As we spend more time at home, we’ve had more opportunities to dive into films we’ve always wanted to see but never got around to watching. It’s hard to beat the feeling of immersing yourself in a visual masterpiece and movies have become a much-needed form of escapism to get through lockdown. While many have sought to become the next Mary Berry, some of us have become self-professed film buffs. We’ve had the chance to reflect on some of our favourite design and architecture films through the ages. Below is a list of five films that have left us feeling inspired and uplifted.
My Architect: A Son’s Journey (2003)
This award-winning film was directed by renowned architect Louis Kahn’s son, Nathaniel Kahn and documents his emotive journey to understand his father. Louis Kahn earned an impressive reputation for his talent but led a difficult personal life, struggling to juggle family and overwhelmed in debt. He eventually died bankrupt in 1974 but his legacy lives on in the history of architecture. With in-depth interviews and imagery of Kahn’s original work, this movie is an honest and deeply personal exploration of a visionary’s journey through the eyes of his son.
Eames: The Architect and the Painter (2011)
Eames is a documentary about the celebrated American designers Charles and Ray Eames, produced by Jason Cohen and Bill Jersey. Exploring the delicate relationship between the pair and their incredibly successful collaboration, which led to a chair that revolutionised consumer culture, it intimately captures the influence the couple had on design. Although it offers detailed insights into their futurist dreams, it never strays from the personal narrative of Eames’ life. With commentary from both their critics and their fans, including their grandson, this documentary is both inspiring and poignant.
Director Gary Hustwit’s third film in his successful design trilogy tackles how urban cities are shaped around the world, addressing influential factors from crime to energy consumption. The documentary follows a similar format to Helvetica and Objectified but this time, tours the metropolis of Manhattan, the slums of Mumbai and everything in between to achieve an ambitious depiction of urban history and its future challenges. Avoiding fatalism, the film showcases the Innovative solutions that are being championed in unexpected locations, such as Colombia and how we can address the spectrum of problems that plague urban architecture through the bottom-up approach of community engagement.
With Japandi set to take the design world by storm, Kochuu’s compelling illustration of custom Japanese architecture and its impact on Nordic design is a timely watch. Directed by Danish filmmaker Jesper Wachtmeister, Kochuu, which translates to “in the jar”, delves into the enchanting world of Japanese architecture and is informed by interviews with leading Scandinavian and Japanese architects. Looking at both the past and the future, it outlines the traditional philosophy of building microcosmic, enclosed spaces such as teahouses to form a separate universe. Introducing key concepts that strive to unite modern man with old Japanese customs, the film demonstrates these principles by touring breath-taking architectural ventures in Japan such as the imperial Katsura Palace, the Todai-Ji Templ as well as Japanese-inspired constructions in Scandinavia.
George Nakashima, Woodworker (2020)
The family of George Nakashima, a respected Japanese-American furniture maker, have produced a film about the craftsman’s voyage of creative discovery. Nakashima travelled the world, absorbing philosophies from France to Japan to India that influenced his own design principles. His daughter, Mira Nakashima and cousin, John Terry Nakashima, retraced their ancestor’s footsteps to interview several of George’s connections and illuminate how George’s own appreciation for wood was formed. George approached designed with a spiritual mentality, believing that each piece of furniture was a new lease of life for the tree. His woodwork celebrated the natural and organic aesthetic of wood and rejected the idea of mass manufacturing. Both a chronicle of George Nakashima’s life as well as a personal journey for Mira and John Terry, this documentary is nothing short of moving.