23 Best Architecture Documentaries & Movies

A list of our favorite architecture movies and documentaries, that every architect and student should watch...

Here we present a full list of our favorite, and what we consider to be the best Architecture documentaries and movies, that every architect and student should watch.

These architecture documentaries and movies cover a broad range of architectural subjects, such as case study houses and buildings, biographies, an inside look into practice life, construction techniques, materiality and stunning architectural photography from Julius Shulman.    

Whether you are a student, a design enthusiast, or simply curious about the world of architecture, movies and documentaries offer an engaging and informative way to explore this fascinating field.

We’ve compiled a list of the best architecture documentaries, movies, and films that showcase the creativity, innovation, and impact of architecture across different time periods and regions. From classic Hollywood films to thought-provoking documentaries, these films offer insights into the minds of visionary architects and their unique approach to designing the spaces we inhabit.

For a deeper synopsis and reader reviews of these best architecture documentaries and movies, visit IMDb’s “Movies for Architects” list and architizer’s “A Brief History Of Modern Architecture Through Movies” before buying.

Best Architecture Documentaries

18 of the best architecture documentaries and movies every architect and student should watch…

  1. Frank Lloyd Wright

    Wright and Olgivanna began the Taliesin Fellowship, taking on apprentices. Fallingwater brought him new acclaim for its modern principles and materials integrated with the landscape. Usonian houses were high-quality, affordable housing for mass production.



    Check Price on Amazon

    If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

  2. Antonio Gaudi (The Criterion Collection)

    Catalan architect Antonio Gaudí (1852 1926) designed some of the world s most astonishing buildings, interiors, and parks; Japanese director Hiroshi Teshigahara constructed some of the most aesthetically audacious films of the second half of the twentieth century. Here, their artistry melds in a unique, enthralling cinematic experience.

    Check Price on Amazon

    If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

  3. Eames: The Architect and the Painter

    The husband-and-wife team of Charles and Ray Eames are widely regarded as America's most important designers. Perhaps best remembered for their mid-century plywood and fiberglass furniture, the Eames Office also created a mindbending variety of other products, from splints for wounded military during World War II, to photography, interiors, multi-media exhibits, graphics, games, films and toys.

    Check Price on Amazon

    If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

  4. First Person Singular: I.M. Pei

    Architect I.M. Pei leads viewers through some of his more famous creations such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Miho Museum, the National Gallery of Art, and the Bank of China. He also speaks candidly about his life, his early years in China, his schooling at both Harvard and MIT, and his approach to architecture and design.

    Check Price on Amazon

    If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

  5. My Architect: A Son's Journey

    A riveting tale of love, art, betrayal and forgiveness -- in which the illegitimate son of a legendary architect undertakes a worldwide exploration to discover and understand his father's and the personal choices he made.


    Check Price on Amazon

    If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

  6. Helvetica

    Helvetica encompasses the worlds of design, advertising, psychology, and communication, and invites us to take a second look at the thousands of words we see every day.


    Check Price on Amazon

    If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

  7. Architectures vol. 10

    The series Architectures presents a privileged and unprecedented look at the work of superstar architects and some of their most brilliant creations.

    Check Price on Amazon

    If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

  8. Philip Johnson: Diary of an Eccentric Architect

    "My place in New Canaan is...a diary of an eccentric architect." Thus begins a fascinating look into the mind of one of our most creative and significant architects. Philip Johnson was always on the forefront of stylistic change, and his property in New Canaan, Connecticut, is a kind of...

    Check Price on Amazon

    If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

  9. Modern Tide: Midcentury Architecture on Long Island

    Midcentury Architecture on Long Island explores the work of the region's best postwar architects and designers, including Albert Frey, Wallace Harrison, Herbert Beckhard, Frank Lloyd Wright, Horace Gifford, Edward Durrell Stone, Marcel Breuer, Andrew Geller, Philip Johnson, Charles Gwathmey...

    Check Price on Amazon

    If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

  10. Louis Sullivan: the Struggle for American Architecture

    Chicago architect Louis Sullivan's rapid rise to fame, tragic decline, and the ultimate triumph of his creative spirit.

    Check Price on Amazon

    If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

  11. Built On Narrow Land

    A glimpse into a brief period of time in Cape Cod when Bauhaus architecture was married to seaside New England style.

    Check Price on Amazon

    If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

  12. Infinite Space - John Lautner

    The houses of John Lautner are among the most exciting elements of American architecture. Enclosed to an unconditional beauty ideals, their spaces are infinite - from the perspective of the inhabitants, for Lautner's architecture is made for man.

