Kevin Roche: The Quiet Architect is a fascinating and visually arresting documentary from director Mark Noonan, exploring the life and work of award-winning Irish-American architect Kevin Roche. Roche has been a pioneer in the way he incorporates nature into his structures and for over 70 years he has continually reinvented both himself and the idea of how architecture has a bearing on the increasing urban sprawls of the U.S.
Roche’s philosophy is that “the responsibility of the modern architect is to create a community for a modern society” and it’s a theme that’s explored at length here, with an engaging narrative from the man himself and many of his peers. What Noonan has accomplished with his first documentary feature is a very honest window into the way that someone who leads their field thinks and how they apply themselves to their work. It’s a genuinely enthralling experience.
As well as candid stories on how Kevin Roche shaped his profession, the movie features some stunning camera work from cinematographer Kate McCullough. Her work adds this languid, flowing visual participation to the narrative that really makes the audience feel as if they’ve seen all of Roche’s structures up close and personal. Whether it’s drone shots soaring majestically over the Convention Centre in Dublin or methodical and gracefully executed tracking shots in and around 60 Wall Street’s Atrium, everything is beautifully framed to capture the best sense of Roche’s buildings. Mark Noonan is smart enough to use McCullough’s obvious talent too and often lets whole minutes tick by wordlessly, while you sit there watching and ruminating, a delicate orchestral score playing quietly along.
The Quiet Architect manages to be somewhat charming while communicating Kevin Roche’s philosophy directly and intelligently. It’s explained to us that Roche hates intruding on nature and he sees no sense in wasteful, complicated structure, preferring to create something practical and comfortable. From humble beginnings in Mitchelstown, Co. Cork to being one of the most sought-after masters of his craft in New York, Roche has turned himself into an astonishing success and Mark Noonan’s documentary is a fitting tribute.