2016 I Look Up Film Challenge Winner: Arch 335 – Rebuilding Medcamps

We’re excited to share the stories behind the winning film in our 2016 I Look Up Film Challenge! Learn more about the Grand Prize Winner,  Arch 335: Rebuilding Medcamps.

Grand Prize Winner: Arch 335: Rebuilding Medcamps

Team: Brad Deal, Architect & Filmmaker; Robert Brooks, Architect

Location: Choudrant, Louisiana


AIA: What compelled you to tell the story you did?

Brad Deal: When I saw the prompt of the Film challenge this year “architecture as a solution” it seemed like the perfect fit and almost a serendipitous calling to share our work at Medcamps. Since we began, we’ve wanted to find an outlet to attempt to publish this work, but had always managed to be pulled away by the next project in cue. When I saw the announcement, I watched and re-watched the incredible video documenting the work of the Rural studio until I convinced myself that what we were doing out here in the pine trees of north Louisiana warranted a similarly genuine and meaningful summary. So we gave it a shot.

Robert Brooks: We are mere messengers of the work, and as such, the story holds within it truths that are simultaneously germane to our chosen profession yet universal to the human condition. A story that must be made anew, in our time, and with our voice. In the words of architect Lebbeus Woods at Sci-Arc in 1998  “If ideas were immortal, we wouldn’t have anything to do. Because we die, and because knowledge can’t be transferred directly, each person has to reinvent the form of ideas all over again. Our social existence is about helping each other to do just that.”


AIA: How, if in any way, did this film challenge change your perception of architecture?

BD: I’m constantly persuading the people around me, architecture students, to open their eyes to see the built environment and all of its opportunities in new ways. Working on the film allowed me to understand other’s perception of the work of our studio. In 2013, when I began the process of rebooting the very design build program that shaped the trajectory of my own career, I had lofty, idealistic goals of transforming the community around me while teaching my students to aspire to do the same in their work. This goal led us to partner with Medcamps and until this summer, my partner in this effort, Robert Brooks and I had not been able put much effort into sharing this work with a larger audience. Making the film allowed us to do just that. The overwhelmingly positive response to it has humbled and inspired us to strengthen and continue our efforts.

RB: The film gave a salient and powerful voice to a few “truths” that many architects and architecture students already believe to their core: 1) architecture and design matters. 2) architecture can be humble yet mighty. 3) architecture can represent that which we aspire to, or should aspire to, as a compassionate and hopeful people.


Still from Arch 335: Rebuilding Medcamps
Screen shot from Arch 355: Medcamps

AIA: As an architect, what has been your experience collaborating with the other on this project?

RB: Collaboration is at the core of my professional and personal research. All of us have something valuable to offer any given process, but it’s when we can build on those strengths with others that work can become meaningful. The design/build work showcased within the film proves that collaboration can yield tremendous result, and the film itself is a testament to process of creative leadership and spirited collaboration.

BD: Like many designers, I’ve been an amateur photographer for many years. When I began teaching design build studios, my first introductory lecture included several inspirational videos from the Oyler Wu collaborative’s website. These videos prompted our studio to attempt to create similar video diaries of our efforts. Making those music video project summaries for the past three summers was my starting point for this film, but I was truly intimidated by the time and technical expertise required to produce a polished documentary regardless of its length.

Shortly before I began filming I found out that Medcamps had hired a Louisiana Tech engineering student and freelance videographer, Michael Tolar, to produce a promotional video for the camp. I hired Michael to help me film interviews and we ended up exchanging B-roll footage in order to help one another complete our projects. Without the assistance, generosity and encouragement of these collaborators along with my wife, colleagues and former students the task of creating the film would have been nearly impossible.

Thank you to Brad Deal and Robert Brooks for sharing their story.  View all of the winners here.