    Check Price on Amazon

    If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

  13. Visual Acoustics: Julius Shulman

    Visual Acoustics celebrates the life and career of Julius Shulman, the world's greatest architectural photographer, whose images brought modern architecture to the American mainstream.

    Check Price on Amazon

    If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

  14. How Much Does Your Building Weigh...

    Elegant and stylish. This rich, revealing documentary about world-renowned, prolific British architect Norman Foster - as productive and creative as he is inspirational - could attract legions of young people to the profession just as it enlightens older "civilians" to the beauty and function of architecture in a new, more demanding century.

    Check Price on Amazon

    If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

  15. Sketches of Frank Gehry

    Directed by his longtime friend and supporter, Academy Award(r)-winner Sydney Pollack (1985 Best Director, Out of Africa), the fascinating SKETCHES OF FRANK GEHRY looks inside the mind of the most acclaimed and controversial architect of the twenty-first century.

    Check Price on Amazon

    If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

  16. American Masters: Eero Saarinen

    American Masters — Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future explores the life and visionary work of Finnish-American modernist architectural giant Eero Saarinen (1910-1961).

    Check Price on Amazon

    If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

  17. Architectures (Vol. 1-5) - 5-DVD Box Set

    The first five volumes of the documentary series that looks at the work of superstar architects and some of their most renowned creations. The films included across the volumes are: 'The Dessau Bauhaus By Walter Gropius', 'The Siza School', 'Family Lodgings in Guise', 'Nemausus 1'

    Check Price on Amazon

    If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Need more? …here are a few more of the best architecture documentaries

Aside from the list above, the below list provides even more visual delights!

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth

Minoru Yamasaki, the architect of the Pruitt-Igoe towers in St. Louis, Missouri, designed them as glowing examples of Corbusian rationalism in 1954. They were seen as symbols of hope for the lower-class residents and a promise to renew the cities through Modernist architecture.

However, within just two decades, the towers turned into breeding grounds for violence and crime, leading to their spectacular demolition. This event became an emblem of Modernism’s failure and social housing.

Nonetheless, a thought-provoking documentary challenges this common narrative by providing an extensive and poignant exploration of Pruitt-Igoe’s successes and failures. The film illustrates what this housing project can teach us about America itself.

Urbanized

By 2050, it is estimated that 75% of the world’s population will reside in urban areas. Gary Hustwit, known for his documentaries Helvetica and Objectified, continues his design trilogy with Urbanized, which explores the design of cities.

In this documentary, Hustwit travels to 40 different locations to interview experts in the field, including renowned architects such as Foster, Koolhaas, and Niemeyer, to gain insights into the design of urban centers.

Koolhaas Houselife

Koolhaas Houselife is the inaugural project of the Living Architectures series, showcasing a contemporary architectural masterpiece designed by Rem Koolhaas.

Through the eyes of Guadalupe Acedo, the housekeeper, and other caretakers of the building, the film intimately portrays the daily routines and stories of the house. The documentary is a poignant, amusing, and emotional portrayal of the house’s character.

The Infinite Happiness

In their documentary, Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine share their personal experience of living in Bjarke Ingels Group’s “8 House” for about a month, presenting a subjective account of life within this experiment of a “vertical village.” Structured like a diary, the film weaves together a series of personal stories that are all linked by their relationship to the building.

In a manner reminiscent of building blocks, the documentary constructs a human map that offers an intimate and inner perspective on the structure, allowing the viewer to discover the building through a unique and personal lens.

BIG TIME

Bjarke Ingels, ahead of the Danish BIG office, is recognized as one of the most significant and promising figures in contemporary architecture. With a restless and innovative spirit, Ingels constantly seeks new challenges and endeavors to overcome them, making him a highly creative and inspiring force in the industry.

This documentary offers a professional and personal portrayal of Ingels, showcasing his remarkable profile and highlighting his notable achievements.

FAQ’s about the best architecture documentaries

What are the best architecture documentaries on Netflix?

There are several architecture documentaries available on Netflix that are worth watching. Here are a few of the best:

  1. “Abstract: The Art of Design” – This documentary series explores the work of some of the most innovative designers in various fields, including architecture. Season 2 features an episode on architect Bjarke Ingels, providing a fascinating insight into his creative process and design philosophy.
  2. “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things” – While not specifically about architecture, this documentary explores the minimalist movement and its impact on various aspects of life, including architecture. It features interviews with architects such as John Pawson, who discusses the relationship between architecture and minimalism.
  3. “Exhibition on Screen: The Curious World of Hieronymus Bosch” – While this documentary is primarily about the work of the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch, it also explores the architecture of his time and the way it influenced his art.
  4. “The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975” – This documentary explores the civil rights movement in the United States during the late 1960s and early 1970s. While not specifically about architecture, it features footage of several notable architects, including Buckminster Fuller and Le Corbusier.
  5. “Eames: The Architect and the Painter” – This documentary explores the lives and work of Charles and Ray Eames, two of the most influential designers of the 20th century. While they are primarily known for their furniture design, they also made significant contributions to architecture and graphic design.

