Kyle Bergman, AIA
Photography: Vincent Ricardel

Kyle Bergman, AIA, who studied both architecture and film in college, has found a way to combine the two in the real world. As the founder and director of the Architecture & Design Film Festival, sponsored by the AIA, he has found a highly public way to bring architecture’s best stories to professionals and design enthusiasts alike. Bergman’s goal? To raise the level of discourse between architects and their clients.

For a long time, photography was how we showed architecture to ourselves and the rest of the world. But with stills the camera setups took quite a while. We went for a long time sharing these photos without having people in the frame. Now that film is as important as—if not more than—stills in showing architecture, we’re able to bring the human element back into the story. Photography is seductive and gorgeous, but it can’t capture how people interact with a building. It’s no match for time and space and scale and proportion, the tools filmmakers have at their fingertips.

A lot of the films that prove most appropriate for the festival are made with a combination of people deeply connected to filmmaking and people from the architecture and design world. Sometimes we get films made by architects that are interesting from a content perspective but not very well-told. Sometimes we get beautiful films from filmmakers that are missing the subtleties of architecture and design thinking. The ones that bring the two worlds together are the ones that stand out.

Part of what we’re aiming for is to attract a diverse audience. As architects, we talk to ourselves all the time, and those conversations are always dynamic and engaging. But film is an opportunity to expand the conversation about architecture’s impact on our daily lives, which is something we’ve pursued since our festival started in 2009. And as we move forward, more and more design films are being picked up by the Tribeca Film Festival, Sundance, Cannes—there’s definitely a greater appetite. We’re not the reason for that, but I like to think we have contributed.

That said, seeing films is a great way to understand architecture, but the best way is to see a building in person. When you’re there, you get to experience it in your own reality. There’s no start or finish. You’re immersed in the space.—As told to Steve Cimino

The winner of AIA’s I Look Up Film Challenge will be screened at the 2016 Architecture & Design Film Festival, which will take place in New York City from Sept. 28 to Oct. 2. For more on the festival, visit