10 Amazing Architecture Documentaries You Must Watch

Documentaries often tend to really reveal the conditions, passions, and philosophies of architects in the most wonderful narratives. They are quite a fun but underrated way of learning. Some documentaries you must watch as an architecture student are:

  1. The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces
  2. Volume zero
  3. Building into the Heavens: Part 1 & 2
  4. Abstract: The Art of Design | Bjarke Ingels: Architecture
  5. Antonio Gaudi – 1984 by Hiroshi Teshigahara
  6. Balkrishna Doshi Interview, 2018
  7. Archiculture
  8. Women in Architecture
  9. Lego House: Home of the Brick
  10. Urbanized

1. The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces

The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces
The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces

The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces is a documentary from 1989 that studies the relationship between public spaces mainly in New York with its people. It also covers the spaces to compare or present as an example from cities like Seattle, Toronto and Los Angeles. 

The documentary is created by William H. Whyte and based on the book of the same name and creator.

  • The team depicts the different elements of public spaces like plazas, street cafes, food stalls, water bodies, sculptures etc.
  • The film is a crash course to understand public spaces and their elements through the lens of successes and failures of spaces in New York. 

Where to watch: The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces is available to watch on the Pure Urbanism Youtube channel.

2. Volume Zero

Volume Zero
Volume Zero

Volume Zero developed by Arun Khopkar, is an hour-long documentary biography of Charles Correa and his works, which spanned 5 decades. 

  • The documentary features narration, interviews of Charles Correa and other related individuals explaining the works, drawings, diagrams, and archival footage. 
  • The film covers his works that best explain the ‘idealogy of Charles Correa’ and also delves into his journey to become the architect that he is today. 
  • Charles Correa also explains urbanization in a developing nation, especially with the example of Mumbai. 

Where to watch: The documentary, Volume Zero is available to watch on Youtube.

3. Building into the Heavens: Part 1 & 2

Building into the Heavens: Part 1 & 2
Building into the Heavens: Part 1 & 2

The documentary “Building into the Heavens”, covers the post-Roman era of Christianity, where it covers the roles of bishops, popes, archbishops, and emperors in the rise of building grand cathedrals. 

The documentary starts with discovering the sarcophagus of Archbishop Erkanbald in St. John’s Church and with a question, ‘How did secret churches in the crypts turn into beautifully detailed jaded cathedrals?’ 

  • The first half covers the Romanesque period of the cathedrals lasting for about 10-13 centuries. 
  • The second half of the documentary covers the Gothic era of churches, which lasts for 300 years in the medieval period. 
  • The documentary also covers the competition between these noblemen, clergies and architects of different regions to build the best cathedrals at the time. In a particular project, the investments of the working class are also depicted. 

Where to watch: This two-parter documentary was published by DW Documentary on YouTube.

4. Abstract: The Art of Design | Bjarke Ingels: Architecture

Abstract: The Art of Design | Bjarke Ingels: Architecture
Abstract: The Art of Design | Bjarke Ingels: Architecture

As part of the architecture segment in the Netflix – Abstract: The Art of Design, this particular episode covers the journey of Bjarke Ingels and his firm BIG, simultaneously documenting the process of completing the Serpentine Pavilion 2016. 

  • Concepts behind projects like VM House, 8 House, the Mountain etc were explained by Bjarke. 
  • The documentary had a mix of interviews, drawings and renders and the construction process of the Serpentine Pavilion. 

Where to watch: This 44-minute-long film is also available on YouTube. It can be found on Netflix’s Youtube channel.

5. Antonio Gaudi – 1984 by Hiroshi Teshigahara

Antonio Gaudi - 1984 by Hiroshi Teshigahara
Antonio Gaudi – 1984 by Hiroshi Teshigahara

Made in 1984, the documentary, Antonio Gaudi, by Hiroshi Teshigahara showcases the works of Antonio Gaudi uniquely by not using any words. 

  • The documentary does an excellent job of capturing visuals as if we are experiencing the works of Gaudi through the creators’ eyes. Each work is also complemented by music that is chosen to generate specific emotions from the viewers. 
  • Hiroshi includes shots of people engaged in different activities from a public square set in 1984. These shots of human activities act as a transition medium between the documentation of the structures. 

Where to watch: The documentary is available to watch on a Youtube channel called ZStalker.  

6. Balkrishna Doshi Interview, 2018

Balkrishna Doshi Interview, 2018
Balkrishna Doshi Interview, 2018

This interview published by Louisiana channel on YouTube is in a one-way format in which B.V Doshi narrates the journey of his life, both personal and architectural. 

  • Along with personal anecdotes, B.V Doshi shares case studies of his projects such as Amdavad ni Gufa, Aranya housing etc. These case studies were a means to explain topics such as material choice for housing, urban design, design for different classes of people, technology and many more. 
  • This 45-minute documentary is an excellent source for someone starting to get familiar with this Pritzker prize winner and his structures. 

Where to watch: Available to watch on the Louisiana channel on Youtube.

7. Archiculture

Archiculture
Archiculture

This documentary explores architecture from students’ perspectives, covering the studio culture in academic institutions. 

  • The film follows the final design projects of students at the Pratt Institute School of Architecture. 
  • It cuts between the shots and interactions from the studio and the interviews with professionals. They explore the good and bad aspects of studios, the preparation of students from the current generation for the architecture of tomorrow, ‘starchitect’ culture etc. 

Where to watch: This documentary is available on the Arbuckle Industries channel on YouTube.

8. Women in Architecture

Women in Architecture
Women in Architecture

The documentary, Women in Architecture, empathetically covers the life of women in the field of architecture with the help of interviews with architects Toshiko Mori, Gabriela Carrillo and Johanna Meyer-Grohbrügge. 

  • The women address several controversial but important topics such as managing architecture with parenthood, discrimination at the workplace and architecture school, emotions in architecture and their learning process. 
  • The director treats the viewers with high-quality cinematic shots of cityscapes and the works of the architects mentioned above. 

Where to watch: This was directed by Boris Noir in collaboration with Archdaily and is available on YouTube. 

9. Lego House: Home of the Brick 

Lego House: Home of the Brick 
Lego House: Home of the Brick 

This Netflix documentary, also available on YouTube, film the process of constructing the Lego house from the conceptual stage till its opening.

The film features interviews with executives, creators, and fans associated with Lego including its former CEO. 

  • This project was given to BIG through a competition where they came closest to the brief. 
  • The documentary focuses on the design process covering the construction challenge, ideas for interior designs and spatial arrangements according to the users. There were huge installations made of Lego bricks, a basement chamber featuring famous models, playrooms, a cafeteria etc for the Lego community.

Where to watch: The LEGO House documentary is available to view on the official LEGO House Youtube channel.

10. Urbanized

Urbanized
Urbanized

“Urbanized” is a documentary about the design of cities, featuring some cities presenting important problems prevalent everywhere and some cities presenting solutions. 

  • Various architects, urban planners and designers, government officials, and residents like Alejandro Aravena, Rem Koolhaas, Rahul Mehrotra, Amanda Burden and many more were featured. 
  • The documentary asks for a growing need for better planning of the cities to prevent a dangerous future. 

Where to watch: This documentary can be rented from Gary Hustwit’s website hustwit.com.

These are just some of the amazing documentaries featuring various topics from the world of architecture.

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