large urban spaces designed in New York City: Lincoln Center and High Line.

Tadao Ando: From Emptiness to Infinity / Mathias Frick

53min (2013) / English

In tribute to the master of Japanese minimalist architecture, Tadao Ando, the film glimpses the creative process and brilliance of his work. Known for his extreme rigor and ability to sensitize his production, Ando exposes here the genius by which he poetically orders his forms in the relationship between inner and outer space, diluting the boundaries between the constructed object and nature.

Conceptually and aesthetically, his designs create a link between traditional Japanese architecture and contemporaneity, while expressing his belief in spatial change.

Megastructures - Roman Architecture / BBC

1h06min (2016) / English

As part of the historic innovations and constructions developed in Rome, the Italian capital remains one of the cradles of Architecture, retaining a series of historical and important buildings. The documentary produced by the BBC aims to present some of these emblematic buildings.

The City Dark / Ian Cheney

1h24min (2011) / English

In addition to preventing people from enjoying the stars, the intensity of the lights of big cities turn into light pollution, which can affect the environment and contribute to the development of serious diseases. After moving to New York City, filmmaker Ian Cheney asks a simple question - do we need the stars? - taking him from Brooklyn to Mauna Kea, Paris and other countries wondering this.

Telos: The Fantastic World of Eugene Tssui / Kyung Lee

54min (2014) / English

"TELOS" tells the unorthodox life and revolutionary work of Eugene Tssui, an eccentric visiona, y and a nonconformist architect. He questions traditional building standards and puts nature and the environment at the forefront of their projects long before "green" and "eco-friendly" become clichés. The film composes a portrait of Tssui as a "Renaissance man": athlete, designer and singular visual artist as well as architect.

While its sustainable building principles have become a trend and a necessity, its aesthetic has not yet received the approval of the mainstream. Rejected by the status quo and challenged to defend its futuristic and still naturalistic visions, Tssui finds unexpected allies in the small mountain town where he longs to build his architectural fantasy.

Making Space: 5 Women Changing the Face of Architecture / Ultan Guilfoyle

49min (2014) / English

Making Space profiles five contemporary architects and some of their most exciting projects. They are Annabelle Selldorf (New York), Marianne McKenna (Toronto), Kathryn Gustafson (Seattle, Washington D.C. and London), Farshid Moussavi (London), and Odile Decq (Paris). How did these women get to the top in a profession dominated by men? What drives and challenges them? What is the nature of the creative process? Does gender play a role in architectural design? The documentary shows these extraordinary women in and out of their workplaces, hears curators, critics and clients, and visits spectacular locations.

Bernardes / Gustavo Gama Rodrigues and Paulo de Barros

1h31min (2014) / Portuguese

The documentary shows the life and work of one of Brazil's leading architects. The film reveals the controversial and sweeping professional and family life of the architect, urbanist, designer, writer, poet, inventor and, above all, humanist misunderstood by his time.

Ventura Terra - Projecting Modernity / Fernando Carrilho

55min (2017) / Portuguese

This documentary is about the Portuguese architect Miguel Ventura Terra (1866-1919), which significantly marked the landscape of the city of Lisbon and left a group of works relevant throughout Portugal, public architecture, private and religious. Ventura Terra - Projecting Modernity (re) visits them and (re) discovers them such works, in their different typologies and geographies.

Documentary and iconographic sources illustrate existing or already demolished buildings, elucidate on the work done and the projected work. The documentary also covers the plans proposed by Ventura Terra for urban transformation and modernization.

The Construction of Villa Além / Miguel Tavares, Tiago Costa, Ana Resende and Rui Manuel Vieira

55min (2017) / Portuguese

The film documents the construction of a house in the Alentejo, from the virgin landscape to the inhabited building, going through all the intermediate steps. The attentive and rigorous look of the filmmakers replicates the precision of the straight lines of the project (designed over the years by the Swiss architect Valerio Olgiati and his wife for his own enjoyment). A house as elegant as the movie that portrays it.

Was the Hotel Cambridge / Eliane affé

1h39min (2016) / Portuguese

Refugees newly arrived in Brazil share an old abandoned building in the center of São Paulo with a group of homeless people. The new residents of the building have to deal with their personal dramas and learn to live with people who, although different, face life together on the streets.

David Chipperfield: A Place To Be / BBC

1h15 min (2015) /EAn episode

Episode of the BBC Series Imagine ..., in which Alan Yentob talks to the internationally renowned British architect David Chipperfield. Described as classic, minimalist, simple, he prefers to label his "human" architecture. The talk covers his projects in Berlin, his love of the city and its history and the 11 years that passed in the transformation of the Neues Museum, his "masterpiece." He also talks about his ongoing projects in the United States.


