Daily Features

Architecture & Design Film Festival Celebrates Urbanism

A survey of films and shorts shown in New York demonstrates a growing interest in cities and urban design.

By Anne Quito, Superscript October 23, 2013

Five days, 25 films, 15 themed programs, 22 guest speakers, three public panels. This year’s Architecture and Design Film Festival (ADFF) was stacked. Now on its fifth year, the event—billed as the country’s largest film festival focused on design and architecture—drew over 3,500 attendees to Tribeca Cinemas in New York City last week.

Still from the film, The Human Scale. © The Human Scale

Among the highlights of this year’s program were several premiere screenings. There were profiles on design and architecture giants—from a cinematic ode to visionary architect-mystic Paolo Soleri who designed the futuristic desert arcology Arcosanti, to an exposition on the convergence of brutalism and the Japanese aesthetic in architect Tadao Ando’s work, to a peppy biography on the British men’s fashion designer Paul Smith. The festival also included short features like Grow Dat Farm (2012), about an innovative youth program rooted in nurturing farms in New Orleans. With almost 300 submissions from around the world, the curation of the program is a yearlong project, but festival director and ADFF founder, Kyle Bergman, is up to the challenge. “It’s important to give each submission a fair shot, so we watch them all on the big screen. The films had to be challenging enough for professionals but accessible and dynamic for anybody.”

The Books

Tadao Ando: Houses Philip Jodidio
Tadao Ando
Paul Smith: A to Z Paul Smith

Opening with a screening of The Human Scale (2012), urbanism emerged as the dominant leitmotif throughout the five-day festival. With vignettes from Chongqing, China to Copenhagen to Christchurch, New Zealand, the documentary vivifies Danish architect Jan Gehl’s philosophy on public and pedestrian spaces. The program also included the urban planning classic, Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (1988), documenting pioneering urbanist William H. Whyte’s revolutionary ideas on the value of street life. In My Brooklyn (2012), director and long-time Brooklynite, Kelly Anderson, offers a polemical elegy to the borough’s bygone downtown neighborhood. “We want to disrupt and demystify how change happens,” Anderson said in a Q & A after the screening.

“We’re using films about architecture and design to stimulate conversation,” said the indefatigable Bergman. “The goal of the festival is really to spark dialogue across the board, among professionals and nonprofessionals. If that’s happening, then we’re succeeding.”

The Books

The festival also included several panel discussions on burgeoning topics ranging from gentrification to preservation—including a session with actress Kelly Lynch, an ardent preservationist and mid-century modern architecture buff. In conjunction with the screening of The Oyler House: Richard Neutra’s Desert Retreat (2012), the LA-based actress spoke about her stewardship over such gems as the Oyler House, Neutra’s famed desert retreat, and John Lautner’s Harvey House in Beverly Hills.

If you missed the New York event, mark your calendar for the Architecture and Design Festival’s national tour. The Architecture and Design Festival travels to Los Angeles on March 12-16, 2014 and Chicago on April 24-28, 2014. One of the most memorable selections, The Human Scale, is also on an extended run at New York’s IFC Center through October 24. For detailed information on all the films shown at the festival, including future screenings, visit the ADFF New York website.

comments powered by Disqus