Ark Rex – Architecture Film Festival
Utopias, dreams and future challenges
25–28 November 2021
The Museum of Finnish Architecture & Bio Rex – Amos Rex, Helsinki


Friday 26 November

All films are in English or with English subtitles.

9.30 Welcome. Tarja Nurmi & Kaj Martin

9.45 Film presentation: Margit Mutso
10.00 Leonhard Lapin. Protsess (Margit Mutso)

11.30 Strange & Familiar: Architecture on Fogo Island (Marcia Connolly & Catherine Knight)

12.30 Break

13.15 Miracle on 42nd Street (Alice Elliott)

14.30 From a Diary of the Advent of Liljevalchs+ 2013–2021 ( Kajsa Andersö & Tomas Boman)

17.00 Talk: Architect Gert Wingårdh, Sweden
Arkitektur? (In Swedish)

18.00 Louis Kahn´s Tiger City, Sundaram Tagore



Saturday 27 November

All films are in English or with English subtitles.

9.30 Welcome. Tarja Nurmi & Kaj Martin

9.45 Tokyo Ride (Ila Bêka & Louise Lemoine)

11.30 Talk: Unelma ekologisesta yhdyskunnasta – lyhyt historia, onnellinen loppu
(Dream of an ecological society – Brief history, happy end, in Finnish)
Science writer, architect, doctoral student Pasi Toiviainen

12.15 Break

13.00 Inside Prora (Nico Weber)
14.40 Film presentation: Nico Weber

15.00 Talk: A Place for Life (In English)
Architect Lina Ghotmeh, France, Libanon

16.00 Architecture of Infinity (Christoph Schaub)
17.30 Film presentation: Christoph Schaub

18.00 City Dreamers (Joseph Hillel)

19.30 Making a Mountain (Selin Fokdal & Kaspar Astrup Schröder)

20.30 Last and First Men (Jóhann Jóhannsson)


Switzerland 2018
85 min

Directed by Christoph Schaub

Swiss director Christoph Schaub is known, among other things, for his architecture-related documentaries. In Architecture of Infinity, we meet architects Peter Zumthor, Alvaro Siza Vieira and Peter Märkli, along with artists James Turrell and Christina Iglesias. Virtuoso drummer Jojo Mayer is also included. In the film, we take a tour of France, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and even the Skogskyrkogården graveyard in Sweden, witnessing spectacularly beautiful places and buildings. At the same time, the tale is a journey to spirituality across space and time.

Persons in the film are each top players in their respective fields. We see them in their inherent work environments – drawings, piles of papers and ashtrays included. The director has been fascinated by how, in the mornings, Alvaro Siza covered the warning image on a pack of cigarettes with an architectural drawing, as if to defy mortality and the limitations of time.

Amidst contemporary architecture, which seeks media visibility, and the visual clutter of our time, this film provides rest for the soul. Spirituality can truly be present in architecture, and not only in sacral spaces. The director sees the railway station hall of Zürich as a space and place for infinity dating back over a hundred years, offering meanings for train travel, which represented a new time. Soulful spaces and places that provide a passage beyond the ordinary must always play a part in people’s lives, regardless of religion and worldview.

Canada 2018
81 min
Directed by Joseph Hillel

Joseph Hillel’s film City Dreamers presents four astonishing women: Phyllis Lambert, Blanche Lemco van Ginkel, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander and Denise Scott Brown. Their careers and titles are diverse: architect, garden or landscape architect, urban planner, curator, university teacher/trainer/educator and activist. All of them have accomplished a great deal at a time when women were seen as secondary practitioners of their professions. Yet their marks on the architecture and urban history of the last century are visible and significant.

All four women have worked with famous architects, including Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Louis Kahn and Robert Venturi. Scott Brown was left without the world’s most significant Pritzker Architecture Prize, despite the fact that his partner was the award-winning Venturi. From today’s perspective, it was a scandal.

The women in question still work and lead active lives. Phyllis Lambert, for example, works in the Canadian Centre for Architecture, which she herself founded. The filmmaker has been inspired, above all, by the way these women have dedicated themselves to making cities humane places in service of all citizens and bring them joy. Their work has required an immense amount of determination and effort. Also in this sense, these persons have succeeded, in exemplary fashion.

