“How Buildings Learn” A documentary on the evolution of buildings

Right–well, you may have noticed as of late I’ve been on an architecture kick for my consumable media consumption activities. I stumbled upon this 1997 BBC series that tracks how certain buildings adapt to future uses, and how others totally fail at future flexibility–most often the victims of egocentric architects and rigid expectations of future behavior of their users. Above is the first episode, “Flow” which gives an introduction to presenter Stewart Brand’s thesis, which is loosely that buildings need to learn and adapt. The rest in the series are embedded after the jump. Stewart Brand is quite the character, as it turns out. From his official biography, we see he’s been part of things like the Whole Earth Catalog (one of the first hippie lifestyle companies), which … Read More


Here is a playlist of National Geographic’s “Megacities” series. I was poking around to find some architecture documentaries and ran across these. I grouped them first by cities and then by themes that they made episodes around. It starts out in North America with New York, checks in on Las Vegas (yeah, it’s basically a city in a desert… totally a lot of work to create a modern city there), pops down to South America, and then crosses the Atlantic to look at some European cities (London and Paris), and then jumps over to Asia, starting with Mumbai and then checking in on Hong Kong and Taipai. I’ve also found a Jakarta documentary, but the resolution is so low it would be an embarrassing addition to the playlist.

BBC Documentary: “To Engineer is Human” (1987)

This 80s-retro documentary is hosted by a socially awkward engineer who fumbles his cuecard-reading way through uncomfortable, scripted segues with props that illustrate the point being made. It’s a decent documentary on engineering, nonetheless.

“Building the Victorian City: Splendour and Squalour,” a lecture by Professor Simon Thurley [56:09]

I like architecture and urban planning, so you can see why I am intrigued by this lecture delivered from Gresham College (who has been all about talks open to the public since 1597 [!]) by Proffesor Thurley. This is totally one of those things you can put on and then walk away from, since there are only a few slides, and mostly a bunch of talking. It traces the history of worker housing in Victorian Britain that sprung from the industrial revolution, but you will notice there are quite a few U.S. parallels, especially their take on light wells in the slums–the deleterious absence of which (amongst a gigantic amount of other basic things) was so famously documented in New York City by Jacob Riis in How the … Read More

“Urbanized” A Documentary on the Design of Cities

Urbanized posits that city dwellers must not only forge an innovative self-reliance, they must imagine higher forms of living. The radical fluctuations of growth and decline happening in modern cities necessitate infinite innovation. Urbanized is an extraordinarily ambitious attempt to make sense of a world flowing into cities. This visually arresting film, like Hustwit’s past work, elegantly conveys the omnipresence of design in daily life. Essential viewing. www.urbanizedfilm.com