SAH Award for Film and Video

SAH Award for Film and Video
The 2021 award cycle has closed. Nominations for the 2022 award cycle will open in June 2021.

2020 Award Recipient


The First Line of China
Hanwen Zhang, Director
Hanwen Zhang, Producer, 2018

From The First Line of China is a transmedia project launched in 2017. It utilized different media at its various stages to present and examine the current status of an isolated industrial town in Northeast China, as well as my relationship with it since it’s my birthplace. Currently, it consists of three stages:

1) a series of photo juxtapositions “Sheep Pen Town” (2017);
2) a photobook “Zhong Guo Di Yi Xian” (2018);
3) a film entitled “The First Line of China” (2019). 

The town was constructed simultaneously with a local state-owned cement factory to accommodate workers who migrated there. I consider this factory-town model is a combined product of the top-down urban planning scheme and the radical industrialization of China in the 1980s, while the communal living experience serves as a bearer of both collective memory and individual sentiments.

The title is a phrase disinterred from local oral history to describe this place in 1990s China. While having lost its initial context of socialist collectivism, it has turned into a floating signifier of ideologically constructed grand narrative, a haunting symbol of nostalgia.

2020 Honorable Mentions

Joseph Hillel, Director
City Dreamers
Ziad Touma, Producer, 2018

Rima Yamazaki
Learning from Buffalo

SAH Award for Film and Video



The SAH Award for Film and Video was established in 2013 to recognize annually the most distinguished work of film or video on the history of the built environment. 


The award is global in scope with no geographic or political boundaries limiting subject matter or production team. The topic of the film or video must be any aspect of the built environment including the history of buildings, interiors, monuments, landscapes, cultural landscapes, urbanism, designers, engineers, clients, preservation, conservation, citizen engagement, or other topics related to the history of the built environment. 

Films and videos representing a wide range of methodologies will be considered including documentaries, critiques, theoretical works and documentary recreations of lost sites. Films and videos by independent directors and producers, including those with a K-12 educational focus, are also welcome.

Films or videos must have an initial release date within the past three years. Honorable Mentions may also be awarded.

Entries for consideration will be submitted, on a DVD or a link to an online viewing site such as Vimeo, to the award committee members and the SAH office by the director, producer, or producer’s distributor.

Nominees will also submit a 250–500-word narrative that addresses the goals of the film/video, the intended audience, where the work has been screened/aired/viewed, and what kind of response the work has received.

The most important criterion is the work’s contribution to the understanding of the built environment, defined either as deepening that understanding or as bringing that understanding to new audiences. A second criterion is a high standard of research and analysis, whether the production was for a scholarly audience, a general audience, or both. A third criterion is excellence in design and production.

The Award

The Award will consist of a certificate and citation that will be presented at the Awards Ceremony at the Society’s Annual International Conference. Following the presentation, the film will be shown at the conference. The Award will be announced in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, the SAH Newsletter, and on the SAH website. The winning film or video will become part of the Society’s permanent archive, housed in the library at the Society’s headquarters, Charnley-Persky House, in Chicago. The recipient will be required to supply two copies of the award-winning film on DVD for the Society’s archive.

Past Recipients

2019    Vilanova Artigas – the Architect and the Light
Directed by Laura Artigas and Peter Gorski
Olé Produções, 2015 
2018    Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future
Director: Peter Rosen
Peter Rosen Productions, 2016 
2017    Talking to My Father
Filmmaker: Sé Merry Doyle
Loopline Film, 2015
    Honorable Mention:
Tower House
sixpackfilm, 2013
Filmmaker: Karl-Heinz Klopf

A Tropical House
sixpackfilm, 2015
Filmmaker: Karl-Heinz Klopf
2016    The New Rijksmuseum
Filmmaker: Oeke Hoogendijk
First Run Features, 2014 
    Honorable Mention:
Haus Tugendhat
Pandora Film, 2013
Filmmakers: Dieter Reifarth (director) and Filipp Goldscheider (producer) 
2015    The Best Planned City in the World: Olmsted, Vaux and the Buffalo Park System
Library of American Landscape History in association with Florentine Films/Hott Productions, Inc, 2013
2014    Unfinished Spaces
Filmmakers: Alysa Nahmias and Benjamin Murray
Bullfrog Films, 2012

Header images L-R: Film stills from award recipients The New Rijksmuseum, Talking to My Father, Unfinished Spaces, Haus Tugendhat, and The Best Planned City in the World: Olmsted, Vaux and the Buffalo Park System.

SAH thanks The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation
for its operating support.
Society of Architectural Historians
1365 N. Astor Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610