There’s a new contender in the online video streaming market today that’s hoping to dominate a distinct niche of the content spectrum. A mix of nerdy and beautiful, the service focuses exclusively on architecture and design.
Featuring short and feature-length documentaries, design magazine video content, and its own original series, the service, named Shelter, aims to be a one-stop stream for the finest films about buildings.
Shelter was created by Dustin Clare, an Australian actor and producer known for his starring role in the Starz gladiator miniseries Spartacus: Gods of the Arena. The idea came from he and his wife’s interest in architecture and design—and the challenge of finding good shows and films about it. “It was really fairly disparate and in a lot of places and of really varying quality,” Clare says.
Pulling it all into one place, Clare says the service will have about 200 hours of content at its launch, and will be licensing new films and shows monthly. Viewers will be able to see documentaries like Kevin Roche: The Quiet Architect, about the late Pritzker Prize-winning designer of the Ford Foundation building in New York, and Visual Acoustics, which tells the story of acclaimed architectural photographer Julius Shulman. The service has also partnered with Dwell magazine and the Australian sustainable design-focused Green Magazine to feature their original videos.
Clare is also producing Shelter’s first original series, a six-episode show called Inspired Architecture. Telling the stories behind unique buildings, the show aspires to be a much more design-centric. “We really explore the narrative of the architects and the commissioning clients. And in the end we really get into the building,” says Clare. The goal was to go beyond the often simplistic style of reality TV to focus on the art and process of design. “That’s what you don’t see a lot of in lifestyle shows. You see a lot of the drama play out, and it’s really repetitive. You don’t really ever get to see a house properly,” he says. “You’ve told me the same thing at every ad break over and over again. You’ve got about 10 minutes of content that you’re just reusing.”
The first run of 15-minute episodes focuses exclusively on Australian architecture, including Permanent Camping. Designed by Casey Brown Architecture and located northwest of Sydney, it’s a stand-alone hut with fold-up walls that open the space to panoramic views of the wilderness. Clare calls it “a really iconic piece of Australian architecture,” and is planning a feature-length documentary on an updated iteration of the design.
He says the service isn’t trying to be snooty or high-brow, but to make design-related films and shows available to people who want to know more about how great spaces get made, and not just trivial home makeovers.
“Sure, there’s going to be a part of that audience that’s really interested in a $4,000 man cave, but there’s another part of that audience that’s really interested in how did you solve a complex design issue because you’re building on the rock face of a cliff, or how did you solve an issue that’s based on budget,” he says.
Another of the films in Shelter’s first offerings puts some of these questions in a global context. Hacer Mucho Con Poco, or Do More with Less, explores contemporary design in Ecuador that uses sustainable materials and that responds to and reflects the realities of economic challenges and the climate crisis. “If you have 3 [million] or 5 million dollars, you can kind of do whatever you want with it, really,” Clare says. “But if you’re limited by a budget and it’s realistic, like what most of the world has to work with, what can you achieve?”
It’s a process he and his wife know well, after gutting and renovating their 1970s home to accommodate their three children. Plans for their new house to be constructed on vacant land, he says, may be the subject of another film in the near future.
In the meantime, Clare is hoping to continue to license new films and shows from around the world, and to take the next season of Inspired Architecture outside of Australia. There’s no shortage of potential subject matter, he says: “If it’s interesting or engaging architecture, we’re interested in the story behind it.”