Best Documentary

An Engineer Imagines – Film Review

An Engineer Imagines – Film Review by Frank L.

Directed by Marcus Robinson.

Peter Rice was born in Dublin in 1935 and brought up in Dundalk. He qualified as an engineer; he went to London where he was employed by Ove Arup. In that capacity he worked on the Sydney Opera house with particular responsibility for its unique and breathtaking roof. It was the start of a stellar career which included the Pompidou Centre and the Louvre Pyramid in Paris and the Lloyds Building in the City of London. Each building was inventive; each is distinctive and unique. Each has become iconic.

Robinson uses interviews with some of Rice’s collaborators, such as Sir Richard Rogers to give an insight into the imaginative workings of Rice’s mind and admirers such as Jan Dalley highlights how his work permeated into the every day life of more ordinary mortals. However, he died at the height of his powers in 1992.

Rice’s fascination with the glories of nature are shown by his admiration for a remote theatrical space in rural France where moonlight is the means to illuminate the stage. It was another aspect of his ability to be enthused by simple elements and to create a beautiful and unlikely phenomenon. His inexhaustible fascination with the world around him is what pervades this documentary.

But what makes this documentary so appealing is that Robinson also highlights Rice’s rich family life as the father of four children, who with his wife chose to live in a bucolic and simple manner far away from the cutting edge of his ability to understand and adapt the new materials. Robinson uses home cine camera footage where Rice’s energies make it clear that whatever he was engaged upon he did so with a magnificent gusto. He generates an energy to live in the moment. He himself seems to have been a force of nature.

It is great that this documentary celebrates this genius of a man. He is a credit to the world of the built environment and Robinson has done him proud in this impressive documentary. It is to be hoped that it is but a foundation stone upon which further study of this unique man will be laid.


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