An extraordinary journey through the material that makes up our habitat: concrete, and its ancestor, stone. 

Victor Kossakovsky raises a fundamental question:
how do we inhabit the world of tomorrow? 


From filmmaker Victor Kossakovsky (GUNDA, AQUARELA) comes an epic, intimate and poetic meditation on architecture and how the design and construction of buildings from the ancient past reveal our destruction — and offer hope for survival and a way forward.

Centering on a landscape project by the Italian architect Michele De Lucchi, Kossakovsky uses the circle to reflect on the rise and fall of civilizations, capturing breathtaking imagery from the temple ruins of Baalbek in Lebanon, dating back to AD 60, to the recent destruction of cities in Turkey following a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in early 2023.

Rocks and stone connect the disparate societies, from ghostly monoliths stuck in the earth to tragic heaps of concrete rubble waiting to be hauled off and repurposed anew. Through Kossakovsky’s inquisitive lens, the grandeur and folly of humanity and its precarious relationship with nature posits the urgent question: How do we build, and how can we build better, before it’s too late?



Victor Kossakovsky began his career in cinema at the Leningrad (Saint Petersburg) Studio of Documentaries as an assistant cameraman, assistant director and editor in 1978. He graduated from the Higher Courses of Film Writers and Directors in Moscow in 1988. His first feature film Belovy (The Belovs) won both the VPRO Joris Ivens Award and the Audience Award at the IDFA 1993. Later he made films: Wednesday  19.07.1961 (co-production of Germany, France, UK, Japan, Russia) 1997, Pavel and Lyalya (Russia) 1998, I loved you… (co-production of Germany, UK, Russia) 2000, Tishe! (Russia 2002), Vivan Las Antipodas! (co-production of Germany, Netherlands, Argentina, Chile) 2011, Demonstration (Spain) 2013, Aquarela (co-production of Germany, UK, USA) 2018, Gunda (co-production of Norway, USA) 2020, Architecton (co-production of Germany, France, UK, USA) 2024.

Kossakovsky’s films won over 100 international awards and have been shown at dozens of festivals around the world, including Berlin IFF,  Venice IFF, Sundance IFF.

Tishe!, Vivian Las Antipodas! and Gunda were nominated for the Best Documentary of European Film Academy.

Aquarela and Gunda were shortlisted for for the Academy Award® for Best Documentary.

2020 Gunda (Gunda)

2018 Aquarela (Aquarela)

2014 Demonstration (Demonstration)

2011 ¡Vivan las antipodas! (¡Vivan las antipodas!)

2005 Svyato (Svyato)

2003 Tishe! (Tishe!)

2001 I loved you... (Ya vas lubil)

1999 Pavel and Lyalya (Pavel i Lyalya)

1997 Wednesday 19.07.1961 (Sreda)

1993 The Belovs (Belovy)


Is Architecton a companion piece to your 2018 documentary Aquarela, about our planet’s waters?

Victor Kossakovsky: I am very grateful that A24 helped me to make Architecton and to complete my “A” trilogy, which I started with producer Heino Deckert and his company,, with the documentary Vivan las Antipodas! in 2011, then Aquarela in 2018, and now Architecton. These three films changed my way of seeing the world and thinking about our place in it. 

In my view there is a crucial mistake on the first page of Bible. In six days God made darkness and light, then earth, water, plants and animals, and then he made man to rule them all. I found this absurd! Why is man allowed to rule over the lives of other creatures? Why is my life more important than any other life on the planet?

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Man’s insignificance is a big theme in your work, including Architecton. Where does this come from?

Before ¡Vivan las Antipodas! I was influenced by Dostoevsky’s thinking with regards to humanity and its place in the universe. But while filming the “A” trilogy, Antipodas and Aquarela and now Architecton—filming a whale, a condor, a butterfly—I had to ask myself if this was the right way to think. 

It is true that human life is important, and it is also true that Humanism has played its positive part in our history. Great! What could be our next step? Tolstoy said at the end of his life that the next step for humanity should be to accept that we are not the only life that exists. If we won’t acknowledge it, we’ll be stuck in the same circle of war and peace.

The title of Architecton comes from War & Peace, in fact.

