How does an architect create? What inspires and drives the process? Learn about contemporary and historic architects in these twelve films—and don't forget the popcorn. For more terrific documentaries, also see our list of Top Movies About Architecture.
Note: Movies come in a variety of digital formats, including disc (e.g., DVD), download (e.g., iTune), subscription streaming (e.g., Hulu, Netflix), and cable on-demand.
Director: Peter Rosen
Running Time: 85 minutes
Awards: Muestra Internacional de Programas Audiovisual, Spain
Have you been to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio? The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.? If you have, you've stood in a building designed by Pritzker Prize Laureate Ieoh Ming Pei.
Directors: Norberto López Amado and Carlos Carcas
Running Time: 74 minutes
Festival Awards: San Sebastian Film Festival 2010; Berlin Film Festival 2010; Docville Film Festival 2010
The life of British architect Norman Foster began in 1935 Manchester, England. From humble beginnings, Foster became Sir Norman Foster, being knighted in 1990 Queen Elizabeth II. This film examines the rise and development of Foster's worldwide reputation through his architecture.
"I expect this documentary could be seen in 50 years," said director Amado, "and the audience could be able to recognize the person who is behind all these buildings."
Read the NY Times review by A. O. Scott, January 24, 2012 >>>
Architecture Photos: Buildings by Sir Norman Foster >>>
Directors: Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey
Running Time: 84 minutes
Narrated by actor James Franco, EAMES documents the love story and professional successes of a partnership that began with the 1941 marriage of Charles and Ray Eames. This film, the first since their deaths, has been a feature favorite at many film festivals.
Read the NY Times review by A. O. Scott, November 17, 2011 >>>
Sources: firstrunfeatures.com/eames, accessed October 1, 2012
Director: Murray Grigor
Running Time: 62 minutes
Creativity rarely exhists in a vacuum. Architects pass ideas to the next generation. The influences of Englishman John Soane, 1753–1837, are brought to light by a new era of American architects, including Philip Johnson, Robert A. M. Stern, Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, Richard Meier, Henry Cobb, and Michael Graves.
Checkerboard Films has created another intelligent film about architecture.
Directors: Markus Heidingsfelder and Min Tesch
Running Time: 97 minutes
Dutch-born Rem Koolhaas, 2000 Pritzker Architecture Prize winner, has always worked "in areas beyond the realm of architecture such as media, politics, renewable energy and fashion." This film captures him as a thinker, visionary, and "a kind of architect."
Source: OMA Website, accessed October 1, 2012.
Director: Barbara Wolf
Running Time: 56 minutes
A 47-acre campus estate in New Canaan, Connecticut is the home of Philip Johnson's eccentricity. Born in Cleveland, Ohio in July 8, 1906, Johnson was a 90-year-old man when this film was made. He had completed his skyscrapers -- the Seagram Building and the AT&T Building -- and it was the simplicity of a Connecticut Glass House that gave him the most joy.
Source: Checkerboard Film Foundation, accessed October 1, 2012
Director: Sydney Pollack
Running Time: 83 minutes
It's been widely reported that Frank O. Gehry asked his Hollywood director friend Sydney Pollack to make this movie. Can a filmmaker fairly document a friend's life? Probably not. But friendship can reveal other characteristics, as does this, the last work filmed by Pollack.
Director: Japanese filmmaker Hiroshi Teshigahara
Running Time: 72 minutes
The life of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí spanned two centuries of incredible growth and innovation in building design. From his birth in 1852, before the height of the industrial revoltuion, until his death in 1926, with La Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona still unfinished, Gaudi's influence on Gothic modernism is felt even today.
The two-disc DVD set Criterion Collection includes additional background information, including Antoni Gaudi: God's Architect, a one-hour BBC Visions of Space documentary by director Ken Russell.
10. My Architect
Director: Nathaniel Kahn
Running Time: 116 minutes
Do you know what your Dad did when he went to work? Director Nathaniel Kahn took five years to figure out his father's life. Nate is the only son of American architect Louis Kahn, but he is not the son of Louis Kahn's wife. Nate's mother, landscape architect Harriet Pattison, worked in Kahn's office. Subtitled A Son's Journey, Nate's film explores his father's personal and professional legacy with love and heartbreak.
Directors: Ken Burns and Lynn Novick
Running Time: 178 minutes
Some would argue that filmmaker Ken Burns is as famous as architect Frank Lloyd Wright. In this PBS Home Video, the masterful Burns explores Wright's life and works.