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D.C.’s first Architecture & Design Film Festival: What films to expect

The four-day festival will be held at the National Building Museum

Photo via Shutterstock/Sean Pavone

Starting February 22, film buffs as well as architecture and design lovers will be able to unite in one location in the nation’s capital for a four-day film festival, presented by non-profit Revada Foundation. For the first time, the National Building Museum will present the national traveling Architecture & Design Film Festival with over 25 films about architects, designers, and activists.

Ticket prices will total $10 for students, $15 for general admission, $12 for National Building Museum members, and $125 for a pass that includes the opening night and all film programs.

To see the full schedule, head to the Architecture & Design Film Festival website here. Below, see the full list of films, their showtimes, and trailers in alphabetical order:

A Letter to Marcel

February 24 at 4:15 p.m. and February 25 at 12:45 p.m.

“In 1953, Robert Snower wrote to Marcel Breuer to ask if he would be interested in designing a home for his family in Kansas City. Breuer and his team spent the next year working with Mr. Snower to customize every element of the home. It was completed in 1954 and is one of only two houses Breuer constructed west of the Mississippi River. Over 60 years later, the home has been restored to its original condition. This is the story of its creation.”

Big Time

February 22 at 7, 7:15, and 7:30 p.m.

“According to the Wall Street Journal, Bjarke Ingels has ‘rapidly become one of the design world’s biggest stars’ and his name recently appeared in TIME’S 100 Most Influential People. An intimate insight into the life of a genius innovative mind and his struggle to maintain his own persona, while making the world a better place to live. Big Time follows star architect Bjarke Ingels over a period of 6 years while he is struggling to complete his largest projects yet, the New York skyscraper W57 and World Trade Center 2.”

Building Hope: The Maggie’s Centres

February 24 at 12:15 p.m. and February 25 at 2:45 p.m.

Building Hope: The Maggie’s Centres is a beautifully shot film, directed by award-winning director Sarah Howitt, and tells the story of Maggie’s, our approach to cancer care, and the role that great design plays in the cancer support we offer. 

In 1993, Maggie Keswick Jencks was diagnosed with terminal cancer and was told she had three months to live. On hearing this devastating news she was left to sit on a plastic chair in a hospital corridor. The only place she could find to cry was a toilet cubicle.”

Cabin at the River

February 24 at 6:30 p.m. and February 25 at 1 p.m.

“The architect Robby Cantarutti, as a boy, is imagining his house and his life while sitting on a river throwing stones in the water. Inspired by the flowing water and the leaves moving in the wind, he creates in his fantasy his own future in a house made of glass and stones that invites the nature to live in. Foreseeing his future life with his wife and children, he fills the empty rooms of his house with vivified joy, creativity, and happiness. Dream and life are intertwined and reality is flowing past like the water of the river.”

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City

February 25 at 1:30 p.m.

“The film highlights Jane Jacobs’ magisterial 1961 treatise, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, in which she single-handedly undercuts her era’s orthodox model of city planning, exemplified by the massive Urban Renewal projects of New York’s ‘Master Builder’ Robert Moses. Jacobs and Moses figure centrally in our story as archetypes of the ‘bottom up’ and the ‘top down,’ respectively. They also figure as two larger-than-life personalities: Jacobs—a journalist with provincial origins, no formal training in city planning, and scarce institutional authority seems at first glance to share little in common with Robert Moses, a high prince of government and urban theory fully ensconced in New York’s halls of power and privilege. Yet both reveal themselves to be master tacticians who, in the middle of the 20th century, became locked in an epic struggle over the fate of the city. In three suspenseful acts, Citizen Jane: Battle for the City gives audiences a front row seat to this battle, and shows how two opposing visions of urban greatness continue to ripple across the world stage, with unexpectedly high stakes.”


February 23 at 8:15 p.m. and February 24 at 5 p.m.

“When a renowned architecture scholar falls suddenly ill during a speaking tour, his son Jin (John Cho) finds himself stranded in Columbus, Indiana—a small Midwestern city celebrated for its many significant modernist buildings. Jin strikes up a friendship with Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a young architecture enthusiast who works at the local library. As their intimacy develops, Jin and Casey explore both the town and their conflicted emotions: Jin’s estranged relationship with his father, and Casey’s reluctance to leave Columbus and her mother.”

Community by Design: Skid Row Housing Trust

February 24 at 12:15 p.m. and February 24 at 2:45 p.m.

“Los Angeles has the highest number of unsheltered people in the country. The Skid Row Housing Trust in downtown Los Angeles provides both housing for the homeless and innovative solutions to keeping them off the streets. In 1989, the Trust began restoring and preserving single room occupancy housing in the downtown area. Currently, the Trust focuses on new construction projects while collaborating with renowned architects, including Michael Maltzan Architecture and Brooks + Scarpa. The portfolio of buildings that the Trust owns is steadily expanding, using a model that can be replicated in any city.”


