Architecture & Design Film Festival Continues For 4 More Days

Have you had a chance to watch any of the programs that are waiting for you to discover at Architecture and Design Film Festival? Online this year until December 3, the ADFF website has the full list of films—all about the built environment around the world, and some of the people making it more functional and beautiful—that are available for your enjoyment and edification in the comfort of your own home.

Screenings cover stories from the world over, while highlighting cities like Brasilia, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Toronto, and more. • Learn more about Alvar and Aino Aalto, the Finnish Modernist masters in Aalto, introduced by guest speakers starchitect Frank Gehry and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen. • If you live inn the USA, dive deep into M.C. Escher’s fantastical worlds in Escher: Journey into Infinity, covering the life and work of the singular Dutch genius, as some of his mind-bending works spring to life through animation. (If you live outside the USA, sorry, tickets for the rest-of-the-world screenings have sold out now.) • Be moved by the resolve that brought Japanese-Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama to prominence in Magical Imperfection, while a Q&A session moderated by former UrbanToronto writer Stefan Novakovic adds to the experience. • Hop in a car with Pritzker prize-winning Ryue Nishizawa, co-founder of SANAA, as he navigates the streets in Tokyo RIde. • Discover how talented African-American architect Paul R. Williams, who wasn’t always welcomed in the buildings he designed because of his race, persevered to become known as “Architect to the Stars” in Hollywood’s Architect: The Paul R. Williams Story.

Here’s a little more about some of the films I’ve had a chance to see now.

A Machine To Live In, playing online as part of ADFF until 11:59 PM, December 3, 2020A Machine To Live In, playing online as part of ADFF until 11:59 PM, December 3, 2020

Machine to Live in

A visual and aural poem about Brasilia, with plenty in interesting shots around the experimental capital city. If you’re not fluent in Portuguese, beware that the subtitles are quite small and in yellow, which often does not contrast well with the dusty foreground over which they are subtitled: watch this film on a tv larger than my 32” screen if you need their benefit.

Richard Leplastrier — Framing the View, playing online as part of ADFF until 11:59 PM, December 3, 2020Richard Leplastrier — Framing the View, playing online as part of ADFF until 11:59 PM, December 3, 2020

Richard Leplastrier — Framing the View

I’m not sure I buy the subtitle ‘Framing the View.’ That quote comes up in the film, but any window in any building frames the view. What Leplastrier has done is make the homes and even those dwelling in them part of the surroundings: barriers removed, they are the view too.

A back-to-the-earth architect and architecture teacher who lives in camp-like conditions with his family on a remote, treed property in Sydney, Australia’s Northern Beaches area, Richard Leplastrier, who worked under and was mentored by Jorn Utzon during the building of the Sydney Opera House, also left Australia when Utzon was forced off his iconic project, and moved to Kyoto to study Japanese principles of architecture. His return to Australia has led to a small but impactful portfolio of houses which manifest his principles for living far more than they espouse a particular architectural style. His time spent teaching a new generation of architects may have more far-reaching consequence though, and this film will further that. Fascinating.

Saving North, playing online as part of ADFF until 11:59 PM, December 3, 2020Saving North, playing online as part of ADFF until 11:59 PM, December 3, 2020

Saving North

A British architectural photographer heads to the Russian North, north and east of St Petersburg, to document the state of wooden churches one century after how they were depicted in a set of vintage photos he’s found. Publication of a book of the resulting photos triggers more interest in saving the historic buildings. Soon, an American who thinks he’s in a reality show as opposed to a documentary (I didn’t think we could get it completed in time! Would everything arrive in the container?!?!) is building a wooden Russian windmill at the recreated Fort Ross in Northern California.

The core story about the churches is interesting, filmed in an area and culture that that will be foreign to 99% of the viewers. The windmill story feels, unfortunately, like it’s from another show. Is it the because it was the only way to finance the rest of the film? If so, that’s unfortunate.

