Attention all film, architecture and architecture film buffs! This week marks the start of the seventh annual Architecture and Design Film Festival (ADFF). For six glorious days, from October 13th-18th, New Yorkers are invited to enjoy more than 30 feature-length and short films centered on, you guessed it, architecture and design. While many of you may be thinking that watching a two-plus hour movie about a building is a guaranteed snoozer, ADFF’s Kyle Bergman would most definitely argue otherwise. We recently caught up with the festival founder and architect who turned the once five-film gathering into a multi-city phenomenon that has captured the eyes, ears and hearts of not just design professionals, but folks from all walks of life looking to be inspired and moved by great cinema. Learn more about how the festival came to be and what’s in store for this year’s ADFF ahead.
**BONUS: 6sqft readers can enjoy special discount on tickets! Just enter the code “FLOOR” at check out.**
6sqft: What inspired you to start the Architecture and Design Film Festival?
Kyle: Before I was in architecture school, when I was trying to figure out what I was going to do, I was playing with the idea of doing some film making classes and some architecture classes. At the time I picked architecture, but ADFF has brought me back full circle to where I’m doing both.
In many ways the two fields are very similar, particularly how the work is produced. For me it just seemed like a natural fit. For example, even though you have a Richard Meier building, there are thousands of people who work on that. On a Scorsese film, the director is just one person at the top of a huge chain of people. The two industries are collaborative and they’re also both public because you do buildings, you do films, and they’re seen in the public. Architecture and film are also modes of storytelling. In film it’s more obvious, but a building also has a narrative; every decision you make, what brick you pick out or what area you’re going to use wood or steel, the scale and proportion…all of it, really.
I also think films are just a great way to increase the dialogue about a certain area and subject matter. As architects, we kind of talk to ourselves a lot all the time and film is a way to expand the conversation between the professional design community and a larger audience, which I think is good for everyone.
6sqft: How has the program changed since you started it in 2009?
Kyle: This is our seventh year. We preview more and more films each year, and I think that’s for a lot of reasons. I think people are seeing that because there’s this festival and other architecture and design film festivals out there in Europe and around the world, this is something to focus on. But I also think that there’s more and more good documentaries being made. So we have a wider range of films to choose from every year.
6sqft: Is there film you really look forward to screening this year?
Kyle: It’s hard to pick a favorite only because when you program a festival, it’s kind of like planning a meal for a lot of people. You have a lot of different films that kind of work for public interest. So there are no favorites.
Some of the highlights I would say include two by this couple called Beka, made up of Louise Lemoine and Ila Beka, and they’re about housing. One of them is called “The Infinite Happiness” which is our opening night film about the Bjarke Ingels project in Copenhagen named 8 Housing. Their other film is called “Barbicania.” They did that about two years ago about the Barbican Centre in London. Both are really interesting because they’re looking at architecture through how people use the spaces through a series of vignettes that together really give you a sense of what these buildings are like.
There’s also a great film called “Strange and Familiar” about the architecture on Fogo Island. It’s an amazing story about a small island off of Newfoundland in Canada and this woman who grew up there and came back many, many years later to help develop the island. It was struggling to become an international art center, but they did it by bringing in artists from around the world to inspire and be inspired by the people who live there. They had this great young Norwegian architect come and build these super modern buildings in this very rural, rustic landscape. It’s a wonderful story of community and architecture.
6sqft: We all experience architecture and it’s a facet of just about every part of our lives, but I think intellectually, it can be for many hard to approach. What can someone who knows nothing about architecture and design expect from the festival?
Kyle: We program this festival to be interesting, both for the design professionals and the non-professional and we’ve had so far almost a 50/50 split of people who come. So it’s really open to anyone. We try to focus on films that are talking about the creative process somehow. So you don’t have to know anything about design or architecture to enjoy these films because they’re human stories as well as design stories.
I think a great example of what I’m describing is “My Architect,” about Louis Kahn. What’s so great about that film is it’s really a son’s search for his father who just happens to be Louis Kahn and a great architect. But his father could have been a great golfer or he could have just been a school superintendent that nobody knew and it still would have been a good story because he’s searching for his father. And I think that’s why that had such a broad appeal, and we’re looking for films that have that. I think it’s really important for people to know that these films are for everybody and the dialogue of the discussion is so much richer and better when we have more people in the conversation.
As architects, it’s good for the design profession to have more and more people from all sorts of backgrounds thinking about architecture and design and to have a voice in how our built landscape is made. We showed this film a couple years ago called “My Brooklyn” and it’s about gentrification. But it was also a story about being active. The message was: This is happening. If you don’t like what’s happening, get involved.
6sqft: What’s your opinion on the state of architecture in New York City today? Do you think we’re moving in the right direction or is there too much of one thing, too little of another?
Kyle: There’s a lot of building going on and I think there’s good design happening in New York. I’d say New York is by far more design conscious now than it was 10 or 15 years ago. There’s more attention to design and detail. I mean something like the High Line would have never looked like that if it was designed 15 years ago in New York. It would have looked awful and it would have felt awful. Of course, there are a lot very expensive buildings going up but that’s an economic issue. From a design perspective, I think there’s a lot of inspiring stuff happening.
6sqft: Is there a building going up that you really like?
Kyle: I can’t wait until the Calatrava station opens. I know there’s a lot of controversy around that building but I think it’s destined to be an important building in New York. You know, everybody was hating on it for a little while for all sorts of reasons, but in five years I think that’s going to be a photographed, iconic building the way the Guggenheim is. I think there are a lot of good buildings on all sorts of levels and a lot of good, solid architecture happening all throughout the boroughs right now. America and New York have become more design conscious, and not just in architecture, but in fashion, food and everything. We’re getting to see the benefits of that now in what we build.
6sqft: Is there a New York building you’d like to see made into a movie?
Kyle: They all have stories. I think there are so many stories about buildings. It’s such a gigantic effort to get a building up. I think Culture Shed is a pretty cool story that’s happening right now. I know Hudson Yards is a little controversial, and who knows how that’s going to affect that part of Manhattan, but I think the Culture Shed building and ideas are really pretty powerful. I think the Lowline probably is going to be a fun story and possibly what Barry Diller and his group is doing with Pier 55. I think some of the early sketches by Thomas Heatherwick look super cool and super fun.
6sqft: Last question, do you plan on going into the film business, maybe producing or directing something?
Kyle: You know, I am toying with the ideas of making some films right now. It looks like way too much fun to not do it. Films are definitely on the horizon.
To learn more about the event and the see a schedule of the films that will be screening, visit ADFF’s official site here. 6sqft readers will also enjoy a special discount on tickets! Just enter the code “FLOOR” at check out.
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