Film Club

Published on: April 4th, 2012

One of the four core areas of inquiry of the MA in Design Studies program has to do with how we ‘speak’ of design.  And since design speech includes video and film along with the written word, we’ve started a virtual Film Club. This is the first of several posts featuring films where design plays a leading role.

The medium of film engages design in a number of ways—as critique of the built environment, as documentation of design processes and affects, and as commentary on the ways we design our daily lives, project our hopes, and fabricate our fantasies. Costumes, buildings, and interiors an act as protagonists and provide settings that are central to film plots. From the opening graphics of a James Bond movie to Audrey Hepburn’s wardrobe to the experimental shorts of Charles and Ray Eames—the cinematic can tell us something about the power of design. Walter Benjamin in his work of art essay endows both design and film with the capacity to inspire agency. We agree and believe the cultural form of film offers a lens through which we can critically and pleasurably consider design on a variety of registers including the aesthetic, the historical, the political, the social, the global, and the imaginative.

To begin our developing design filmography, below is a list of design documentaries for your enjoyment. Watch for coming attractions and see how, cities, objects, and even typography play their parts in science fiction, romance, drama, mystery, and comedy.

Documentaries about Design Process and Practice

Helvetica (2007) Gary Huswitz

Objectified (2009) Gary Huswitz

Urbanized (2011) Gary Huswitz

Contemporary Days: The Designs of Lucienne and Robin Day (2010) Murray Grigor

The Visual Language of Herbert Matter (2011) Reto Caduff

Handmade Nation (2009) Faythe Levine

Biophilic Design: The Architecture of Life (2011) Bill Finnegan

Design the New Business (2011) Erik Roscam Abbing

Kitchen Stories (2003) Bent Hamer

Eames: The Architect and Painter (2011) Bill Jersey and Jason Cohn

Something about Functions (1961) Charles and Ray Eames

Powers of Ten (1977) Charles and Ray Eames

The Information Machine (1958) Charles and Ray Eames

Tops (1969) Charles and Ray Eames

Toccata for Toy Trains (1957) Charles and Ray Eames

Design Q & A with Charles Eames (1972) Madame L’Amic of the Musée des Arts Decoratifs

IBM at the Fair (1964) Charles and Ray Eames


Documentaries about Landscapes, Cities, Architecture, and Architects

My Architect (2003) Nathaniel Kahn

Points on a Line (2010) Sarah Morris

Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman (2008) Eric Bricker

Sketches of Frank Gehry (2005) Sydney Pollack

Learning from the Light: The Visions of I.M. Pei (2009) Bo Landin and Sterling Van Wagenen

Infinite Space: The Architecture of John Lautner (2009) Murray Grigor

The Gruen Effect: Victor Gruen and the Shopping Mall (2010) Annette Baldauf and Katharina Weingartner

John Portman: A Life of Building (2011) Ben Loeterman

Eye over Prague (2010) Olga Spatova

Unfinished Spaces (2011) Alysa Nahmias and Benjamin Murray

Mission Statements (2011) Jord den Hollander

How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster (2010) Carlos Carcas and Norberto Lopez Amado

Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio (2010) Sam Wainwright Douglas

Deconstructivist Architects (1990) Michael Blackwood

Manufactured Landscapes (2006) Jennifer Baichwal

Concrete Coast (2009) Robert Harding Pittman

Detroit Wild City (2011) Florent Tillon

Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003) Thom Anderson

Man on Wire (2008) James Marsh

Program Contact

Caroline Dionne, Program Director

Program Update

Parsons is not currently admitting new students to this master’s degree program. Parsons is now offering a Graduate Minor in Design Studies that is designed to complement the MA History of Design and Curatorial Studies and other graduate programs across the university in design, liberal arts, and social research.