I thought I’d craft a list of films, documentaries, and videos for viewing while there is so much extra time at home. Now I am not trying to provide additional distractions, but I think that in times like this everyone may want some additional creative fuel for your metaphorical tank. So I began to assemble this list just recently. I have been working on a similar list that is for architects represented in mainstream movies, but that one is far from complete. Granted I’m not certain the one I am about to provide is complete either. Still, I am going to give it a shot! I started this idea with some of the shows I have been watching recently to keep my mind in a creative place. Then I dove headfirst into an internet rabbit hole of epic proportions. The result is a list that seems to be all over the place, but I think I am just trying to provide a little bit of everything here and as we know sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. I hope you are ready for an eclectic list of viewing opportunities.
First up is a Netflix series entitled “Abstract”. If you are not familiar with this series, you should be. Each episode is about an hour in length and is a look into the process and ideas of a creative individual. The lineup of subjects is quite interesting in the two seasons that are currently available. I think it is always interesting to see how others think about creative efforts; especially those outside the field of architecture. I have only two episodes of this series left and I have enjoyed them all.
Columbus is a movie with architecture at its heart. The story of this film does not really relate to architecture, but you can just feel it in almost every scene. The movie was filmed in Columbus, Indiana which is quite a collection of famous designer architecture. There is a storyline about a father-son relationship that is interceded with a young woman with a passion for architecture in this small Midwestern town. I have never wanted to visit Indiana more!
The documentary film Urbanized deals with the subjects of cities, “urban-ification”, suburbia and various notions about the world we are constructing. This is a film that is recommended to all my second-year students. It just gets you thinking about the how and why of larger scale design.
Citizen Architect is an older documentary that I hope you have watched already. But I am putting it on this list because it’s worth watching again. This film covers the Rural Studio at the School of Architecture at Auburn University. This shows what students are capable of during their years at school and also the power that good design and architecture can have on an underserved population. Inspirational to say the least.
The imagery of architecture is certainly important. Visual Acoustics is a documentary about the life and work of famed photographer Julius Shulman. Bob and I often reference his name in our discussions and his books are always on my want list. Well, the ones I don’t already have.
Another mid-century favorite of mine is the team of Charles and Ray Eames. The film Eames: the architect and the painter provides an in-depth look at the lives of these two in a way that I had not experienced before. While it may not be the best showing of architecture, it does open the door into their quite interesting lives for better or worse.
Steering away from architecture… Jiro Dreams of Sushi is an excellent film that provides a sense of craft and pride in one’s work. The amount of rigor and determination shown in this film is deserving of admiration (and maybe some empathy). I think that the idea of perfectionism is something that most architects can relate to quite well.
Now I have also included a few YouTube videos here for you to peruse. So these are of course free and you can bookmark to watch later or at your leisure for sure.
That Far Corner: S9 E1 – Frank Lloyd Wright in Los Angles. This hour-long film follows around the LA Times architecture critic Chris Hawthorne as he visits Wright’s work in LA. While he provides some of his theories about the work, the imagery of these houses it wonderful to look at.
While this is a documentary created by the US General Services Administration it is still worth the viewing. Victor Lundy: Sculptor of Space reviews some of the life and work of this oft-overlooked mid-century architect. I will tell you that some of his imagery is ah-mazing. There is a recent book on Lundy that is worth the purchase if for the images alone. I wish the GSA had more to offer like this on their YouTube channel. They do have some shorted clips in their historical buildings section, but this is the only full-length doc.
Made up of 3 parts – Architecture, art, and design – 100 years of the Bauhaus is a documentary created to celebrate the 100th anniversary. I have only seen Part 1 as of now, but I have enjoyed it. Be forewarned that this is some serious dubbing and subtitling mix-mash of audio and reading. The languages skip back and forth often. It can be a bit jarring at first. But I managed to get through and want to see the other 2 segments. [Part 1][Part 2][Part 3]
Lastly is a short film that just made me reminiscent of architecture school. Archiculture is a 25-minute film that highlights the notions of studio culture and what it’s like to be in architecture school. It has some amusing moments and some that you cringe a little, but overall just made me extra nostalgic. I must say I am not certain that all studios are like this any longer. But this is the type of experience I attempt to provide and instill in my classes. (the good parts)
List of Honorable mentions: I have not watched many of these, but they are on my list. I did not want to expand on any that I had not already viewed. Maybe I can come back and review.
Objectified – About the creation and obsession of objects (very acclaimed)(top of my list)
Helvetica – A look into font and type (very acclaimed)
The Human Scale – Cities, growth, the future ( top of my list)
The Oyler House: Richards Neutra’s Desert Retreat – Focuses on a single house designed by the architect
Coast Modern – West-coast take on modern architecture style, pretty images to see
Between the Folds – A look at the intersection of science and art via the medium of origami
Jorn Utzon: The man and architect – New doc about his life and work (top of my list)
The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes – not sure of the content, but seems like pretty images for certain (Netflix series)
So there you have it. A long list to fill your time. I still have enough for another entire post, but had to stop at some point. There were also several others that I came across that are not available to stream anywhere. I did not want to send you off to buy a DVD. But I will continue to search or just get them for myself.
I hope that everyone is managing all that life is throwing at us right now and that hopefully, something on this list brings you some joy or inspiration.
Until next time,