THE CINEMATIC EXPERIENCE OF ARCHITECTURE IN FILM

How does a mutualistic relationship between the creative industries comprises our urban future?


By Eleanor Worthington: Arts Columnist


Undoubtably, film and TV would not be the industry that we know without the integral interdisciplinary role of architecture and set design. Ranging from modern box office favourites to pre 2000’s classics, the world building itself, in which unforgettable scenes are created in, is arguably the uppermost important role. The urban design places the storyline in a specific time and space, allowing even the most abstract and science fiction to seem normal and within our universe. It encourages the public viewer to expand their collective imagery to project a vision of the imminent urban future, which eases the pressure off the architects responsibility of what the future will ‘look like’. This is specifically where film and architecture form a mutualistic relationship that reflects the importance of socio-political
representation. Though it is the architects and engineers role in reality to pioneer new design norms, some innovations become stagnant due to the inability of the public or investors to digest the somewhat outlandish ideas. However, film and tv are more likely to expose these contemporary notions in a subtle contextual way that enables the public to ignite their imagination and transform their perception of the future world.


Here we explore three different films with substantial and notable architecture, both utopian and dystopian, and should without doubt be explored by any architecture or film fanatic:

Body Double


Directed by Brian De Palmer, the thriller/mystery follows failed actor, Jake Scully, on his journey to find answers for the murder of a young woman that he witnessed whilst peering through the window of the Hollywood Hills home that he was house-sitting.
The focal piece of architecture in the movie is the house that he was looking after, the Chemosphere designed by American architect John Lautner. The propped up spaceship appearing edifice is a modernist design, constructed in 1960. It was designed to be the residence of engineer Leonard Malin. It seems perplexing almost that such an alien piece of architecture was use in such a tense and harrowing film but due to the richness and flamboyance of the design, it would instill the reality of the wealth and social pedestal of the rich and famous – what Jake Sully was dreaming of.
This design has since gone on to appear in other films and has influenced sets for films such as the Charlies Angels movie (2000) and was declared as a Los Angeles Historic-Culture Monument in 2004, roughly two decades later. Even now to the unfamiliar eye, the architecture is stunning and somewhat overwhelming.

12 Monkeys (1995)

Terry Gilliam directs a dystopian future where disease has ravaged the world and wiped most of the human species out. Convict James Cole, played by Bruce Willis, is send back in time to source information about the catastrophic event. Without spoiling the film too much, James Cole undergoes an interrogation in which the set design is truly a scene to remember. The terrifyingly advanced designs and technology, though seemingly old for the fabricated world they are in, suites the tense atmosphere of the shot and hurls the sensation of interrogation onto the audience. The abundance of torturous and alien gizmos and intense network of pipes only adds to the discomfort and aura of unfamiliarity.


If you happen to be inclined by the work of Lebbeus Woods however, this scene is to some measurably misleading and fraudulent. Lebbeus Woods is an America architect known for his experimental and unconventional designs. The Neomechanical Tower Chamber designed by Woods can be directly linked to Tim Gillian’s 12 Monkeys interrogation scene as they are composed indifferently and without the approval of Woods. Despite a lawsuit and court ruling that Gillian must
remove the scene, Woods allowed it and remained content with a financial settlement.

Ready Player One (2018)


To escape the reality of poverty and a dystopian reality as a result of chaos, the climate crisis and fossil fuels, the population of the world in 2040 transverse to the OASIS to live out their days. People seek virtual refuge from skyscrapers formed of stack caravans and waste to a inviting place that recreates past, present and future. Players can live out dreams of being whoever or whatever they wish to be in the most fantastical of environments both real (although not to them) and fictional.
For example, Central Park and The Shining hotel.
Though the film primarily focuses on the virtual set, you can’t help but notice the reality of the real world. The film isn’t set too far away in the future for us not be able to comprehend its physical existence as it was birthed out of real issues that we constantly battel today. It seems director Steven Spielberg and Virtual Production Lead Technical Director Girish Balakrishnan have done this quite meticulously as not to allow the viewer to think its too futuristic and can enforce a sense of
urgency into our own reality.

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