Architecture as film: MoMA acquires Living Architectures (Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine) films

Art East
Koolhaas Houselife (Courtesy Bêka and Lemoine)
Koolhaas Houselife (Courtesy Bêka and Lemoine)

In mid-April, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) acquired all 16 films produced by the Italian-French duo, Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine. Their films are part of the Living Architectures series, “that seeks to develop a way of looking at architecture which turns away from the current trend of idealizing the representation of our architectural heritage,” Bêka and Lemoine explain on their website.

“This acquisition represents the first inroads for the Department of Architecture and Design into the medium of film,” announced MoMA on their blog INSIDE/OUT. “In the coming years, working with our colleagues in the Department of Film, we plan to continue to acquire films relevant to the disciplines of architecture and design.”

(Courtesy Bêka and Lemoine)

(Courtesy Bêka and Lemoine)

In Bêka and Lemoine’s films, there’s a crossover between architecture and urban anthropology. Filmmaker Ila Bêka has an architecture degree from UAV of Venice and the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Paris-Belleville, while filmmaker Louise Lemoine has a degree in cinema and philosophy from the Sorbonne, Paris. They self-distribute and publish their own films.



Koolhaas Houselife (Courtesy Bêka and Lemoine)

Koolhaas Houselife (Courtesy Bêka and Lemoine)

In their Living Architectures films, the pair explores the humanity behind our architecture and the daily life surrounding our buildings. Bêka and Lemoine blend video art and the documentary: they observe, they meet, and they interview people. They immerse themselves in the architecture and the lives of those who live and work in these buildings.

Koolhaas Houselife (Courtesy Bêka and Lemoine)

Koolhaas Houselife (Courtesy Bêka and Lemoine)

Perhaps their most famous film is Koolhaas Houselife, which features a Rem Koolhaas-designed residence in Bordeaux through the eyes of Guadalupe, the housekeeper who keeps the house running smoothly.

“You see two systems colliding, two systems—kind of the platonic conception of cleaning with the platonic conception of architecture. It’s not necessarily daily life confronting an exceptional structure; it’s two ideologies confronting each other,” said Koolhaas in a 2009 interview with Bêka and Lemoine about the film.

Barbicania (Courtesy Bêka and Lemoine)

Barbicania (Courtesy Bêka and Lemoine)

Then there is Barbicania. The Barbican art gallery invited the filmmakers to trace the lives of the residents and employees who live and work in the brutalist Barbican Centre and Estate in London.



Barbicania (Courtesy Bêka and Lemoine)

Barbicania (Courtesy Bêka and Lemoine)

(Courtesy Bêka and Lemoine)

(Courtesy Bêka and Lemoine)

“The first day we arrived in London, we took the map of London and with scissors cut out of the map of London a little square, which was really the permit of the Barbican, and for thirty days…we never went out of that little area,” said Lemoine in an interview for the 2015 Design Film Festival. “The process is to find the keys of intimacy, to find a confidence, an environment that brings confidence.”

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