Berlin 2019
100 min
NOW Collective
Written and directed by Nico Weber

The German documentary explores the vacation paradise created on the island of Rügen. The kilometres-long and surprisingly modernist Prora never got to serve its original, national socialist purpose. Now, as a monument using architecture as a propagandist tool, it has an incredible story to tell.

And, Prora also hosts vacations. Before that, it has been swept over by fascism, the Second World War as well as the DDR, i.e. time of socialism. Although time has nibbled on its corners, Prora is too big to be chewed.

Today, the world of investors and accommodators also rules and Prora now covers vacation homes. Through Prora’s own documentary centre, recording and mapping the place’s history has its own role and task.

The director Nico Weber and the working group of the documentary present us with a layered story about a significant construction that can again look into the future. The huge complex, in itself, has not done any harm. The approach is not linear, but multi-directional. We visit Italy and the United States with the film crew and through archival material, and get a glimpse of a time when the Berlin wall was built. But who was made to work – and for what reason?

The award-winning documentary is a shocking, but at the same time, liberating experience for the viewer.

Iceland, 2020
70 min
Directed by Jóhann Jóhannsson
In cooperation with the Islandic Embassy

Icelandic Jóhann Jóhannsson, who is known as a composer, directed a science fiction multimedia piece that was also peculiarly turned into a film in his name. The person himself passed away in 2018. The film Last and First Men premiered at the 2020 Berlin International Film Festival Berlinale.

The work is based on a 1930 novel of the same name by author Olaf Stapledon. The multimedia piece based on Stapledon’s book, which also comprised film material, was first displayed at the 2017 Manchester International Festival art event. The music of the event was played by the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Later the piece was also featured at Barbican in London and the Sydney Opera House.

Stapledon’s original was turned into a new story by Jóhan Jóhannsson and José Enrique Macián together. The result has been edited after the director’s death and in his honour into a real film.

The soundscape has been created by Yair Elazar Glotman. Tilda Swinton is the narrator, leading the story with a voice that adds its own element into the film. The film part of the multimedia piece had been filmed in the former Yugoslavia. Strange, giant memorials on the hills of a country torn by war play a leading part in the film.

The film takes us to a future and time where humanity has already passed the crucial opportunities for a better future. Massive architectural sculptures add a unique impressive quality to the award-winning black-and-white film.

Estonia 2020
75 min.
Written and directed by Margit Mutso
In cooperation with the Estonian Embassy

Leonhard Lapin is one of those Estonian architects and artists whose radical activities had significant implications for the country becoming independent in 1991. A group of architects were provided with notable side support and a special stepping stone from their Soviet Union occupied home country as early as 1984 to venture into the open world. The Museum of Finnish Architecture’s exhibition Nine Architects from Tallinn also brought visibility. Lapin is, beyond a doubt, among the most creative of these artists and architects.

At a younger age, he was the wild avant-gardist and dreamer of his time. The documentary written and directed by architect Margit Mutso introduces us to his exciting background, noting the actions and performances of the radical and even daring Estonian artists and architects through archival material. We get to visit very different buildings designed by Lapin and follow his activities around new works. We are even invited to the colourful dinner table of Lapin’s family.

At the start of the 1990s, Lapin and Juhani Pallasmaa produced a book called Architecture of Silence. He also has several dozens of works of his own. Lapin’s exhibition Tühjus ja ruum – Void and Space at Kumu Art Museum in Tallinn in 2018 was a milestone. In Finland, Lapin’s streaky mural at the underpass of Kivistö is 200 metres long.


Bangladesh 2018
Duration: 107 min
Written and directed by Sundaram Tagore

When the Calcutta-born, Oxford art historian Sundaram Tagore received a grant at a young age, he was inspired to get acquainted with the Bangladeshi administrative centre in Dhaka. The entity, which was created by architect Louis Kahn (1901–1974) with great intensity and builders with great effort, had a mind-blowing impact on Tagore. He had to find out how this magical place came to be exactly what it is.

The film Louis Kahn’s Tiger City, written and directed by Tagore, is a remarkable discovery tale of sorts: what had the Saarenmaa-born Kahn, who moved to the United States and only later discovered his architect identity, experienced? What were the things he had seen and done that has shaped Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, i.e. the Tiger City into a unique place made out of building blocks that have seemingly landed in water from the sky?

