Architecture and Society 2023

The program section curated by Lotte Schreiber gathers documentaries that examine social coexistence in the context of architectural, geopolitical or ecological conditions.




Lotte Schreiber, curator

Questions concerning “beauty” or “ugliness” are usually very hard to judge, as they depend on the properties of the respective objects, on the one hand, and the individual taste of the person judging, on the other. The European notion of beauty is rooted in ancient times and the then prevailing view that beauty correlates with order. Things were regarded as beautiful when their parts were in a harmonious proportion to each other and to the whole. In architecture, the “beauty” category has not exactly been the focus of discussion in recent decades. A look at classical modernism, however, shows that aesthetics have always also been a social criterion of innovative architecture. Modernism strove to democratize not just housing itself but also beauty that should no longer remain a privilege for the rich. And what about today? How can the aspiration for harmony and social balance correlate with the capitalist ideals of profit maximization and unlimited growth? It is more and more often the case that the principle of efficiency and profitability takes the place of social, architectural and urban planning qualities, and design-oriented decisions frequently remain stuck at a superficial visual impression. It is against the backdrop of these questions that the Architecture and Society program section this year examines the multifaceted aspects of a hard-to-define concept of beauty. We take a trip across Europe in four programs, visiting, for example, a small town in the spectacular landscape of Spitzbergen with Veronika Lišková’s impressive documentary THE VISITORS. Simply overwhelmed by the breathtaking beauty of the remote place at first, the young social anthropologist Zdenka, who has moved to the polar region for research work, learns that it is not just the ecological balance that is in danger here, but also the diversity of the local community. Explorations around the southern Italian city of Taranto, the former “pearl of the Mediterranean”, are undertaken by Volker Sattel and Francesca Bertin in their documentary TARA. The local residents’ stories tell us about the grave consequences of the region’s decades-long ecological and economic exploitation. Unloved brutalist buildings in Birmingham and Vienna are at the focus of PARADISE LOST: HISTORY IN THE UNMAKING by Brit Andy Howlett and the Austrian documentary short BERNOULLISTRASSE 1 by Laura Mann, Robert Bettinger, and Lorenz Zenleser. As they resemble a ghetto too much, several high-rises of a social housing estate in French Bonneville are soon to be demolished. That to the residents, this means losing their homes is shown in Adam W. Pugliese and Maxime Faure’s empathetic portrait THE ISLANDERS. And finally, Anabela Angelovska looks into the unusual accumulation of luxurious single-family homes in North Macedonia in her documentary short RETREAT.

Films from this section: