MOVIE REVIEW: Kevin Roche: The Quiet Architect

This documentary focuses on the life of Irish Born architect Kevin Roche, who for over seventy years, has built buildings around the world that help those inside them to be more a part of each others lives.  We delve through the decades of hard work and constant change that continue to this day into his 90’s.

I didn’t know how to approach this documentary, I found it fascinating to a point and I love looking at the different buildings in every city that I travel to, with Kevin Roche being behind the Dublin Convention Centre here it was not the subject that has left me perplexed.  What the film shows is a man who is at comfort with nature, how buildings should fit into the environment.  We’ll get into the production later.  What kept coming to me is that here is a man who loves his job, but also people, the buildings that he designs are based on the people who used them.  He places other people before the client, he puts into the centre of the building those who spend most of their time there, and then designs around them.  We should all place other people into the heart of what we do.

Kevin is in his mid 90’s now.  He works everyday still and with a team behind him in his own practice he manages to create amazing workplaces that inspire those who have come after him.  I don’t know if I have that dedication for my work and it’s inspirational in the fact that he could have retired 30 years ago, but in his own words, ‘Why would you do that?’  He’s funny as he is interviewed and doesn’t bother to censor himself.

Where the film lost me, and you might think this is strange, is the lingering shots of his beautiful buildings.  The camera stays too long on the one shot, I presume to rack up the running time, and that time could have been spent bringing us deeper into the man and those behind the man.  Don’t get me wrong we see that side of the film, but it’s a passing glance, rather than a true in-depth feeling of exploration of his life.  Maybe it’s his choice, maybe he is more private than the man appears on-screen, it’s all just maybe.

You may not think of an Architect as an Artist in the true sense of the word, but this documentary shows how Kevin Roche seems to have changed how that line between the two has been blurred.  His training and experiences with mentors shaped him into what he has become.  Interviews with colleagues and peers, along with a too short interview with his wife, show one of the most dedicated professionals that any career has made.

From a humble start in Ireland, learning a craft that most of our country, at the time, didn’t care about, to being at the forefront of some of the most environmentally friendly buildings across the globe Kevin Roche: The Quiet Architect is essential viewing for anyone trying to go into that vocation in the future.  It shows that designing buildings is not just a job it’s a vocation.

Director: Mark Noonan

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