2h35min (2016) / Portuguese

© atelier XYZ

Neighbors is a documentary series composed of four episodes. Throughout each of these moments, we are brought to know the solutions found by Siza Vieira for the different challenges. There are four cases, coming from four different times and geographies, but always with the common denominator of being social neighborhoods designed by the Portuguese architect.

Brasília - Life After Design / Bart Simpson 

1h28min (2017) / English

Brasilia: Life After Design takes us to a city rarely seen by the international spectator: what is it like living in someone else's idea? The scary environment of Niemeyer and Costa's dream echoes throughout the life of a series of characters, each trying to mark his mark in today's city: Sergio, the robust urban planner who defends the city's plan, but knows he must adapt; Helize, studying to become a federal public servant - the dream of so many Brazilian students. And Willians, a street vendor, who tries to find a meaningful connection in a city built to divide.

Life and Death of an Architect / Miguel Eek

52min (2017) / Spanish

In February of 1968, Jose Ferragut, the most important architect of Majorca, was found dead in a field. The case was closed for lack of evidence. During the 50s and 60s, the beginning of tourism changed the reality of the Mediterranean countries. Amazing landscapes have been transformed for the exploration of tourism. Ferragut fought corruption and uncontrollable development of the coast and amassed enemies of politics and developers.

But Ferragut had another question. He was gay in a society that criminalized and followed homosexuals. Therefore, he lived a double life until his death, as an introverted and depressed man. 50 years later, Life and Death of an Architect asks how and why this man was brutally killed in 1968 by two prostitutes.

Amare Gio Ponti / Francesca Molteni

35min (2015) / Italian

An image of the man and the architect, aspiring painter, promoter of Italian design who, in more than fifty years of activity, tried everything - arts, occupations, objects, architecture and materials - with tireless energy, from small to large scale, from the drawing of a handle to the formulation of an urban plan. "Architecture is an interpretation of life," he used to write. A popularizer of the modern who risked indifference and being completely forgotten. The film seeks to investigate the reasons for this mistrust, especially of critics. And it also seeks to advance the motives of the new fortune that has seen it, in recent years, rediscovered and re-proposed as European and international model architect. Why, to paraphrase Ponti, who used to say that "art fell in love with industry," did the industry of yesterday and today fall in love with Gio Ponti?

Made in Ilima / Thatcher Bean

1h05min (2017) / English

In the center of the Democratic Republic of Congo Province, the Ilima community continues to be one of the most isolated in the world. They coexisted with wild animals for generations in the surrounding forest, but as the pace of development increased, this fragile ecosystem suffered. The community partnered with the African Wildlife Foundation and architecture company, MASS Design Group, in 2012 to create a new elementary school and community conservation center. The film documents our collective construction process - one designed to leverage local crafts and ecological knowledge for education, preservation and beauty.

Glenn Murcutt - Spirit of Place / Catherine Hunter 

1h05min (2017) / English

The film does not address only the work of the inspiring Australian architect who has won many awards, including the most prestigious, the Pritzker. But it also accompanies Murcutt's first major public commission, a mosque for the Muslim community of Newport, Melbourne, Australia. Despite the first reservations against a modern building, Murcutt establishes a close personal relationship with the community and the project is fully funded by the donations of the people.

See also our lists of the previous years:

The 30 Architecture Docs To Watch In 2013

With awards season in full swing, Hollywood's sparkly razamtaz occupies our television screens. But what about the unsung, architectural heros of film? What about the films that are less 'Schindler's List' and more 'Schindlers Hauser', less 'Wrath Of Kahn' and more 'Louis Kahn'.

40 Architecture Docs to Watch In 2014

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.

Architecture Documentaries To Watch In 2015

Following our top 40 Architecture Docs to Watch in 2014 and our favourite 30 Architecture Docs to Watch in 2013 , 2015 is no exception! Our latest round up continues to feature a fantastic range of films and documentaries telling the tales of unsung architectural heroes and unheard urban narratives from around the world.

Architecture Documentaries To Watch In 2017

Following our favorite Architecture Documentaries to Watch in 2015 , our top 40 Architecture Docs to Watch in 2014 , and our choice 30 Architecture Docs to Watch in 2013 , we're looking ahead to 2017! Our latest round up presents a collection of the most critically acclaimed, popular and often under-represented films and documentaries that provoke, intrigue, inform and beguile.


About this author
Cite: Souza, Eduardo. "Architecture Documentaries to Watch in 2018" 08 Jan 2018. ArchDaily. (Trans. Carvalho, Guilherme) Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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