Ultan Guilfoyle

USA , 2018 / 54 min / English OV with French & English subt. / Documentary

Collaboration Paperjam Architecture+Real Estate
Followed by a roundtable discussion with Sam Tanson (Minister of Justice), Jeff Schmit (director, Centre pénitentiaire d’Uerschterhaff), Amandine Tockert (architect, Bâtiments Publics) & Frank Murawski (architect, Christian Bauer & Associés) – Moderator: Céline Coubray (Maison Moderne)


Legendary architect Frank Gehry teams up with architecture students to re-envision the future of incarceration.

This inspiring documentary, connecting architecture with social policy, follows the legendary architect Frank Gehry as he sets out to answer whether there is a better way to design prisons. Collaborating with architecture students from the Southern California Institute of Architecture and the Yale School of Architecture, former inmates, and prison experts, Gehry and his colleagues grapple with complex social, political, emotional, structural, and aesthetic challenges to re-envision the future of incarceration. Together, they explore all aspects of prison design, learning first-hand the design flaws of prison life from women who have been incarcerated in the worst prisons in all of the United States.

Frank Gehry: Building Justice examines both the American criminal justice system and the issue of prison design through architecture students’ point of view, as they look into the future of American incarceration policy.


“[O]ne critically important element [of criminal justice reform] has remained mostly overlooked: the design of correctional facilities. Enter Frank Gehry, who has been focused on the subject since 2016, when he was invited by billionaire philanthropist George Soros and his Open Society Foundation to be part of a study on prison design. […] The film is not about disseminating specific design solutions. Rather, it’s more about understanding the challenges of prison design and the process Gehry and his students undertook.” Paul Clemence, Metropolis, 19/06/2019

“Frank Gehry is the most famous and lauded architect of his generation. Known for creating concert halls and large public space. The very idea of designing the ‘perfect’ jail hits at the antithesis of his previous projects. Nevertheless, in Ultan Guilfoyle’s Frank Gehry: Building Justice, with the help of Yale’s architecture students, Guilfoyle composes the inequities of the American justice system down to the brick. Much of Building Justice discusses how space psychologically affects humans: how ethereal open areas free us, and why claustrophobic confinement stokes our worst demons. Prisons have often relied on space as a form of punishment, as a method for dehumanizing which runs counter to the goal of rehabilitation. […] The documentary’s most poignant scenes arrive through the students […] and Gehry interviewing former inmates who share their disparaging experiences in jail. […] Frank Gehry: Building Justice should serve as a startling shock for America.” Robert Daniels, 812FilmReviews, 24/10/2019

Cast & Credits
Frank Gehry, George Soros, Dwayne Betts, Susan Burton, Alex Busansky, Jolanda Devalle, James Forman, Greg Lynn, Lenny Noisette, Chris Stone, Billie Tsien
Mark Chamberlin, Ultan Guilfoyle
Valerie Lasser
Ultan Guilfoyle

Ultan Guilfoyle is an award-winning producer, director and screenwriter. He began his career at the BBC, where he produced music and arts programmes including the rock show Whistle Test and a Live Aid concert. Ultan Guilfoyle was the founding director of the film department at the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum in New York. In this role, Guilfoyle co-curated the landmark design exhibition The Art of the Motorcycle, which remains the most attended design exhibition in the museum’s history. In 2014, he completed a series of short films with the architect Renzo Piano, chronicling the construction of an extension to the Kimbell Art Museum in Texas, designed by the latter. His film on women in architecture, Making Space (2014), premiered at the New York Architecture and Design Film Festival. Frank Gehry: Building Justice (2018) is his second feature documentary. When not making films, Ultan Guilfoyle writes about design, his articles having been published among others in the New York Times, The Independent and Design Magazine.

  • 2018 – Frank Gehry: Building Justice (documentary)
  • 2014 – Making Space: 5 Women Changing the Face of Architecture (documentary)
  • 2014 – Building the Pavilion (documentary short film series)