Nov 065 min read

Top 12 Must-Watch Architecture Documentaries to Watch

written by

Kishan Thakkar

As an architect, you are mostly involved in the creative process. You can find inspiration in various ways, but documentaries and movies can impact your thinking, imagination and storytelling. You can get inspired by top architects and learn more about the history of architecture with these 12 must-watch documentaries for architects and students alike.

Visual storytelling mediums like these provide insights into the minds of visionary architects, the challenges they face and in addition to showcasing incredible architectural designs. 

While the observable ‘learnings’ may not be as tangible as a painting or sculpture, they can tell powerful stories and give insight into what it’s like to be an architect.

In this article, we've compiled a list of top architectural documentaries to keep your creative wheels turning.

Get some popcorn, a notepad and pen, and enjoy the show!


"My Architect: A Son's Journey" (2003)

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In this emotionally engaging documentary, filmmaker Nathaniel Kahn embarks on a personal journey to discover the legacy of his father, the legendary architect Louis Kahn. The film provides a poignant exploration of Louis Kahn's architectural achievements, including the Salk Institute and the Kimbell Art Museum. 

"My Architect" delves into the complexities of architecture and the relationship between architects and their creations, making it a must-watch for any aspiring architect.

"Eames: The Architect and The Painter" (2011)

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Charles and Ray Eames are iconic figures in the world of design and architecture. This captivating documentary provides an insight into the lives and work of the Eameses, showcasing their influential contributions to modern architecture and furniture design. 

Through interviews, archival footage, and insights from those who knew them best, the film captures the power of their collaborative and innovative spirit, inspiring architects to think outside the box.

"The Competition" (2013)documentaries for architecture students_kaarwan_4-min.pngIf you've ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of a high-profile architectural competition, this documentary offers an exclusive glimpse. 

"The Competition" follows five renowned architects as they compete to design the National Museum of Art in Andorra. It explores the creative process, the pressures of the competition, and the personal sacrifices architects make to pursue their visions. Young architects will find this film both enlightening and motivational.

"How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?" (2010)

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This compelling documentary focuses on the life and work of British architect Norman Foster. Known for his innovative and sustainable designs, Foster has left an indelible mark on the architectural landscape. 

The film takes viewers on a visual journey through his most iconic projects, from the Reichstag in Berlin to the Millau Viaduct in France. For architects interested in eco-friendly design and engineering marvels, this documentary is a must-watch.

"The Infinite Happiness" (2015)

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Get a glimpse of Copenhagen's "8 House," a visionary architectural project. As seen through the eyes of its residents, this documentary offers a rare glimpse into life inside the structure. 

Directed by Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine, "The Infinite Happiness" provides valuable insights into how architecture impacts people's lives, and it challenges architects to consider the human experience in their designs.

"Sketches of Frank Gehry" (2005)

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This intimate portrait of Frank Gehry, one of the most celebrated architects of our time, delves into the mind of the creative genius. 

Directed by Sydney Pollack, the documentary captures Gehry's design process, inspirations, and the development of iconic buildings like the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. 

Architects will find inspiration in Gehry's unorthodox approach to design and his strong commitment to artistic expression.

"Cathedrals of Culture" (2014)

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In this visually stunning documentary, six iconic buildings from around the world are brought to life through the eyes of six renowned directors. Each director offers a unique perspective on their chosen structure, including the Berlin Philharmonic and the National Library of Russia. 

"Cathedrals of Culture" celebrates the profound impact of architecture on culture and society, urging architects to consider the historical and social context of their designs.

"Antoni Gaudí" (1984)

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Antoni Gaudí's architectural masterpieces, such as the Sagrada Família and Park Güell, have captured the world's imagination for over a century. This documentary explores the life and works of the legendary Catalan architect, going deep into his eccentricities and spiritual connections with nature. For architects who wish to explore the fusion of art and architecture, "Antoni Gaudí" offers a captivating journey.

"Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio" (2010)

documentaries for architecture students_kaarwan_8-min.pngThis inspiring documentary follows the legacy of architect Samuel Mockbee, the founder of the Rural Studio in Alabama. 

The film showcases how Mockbee and his students utilized their architectural skills to create innovative, affordable, and sustainable housing for the underprivileged communities in the rural South. 

It reminds architects that design can be a force for positive change and social impact.

"Jørn Utzon: The Man & The Architect" (1999)

This film pays homage to the visionary architect behind the iconic Sydney Opera House, Jørn Utzon. Through interviews and stunning visuals, the documentary delves into Utzon's groundbreaking design process and the challenges he faced during the construction of the renowned structure. It will give architects valuable insights into the importance of perseverance and dedication in turning architectural dreams into reality.

"Abstract: The Art of Design" (2017 - Present)

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"Abstract" is a captivating Netflix documentary series that showcases the lives and work of some of the world's most innovative designers and architects. Each episode discusses the creative process of a different visionary, including architects like Bjarke Ingels and Neri Oxman. 

Through in-depth interviews and stunning visuals, the series provides a comprehensive understanding of the creative journey and the profound impact of design on our lives.

"Expo: Magic of the White City" (2005)

While not specifically focused on architecture, "Expo: Magic of the White City" offers a unique perspective at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. The fair's architectural marvels, including the Ferris Wheel and the Court of Honor, changed the landscape of public gatherings and inspired future architectural endeavors. You can watch this documentary on YouTube also.

Get Inspired!

Documentaries and movies offer architects a unique opportunity to gain insights, inspiration, and a deeper appreciation for our profession. 

The films on this list showcase the huge impact architects can have on the world and the importance of considering the human experience in design. 

Whether you seek inspiration from architectural legends or desire to witness the transformative power of design on communities, these documentaries are sure to engage your creative side.

For architects and designers seeking to enhance their skills and achieve their career goals, Kaarwan offers result-oriented workshops worldwide. Our practical-based lectures and affordable programs prepare architects and professionals for the real world. 

Visit Kaarwan's website now to explore the opportunities that await you!

Kishan Thakkar

Kishan Thakkar

A content writer with extensive experience in creating content for AEC & Real Estate industries. He is working as a freelance writer, assisting businesses in building a robust online presence through the power of writing and content strategies.