Buildings and Places Inspire Student Film Competition

Buildings and Places Inspire Student Film Competition
Architecture students Yazmin Lozano and Cynthy Harris visit various gated communities during their short film.
The family farm in Kentucky is the topic of another film entry.

Every house, every building, every place has a unique story. Using film, architecture students from around the world are telling stories about the built environment for the “Story about a Place” competition.

Sponsored by the Society for Moving Images about the Built Environment (SMIBE), the competition asks participants to use video to explore the built environment, which may include buildings, landscape and planned communities.

Even before the contest, Sarah Lorenzen, assistant professor of architecture, has long been interested in using film to tell these narratives. Lorenzen is a board member of SMIBE and one of the main organizers of the competition.

“Digital videos about the built environment have the potential to offer new readings of places and projects, and should be incorporated into our arsenal of design tools,” she says. “Films can promote cleaner environments, better communities and socio-economic progress by bringing to light relationships between politics, demographic data and the built environment that may not have been considered in the past.”

The finalists will be announced in mid-February. The two grand prize winners will be revealed at the end of the month. All entries will be posted on the SMIBE website after the initial selection has concluded.

The inaugural competition has received a diverse group of entries, from stories about landfills to family farms to gated communities.

Cal Poly Pomona students Cynthy Harris and Yazmin Lozano created a video called “The Other Side of the Gate” that explores the popularity of gated communities in Southern California. The video shows the two architecture students testing the security of gated housing developments and interviewing various residents.

“Our film development began with us looking around Los Angeles, noticing how many streets were closed off or inaccessible because of gated communities. We started researching the suburbanization of urban spaces and noticing the immense number of people who recently moved into closed and private communities. This left us wondering 'why?' ” Harris says. “By using film, one can really bring the audience into the built environment they are trying to comprehend or appreciate. The power to capture the viewer seems to be stronger when you can stimulate their auditory and visual senses simultaneously.”

Cal Poly Pomona students aren't the only ones who have submitted videos; the contest has received national and international response.

One film entitled “Three More Months,” from the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands, documented the transition period of a neighborhood that was slated for demolition and showed empty and occupied streets and homes.

Another film, “From Stable to Table,” details the life of a family farm in Kentucky.

The 10 finalists will receive a trophy and have their films published online, in a DVD and be shown at several venues, including the MAK Center in Los Angeles and Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana. The two grand prize winners also will receive $500.

For more information about SMIBE and the “Story about a Place” competition, visit