[Editor’s note: As of December 21, the in-person Architecture & Design Film Festival screenings referenced below have been postponed indefinitely in light of the recent surge of COVID cases across the United States.
“We regret that we have to postpone the ADFF:DC but feel it is in the best interest for the health of our community,” said Aileen Fuchs, president and executive director of the National Building Museum. “ We want as many people as possible to experience these extraordinary films that spotlight innovation, leadership and critical community issues — like design and its impact on sustainability and social equity — that are signature topics in the Museum’s exhibitions and programming. We will reschedule once we feel it is safe to gather in person, hopefully in the spring.”]
From January 6 to 8, 2022, the Architecture & Design Film Festival (ADFF) will return to the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., presenting a worldwide survey of Indigenous architects, climate initiatives, looks behind the curtain to firm-side stories, and films that tie into the museum’s ongoing The Wall/El Muro: What is a Border Wall? exhibition.
After moving wholly online in 2020 as a pandemic precaution and executing a hybrid structure for the 2021 season for the same reason, the ADFF:DC will mark a return to the full, in-person festival at the recently reopened National Building Museum. As the museum noted in its festival announcement, this is the first full-length ADFF to run in the United States since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic (in-person events ran in Toronto and Vancouver this year).
“We are excited to continue our partnership with ADFF and to host this wonderful and unique film festival,” said Aileen Fuchs, president and executive director of the National Building Museum, in the announcement. “Our focus is to offer engaging, immersive programming that inspires and educates about the world we design and build. This cultural partnership offers extraordinary films that spotlight innovation, leadership and critical community issues, like design and its impact on sustainability and social equity—signature topics in the Museum’s exhibitions and programming. And, it’s a great opportunity to have some fun with friends and family when it’s cold outside!”
As per usual, the subject matter across the 12 full-length and short films is as varied as the field itself. The festival will kick off on January 6 in the museum’s newly renovated Great Hall with Mau (2021), the first-ever documentary survey of designer Bruce Mau’s career and rise from graphic designer to major companies, to his eventual branching out to architecture and planning. Mau and his wife and business partner, Bisi Williams, will also be on hand for a live panel discussion and Q&A session after the screening.
In fact, the museum and ADFF will take advantage of the live format to offer a number of public Q&As with both film directors and subjects. The full schedule (and tickets) can be found on the National Building Museum’s website, but some of the standouts include:
- From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Friday, January 7, viewers can catch Beyond Zero (2021), the story of how Ray Anderson, the late founder and chairman of the world’s largest carpet tile company, Interface, built and honed the firm’s sustainability bona fides over 20 years. A live discussion with Beyond Zero director Nathan Havey and Lisa Conway, Interface’s vice-president of sustainability, will follow.
- From 9:00 to 10:15 p.m. that same night, the ADFF will pair a screening of Nathan Eddy’s Battleship Berlin (2021), capturing the fight to save Berlin’s endangered Mäusebunker, and Jim Stephenson’s What Does It Take to Make A Building? (2021), a portrait of architect Sarah Wigglesworth’s efforts to succeed in a male-dominated field while working to use architecture to better peoples’ lives.
- From 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 8, the museum will screen Mud Frontier: Architecture at the Borderlands (2021), which follows Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello’s attempts to construct the first 3D-printed adobe building in the U.S. Blending traditional pottery-making techniques from the American Southwest and new architectural technologies, the building was erected in Colorado as a potentially new housing typology that inherently uses very little embodied carbon. Rael and director Chris Guither will present a Q&A after the showing. Rael’s work, which frequently deals with and is sited on the U.S.-Mexico border, is also featured prominently in The Wall/El Muro: What is a Border Wall?, as the museum has installed the pink seesaw he and Virginia San Fratello deployed along the Ciudad Juárez-New Mexico border in 2019.
- Finally, from 7:45 to 9:30 p.m. that night, the museum will host the D.C. premiere of Another Kind of Knowledge – Portrait of Dorte Mandrup (2021). The film follows four years of conversations with Danish architect Dorte Mandrup, founder and creative director of the eponymous Copenhagen-based Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter A/S, as she digs into the cornerstones of her practice (“place, history, materiality and sculpture,” according to the directors Marc-Christoph Wagner and Simon Weyhe). Mandrup herself will also be in attendance to discuss the film and take questions after the screening.
Hosting the 2022 Architecture & Design Film Festival is part of the National Building Museum’s ongoing Spotlight on Design series, which seeks to amplify the voices of those in architecture, design, planning, and landscape architecture and bring them to the public.