We are taken on a fascinating journey into the history of Bangladesh and even the tragic stages of the country. We meet people Kahn knew closely, along with places that left their mark on Kahn. We hear clips of his legendary lectures and are invited to roam the streets of Philadelphia, Venice, Rome and Athens together with the director.

In a sense, the film is a dream-like journey into the core of real architecture.

Denmark 2020
55 min
Directed by Selin Fokdal, Kaspar Astrup Schröder
In cooperation with the Danish Embassy

Copenhagen is among the world’s most inhabitable and genuinely happy cities. Now it can also pride itself on the effort of making necessity a virtue.

When an architecture competition on a waste incineration plant was arranged approximately ten years ago, there was no knowing what would happen next. Now the area of Amager has a huge power and incineration plant, along with its machinery as well as a slalom slope with lookout spots, T-bar lifts, a champagne bar and swirling training paths covering it almost like a mask. The place even has opportunities for mountain climbing along the power plant’s facade.

The idea, which at first seemed plain crazy, was brought forth by Bjarke Ingels’ world-famous architecture firm BIG. The buyer, however, believed in the basic notion behind the project. Unyieldingness and integrity in terms of quality yielded results: the people of Copenhagen now have their own power plant slope overlooking the city panorama, Øresund bridge and Malmö’s twisted tower house Turning Torso in Sweden. The power plant itself is one of the cleanest in the world when it comes to emissions. That is what it is now, and so much more.

The film follows the Amager Bakke or CopenHill project all the way from its designs and construction to the first cases of (downhill) skiers and climbers. Although the project has also had its critics and the original idea by the utopian Ingels does not include the mighty chimney blowing giant water vapour rings, the project has been received in a triumphant atmosphere.

United States, 2017
68 min.
Directed by Alice Elliott

Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen is a neighbourhood, where the story of the famous film West Side Story was meant to have taken place. The infamous area later became home to two high-rise buildings almost miraculously built in the area. These buildings have been filled with rental apartments, primarily for professionals in the field of culture.

The documentary, awarded with an Emmy in 2020, lets former residents narrate what the place called Manhattan Plaza has meant to them and what living there was like. Actors and other creatives were even allowed to pay lower rent during quieter moments of their careers.

Scriptwriter-actor-comedian Larry David pretended to be a half-raving multi-addict on the streets when he was young to avoid being beaten and robbed. However, the surroundings changed with new residents, who supported and brought diverse economic activity into the whole neighbourhood.

The film features interviews with world-famous actors who lived there or were involved in the project, neighbourhood entrepreneurs and experts who know about the buildings and their history. The wildly successful actor Samuel L. Jackson had worked as a downstairs doorman at a younger age.

Manhattan Plaza brought security to the creative talents working in unstable conditions. At the same time, it helped support the rise of the entire environment and Broadway. The production also includes and interviews several former residents of the houses. The narrator Chazz Palminteri is familiar from films and television series.


France, 2020
90 min
Sound and filming by Ila Bêka.
Edited by Ila Bêka & Louise Lemoine

Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine form a duo that has renewed the concept of architecture film. The black-and-white Tokyo Ride takes us to a rainy metropolis. Together with the filmmakers, we get to perform a road movie of sorts on the sweet and whimsical Alfa Romeo Giulia.

The Giulia is steered by the famous Japanese architect Ryue Nishizawa, who takes the filmmakers to places meaningful to him and to meet his colleague Kazuyo Sejima. Together they have founded an architecture firm called SANAA and received the world’s most prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize – even despite the constant battles and arguments between the two in the firm’s early years, as both have confirmed. At SANAA’s office, Sejima tells of his daily rhythm and gives insight into the routines of a laborious architect. We also find out which Tokyo building is Nishizava’s favourite.

While he drives, Nishizava ponders on the architecture of continental Europe that he admires and Indian architecture, comparing what he has seen and experienced to Japan. His homeland consists of islands surrounded by a sea in constant motion. This already gives the country’s architecture an unusual twist. We also get to eat sushi with the special person to whom Nishizahava designed a one-man dream house split up into several pieces. An earlier film by B&L called Moriyama-San has been dedicated to this project.

Canada 2014
54 min.
Written and directed by Marcia Connolly and Catherine Knight
In cooperation with the Canadian Embassy

Fogo Island is an island situated on the North Atlantic on Canada’s east coast. As a place, it is rugged, strange and fascinating. The film tells the peculiar story of its residents and their part in an exceptionally ambitious project.