February 25 at 12:30 p.m.

“For the first time, fashion designer Dries Van Noten allows a filmmaker to accompany him in his creative process and rich home life. For an entire year, Reiner Holzemer documents the precise steps that Dries takes to conceive of four collections—the rich fabrics, embroidery, and prints exclusive to his designs … as well as the emblematic fashion shows that bring his collections to the world and have become cult ‘must sees’ at Paris Fashion Week.”

Eames: The Architect and the Painter

February 23 at 6:15 p.m.

“From 1941 to 1978, the husband-and-wife team of Charles and Ray Eames brought unique talents to their partnership. He was an architect by training, she was a painter and sculptor. Together, they are considered America’s most important and influential designers, whose work helped, literally, shape the second half of the 20th century and remains culturally vital and commercially popular today.

Eames: The Architect and the Painter, insightfully narrated by James Franco, is the first film to be made about Charles and Ray since their deaths—and the only one that peers deeply inside the link between their artistic collaboration and sometimes tortured love for one another. Despite their unrivaled impact on American design, the personas of the steadfastly private Charles and Ray Eames have remained oblique beyond the giddy publicity photos they doled out to inquiring journalists while they were alive.”

Face of a Nation: What Happened to the World’s Fair?

February 25 at 2:45 p.m.

“Daughter of immigrants, an idealistic architect struggles to keep her dream alive as she journeys to discover why America abandoned World’s Fairs. For generations of Americans, World’s Fairs captured visions of hope for the future as part of their collective memory. Mina Chow became fascinated with World’s Fairs when she saw pictures of her parents at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Beginning with their stories, Mina shares this legacy and the American values that inspired her to become an architect. She is excited to go to the first World’s Fair in China. With over 73 million visitors, the Shanghai World Expo breaks all attendance records for any event in human history. But what she discovers there not only destroys her confidence as an American architect; it is symptomatic of a country that has lost its way. With her dream destroyed, Mina begins a search for answers … to find out what happened to the vision of World’s Fairs ... and what happened to America.”

Ford House

February 24 at 4:15 p.m. and February 25 at 12:45 p.m.

“This film about the Ford House in Aurora, Illinois, designed by Bruce Goff, was created for the installation Past Forward: Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago. A film by Spirit of Space.”

Getting Frank Gehry

February 24 at 12:30 p.m. and February 25 at 4:30 p.m.

“The University of Technology, Sydney’s new business school, is Frank Gehry’s daring ‘Treehouse project’, otherwise known as the ‘crumpled brown paper bag’ to its critics. At first sight, the school will almost certainly shock anyone not already familiar with Gehry’s work elsewhere around the world. Designed to be radical inside and out, the building is sure to provoke conflicts for decades, and yet is highly likely to be hailed as a masterpiece of early 21st century architecture in time, just as so many of his other creations have already been.

The film follows the drama as Gehry’s vision for this commission is realized. Through the construction of this building, we examine his challenging work over a period of forty years. Four key phases of creativity, epitomized by four great buildings—The Gehry House, The Vitra Museum, The Guggenheim Bilbao, and MIT’s Stata Centre—chart the evolution of ideas over a lifetime of controversy to play out on the downtown Sydney construction site. Drawing on a life’s work defined by controversial and ground-breaking ideas, the world’s greatest architect has inaugurated his first Australian building - and debate still rages over whether it is eyesore or icon.”

Glenn Murcutt: Spirit of Place

February 23 at 8:30 p.m. and February 24 at 12:15 p.m.

Glenn Murcutt: Spirit of Place explores the life and art of Australia’s most famous living architect. Murcutt’s extraordinary international reputation rests on the beauty and integrity of his work. With a swag of international awards (including the prestigious Pritzker Prize), Murcutt has literally put Australian architecture on the world map. And yet, by choice, he has never built outside his own country. Murcutt’s focus instead has been the creation of energy-efficient masterpieces perfectly suited to their environment and his breakthrough designs have influenced architects around the world. This documentary follows Glenn Murcutt, now 80 years old, as he designs his most ambitious project to date—a mosque for an Islamic community in Melbourne. “

If You Build It

February 24 at 2:30 p.m.

“From the director of Wordplay and I.O.U.S.A. comes a captivating look at a radically innovative approach to education. If You Build It follows designer-activists Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller to rural Bertie County, the poorest in North Carolina, where they work with local high school students to transform both their community and their lives. Living on credit and grant money and fighting a change-resistant school board, Pilloton and Miller lead their students through a year-long design and build project that does much more than just teach basic construction skills: it shows 13 teenagers the power of design-thinking to re-invent not just their town but their own sense of what’s possible.”

