Architecture Meets Human Interest

Mosque Construction from Glenn Murcutt’s “Spirit of Place” / Photo: Tobias Titz

Architecture and Design Film Festival Comes to New York for its Ninth Year

As New Yorkers, we are surrounded by amazing buildings and beautiful design every day. But have you ever taken time to think about the stories behind the architecture in New York and beyond? If you do—or if you’d like to—you’ll find like-minded individuals at the Architecture and Design Film Festival (ADFF), taking place this November 1 – 5 at the Cinépolis Chelsea on 260 West 23rd Street. Not just industry professionals, but people from all walks of life will gather to celebrate the creative spirit of architecture and design.

Haley Lu Richardson and John Cho in “Columbus” Photo: Elisha Christian, Courtesy of Superlative Films/Depth of Field

“We are all affected by architecture and design every day, from where we go to school, to the roads we drive on,” says Festival Director Kyle Bergman. “Our houses… our lawns.. everything we do is connected to architecture.” Bergman aspires to help people make those connections and nurture their passion for design, and he sees storytelling as one of the most powerful ways to do so.

That’s why nine years ago he introduced the Architecture and Design Film Festival to a small Vermont college town, attracting 1,000 architects and film enthusiasts from as far as Montreal and New York to fill two theaters, a bar, and a café. Following its successful Vermont debut, the festival moved to Tribeca Cinemas in New York City.

“It was dynamic,” says Bergman. “We had packed houses, and it was very intimate because the theaters were only about 130 seats. The energy built year after year.”

Since then, the ADFF has expanded, with satellite events in cities like Seoul, Korea; New Orleans, and Chicago, culminating in the ninth edition of the anchor festival in New York City. Bergman sees the festival as an opportunity engage architects, designers, and a much wider audience of design-conscious consumers who love architecture and design.

“We have a broad definition of design,” he says. “It can mean products, landscaping, lighting, fashion, urban issues, environmental issues… anything that architects and designers think about.”

Regardless of the topic, all the films selected for the festival have one thing in common: a strong human connection. “They’re mostly documentaries, but they are all documentaries with a human story,” says Bergman.

He points to the film “Building Hope: The Maggie’s Centres,” as a key example. This beautifully shot film, directed by award-winning director Sarah Howitt, tells the story of Maggie’s, a group of cancer centers created by famed architects. These havens give people diagnosed with cancer a beautifully-designed, residential-style space to meet, gather, convene, and rest outside the sterile corridors and rooms of a hospital. “It’s an amazing story of the healing power of architecture and a fantastic human story,” says Bergman.

For the first time ever, the ADFF will also present a narrative film amidst the many documentaries. Columbus is the story of a Korean-born man who finds himself stuck in Columbus, Indiana, where his architect father is in a coma. The man meets a young woman who wants to stay in Columbus with her mother, a recovering addict, instead of pursuing her own dreams. “It’s a great human story with architecture at every corner,” says Bergman.

Bergman’s driving motivation is to present films that are interesting to design professionals as well as the general public, he explains, noting that there are more great films coming out about architecture and design than ever before. “There are enough good architecture and design films to program a full-length festival each year.”

Attendees can relax between films in a pop-up bar presented by Enlightenment Wines, Brooklyn’s first meadery, and its Bushwick-based cocktail bar, Honey’s. They can also browse the on-site pop-up bookstore or attend a number of panel discussions focused on the films shown.

“We’ve created an atmosphere for people to exchange ideas, talk, and hang out. That is pretty typical for film festivals, but we’ve created this environment in a very design-conscious way,” says Bergman.

For those who appreciate good design, want to learn more about it, or are simply interested in watching good films, the ADFF offers an expertly curated collection of entertainment amidst inviting meeting spaces.

“As an architect, I think people know a lot more about architecture than they think,” says Bergman. “They just have to tap into that.”

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By Dawn Allcot

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