The island, which relies on fishing for a living, has long suffered from a lack of residents. Zita Cobb, an original inhabitant of the island who has prospered on the continent, had an idea to help in her own way. Her efforts were based on a deep love towards her place of birth and a deep-rooted and strong will. The architecturally unique Fogo Island Inn was built, along with studio spaces for artists. An artist dedicated to the cause, Todd Saunders, was invited all the way from Norway, but it took numerous local names and constructors to complete the project.

The hotel standing partially on giant legs is known for its wooden construction, local carpenter skills and good-natured handicrafts and combines the island’s own legacy, new design and contemporary architecture. Residents have included state leadership and film stars, but the inn also includes a movie theatre serving the needs of local people.

The film takes us to spectacular landscapes. Cobb also leads us into the ability to think and choose a different path. The purpose of the stylish inn is to provide a new source of income for the islanders without the typical, often banal characteristics of mass tourism or luxury travel. We also learn about the true meaning of “The Fogo Island green”.

Sweden 2021
110 + 15 min
English subtitles
Directed by Kajsa Andersö and Tomas Boman
In cooperation with the Swedish Embassy

Documentarists Kajsa Andersö and Tomas Boman have monitored and filmed the construction and completion of the Liljevalchs+ annex to Liljevalch Art Gallery designed by Carl Bergsten and completed in Stockholm in 1916. The annex (by Wingårdhs), which stirred debate, was realised for additional exhibition space and to keep the art hall open to the public even when setting up new displays.

The documentary that has been filmed for over nine years sheds light on what the completion of the new premises has required. The viewer gets to witness the different stages of construction, which have called for significant craftsmanship and design. The story of the building’s sophisticated architecture involves the history of the peculiar, now ready main façade and its glittering glass balls and mirrors, as well as the fruitful collaboration and creative work between architect Gert Wingårdh and esteemed artist Ingegerd Råman as important steps.

Liljevalchs+ faced surprising criticism already during its construction stage and resistance from a social media group demanding historicising ornaments to façades. As the audience of the documentary, we get to know the building that resulted from the collaboration between numerous skilled people. We also get to witness what it looks like once the doors are opened, the festive opening has taken place, works have been placed on display, the exhibitions have gained an audience and the café has received its stylish leather benches.

Short films

The short films are free and screened during the festival weekend 26–28  November at Bio Rex lobby.

Fri 26.11. 9-20
Sat 27.11. 9-22
Sun 28.11. 11-17

A small movie theatre has been set up in the outer foyer of Bio Rex, in connection with the Ark Rex architecture film festival. The theatre features two short film and video sections that are included in the free programme.

The first section is related to some of the finest recent wooden architecture, in Finland and elsewhere. The programme includes new video films about the Swedish Wood Award (Träpriset) and a compilation of the new TV series directed by Ene-Maris Tali shown in Estonia, showcasing the country’s most interesting new wooden buildings. It also features new wooden architecture films from Switzerland, where the prestigious wood award Prix Lignum is handed out every three years. The part about Finland has been assembled from a large set of film material by Jonni Roos and Raimo Uunila, who are currently working on a more extensive architecture film.

The other section comprises short films around architecture. These include the world-famous, Paris-based duo’s, Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine’s, film ButoHouse that takes us to Japan and Tokyo. Another one is the short film Il Girasole by Swiss director Christoph Schaub on the remarkable, modernist Italian villa that turned around its axel.

Short architecture films by Tapio Snellman, a London-based architect and filmmaker, make up a series of their own, focusing on e.g. Manila, Paris, Copenhagen and the recent Finlandia Prize for Architecture recipient Kirkkonummi library.

From Canada, we get to see When We Live Alone, which deals with living alone in big cities of Japan and is commissioned by the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA). The film is directed by Daniel Schwartz.

The short film Light Snatcher by Finnish director Charlotte Arias introduces architect and academic Juha Leiviskä’s remarkable way of capturing natural light in his buildings.


Tickets for film screenings at Bio Rex’s during the festival on 26–27 November.

One-day ticket (Fri or Sat)
Adults €20
Students, pensioners & children €15

Two-day ticket (Fri-Sat)
Adults €30
Students, pensioners & children €25

Buy Tickets

Advance tickets can only be purchased through the online shop.

Tickets can be purchased at Bio Rex’s foyer during the festival on 26–27 November.

Tokyo Ride