Yes and no. When I started to think of making a film about modern architecture, I learned that many prominent architects found their inspiration in architectural sculptures of the avant-garde artist and theorist Kazimir Malevich, which he called “Architectons”. It’s true that the word also comes from Tolstoy, but when I first read War and Peace 40 years ago, I did not pay attention to it and then forgot it was there.

I wrote a script with the title Architecton, and I shared the script with few colleagues and realized that people did not know the word. They introduced doubts about the title and even about the idea of the film. I was confused. Then the Covid pandemic came—time to read big books—and I read War and Peace again. 

At the end of this book, the protagonist doesn’t utter the word God. He pleads instead: “Great Architecton of Nature, please help me to get out of this labyrinth of lies”.  So, Leo Tolstoy kind of winked to me, saying: “Architecton is a good idea, Victor, you are on the right path, fight for it!”

It’s interesting that most translations of War and Peace mistakenly use the word “architect” to replace Architecton. You can trace it to ancient Greek philosophy—it means the architect of architects, the one who is above all others. The Greeks used the term to suggest the architect of the universe.

How did this Architecton take shape over time? 

The pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine changed my idea radically. In such moments you ask yourself: ‘is it really important, what I’m doing right now?’ To me it was clear: I was not able to make a film simply about modern architecture. But at the same time, I had to finish the film, which was started much before the invasion.

Images of urban destruction haunt Architecton. How did the war affect your thinking?


I filmed these Ukrainian cities that were destroyed by Russian missiles, including civilian and residential buildings. Those ruins speak more clearly than any document. They show what happened there, and where the missiles flew from. 

We started to film ancient ruins. We are not the first civilization. The previous people probably thought that they would be here forever, just like we think and behave now. But they disappeared. Maybe because of a war, or pandemic, or flood, or asteroid, or other cosmic event…

Humans routinely make war against one another, finding enemies as cities rise and fall. But there is another war that is happening right now: a war of humans against nature, something that should not go unnoticed.

The images you show also capture the aftermath of last year’s earthquake in Turkey.

Architecture is a way of seeing things we don’t want to see—it’s like a record of what’s happened in the past, but also what’s happening right now. In Turkey, we filmed in two areas, very close to each other. In the earthquake zone, where everything made from concrete was destroyed, but 4,000-year-old buildings made from stone remain in place. Civilizations became less durable once we started building with metal and cement.

When you travel to the Middle East in the film, we see this wasn’t the case in antiquity.

Most architecture books assume that arches were invented by the Romans. But in Architecton you can see a few arches that were made much earlier. The two megaliths that we filmed in the Baalbek quarry in modern Lebanon weigh 1000 tons and 1670 tons. We cannot lift them today, with our modern cranes. Somehow these people were able to cut these huge stones, and erect huge arches and columns. We have no idea how they made it, just like we don’t know how the pyramids were built.

Architecton also examines time and history, and what architecture can tell us about periods of construction and destruction.

We have to acknowledge other civilizations before our own—we know there were at least six, and some scientists will tell you there were thirty prior to Western Civilization. These civilizations fell. When we were filming in Turkey, we found ruins of about 700 ancient amphitheaters, each with 5,000-20,000 seats, made entirely from stone. These were theaters in public spaces, not in proximity to military fortresses, which means they existed during a peaceful moment in history. Imagine 700 theaters in one country! Does that exist nowadays? 

How else did you go about researching this project?

I could not travel during the pandemic so I started talking with as many architects as I could—around 20 in total. I won’t name them, but they are among the most famous architects of our time. I called them with two questions—why did you become an architect? And what should be the dominant focus of the modern city? In Western Civilization, and Europe in particular, there was once a simple principle for building cities: you build around a cathedral in the center, a practice that was also common in other parts of the world with their religious traditions. But if you build a city from scratch in the modern world, architects no longer consider religion as a central force. I wanted them to propose new solutions. But none of them could! Some suggested schools, or libraries, or shopping malls—but only one could offer a clearcut and universal idea.

The Italian Michele De Lucchi is the only architect to appear in the film. What was his grand idea?

Instead of a cathedral or a shopping mall, he was thinking about open space—empty space— a circle where man cannot enter. Never. It should be in the center of our cities, in order to remind us that Nature is at the center of our existence.

What made him different from the other architects you consulted?