There's No Place Like This Place, Anyplace, playing online as part of ADFF until 11:59 PM, December 3, 2020There’s No Place Like This Place, Anyplace, playing online as part of ADFF until 11:59 PM, December 3, 2020


There’s No Place Like This Place, Anyplace

Westbank Corp’s redevelopment of Honest Ed’s and Mirvish Village through the eyes of Lulu Wei, a filmmaker who with her partner were renters in one of the Victorians on the affected block of Bathurst Street. They’re an articulate, well educated, sympathetic pair.

The film Wei has made is largely a lovely nostalgia-laced tribute to the community that shopped at Honest Ed’s or who lived and worked within the shops and studios along Markham Street. There’s pretty of love for Ed Mirvish from his past tenants who appreciated that he was charging less rent than most of places in the city. There’s also time spent with the people of A Different Booklist bookstore who have temporarily relocated across Bathurst into the base of B.streets Condos, and at community meetings (I was at one of the ones filmed).

Full disclosure – one of the featured people in the film is Jonah Letovsky who at one time was a writer for UrbanToronto (at which I am the Managing Editor). I consider a Jonah friend, if not in my closest circle. He now works as a development manager at Westbank, and is their spokesperson for this film. Jonah is smart guy, well meaning and well spoken, and has the unenviable task of acting as the public face for the type of corporation that people often see as impersonal and avaricious. 

Early on Westbank is twice referred to as simply “a luxury condo developer” but the film soon explains that the company has decided to go all rental here.

Along with plenty of appealing fresh and archival footage of the site while Honest Ed’s was still a thing, the film also contains a good bit of demolition porn from when the store came down, and some construction footage since, especially aerial footage.

There are a couple of issues with the film. At one point, the building the film director lives in is bought, we hear by Westbank, but later it seems that it is not to be incorporated into the development, but will become the new home, at ground level at least, for A Different Booklist bookstore. That is not well explained, but at least there are no recriminations pointed Westbank’s way in that regard. 

A much larger issue is that near the end of the film, U of T Geography and Planning Department professor Dr. Deborah Cowen says regarding the $200 million grant from the Feds to create 281 additional affordable units at Mirvish Village, (after explaining how the definition that will be used for affordability at the site is problematic), “that $200 million is really going pretty directly into the pockets of developers.” It’s quite problematic that the director does not challenge that statement, nor ask Westbank to comment on that claim, nor does she ever look into how exactly that money will be applied to the project. That’s unfair and gives us a one-sided, biased, unbalanced—what have you—film. That’s sad as earlier the film was reasonably balanced.

Frey II: The Architectural Interpreter, playing online as part of ADFF until 11:59 PM, December 3, 2020Frey II: The Architectural Interpreter, playing online as part of ADFF until 11:59 PM, December 3, 2020

Here’s how to purchase tickets and enjoy the films:

Get tickets
You can buy tickets, blocks of tickers, or passes anytime. Some films will have a limited number of views and may sell out during the festival, so if there’s a film you really want to see, purchase your ticket early. Ticketing support will be available by email (, or by chat on our website from 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM ET, except November 26.

Watch anytime
Once you have your ticket(s), you can watch the film(s) anytime before the end of the festival on at 11:59 PM ET on December 3. The only restriction is that once you click on the [Watch Now] button you must watch the film within 48 hours.

Watch on your computer or mobile device…
There are several options: you can stream on your computer, tablet, or even on your mobile phone through the following web browsers: Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Microsoft Edge, and Opera. For both PC and Apple computers, it is recommended that you update to the latest version of your browser. Internet Explorer is not supported.

…or watch on your TV
Apple TV (Generation 4 or higher only): download the “ADFF App” in the App store.
Roku. Download the “ADFF app” in the Roku channel store and click “Add channel.”
Chromecast & Apple TV. You can stream films on Chromecast or Apple TV (all generations) by screen sharing your smartphone, tablet, or computer on the same Wi-Fi network.
HDMI. If you have a laptop or nearby computer with an HDMI port, you can connect it directly to your television, using it as a second monitor. That said, connection details will depend on your setup. Reference your television’s manual for more information.