Best Architecture Documentaries

Loft Conversions

Best Architecture Documentaries

 

Why should you watch architecture documentaries?

 

Architecture documentaries seek to inform and educate audiences on the built environment and related industries. Both students as well as professionals can draw inspiration from watching these.

Architecture documentaries come in different styles and lengths, covering a broad range of subjects. They make use of cinematic visuals, narration, research and insightful interviews, to creatively present factual information and deliver multiple perspectives.

Documentaries on architecture vary from building case studies, specific architectural topics to social economic themes, along with biographies. Biographies are excellent ways to learn more about the design philosophies of a favourite architect. 

If you are interested in the architectural profession, documentaries can certainly help you paint a better picture of what the work of an architect entails.

You most definitely do not have to be limited to architectural documentaries. Exploring documentaries unrelated to architecture can help you broaden your worldview and provide you with lots of inspiration.

Also, there are numerous architecture film festivals held by different countries that showcase some of the best documentaries each year. These could be great places to visit in order to be more aware of the industry and the issues it faces.

Here are some links to get you started:

HOME – Architecture Film Festival London (archfilmfest.uk)

Venice Architecture Film Festival – Venice Architecture Film Festival

ADFF | Welcome… (adfilmfest.com)

Beka and Lemoine are two architectural artists and filmmakers. Their documentaries feature several Pritzker Prize winning architects and their works. So if you’re interested, check them out:

Beka & Lemoine (bekalemoine.com)

Here at First In Architecture, we have created a list of our top documentary recommendations. From fascinating biographies to the exploration of specific buildings and unique architectural concepts, we hope you thoroughly enjoy these!

 

Top 10 Architecture Documentary Recommendations

 

Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio        

2010

57m

Available to watch on Prime Video

Set in rural Alabama, this documentary explores architect Samuel Mockbee’s ideals through the radical design and build outreach program – Rural Studio at Auburn University. Here, architecture students work in the context of poverty to build communities that in turn inspire them to design a better world. It is delivered through interviews with Mockbee as well as other architects and instructors.

How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr Foster?

2010

1h 18m

Available to watch on Prime Video + You Tube

2 Awards + nominations

This documentary delves into the life and works of prolific British architect Norman Foster. The stories behind his most notable projects are used to convey his design philosophy. The iconic buildings are filmed in a cinematic style that emphasises their unique details. It is supported with insightful dialogue by Foster himself alongside interviews with other architects and specialists.

Architecture documentary

The Infinite Happiness

2015

1h 25m

Available to watch on Vimeo

‘The infinite happiness’ centres on the ‘8 house’ – a contemporary, three-dimensional neighbourhood designed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingles. Artists and filmmakers, Beka & Lemoine showcase their subjective 21-day experience of this ‘vertical village’ located in the suburbs of Copenhagen. Capturing a set of resident stories, they paint a picture of the connection between this new social model of 21st century living and the concept of mutual happiness.

Architecture documentary

Kochuu: Japanese Architecture

2003

52m

Available to watch on Prime Video

The term KOCHUU translates to ‘in the jar’ – referring to the Japanese tradition of creating small spaces that give a different sense of reality within. This documentary brings together stunning architectural visuals and conversations with some of the leading Japanese and Scandinavian architects to illustrate traditional Japanese concepts. It not only explores Japanese architecture but also discusses the influence it has had on Nordic as well as Modern architecture.

Architecture documentary

Archiculture 

2011

25m

Available to watch on YouTube

Archiculture is a short documentary that provides an insight into the life of an architecture student. Intending to display the studio-based model of architectural education, it follows five students as they work towards finishing their final thesis semester at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute. It incorporates interviews with leading professionals who critically discuss this model of learning and its impact on the architect of the future.

Architecture documentary

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth

2011

1h 19m

Available to watch on Prime Video

2 Awards + Nominations

This documentary reflects on how Pruitt-Igoe, the once ‘radiant example of Corbusian rationalism’ designed by Minoru Yamasaki became one of the greatest failures in public housing in America. It utilises the voices of residents to capture how the social, economic and legislative issues facing St. Louis, led to the decline of the complex. It is a fascinating recollection of the triumphs and shortcomings of this historic project that left behind a fragmented reality for those who lived there.

