Archtober Preview

Archtober Preview

October in New York is a particularly nostalgic time of year, as the summer weather becomes a hazy nostalgia and lattes all over the city become pumpkin-spiced. It’s also a perfect time to put on a sweater and venture out to some of the city’s newest and notable buildings. The Archtober festival, now in its fifth year, was conceived with an aim to “raise the public’s design IQ,” and offers up unique exhibition openings, film screenings, and building tours with a kind of refreshing naiveté. Aside from the irresistible homophony of Arch/Oct-ober, the festival premieres a number of buildings and spaces otherwise closed to the public that makes New York such a mecca not only for architects and designers but anyone with the slightest interest in their spatial surroundings.

Archtober’s affiliate programs are the Architecture & Design Film Festival, Open House New York, and the respective borough chapters of the American Institute of Architects in New York—greatly aided by the presence of the Center for Architecture—to name but a few of the festival’s partner organizations.

Here are some particular highlights from the festival’s programming, including lectures, exhibitions, building tours, films, conferences, discussions and other special events:

The 7th Annual Architecture and Design Film Festival promises a number of exclusive screenings of feature length and short films. Some tend toward the biographical, like David Adjaye: Collaborations (2015) and Ove Arup: The Philosopher Engineer (2013). Other films treat particular buildings themselves as the subject of inquiry, including BARBICANIA (2014) about The Barbican in London by the inimitable and playful Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine, and Futuro – A New Stance for Tomorrow (1998) about the rise and fall of a plastic space-age prototype house. There is a rare screening of The Land of Many Palaces (2014), which follows a Chinese government official whose job is to convince farmers that their lives will be better off by moving to the new city of Ordos, as part of the Chinese governments plans to re-locate 250 million farmers to cities over the next twenty years.

If you want to watch pure visually stunning videography, make sure to catch Il Capo (2010), in which “Italian artist and filmmaker Yuri Ancarani captures the otherworldly landscape of a marble quarry in the Apuan Alps of northwest Italy.” The festival also serves up some timely blasts from the past, like Spaces: the Architecture of Paul Rudolph (1983), which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short, hopefully adding some much-needed historical context to recent debates about the preservation of Brutalist concrete buildings.

If you’re familiar with Gottfried Böhm’s enigmatic concrete landform Pilgrimage Church of Mary in Neviges, Germany (and even if you’re not), then you won’t want to miss the moving film about the 1986 Pritzker Prize laureate, his wife Elisabeth, and their architect children titled Concrete Love – The Böhm Family (2014). While you enjoy the 20th century’s breakout medium, you can experience what promises to be the 21st century’s form of narrative entertainment in the Azimyth Immersive Lounge, showcasing design-driven developments in virtual and augmented reality. It’s the future!

New York will host some exciting lectures, most notably on October 12th by Chicago-based architect Jeanne Gang, and Umberto Napolitano of Paris-based LAN architecture on October 5th, both at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. With any luck Napolitano may give a sneak peek of “27,” a fascinating collaborative film project documenting 27 contemporary European architects practicing today, in addition to his firm’s imaginative work. Another not-to-be missed lecture will be English designer Thomas Heatherwick’s on October 8 in the Great Hall at Cooper Union, and make sure to make the trek to the Cooper Hewitt’s current exhibition

October 6–Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitor Center, Entry Building, 990 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn by WEISS/MANFREDI

October 7–Mercedes House @ 550 West 54th Street by TEN Arquitectos
October 8–NYCHA Red Hook West Urban Farm – Thread Collective
October 10–Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle @ 94 Greenwich Avenue by Steven Holl Architects
October 14–the classic Flatiron Building @ 175 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan by Daniel Burnham, completed 5 years after another financial crisis in 1897

October 16–Goethe-Institut New York, 30 Irving Place, Manhattan by KARO ARCHITECTS
October 23–The new home of St. Mark’s Bookshop @136 East 3rd Street, by Clouds Architecture Office
October 25–Or the newly-renovated Van Alen Institute @ 30 West 22nd Street, Manhattan by Collective-LOK

If you can’t attend a tour, you can still listen to behind-the-scenes Building of the Day podcasts online by visiting

For those aficionados who may have already seen many of these buildings during Archtober in previous years, there are a few event highlights this year that I know I won’t miss. The Guggenheim Museum continues the noble and much-needed tradition of Wikipedia edit-a-thons for under-represented figures, and on October 15th the public is invited to contribute to the theme of “Women in Architecture.” You can also channel your inner child and go to “Bricks and Beverages: Professionals play with Legos,” on Friday, October 16th at the Center for Architecture.

But you might say: I’m too busy to go to x, y, and z, or I don’t live in New York! If this were the first edition of Archtober in 2010 I would say: don’t be so lazy! But for the 5th annual Archtober, all of your FOMO can be satiated by browsing #Archtober on Instagram.