Do you know D.C.?
Get our free newsletter to stay in the know about local D.C.
The biggest—and, really, only—problem with Learning From Light: The Vision of I.M. Pei is the Troy McClure-like chucklehead who narrates it. When the celebrated architect, for example, talks technicalities such as the effects of the sun on fragmented cubes and says, “I wish I could do better, because I’m only beginning to scrape the surface,” our storyteller comments: “That is truly an understatement by a 92-year-old architect who has spent an entire professional life in the realm of geometry!” Mercifully, the master himself supplies most of the commentary in Bo Landin and Sterling Van Wagenen’s documentary, which follows Pei for three years as he develops his latest and possibly last project, Qatar’s Museum of Islamic Art. The charming and relentlessly positive Pei explains that he’s chosen to build in all parts of the world throughout his career because he loved delving into new cultures. But when he was approached about taking on this particular job, he knew little about the area—so he began by reading The Life of Muhammad. Listening to Pei dissect his methodologies and talk about his rather challenging ideas for the museum—for one, he built an island so the structure could be surrounded by water and not have to compete with Doha’s busy downtown—is inspiring itself. And the vivid, gorgeously lit images of Pei’s work makes this doc drool-worthy, not only for architecture enthusiasts but for anyone who can appreciate beauty.