10 Can’t Miss Films at New York’s Architecture & Design Film Festival

The festival, which runs from November 1 to 5, features movies about Kevin Roche, Glenn Murcutt, Maggie’s Centres, Jane Jacobs, and more.

New York Architecture Design Film Festival 2018
Frank Gehry’s design for The Maggie’s Centres. Courtesy ADFF

Now in its ninth edition, the Architecture & Design Film Festival (ADFF) is returning to Cinépolis Chelsea with a diverse selection of 34 films. There’s certainly something for everyone, with movies focusing on specific projects (The Neue Nationalgalerie, Bruce Goff’s Ford House, Helmut Jahn’s State of Illinois Center), iconic figures (Zaha Hadid, Jane Jacob, Jean Nouvel), themes (the Italian radical movement, homelessness, cities), and–in a first–the ADFF:NY includes narrative feature film (Kogonada’s Columbus).

While the ADFF provides a full listing and schedule on its website, we’ve included ten highlights below.

Building Hope: The Maggie’s Centres
Many architects are already familiar with Maggie’s Centres—sanctuaries designed by prominent architects that aim to comfort those battling cancer and create communities of mutual support. Building Hope: The Maggie’s Centres offers an in-depth look at the organization, its mission, and its many facilities, which include designs by Norman Foster, Wilkinson Eyre, Zaha Hadid, and Kisho Kurokawa, to name a few. “I think it’s one of the best things I’ve done,” remarks Gehry, on his Maggie’s Centres project, in the film.

Kevin Roche: The Quiet Architect
The Central Park Zoo, Ford Foundation, the Oakland Museum, most of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and scores of Eero Saarinen Projects—Kevin Roche’s work is pervasive and dominates Late Modernism. Roche rose from Eero Saarinen and Associates, completing many of the firm’s unfinished projects after Saarinen’s untimely demise. But Kevin Roche: The Quiet Architect paints a fuller picture of the Irish-born architect’s career, from his designing a pig farm in his hometown to planning scores of blue-chip corporate campuses, all while exploring his human-centric, problem-solving architectural ethos.

Integral Man
Jim Stewart is about as interesting as clients can come: a world-famous mathematician, activist, and musician, Stewart commissioned two young architects to design a striking modern residence with unique acoustic properties. Integral Man tells the long and difficult journey of the ten-year project while painting a portrait of Stewart through his dwelling.

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City
Jane Jacobs is an undisputed icon and saintly figure of architecture and urban planning, though her battles with Robert Moses (since vilified in equal proportion) have come to dominate her legacy. While Citizen Jane uses archival materials and interviews to provide a fascinating perspective on Jacobs and her work, the film isn’t immune to popular culture’s Manichean simplifications. Read Metropolis Magazine‘s full review here.

Made in Ilima
In 2012, the Ilima community–which resides in the center of the Democratic Republic of the Congo–partnered with the African Wildlife Foundation and Boston-based MASS Design Group to build a new, environmental conservation–focused primary school and community center. Made in Ilima documents the center, which was built with local labor and materials and aims to help the Ilima maintain the area’s fragile ecosystem.

Zaha: An Architectural Legacy
Architect Zaha Hadid’s untimely passing in March 2016 cut short a career just reaching its peak. While it was major projects like the London Aquatics Centre that helped catapult Hadid to fame, her work began with paintings and eventually extended to design at many scales. Zaha: An Architectural Legacy features interviews with her many collaborators, including architects Patrik Schumacher, Eva Jiricna, and Nigel Coates, as well as engineer Hanif Kara and urbanist Ricky Burdett.

New York Architecture Design Film Festival 2018
Penta-bidet in Studio65’s stand at the Eurodomus 4 Expo in Turin, 1972. Courtesy of Franco Audrito, Studio65 Archive

More than dozen seminal figures from the Italian Radical Movement make an appearance in the documentary SUPERDESIGN, including architect and designer Gaetano Pesce, Archizoom Associati founder Andrea Branzi, UFO collective founder Lapo Binazzi, and curator Emilio Ambasz (who organized MoMA’s Italy: The New Domestic Landscape exhibition), to name a few. With the help of archival footage, the documentary seeks to transport audiences back to 1960’s and 70’s Italy and its remarkable turbulence and creativity.

Glenn Murcutt: Spirit of Place
This documentary explores the life and works of Prizker Prize–winning Australian architect Glenn Murcutt. While Murcutt is globally-renowned, he has designed primarily residential projects and only in Australia. However, Glenn Murcutt: Spirit of Place focuses on a recent project that breaks that mold: a mosque in Melbourne that seeks to bridge a disconnect between the city’s Muslim and non-Muslim communities.

New York Architecture Design Film Festival 2018
Courtesy Starship Chicago

Starship Chicago
The Helmut Jahn–designed State of Illinois Center seems to be a lightning rod for architectural debate and political intrigue alike—an immense Postmodern construction of mirrors, glass, and salmon-hued stairs, the building is also the subject of an ongoing political feud over its sale and operational costs. The aptly-named short documentary Starship Chicago delves into the fight to preserve this decaying behemoth.

Designing Life: The Modernist Architecture of Albert C. Ledner
You may not know the name Albert C. Ledner, but if you’re New Yorker, you most certainly know his buildings, which include the scalloped Mack Pavilion of Lenox Hill Hospital and the “porthole”-studded Maritime Hotel. Louisianans may also know him from his many projects in New Orleans. Still working at age 93, this documentary seeks to put this unconventional modernist and former student of Frank Lloyd Wright back on the map.

You may also enjoy “IMAX Film Shoots World’s Most Awe-Inspiring Feats of Engineering.”

Recent Viewpoints