Architecture on film

23 April 2021

HOME is proud to be a gold sponsor of the Resene Architecture and Design Film Festival 2021. 

We chat with Clare Buchanan, co-curator of the Resene Architecture and Design Film Festival 2021, to explore the highlights, ideas, and most unforgettable moments from this year’s programme.

Clare Buchanan, co-curator of the Resene Architecture and Design Film Festival

HOME Magazine: The festival is turning 10; congratulations! How will you be revisiting the past decade, and do you predict it will turn out to be a rebellious teenager?

Clare Buchanan (CB): We’re so grateful for the support we’ve received over the past decade, especially from our loyal sponsors and audience. This year, co-curator Akiko Kurematsu and I have brought back a collection of some of our favourite films from the past 10 years — films you simply must watch or, if you’ve already seen them, happily enjoy again! I think the festival will always rebel a little bit — we do this by selecting quality films about wide-ranging themes, beyond architecture. We include design — in a multitude of applications — photography, art, urban planning, gardening, and the natural environment. Also, in this digital age, we’re still big champions of film. We believe our film-makers work hard to craft something that’s meant to be experienced on the big screen — not on 13-inch.

HM: What makes a great architecture film?

CB: Beautiful storytelling, cinematography, and editing working beautifully together. You really notice when you’re invited to explore the spaces and places being documented, and not rushed along. Also context: the period, location, or political situation in which a film is set adds another dimension. Seeing the world through the eyes of someone from another generation, from another corner of the world, is endlessly fascinating.

City Dreamers Movie Poster

HM: So … no car chases or boy-meets-girl stuff here? 

CB: Not exactly. But relationships are everything, and our  subjects are creative, often highly emotional people. The  drama and tension between people — be they clients, wives, family — makes the story much more interesting  and brings a lasting emotional connection. 

HM: Did you notice any trends while selecting this year’s  programme?  

CB: It has been a challenge to source films made by or about  women, but this year we’re thrilled to have several. Aalto is directed by Virpi Suutari, so we get to hear a strong female perspective. We also have Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint; City Dreamers; Women of the Bauhaus; and  Charlotte Perriand: Pioneer in the Art of Living. Reframing  history to include the work and influence of women is  certainly a recent and important theme. 

HM: Do you think the impact that the pandemic has had, and  will continue to have, on architecture/design is already making its way into film?  

CB: One impact is that a lot of films were not able to be made. How spaces make us feel, how they can enrich us emotionally, and the importance of function have been central ideas for good architects for eons. The biggest impact is [that] now, with many months at home, these themes have become quite tangibly understood by  everyone and anyone. I think we have all become more  mindful of these concepts, and hopefully it’s increased  the average person’s appreciation for good design and  how much it can improve life.

Show Me The Picture: The Story of Jim Marshall Movie Poster

Here are Buchanan’s picks for the best films from this year’s programme: 

For newcomers to architecture: Modern Tide: Midcentury Architecture on Long Island 

Back in the ’50s, Long Island, New York, used to be empty farmland, until the artists, architects, and writers moved in. This is a story of how American creatives began to build inexpensive, and very experimental, pieces of holiday-home architecture, which would later turn the region into a destination for the rich and famous.

For a couple on a first date: Show Me The picture: The Story of Jim Marshall

From Miles to the Stones, from The Beatles to Johnny Cash: fast-talking, fast-shooting, and fast-living Jim Marshall photographed almost anyone who was anyone in the music industry during the ’60s and ’70s. This documentary looks at the man with the nervous energy who redefined music photography. 

The social/politically conscious: George Nakashima: Woodworker 

One of the finest woodworkers of all time, George Nakashima had a deep, philosophical, and emotional connection to nature. This film gives viewers a glimpse of the man and his thinking, and the iconic furniture he created.

For someone wanting to revisit the festival’s past decade: Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw The Future

Finnish-American architecture icon Eero Saarinen designed technically challenging structures that were sculptural and gravity defying. This film follows Eero’s son, Eric, as he tries to understand the father that he hardly knew through the buildings everyone seems to love.

Tokyo Ride Movie Poster

Home Recommends:


This film puts the audience in the passenger seat of a Japanese architect’s classic car as he meanders through Tokyo.

Shot in black and white, the film is an unscripted road trip in architect Ryue Nishizawa’s vintage Alfa Romeo as he takes us through some of his favourite spots, to meet his favourite people and to talk about architecture, city building, life, and beyond.

In this era of limited international travel, this film acts as a delightful surrogate, an escapist and hugely insightful tour of one of the world’s greatest urban centres by one of its most passionate advocates.


The ‘Matilda effect’ is a term used to describe the long-standing practice of male scientists taking all the credit for work in which women  colleagues played crucial, if not pivotal, roles.  

In part, this film highlights the fact that Matilda is also still alive and well in the creative fields. Aalto is a poignant glimpse at the life and seminal work of architect and product  designer Alvar Aalto — partly responsible for our fascination with Scandinavian design —  not just through his most celebrated objects and buildings but also through the untold stories of Alvar’s companions: Aino Aalto and  later Elissa.  

The film is part love letter between a creative couple, part biography, and part insight into the sometimes-turbulent  relationship between two incredibly talented individuals.

Find out more about the Resene Architecture and Design Film Festival 2021. 

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