Architecture documentary

Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman         

2008

1h 23m

Available to watch on Prime Video

2 Awards + nominations

Visual Acoustics displays the creative life and career of the popular American architectural photographer, Julius Shulman. He was an ambassador of Modernism whose iconic photography influenced the careers of some of the greatest architects of the 20th century. This documentary aptly reveals his perception and portrayal of architecture by revisiting some of his most notable works.

Documentaries for architecture

Lego House: Home Of The Brick

2018

47m

Available to watch on YouTube

1 Award

This documentary depicts the world’s first LEGO inspired brick house, located in Billund, Denmark. It follows BIG’s design journey with this building from early conception to completion. Similarities between the creative process of designing with the LEGO brick and actual architecture are highlighted. Alongside this, a glimpse into the LEGO brand idea itself is given.

documentary for architect students 2

The Human Scale

2012

1h 23m

Available to watch on Prime Video + Apple TV

4 Nominations  

According to a report by the United Nations, 80% of the human population will reside in urban areas by 2050. The Human Scale is a documentary that questions what would happen to our cities as a result of this. Talking to various architects and urban planners from multiple cities, it looks at how future urban design can be more focused on the people living in it.

documentaries for architect students

The Proposal

2018

1h 26m

Available to watch on Vimeo

6 Awards + Nominations

The Proposal explores artist Jill Magid’s journey to revive the privately held archives of Mexico’s most celebrated architect Luis Barragán. He was a significant figure of the 20th century. This thrilling documentary shows the complexities surrounding access to art. It is composed as a captivating work of art in itself as it explores the afterlife of architecture.

architecture documentaries 4

Sign up to our newsletter

 

Make sure you don’t miss out on anything that is going on at First In Architecture – sign up to the newsletter now. No spam, no funny business, just useful stuff!

Our Extended List of Architecture Documentaries 

If you have already watched our top recommendations and wish to explore some more documentaries, here is a more exhaustive list:

 

Biographies

  • How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr Foster?
  • Visual Acoustics: The Modernism Of Julius Shulman        
  • My Architect – A Sons Journey
  • Eames: The Architect And The Painter
  • Philip Johnson: Diary Of An Eccentric Architect       
  • Sketches Of Frank Gehry        
  • BIG Time       
  • Frank Lloyd Wright    
  • First Person Singular: I.M. Pei
  • REM 
  • Architecture Of Infinity 
  • Zaha Hadid: An Architect, A Masterpiece         
  • Louis Sullivan: The Struggle For American Architecture  
  • The World Of Buckminster Fuller        
  • Frei Otto: Spanning The Future  
  • Renzo Piano: The Architect Of Light   
  • Tadao Ando ‘From Emptiness To Infinity’         
  • The Proposal 

 

Specific projects

  • The infinite happiness
  • Unfinished Spaces
  • Lego House: Home of the Brick
  • Volume Zero: Documentary on Charles Correa
  • ORDOS 100
  • Koolhaas Houselife

 

Architectural concepts

  • Kochuu: Japanese Architecture
  • The Human Scale
  • Microtopia
  • Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things

 

Urban and social issues

  • Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee And The Spirit Of The Rural Studio
  • The Pruitt-Igoe Myth
  • Urbanized
  • Citizen Jane: Battle For The City
  • Rotterdam 2040
  • City Dreamers
  • Built On Narrow Land

 

Short documentaries

  • Archiculture
  • Block By Block: The Men Who Built India’s Tallest Building
  • The Tower Of A Forgotten India – Short
  • Humanitas Ex Machina [Humanity From The Machine]

 

Others

  • Rams
  • Struggle: The Life And Lost Art Of Szukalski
  • Dream Big: Engineering Our World

Conclusion

We hope this list was helpful and that these documentaries help you broaden your architectural knowledge.

Thank you for reading! Happy watching 🙂

 

Your Comments

Have we missed your favourite architecture documentary? Let us know in the comments below.

Also, feel free to share your best-loved documentaries and what you learnt from them, even if they are not architecture related.

Thank you!

 

Author

Written by Valanne Fernandes, a Part 1 Architecture graduate. Valanne is a content creator with First In Architecture, spending her time researching, writing and designing inspiring new content for the website.

My favourite Tools and Resources

I have curated a list of some of the tools and resources I would strongly recommend for anyone studying or working in Architecture.