He was the only one with humility, admitting he was ashamed of building drab rectangles in Milan, adding more concrete to a city that’s already losing its soul. The other architects talked about being sustainable, suggesting concepts like greening the façades and balconies and rooftops of buildings—but the structures would still be made from concrete and metal, and cost the same to produce. And the projects were still harmful to nature despite the greening. Nobody seemed to think that concrete is catastrophic.

You argue in the movie that there is a lack of beauty in modern architecture today. Why is this?

We live in an era of cement, concrete, and sugar—inside our bodies, sugar is killing us in the same way modern architecture is destroying our cities. These substances come fast and cheap, but we don’t see the big picture. 

For thousands of years, people knew the value of the things they made—they cut one big stone and knew it would remain forever. But today’s architects cannot imagine the future. They don’t know what to build in the center of city because the world is changing so fast. We don’t know what kind of buildings we’ll need in 20 years, so there is no vision. 

Also, the notion of homeland is no longer considered in architecture—if you grew up in a beautiful place, you remember this in your heart, and your creations reflect this, but if you were born in an ugly place, filled with sad rectangles, you can stay depressed forever. Modern design can be catastrophic to our mental health.

This is cause for alarm, as suggested in the movie through images of collapsed buildings, pulverized concrete, and hollowed-out mountains.

In one region of the world alone, we destroy 700 mountains a year just to make cement. We turn mountains into cement and we build buildings that last 40 years, on average, and cities that collapse in earthquakes. And then we make mountains of garbage from the remains of the concrete building and the cycle starts anew. 

In the UK alone, we demolish 50,000 building per year. In the EU and the US it is a few hundred thousand a year. If United Nations predictions are correct, in 2050 we will have 10 billion people occupying the planet. Where are we going to put all of those people? The planet won’t be able to take it if we keep putting concrete buildings everywhere. It takes burning 26 tons of coal an hour to run a cement factory operating around the clock. Last year alone, we produced enough cement to build a solid wall one meter thick and 1,000 meters tall around the equator.

The perfect circle in your movie comes to symbolize an ideal—but also suggests our doom. What’s the way out of this cycle, in your opinion?

The main problem comes from our dominant relationship to nature. What’s missing in our lives is respect for nature, empathy for other living beings, and shame for our own wrong actions. If we’re talking about architecture, then we need to understand that the architects won't solve the problem of concrete themselves. We have to mobilize eight billion brains and find a healthy replacement for cement and concrete. We can do it—we just have to face reality. We build everything with concrete because it’s fast and easy, but if we build 2 billion new apartments for the next 2 billion people born in 20 years’ time, we’ll destroy the planet completely. 



Michele De Lucchi
Architect. He designs buildings, environments, objects.  He has always defended the humanistic role of the technical professions. He has been a prominent figure in avant-garde movements in architecture and design since the 1970s. He is a distinguished professor and teaches at the Politecnico of Milan. In 2000 he received the title of "Ufficiale della Repubblica Italiana" from President Azeglio Ciampi. In 2022 he was honoured with the Compasso d’Oro Career Award. He draws, paints and carves models out of wood. A selection of his works is exhibited in the most important museums in Italy and around the world. He is founder and part of AMDL CIRCLE.


Michele De Lucchi


Director, Author, Editor: Victor Kossakovsky

Cinematography: Ben Bernhard

Composer: Evgueni Galperine

Sound, Sound Design: Alexander Dudarev

Editor: Ainara Vera

Producer: Heino Deckert

Co-producer: Clara Vuillermoz, Estelle Robin You, Charlotte Hailstone

Executive Producer: Ben Cotner, Emily Osborne, Adriana Banta, Frank Lehmann, Nick Shumaker


Original title: Architecton

International title: Architecton

Duration: 98 min

Aspect Ratio: 2:1

Format: DCP

Sound: 5.1, 7.1, atmos

Year: 2024

Original language: Italian, English

Countries of production: Germany, France

Production Companies: Filmproduktions GmbH

Co-production Companies: Point du Jour - Les Films du Balibari

in co-production with ZDF
in association with Arte

With the support of: Eurimages, DFFF, Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, MEDIA Development (Förderung der Entwicklung), FFA - German-French Minitraité (Förderung der Entwicklung), Région des Pays de la Loire (Förderung der Entwicklung)



Michael Arnon, Gordon Spragg