Meet the Contestants, Part 1: I look Up Film Challenge Behind-the-Scenes

The third annual I Look Up Film Challenge is well underway, with final film submissions due this Sunday. Teams across the country have been hard at work using the power of film to shine a light on stories of innovative design with positive social impact. As the challenge rolls on, let’s take a break from the action to meet some of our participants.

North Hollywood, CA


When I discovered the AIA sponsored I Look Up Film Challenge, and read this year’s prompt, I immediately felt compelled to enter. Our production company is in North Hollywood, California; a city whose homelessness crisis is visibly palpable, and… if you’ve lived in Los Angeles long enough, is also visibly getting worse. I spent some time homeless myself, as a young girl, and it’s a subject that I hold very dear to my heart. I knew immediately that I wanted to find an architect and/or architectural firm that was devoting some of it’s time pro- bono to helping develop infrastructure that might meet the needs of the homeless population.

Initially, we banked on “Skid Row,” the century-old homeless encampment located 5 miles from our production company, that is until I did a bit of research on homelessness statistics, in the nation. The results were stunning. Las Vegas…. with all of its opulent splendor and wealth, currently sits on a homeless youth population that is the largest in the country. The Las Vegas homeless population overall, per capita, ranks 5th in the U.S.

This production has been such an eye-opening and profound experience for us.

Austin, TX

Since 2017, the Texas Society of Architects has been producing short documentary films about the contributions of architecture to culture and society, in collaboration with Austin-based film production studio Lost Pines. When we saw that the AIA I Look Up Film Challenge was focusing on a theme of socially engaged architecture, we thought immediately of submitting a film about the low-income and social housing that bcWORKSHOP is doing throughout Texas.

Dumaine Babcock

Our specific interest was the work that the not-for-profit practice is doing in the Rio Grande Valley on the border with Mexico — one of the fastest growing regions in the United States and economically its most impoverished. We met in Brownsville, Texas, for a long weekend of discovery and filming. What we found was a group of idealistic and dedicated architects collaborating with local community groups and the delightfully good-humored people of the Rio Grande Valley to provide affordable, resilient, dignified housing — truly a “blueprint for better” — in the midst of a flood-prone region beset with the rising tensions of an international frontier that is increasingly being militarized.

Boston, MA

A well-loved but dilapidated historic landmark, the Bridgewater Academy Building has been used for many purposes since its original life as a school. Standing vacant and nearly demolished, new life has been breathed into the structure and it now stands prominently on the central square, adaptively reused as Town Offices. Now used daily by the community, The Academy Building does not just perform municipal functions – it is a symbol of resiliency and a catalyst for regrowth of a town steeped in history. We see the film challenge as a way to get the unique story out to an even greater audience, and hopefully encourage other communities to start a similar project.

Savannah, GA

“The Soul of Savannah” is a short expose on the local architects of the city that build its communities. This film shines a light on some of the most beautiful and popular spaces in Savannah and how they have shaped and supported the rich history and diverse future of this coastal city, bridging communities from the Gullah culture to contemporary society.

We are recent M.Arch graduates from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Having studied architecture for several years in this historic city, we have developed a unique understanding for the way communities grow and how they can be steered by supportive infrastructure. It is important for everyone, during their education and beyond, to travel and learn from other types of communities and histories. We are eager to share with the AIA what Savannah, a small southern town, is doing architecturally to support its communities – young and old.