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1-on-1 with the entrepreneurial architect who founded Architecture & Design Film Festival

Architecture & Design Film Festival Hits New York Nov. 1 – 5

“At the end of the day, if society has a better sense of architecture and design, then as architects and designers, we’ll make better design,” says the entrepreneurial architect Kyle Bergman. From its origins in 2000, curator and architect Bergman envisioned entertaining and educating audiences through a festival of architecture films. Nearly a decade later, he saw his dream through, formally launching the Architecture & Design Film Festival, which showcases a curated selection of movies, events and panel discussions.

“I really wanted to do a festival that was interesting program-wise both to the design professionals and to the general audience of design-conscious consumers,” explains Bergman. He sees this event as his “own personal way of upping the level of the design conversation.”

ADFF has grown into an annual event, and makes national pit stops in cities like Los Angeles and Chicago, and programs for international film fests and cultural institutions in places like Mexico City, Colombia, Bulgaria, and Seoul, where the fest wrapped after a three-month-long stay. This week, ADFF comes back home to New York for a celebration of screenings and panels held at Cinépolis Chelsea beginning Nov. 1 and running through Nov. 5.

CITIZEN JANE: BATTLE FOR THE CITY (Trailer) from filmswelike on Vimeo.

Bergman was inspired to create ADFF, the nation’s largest festival of architecture films, when he realized the opportunity to make design more accessible.

“If you look at cultures like in Holland and Copenhagen, the design IQ is just higher and it produces all across the board general better design, and that’s kind of what the opportunity is for the film festival.”

He adds, “as architects and designers we talk to ourselves all the time, which is super fascinating, but what we don’t do as well is bring in others and have a larger conversation.” ADFF aims to do just that.

Bergman describes himself as entrepreneurial – he also serves as VP on the board of Pacific Rims Organization, a group that uses park design as a tool to connect communities. He also founded Alt Spec, an architecture-oriented publishing company, and produced a play on the construction of Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House and Phillip Johnson’s Glass House.

“I had never done a film festival before,” Bergman admits. Yet in wanting to choose the right platform to expand these dialogues beyond industry figures, he examined the many “natural connections” architecture shares with film: “They’re both a balance of art and science, they’re both collaborative processes,” he says, adding “…the role of an architect, in general, is like a director,” who is informed by a series of specialists like a director of photography or in the case of an architect, a structural engineer. “They’re complex projects,” adds Bergman, “and most important, they’re both [forms of] storytelling.”

Bergman agrees that compared to other art forms, architecture and film are democratic in nature and accessible to average passerby. “Especially with architecture,” he notes, “because it touches everybody… I always say to clients, people know a lot more about architecture than they think they do, they just don’t have the language to talk about it because we’re all in and around buildings all the time, and it’s our job as professionals to help everyone see it in ways that we see things.”

ADFF debuted in a small town in Vermont, drawing about 1,000 visitors from New England, New York and Montreal, according to Bergman, who then felt inspired to bring it to New York. Today Bergman still plays a role in selecting featured movies. He and his group preview about 300 films, selecting about 30 for the program. He says the process is akin to trying new places to eat: “You have a bunch of good and bad restaurants, so when friends come into town you only take them to the good ones. We do the same thing.”

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With an audience of architects, designers and aficionados, “The festival is not only the films, but it’s what happens in between the films and all the dialogue,” Bergman reflects. After a screening of “REM” on Saturday, Nov. 4, Architectural Record’s editor-in-chief Cathleen McGuigan will host a discussion with writer and critic Niccolai Ouroussoff. Created by Rem Koolhaas’ son, Tomas, the film documents the “human stories and experience of both the architect and the users of his architecture” through the lens of Rem’s life, philosophy, methods and internal landscape.

Other movies of note include “Columbus,” which follows the journey of the son of an architecture scholar who finds himself exploring the small Midwestern city of Columbus, Indiana, known for its prevalent modernist buildings. In “Queen of Asbury Park,” Interior Design’s editor-in-chief Cindy Allen follows the inspiring rags-to-riches tale of Anda Andric, a Romanian refugee who become hotelier Ian Schrager’s top designer and now is designing a restaurant at the Brooklyn Museum and redesigning an entire town in New Jersey.

Another, titled “Dries,” is set in Belgium and Germany and follows renowned fashion designer Dries Van Noten who, for the first time ever, allows a filmmaker to document his creative process. Style icon Iris Apfel calls the designer a treasure (meanwhile Dries says of Iris, “She breathes young air, thinks young thoughts, and gathers no dust”).

ZAHA: An Architectural Legacy TRAILER from Stephenson / Bishop on Vimeo.

“Zaha: An Architectural Legacy,” celebrates the contributions of the late architect Zaha Hadid, and “Citizen Jane: Battle for the City,” shines a spotlight on activist Jane Jacobs, who resisted urban renewal projects by Robert Moses in New York City. “Jane Jacobs is so important, especially right now… It’s a time to speak truth of power and she stood up to Moses,” says Bergman.

To view the full lineup of ADFF events in New York, click here.

DRIES (Official Trailer) from KimStim on Vimeo.

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