This cinema cycle focuses on the architecture competition, a common activity to professions that directly relate to project. In the current context of the economic crisis and of the building and construction market fall, competition is widespread and has almost become an everyday activity of an architecture practice. The reality is that the competition is one of the most stressful activities in an architecture studio life. Both being in a small studio or a large company, the consumption of economic and human resources is staggering and unsustainable.

The films presented in this cycle document the competition process: the launch, the design phase, the evaluation, the results’ public communication and the project development to its constructive phase.

More or less critical, the perspective crosses the best and the worst that the competitions may generate, from the management and relationship of the project team, portraying how they live throughout the competition, the tension, the quick decision making, the adrenaline, the excitement, and after, when contacting with reality, with the budgets, promoters, policy-makers, public opinion and construction.

These films aim to open a debate about the formalization molds of an invitation to compete – to its validity, trustworthiness and involvement of the various stakeholders -, about the powers of promoters and juries in the choices and assessments, and also on the big question of how the competition can undermine the very professional enhancement.

Text by Paula Melâneo

All the films will be followed by a conversation between the public, a portuguese architect studio and the directors of the film will be present via Skype.


9th July 9pm – CINEMA SÃO JORGE (tickets 5€)

The Competition, Angel Borrego Cubero, 2013, Spain, 115′

A shocking, behind-the-scenes report of a competition between star architects. Star architects Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry, Dominique Perrault, Zaha Hadid and Norman Foster are invited to participate in a design competition for a museum in Andorra. The film is extraordinary because the filmmaker (also an architect) does not portray the tension of the competition itself, but exposes the vanity of clients and architects. This is perhaps why the film is somewhat confrontational for architects to watch, but this nevertheless needs to be done. Architect Luís Miguel Baptista opens the discussion with the director and the audience.

11th July 9pm – GALERIA BOAVISTA (free entrance)

Eye Above Prague, Olga Spatova, 2010, Check Republic, 78′

Dramatic developments in Prague. Jan Kaplicky (London based office Future Systems) wins the architectural contest of the National Library with a truly lascivious design. Full enthusiasm, he sets out to work in his former hometown, but he finds not only the public in the opposition, but even the president. A fly-on-the-wall documentary registering the dramatic development of the competition from the start to the end. Architect Pedro Santos opens the discussion with the audience.

12 July 9pm – GALERIA BOAVISTA (free entrance)

The Desert Castle, Eirin Gjorv, 2007, Norway, 55′

This is group dynamics at its worst and at its best’, thus concludes Kjetil T. Thorsen of the Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta. He is talking about the Gateway Project in Ras Al Khaimah in Saudi Arabia, which is currently under construction. We see the likeable Snøhetta in an open creative design with employees and we see the same people in a negotiation with the client: an Arabian prince. What is actually expected from Snøhetta and how do you design in the middle of nowhere? An entertaining and excellent documentary showing how money meets architecture: in the desert. Architect Pedro Machado Costa opens the discussion with the audience.

desert castle

17 July 9pm – GALERIA BOAVISTA (free entrance)

Lost Town, Jorg Adolph, 2009, Germany, 93′

So, what do you do when you are a young architect and have just won a design competion? Anne Niemann and Johannes Ingrisch won the competition for designing a landmark off the coast of Suffolk. In the course of time the village is gradually wiped out by coastal erosion. The winning design shows this process in a poetic way: it is a steel structure that represents the churches of the lost village at sea. The technical and financial feasibility study proves positive. But then there is the first public consultation of the municipality with 114 inhabitants … The film is a wonderful recording of the whole process: from the time the architects won the competition through the following years towards realization of the project. This film indirectly criticizes the process of competitions and questions who is really in charge and what is really relevant in spatial planning. Landscape Architect Eduardo da Costa Pinto opens the discussion with the audience.

18 July 9pm – GALERIA BOAVISTA (free entrance)

Harpa, Hrafnhildur Gunnarsdottir, 2012, Island, 52′

In July 2007, Sagafilm started documenting the construction of the Icelandic National Concert and Conference Centre on behalf of Portus Group. The aim is to document thoroughly the rise of the building and the dramatic changes in the east harbor of Reykjavik City centre and the highlight the effects the Concert Hall will have in the cultural life of Icelanders.The documentary will follow the project from the very beginning- from the pre-construction phase, the design and the bid for ideas for this big construction. The exceptional design of the glazed façade is by artist Olafur Eliasson who, together with architect Henning Larsen, built a pearl in the harbour of Reykjavik. We will go through details of the design, both exterior and interior. Architect Michel Toussaint opens the discussion with the audience.

city hall


19 July, 9pm – GALERIA BOAVISTA (free entrance)

Talking Architect, City:Hall, Jeong Jae-eun, 2013, Coreia, 106′

A few years after the establishment of the Seoul City Hall started, Yoo Geol’s design was chosen after several changes. However, the construction starts without Yoo Geol involved in the plan and everything makes slow progress. In all this repeating situation, time goes by and not much time is left until the construction is done… Architects Teresa Novais and Jorge Carvalho from ANC studio open the discussion with the audience.