Although visuality occupies a very important place in architecture and design, most documentaries are lacking in terms of imagery. Well, not on this list! If you want to be inspired, informed and also have a visual feast, you are at the right place. Let’s start!
1. Design Is One: The Vignellis (2012)
Directors: Kathy Brew, Roberto Guerra
Themes: Industrial Design, Interior Design, Graphic Design
This documentary brings us into the works and world of Massimo and Lella Vignelli, undoubtedly world’s most influential designers. Their work covers such a broad spectrum -from graphics to interiors to products and corporate identities-one could say their designs reached to everyone, even those who don’t know their names. This one is a gem, definitely check out!
2. John Berger The Ways of Seeing (1972)
Director: Michael Dibb (TV Series)
Themes: Art History, Painting, Photography
This 4 episode TV series is one of the most eye-opening (pun intended) documentaries about art and how we perceive them. In this revolutionary production, Berger presents an outstanding interpretation of the essences of painting, image reproduction and photography. The later book adaptation of the show influenced the popular understanding of art and the visual image. If you’re going to watch just one documentary from this list, this should be it.
3. Architecture of Infinity (2018)
Director: Christoph Schaub
Themes: Sacred Spaces, Spirituality, Religious Architecture
In this documentary, Schaub explores the spiritual qualities of architecture through the commentaries of architects Peter Zumthor, Peter Märkli and Álvaro Siza Vieira, the artists James Turrell and Cristina Iglesias and musician Jojo Mayer. It’s visually captivating and delivers a sensory experience for architecture enthusiasts. Worth watching just for the amazing works of Álvaro Siza Vieira and Peter Zumthor.
4. Eames the Architect and the Painter (2011)
Directors: Jason Cohn, Bill Jersey
Themes: Architecture and Art, Industrial Design, Design Culture
This movie showcases the relationship between art, industrial design and architecture through the works of most influential industrial designers and husband-and-wife duo Charles and Ray Eames. Documentary presents their unique point of view on art and design and how it contributed to their international success. So quirky and fun to watch.
5. Tadao Ando “From Emptiness to Infinity” (2013)
Director: Mathias Frick
Themes: Modern-Japanese Architecture, Spirituality in Architecture
This documentary explores the process and the spirituality of the works of Ando, the only architect to have won the discipline’s four most prestigious prizes: the Pritzker, Carlsberg, Praemium Imperiale, and Kyoto Prize. So inspirational and packed with amazing imagery of Ando’s architecture!
6. Helvetica (2007)
Director: Gary Hustwit
Themes: Typography, Visual Culture, Graphic Design
Imagine a font that is so popular that has a whole documentary made for it! The story behind the creation of Helvetica is so interesting and its international influences are so profound that this movie about one font drags you in. It provides a great understanding what’s happening behind the scenes in design, and makes you appreciate the effort put into designing the things we see and take for granted every day.
7. My Architect (2003)
Director: Nathaniel Kahn
Themes: Biography, Late-Modern Architecture, Monumental Architecture
My Architect is by far the most moving documentary on this list and my personal favorite. Through the exploration of Louis Kahn’s own son, this documentary takes you on a journey to reveal both the philosophy of Kahn’s architecture and the mysterious life of the man behind these monumental designs. Another documentary that focuses on Kahn’s work is called “Louis Kahn: Silence and Light”, it’s equally beautiful.
8. Grand Designs (1999-)
Presenter: Kevin McCloud
Themes: Tv Series, Residential Architecture, Homeowner-builders
Not a documentary but definitely a must-watch for architecture lovers! In this series, which currently has 22 seasons, the presenter Kevin McCloud follows homeowners as they build their dream house, focusing on their innovative design, energy efficiency, material use and building techniques. Especially its spin-off series Grand Designs: House of the Year has the most amazing house selection. Highly recommend!
9. KOCHUU – Japanese Architecture, Influence & Origin (2003)
Director: Jesper Wachtmeister
Themes: Modern-Japanese Architecture, Nordic Architecture
This film focuses on modern Japanese architecture, its impact on the Nordic building tradition and implementations of Japanese traditions in contemporary, high-tech buildings. KOCHUU features interviews Japanese and Scandinavian architects including Pritzker Prize winners Tadao Ando and Sverre Fehn, Toyo Ito, Kazuo Shinohara, Kristian Gullichsen and Juhani Pallasmaa. KOCHUU presents a compelling illustration of the simplistic aesthetics of Japanese architecture, and also provides amazing imagery of the best Japanese architecture.
10. Finding Vivian Maiers (2013)
Directors: John Maloof, Charlie Siskel
Themes: Mystery, Photography,
Let’s end with a documentary that is quite different from the others on this list. This award winning documentary is on the fascinating mystery of late Vivian Maier, a nanny whose belongings went to auction, which included hundreds of thousands of negatives and boxes of undeveloped rolls of film discovered by the director of this film. Her photography was so outstanding that she gained a reputation as one of the most successful street photographers after her death. A captivating mystery full with amazing photography.
Hope you liked this list of interesting documentaries we have chosen for you! Which documentary will be added to your must-watch list? Please let us know in the comments. Until next time!