Encapsulating how architects work with residents and civic leaders to design sustainable and equitable communities within a 1:30-to-3-minute documentary is no easy feat. Yet, architecture enthusiasts nationwide rose to the occasion submitting extraordinary films to the 2022 AIA Film Challenge, illustrating how architects drive positive change through the power of design.
This year’s competition grossed 65 submissions, of which 32 qualified, and ten finalists were selected. After careful deliberation, the esteemed panel of judges – made up of architects and film professionals – decided the Grand Prize Winner, Runner Up, and Third Place Winner, in addition to the People’s Choice Award, a result of public voting.
The ask was simple: Produce films about architects working with civic leaders to design sustainable and equitable communities. The responses were profound.
The themes woven into the productions are not merely in step with the values and mission of AIA but propound the need for architectural projects that help the planet and improve life for all people. The narratives promote the benefits of repurposing old buildings, center the experiences of impacted communities, and stress the significance of history and storytelling by diverse communities.
Grand Prize Winner
The Grand Prize Winner, “a dream starts here” by filmmakers, Jordan Gray and Nick Rossitch, takes viewers to Calhoun Falls, SC, “a small, overlooked town of 1,800, that has been hopeful for change.”
Years following a devastating population decline, LaSean Tutt, founder of Dreams with Open Arms and owner of a dilapidating downtown building, partnered with Hanbury and the Clemson School of Architecture to develop a plan to reimagine her space into a community center that catalyzes and radiates change throughout Calhoun Falls.
“An amazing story of a partnership with architects and students in architecture,” one judge purports. “[This film] demonstrates the need and potential for this project and leaves me hopeful that it will be realized someday.”
Shifting from what is possible to what was realized, the Runner Up, “Betances Residence, Bronx, NY,” by filmmaker Bilyana Dimitrova, praises the contribution of Breaking Ground and COOKFOX Architects for their role in building the 152-unit building housing and supporting formerly homeless and low-income seniors.
The need for permanence in actualizing well-being and incorporating design elements that heighten one’s sense of permanence is excellently addressed within this 3-minute film. “Safety to me is a big thing, and I finally got a key,” expresses Edward Borrero, a resident of Betances, in appreciation of his new home.
One judge states, “[The] personal stories featured were very impactful. While the building aesthetic conveys a higher form of architecture – the story within responds to one of our most basic human needs – affordable housing.”
The universal themes within these films unite us all, from a need to sustain dwindling communities to supporting those marginalized to the need to amplify the voices often omitted from public discourse. The documentary placing third is no exception.
The MHA (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara) Interpretive Center in New Town, North Dakota, portrayed in “Regenerative Architecture on the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation,” is a cultural hub for the indigenous tribes residing along the Missouri River. The site allows the MHA Nation to repatriate and display pilfered historical artifacts, features a recording studio for elders to share stories in their native languages, and includes an earth lodge connecting present-day descendants to their ancestral past.
“Belonging, healing, and identity” is how one judge summarized the significance of the film created by Monica Hendrickson.
Even the public seemed to align regarding important themes, as the People’s Choice winner, “The Change We Seek,” received more than 8K votes, surpassing most submissions by thousands.
Based in Boston, Massachusetts, and submitted by Darguin Fortuna, “The Change We Seek” opens by honing the disturbing reality of a homogeneous profession. To address this concern, Principals of Flow Design Inc. examined the pipeline to licensure and intervened by engaging middle, high school, and college students, exposing them to career paths, and outlining the support available to those interested in architecture.
The AIA Film Challenge speaks to our collective passion for thoughtful design and the need for a society built sustainably and equitably. The stories shared and the projects highlighted demonstrate the progress architects working with their communities have made and the importance of continuing this work in the built environment.
2022 AIA Film Challenge Judges
Stewart Hicks- associate professor of architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and an associate dean of the College of Architecture Design and the Arts. Learn more >
Mark Levine, FAIA– principal / vice president and Atlanta office leader at LS3P, a regional SE architecture, interiors, and planning firm. Learn more >
Jason Pugh, AIA– 2021-2022 president of the National Organization of Minority Architects. He is a principal architect and urban designer at Gensler’s Chicago office. Learn more >
Elisabeth Sereda– accomplished writer and journalist and a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association who votes for the Golden Globes. Learn more >
Asia Taylor- filmmaker and editor with her own production company, TaylorLane Creative, which visualizes human stories and creates digital experiences that encourage audiences to act. Learn more >