Screenings: 2015 Architecture & Design Film Festival


The seventh annual Architecture & Design Film Festival comes to Chelsea Bow Tie Cinemas and the SVA Theatre October 13th through 18th with 33 feature-length and short films. The films include profiles of emerging architects and tackle contemporary issues, from the preservation of historic architecture to modernization and urbanization in China. In addition to post-film Q&As, the festival will hold a number of panels addressing the films’ themes. Check out “The Ice is Right – Nordic Design Today” and “Housing Excess, Housing Scarcity: A Discussion of Why It Is So Difficult To Get Housing Right,” featuring The Architectural League’s Executive Director Rosalie Genevro in conversation with Alexander Gorlin and Joseph Weisbord. If that gets too real, festival attendees can also visit a lounge featuring four virtual reality experiences, from a complex sound and light lab to an immersive canoe journey through Lagos, Nigeria. Visit the festival website for more information on the week’s full slate of events, and be sure to read on for some hand-picked highlights for UO readers.

Program 1: The Infinite Happiness
8:00pm | October 13th | Q&A with Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine
9:30pm | October 18th

The Infinite Happiness, directed by Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine, takes us inside Danish architecture firm BIG’s 8 House in suburban Copenhagen. The mixed-use development experiments with new “vertical” paradigms for housing in the 21st century and, with its giant bowtie shape, intends to foster community by increasing interaction between neighbors. The film is conceived as a personal video diary from the directors’ own experience living in the building.

Program 4: Barbicania | The Circle
9:30pm | October 14th | Q&A with Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine
8:15pm | October 17th

Bêka and Lemoine follow a similar formula in Barbicania, which looks at life at the Barbican Arts Centre and Estate in London. The film celebrates the diversity of the personalities and lifestyles that collide in the space through a month-long immersion in this Brutalist landmark and modern icon of gentrification. Prahlad Gopakumar’s short film The Circle continues the observational angle, taking in the activities of the prominent city square Manek Chowk in Ahmedabad, India. The square is home to an array of daily markets: vegetables in the morning, jewelry in the afternoon, and its famous street food stands in the evening.

Program 5: Modern Ruin: A World’s Fair Pavilion | The Dryline
6:30pm | October 14th | Q&A with Matthew Silva
6:00pm | October 18th | Q&A with Matthew Silva

Modern Ruin: A World’s Fair Pavilion, from filmmaker Matthew Silva, investigates Philip Johnson’s New York State Pavilion. Much like other vanguard infrastructure erected for the 1964-5 World’s Fair in Queens, its glorious unveiling has been followed by decades of neglect and disrepair. Silva looks back at the complex history of this enigmatic monument and highlights recent advocacy efforts to restore the Pavilion. The Dryline, the accompanying short produced by Squint/Opera, illustrates BIG’s vision for protecting Manhattan with a waterfront storm barrier that does double duty by also providing parks, walkways, cafes, and active learning spaces. As part of the design process for 2013’s Rebuild by Design competition, BIG collaborated with third-year M.Arch students at Parsons — see their work in a studio report here on UO.

Program 6: David Adjaye – Collaborations: A portrait of the architect through the eyes of others
8:00pm | October 15th
6:45pm | October 17th | Q&A with David Adjaye

Collaborations, directed by Oliver Hardt, features interviews with collaborators of the esteemed British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye. Artists, curators, and other architects provide insight into Adjaye’s work, spanning a range of typologies from residences and exhibition spaces to libraries and public buildings. Here in New York, Adjaye recently completed an ambitious residential building that combines affordable housing, a preschool, and a children’s art museum. You can read more about the Sugar Hill project, its mixed acclaim, and the intersections and conflicts between architecture and housing from UO columnist Susanne Schindler.

Program 7: The Land of Many Palaces
9:45pm | October 14th | Q&A with Song Ting
5:30pm | October 17th | Q&A with Song Ting

Directors Adam Smith and Song Ting document the awakening of China’s “ghost city” in Ordos, Mongolia. The Land of Many Palaces centers on a government official’s effort to convince rural farmers to move to the city as part of a massive plan to modernize and urbanize the nation. For more on Ordos, check out interviews and documentation from The Architectural League’s 2008 exhibition on the designs of 13 New York-based architecture firms who participated in artist Ai Wei Wei’s provocative plans for a residential development of 100 Ordos villas.

Program 11: Four Dreams and A Thousand Demolitions | Spaces: The Architecture of Paul Rudolph
7:00pm | October 15th | Q&A with Bob Eisenhardt
5:30pm | October 18th

Four Dreams and A Thousand Demolitions, directed by Elzbieta Brunnberg, focuses on the lives and deaths of decommissioned Swedish railway buildings. Brunnberg interviews individuals who have purchased and attempted to restore some of these historic stations while documenting the demolition of others, raising questions about the importance of architectural heritage, local knowledge, and preservation. Then catch an Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Short, Bob Eisenhardt’s 1983 film Spaces: The Architecture of Paul Rudolph. The film brings a personal perspective to the acclaimed 20th century architect and his sometimes-controversial work. In New York, that included his plans for the Lower Manhattan Expressway, which followed Robert Moses’ shelved plans for the highway.

Ben Pardee is an urbanist, hip-hop enthusiast, and yogi. He is a project assistant on Urban Omnibus and blends his deep Texan pride with Yankee sensibilities.

The views expressed here are those of the authors only and do not reflect the position of The Architectural League of New York.