Architecture & Design Film Festival, New York
54 Varick Street
The inaugural Architecture & Design Film Festival has just concluded its stellar program of screenings in New York. It’s hard to believe that this event was the first of its kind in a city famous for its design culture, but in fact the festival was a first in the US. The brainchild of architect Kyle Bergman and design professional Laura Cardello, it brought together filmmakers, design enthusiasts and professionals and industry luminaries for four-days of documentaries, shorts and feature-length films, panel discussions and special events.
Watch Studio Gang Architects: Aqua Tower
With closer inspection, the ADFF hardly feels like an incipient affair. It has an advisory board that reads like a virtual Who’s Who of the American architecture community and a list of sponsors that rival far more mature festivals. And even the festival’s branding and website live up to the inherently high aesthetic expectations of its constituency.
While the event had a well organized, professional feel, in the end, every film festival is judged by the quality of its content. And despite the ADFF’s breadth - the program comprised over 40 films - the lineup featured compelling projects from top to bottom, many already recipients of foreign honors, and all relevant and engaging for this particularly focused group of attendees. The films were organized into 13 curated, themed programs of 2-4 films, approximately 90 minutes long in total.
Watch Pentagram’s Paula Scher on drawing with type
The schedule included everything from process-focused documentaries like Casa Bronfman, about the design work of Peter Rose for philanthropist Edgar Bronfman, Jr. and his wife Clarissa, to features like Saving Lieb House, in which renowned architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown save their ’baby’, the world’s first ’pop-art house’, designed in 1969.
The many shorts were as compelling as their lengthy counterparts, such as interviews with icons like Paula Scher, Stefan Sagmeister and Oscar Niemeyer, as well as subject pieces like Left Behind, an emotional portrait of Liverpool’s famous Tobacco Warehouse, the world’s largest brick building, and St. Louis Can Soar, a presentation of ideas developed by SOM, BIG, and Hargreaves Associates on the future development of the area surrounding Eero Saarinen’s famous Gateway Arch.
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And every film festival needs a thriller, even one about design. Here, it was My Playground, an elegant yet breathtaking feature on the world of Parkour and Freerunning by architect Bjarke Ingels, founder of BIG. Copenhagen’s Team JiYo are in constant peril as they explore many of the world’s major cities artfully mastering the many ’obstacles’ with jaw-dropping athletic and acrobatic skill.
’We were delighted with the final roster of films,’ says co-director Bergman. ’We tried to represent a range of periods, and I think we have. We had films on pioneers in architecture and design from the middle of the last century, like graphic designer Herbert Matter, an almost forgotten genius, and then we took audiences to the present with films like Studio Gang Architects: Aqua Tower, about an amazing Chicago firm founded in 1997 by architect Jeanne Gang’.
Cardello added, ’We were really excited to host the international premiere of Eye Over Prague, a documentary dedicated to the late Czech architect Jan Kaplický, co-founder of the London-based, internationally acclaimed practice Future Systems.’
The festival, it’s launch party and related events were all held at Tribeca Cinemas, which has become the home of many of New York’s annual film festivals.