What are the best movies for architecture students?

There are many great movies that architecture students can watch to gain inspiration (some of which are included in the above list of “best architecture documentaries”), insights, and learn about the history of architecture. Here are some of the best movies for architecture students:

  1. “My Architect” (2003) – A documentary film by Nathaniel Kahn about his father, Louis Kahn, who is considered one of the greatest modernist architects of the 20th century.
  2. “The Fountainhead” (1949) – Based on Ayn Rand’s novel, the movie follows the story of an uncompromising architect named Howard Roark who struggles to maintain his artistic integrity in a world that wants him to conform.
  3. “The Belly of an Architect” (1987) – A movie by Peter Greenaway about an American architect working in Rome, struggling with his personal life and his upcoming exhibit at the Italian city.
  4. “Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman” (2008) – A documentary film about the life and work of the photographer Julius Shulman, who is known for his iconic images of modernist architecture.
  5. “The Pruitt-Igoe Myth” (2011) – A documentary film by Chad Freidrichs that explores the history and eventual demise of the Pruitt-Igoe housing complex in St. Louis, Missouri, which has become an emblem of modernist architecture’s perceived failure.
  6. “Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio” (2010) – A documentary film about Samuel Mockbee and his efforts to teach his students at Auburn University to use design as a tool for social change.
  7. “The Architecture of Doom” (1989) – A documentary film about the use of architecture and design as propaganda by the Nazi party during World War II.

These movies offer a diverse range of perspectives on architecture, from the personal struggles of individual architects to the social and political implications of architecture and design.

Can an architects make movies?

While an architect’s primary training and expertise are in the design and construction of buildings and structures, there is no reason why an architect cannot make movies. Like any creative pursuit, making movies requires a variety of skills, including storytelling, visual composition, and technical knowledge of filming and editing.

While some architects may not have these skills, many architects have a strong sense of visual composition and aesthetics, which can be applied to the creation of films. Additionally, many architects have experience working with 3D modeling and rendering software, which can be useful for creating visual effects and animating objects.

In fact, there are examples of architects who have successfully made the transition to filmmaking. For instance, Rem Koolhaas, a Dutch architect, directed a documentary film called “REM” about his work and ideas. Similarly, Bjarke Ingels, a Danish architect, has directed a short film called “My Playground,” which explores the relationship between urban environments and parkour.

Ultimately, while an architect may not have traditional training in filmmaking, their skills and creativity can certainly be applied to the craft, and with the right training and resources, an architect can certainly make movies.

How do filmmakers use architecture in film?

Filmmakers often use architecture in their films to create a sense of place, to convey a particular mood or tone, or to advance the story. Here are a few ways filmmakers use architecture in film:

  1. Setting the Scene: One of the primary uses of architecture in film is to set the scene and create a sense of place. Filmmakers often use iconic buildings or landmarks to establish the location and provide a sense of context for the story.
  2. Creating Atmosphere: Architecture can also be used to create a particular mood or atmosphere in a film. For example, a gothic cathedral might be used to create a sense of foreboding or mystery, while a sleek modernist building might convey a sense of sophistication or cool detachment.
  3. Symbolism and Metaphor: Filmmakers often use architecture as a symbolic or metaphorical element in their films. For example, a crumbling old mansion might represent the decline of a wealthy family, while a glass skyscraper might symbolize the cold, impersonal nature of corporate power.
  4. Character Development: Architecture can also be used to develop characters in a film. For example, a character who lives in a small, cluttered apartment might be portrayed as messy and disorganized, while a character who lives in a sleek, minimalist space might be seen as more disciplined and focused.
  5. Visual Composition: Finally, architecture can be used to create striking visual compositions in film. Filmmakers often use the lines, angles, and forms of buildings to create visually interesting shots and add depth and dimension to their films.

Overall, architecture plays an important role in film, helping to create a sense of place, mood, and atmosphere, and contributing to the visual style and storytelling of a film.

Site Analysis Free Checklist

Free Site Analysis Checklist

Every design project begins with site analysis …start it with confidence for free!.

Leave a Reply

As seen on:

Unlock access to all our new and current products for life.