Integral Man

February 24 at 6:30 p.m. and February 25 at 1 p.m.

“After Euclid, Toronto’s Jim Stewart is the most published mathematician in the world. Stewart spent a decade and a small fortune building the home of his dreams to reflect his two obsessions: curves and music. The completed home, called Integral House, provides him with both. A stunning architectural gem of subtly curved wood and vast, evocative spaces, the house stands in Toronto’s Rosedale neighborhood and is considered by many one of the city’s best performance spaces. Stewart took joy in hosting his trademark musical evenings with world-class guests, including the likes of Grammy-nominated Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman, featured in the film. This debut film by landscape designer and artist Joseph Clement is an impressive work of art with its masterful combination of beautiful soundscapes and gorgeous architectural details. It ultimately delivers a finely crafted portrait of Stewart and his beloved home.”

Kevin Roche: The Quiet Architect

February 24 at 7:30 p.m. and February 25 at 5 p.m.

“Still working at age 95, Pritzker Prize-winning, Irish-American architect Kevin Roche is an enigma. He’s reached the top of his profession, but has little interest in celebrity and eschews the label ‘Starchitect.’ Despite a lifetime of acclaimed work that includes the Ford Foundation, Oakland Museum of California, and 40 years designing new galleries for The Metropolitan Museum in New York, he has no intention of ever retiring and keeps looking forward. Roche’s architectural philosophy focuses on creating ‘a community for a modern society’ and he has been credited with creating green buildings before they became part of the public consciousness.”

Made in Ilima

February 24 at 4:45 p.m. and February 25 at 5:15 p.m.

“In the center of Equator Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Ilima community remains one of the most isolated in the world. They have coexisted with endangered wildlife in their surrounding forest for generations, but as the pace of development has increased, this fragile ecosystem has suffered.

They partnered with the African Wildlife Foundation and our architecture firm, MASS Design Group, in 2012 to create a new conservation focused primary school and community center. This film documents our collective building process—one aimed at leveraging local craft and ecological knowledge towards education, preservation, and beauty.”


February 24 at 4:45 p.m. and February 25 at 5:15 p.m.

“Pisces, from Greek mythology, takes the form of two fish connected by a cord that allows them to help others and ensures that they don’t lose one another. Pisces and its myths became the framework for the Louisiana Tech School of Design’s 2017 design/build project, A bridge that provides a much needed connection between the two sides of a summer camp for children with special needs and creates a variety of opportunities for one of their favorite camp activities, fishing.

Like Pisces’ chord, the project forever links the student designers to the campers they served through their first built work. This short film by Brad Deal, architect and director of the ARCH 335 design/build studio at Louisiana Tech, provides a glimpse of the connections formed between three students and three camper’s families over the course of the project and is framed by the blossoming efforts in design education to connect students to their communities and discover the power of design to bring about positive change.”


February 23 at 8:30 p.m. and February 24 at 6:45 p.m.

“Architecture is usually filmed from the outside, as an inanimate object. The few depictions of interiors are usually limited to still or static images of an empty building, reducing it to no more than an icon or sculpture. REM, the documentary by Rem Koolhaas’s son, uses an unconventional approach by combining the human stories and experience of both the architect and the users of his architecture. The film explores Rem’s life, working methods, philosophy, and internal landscape from a never seen perspective of intimacy and immediacy. The result is having the feeling of being ‘inside’ his head. This perspective allows the viewer to understand Rem’s ideas in a way they couldn’t otherwise. These ideas are not merely explained as intellectual concepts, but the viewer also sees these ideas in practice—the reality on the ground. They see how these ideas come to fruition in concrete and metal. The film shows how these structures, some massive and some small—dotted all around the globe—affect every aspect of the lives of the people that build them, use them, and live inside them.”

The Experimental City

February 24 at 2 p.m.

“In the 1960s, frustrated by the growing problem of urban pollution, Athelstan Spilhaus, a visionary scientist and futurist comic strip writer, assembled a team of experts to develop a bold experiment: the Minnesota Experimental City (MXC). MXC would be the city of the future, a domed metropolis for 250,000 pioneering residents, built from scratch and using cutting-edge technology to prevent urban sprawl and pollution. Things didn’t quite go as planned, as explored in Chad Friedrichs’ fascinating look back at the would-be city of tomorrow.”

The Future of Cities

February 25 at 2:45 p.m.

