Watch 50+ Documentaries on Famous Architects & Buildings: Bauhaus, Le Corbusier, Hadid & Many More

At its best, archi­tec­ture can show us a way out of the rigid, rou­tinized think­ing that keeps us pac­ing the same social and cul­tur­al mazes decade after decade. A rad­i­cal redesign of the way we use space can her­ald a re-imag­in­ing of our inter­re­la­tions, hier­ar­chies, and polit­i­cal dynam­ics. Con­sid­er the inspir­ing work, for exam­ple, of vision­ary futur­ist Buck­min­ster Fuller. (Or con­sid­er the very dif­fer­ent career of recent­ly depart­ed Zaha Hadid, who “built the unbuild­able,” writes one for­mer stu­dent, and “defied grav­i­ty.”) At its worst, archi­tec­ture impris­ons us, lit­er­al­ly and oth­er­wise, mind­less­ly pop­u­lat­ing the built envi­ron­ment with drab, pre­fab­ri­cat­ed box­es, and repro­duc­ing con­di­tions of repres­sion, pover­ty, and medi­oc­rity. The way we build deter­mines in great degree the way we live.

But the influ­ence of an indi­vid­ual archi­tect or school will always exceed the design­ers’ inten­tions. Per­haps the most famous of 20th cen­tu­ry mod­ern archi­tec­ture and design move­ments, Wal­ter Gropius’ Bauhaus school, con­tributed a vocab­u­lary of sim­pli­fied geo­met­ri­cal designs and pri­ma­ry col­or schemes that pushed Euro­pean aes­thet­ics out of a sti­fling tra­di­tion­al­ism.

And yet, their mod­ernist insis­tence on box­i­ness, on mate­ri­als like steel, con­crete, and glass, and on a near total lack of orna­ment, helped bring into being the strip mall and the office park. Like­wise, the urban utopi­an archi­tect Le Cor­busier delib­er­ate­ly sought to engi­neer social improve­ment through build­ing design, and also helped birth a depress­ing­ly bleak land­scape of hous­ing projects and “struc­tures that rein­force dete­ri­o­rat­ing social effects.”

So what dis­tin­guish­es good archi­tec­ture from bad? And where did the post­mod­ern mélange of styles that make up the typ­i­cal urban envi­ron­ment come from? Ask 100 archi­tects the first ques­tion, and you might get 100 dif­fer­ent answers. But you can go a long way toward answer­ing the sec­ond ques­tion by learn­ing the his­to­ry of the many great build­ings that have direct­ly or indi­rect­ly inspired mil­lions of imi­ta­tors world­wide. And you can do that for free at the Youtube chan­nel ACB (Art and Cul­ture Bureau), which fea­tures over 50 doc­u­men­taries, writes Arch Dai­ly, “devot­ed to the most sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ments of archi­tec­ture, its begin­nings, and the lat­est cre­ations of the great archi­tects of today.”

Maybe begin with the Bauhaus film, at the top of the post, an almost thir­ty-minute his­to­ry of the fas­ci­nat­ing post-WWI move­ment, school, and build­ing in Dessau, Ger­many. Be sure to also catch films on Paris’ Georges Pom­pi­dou Cen­tre, the 17th cen­tu­ry Tomb of Iti­mad-ud-Daulah (called the “baby Taj Mahal”), Le Corbusier’s Bru­tal­ist Con­vent of La Tourette, and Zaha Hadid’s Phaeno sci­ence cen­ter, among many, many more. All of the films are direct­ed by Richard Copans and some of them have inter­views with the archi­tects them­selves. See the full list of doc­u­men­taries here.

These films will be added to our list of Free Doc­u­men­taries, a sub­set of our col­lec­tion 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

via Arch Dai­ly

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The His­to­ry of West­ern Archi­tec­ture: From Ancient Greece to Roco­co (A Free Online Course)

A is for Archi­tec­ture: 1960 Doc­u­men­tary on Why We Build, from the Ancient Greeks to Mod­ern Times 

Down­load Orig­i­nal Bauhaus Books & Jour­nals for Free: Gropius, Klee, Kandin­sky, Moholy-Nagy & More

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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