“What does “the future of cities” mean? For most of the developing world, it might be as simple as aspiring to having your own toilet, rather than sharing one with over 100 people. For a family in Detroit, it could mean having non-toxic drinking water. For planners and mayors, it’s about a lot of things — sustainability, economy, inclusivity, and resilience. Most of us can hope that future involves spending a little less time on our commutes to work and a little more time with our families. Oscar Boyson asked people around the world to participate in documenting city innovations around the world. Folks of all ages, from over 75 countries, volunteered their time, thoughts, work, and footage.”

The Gamble House

February 24 at 4:15 p.m. and February 25 at 12:45 p.m.

The Gamble House is the incredible story of brothers Charles and Henry Greene who were pushed by their forceful father into a career in architecture only to design and build the most seminal and stunning Arts & Crafts house in America. The house, however, did not come without its price, both personally and professionally, for the Greene brothers, and for David and Mary Gamble who commissioned it. It’s a tale of American craftsmanship, international influence, artistic frustration, loss, and triumph, which led to the completion of one of the shining examples of American architecture, known to fans of Back to the Future as Doc Brown’s house, and fans of architecture simply as The Gamble House.”

The Oyler House: Richard Neutra’s Desert Retreat

February 23 at 6:30 p.m. and February 24 at 2:15 p.m.

“In 1959, a working-class government employee in the tiny desert town of Lone Pine, California, asked world-famous modern architect Richard Neutra to design his modest family home. To his surprise, Neutra agreed. Thus began an unlikely friendship that would last for the rest of Neutra’s life. The Oyler House: Richard Neutra’s Desert Retreat tells the story of this house and its stunning desert setting, through interviews with Richard Oyler, actress Kelly Lynch, who currently owns the house, Neutra’s two sons, and well-known LA real estate agent Crosby Doe.”

This Was Not My Dream

February 24 at 12:30 p.m. and February 25 at 4:30 p.m.

“Suzana’s ex-husband cannot get it out of his mind that the new house—conceived by them both—meant the end of his marriage. The ex-husband’s jealous looks are meant for nobody else other than the straight and modern lines, ‘cold, tedious, and without life.’ While images pass through the architecture he distills his fear of the construction and elaborates about the new life that Suzana will be enjoying at that place. ‘Where is Suzana now?’ She couldn’t be in any other place except that house, where Suzana’s love is so transparent. This Was Not My Dream was commissioned for the 14th Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale.

Windshield: A Vanished Vision

February 23 at 6:30 p.m. and February 24 at 2:15 p.m.

Windshield: A Vanished Vision lands us in the 1930’s to reveal an intimate portrait of a patrician couple, a leading modern architect, and the story of the ill-fated house they create. John Nicholas Brown’s fascination with modernism, innovation, and the rapidly-evolving American building scene spurs him to commission what he hopes will be a ‘distinguished monument in the history of architecture.’ Brown and his wife Anne, herself a daring and eccentric figure, select the young and ambitious Richard Neutra to build them a house that they name ‘Windshield.’ Through an enormously detailed correspondence, patron and architect discuss every detail of the house’s design and together pursue cutting-edge technology, much of which had only previously been used in commercial architecture. Then, just weeks after the Browns move in, tragedy strikes.

Windshield: A Vanished Vision explores the pivotal impact of the house on Neutra’s career and takes us on a journey with a couple caught between the values of their upbringings and their evolving social ideals. Visually supported by John Nicholas Browns’ evocative home movies, the film features J. Carter Brown’s inspiring lecture about the summer house of his youth and voices of architectural historians such as Thomas S. Hines and Dietrich Neumann.”


February 23 at 6 p.m.

Workplace is a documentary about the past, present, and future of the office. Hundreds of millions of human beings spend billions of hours in offices every day. How can we make them better places for people to work and collaborate? What’s the next wave of digital tools to connect the office, the city, and the planet? How has the office evolved over the last 100 years? And do we even need offices anymore? Filmmaker Gary Hustwit (Helvetica, Objectified, Urbanized) follows the design and construction of the New York headquarters of R/GA, where the company and architects Foster + Partners explore the intersection of digital and physical space. Workplace is a look at the thinking and experimentation involved in trying to create the next evolution of what the office could be. Appearances by Bob Greenberg, Norman Foster, Nick Law, Barry Wacksman, Chris West, Julia Goldberg, Primo Orpilla, Nikil Saval, Amanda Carroll, and more.”

Writers Theatre

February 23 at 8:30 p.m. and February 24 at 12:15 p.m.

“Studio Gang’s design for the Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Illinois, is intended to maximize the theatre’s potential to bring people together, creating an architecture that energizes the daily life of its community and becomes an exciting, region-wide cultural destination.”

Architecture & Design Film Festival [Official Website]

National Building Museum Hosts D.C.’s First Architecture & Design Film Festival [Architect Magazine]

National Building Museum

401 F Street Northwest, , DC 20001 (202) 272-2448 Visit Website