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Film and Architecture: Foregrounding the Profession in the 21st Century

November 16, 2017

Lucy Campbell and Barbara Opar, column editors
Column by Lucy Campbell

In July of 2017 a question from Rebecca Price, Architecture, Urban Planning & Visual Resources Librarian at the University of Michigan, initiated a lively debate amongst AASL members. Can you name some movies that in some way foreground architecture? The connection between film and architecture is well documented. Architect Juhani Pallasmaa has discussed how the great directors use architectural imagery to create emotional states,[1] and publications such as Dietrich Neumann’s Film Architecture remind us that set design is in fact a form of architecture.[2] Colleagues immediately began looking beyond the obvious choices (The Fountainhead) to suggest both fun and factual titles with overt tones of the discipline. The movies listed here represent twenty-first century titles and are only a fraction of those suggested. For film buffs interested in the intersection of these two artistic pursuits, these ten may be a good start.

Documentaries

My Architect: A Son’s Journey (2003). In this academy award nominated documentary Louis Kahn’s son Nathaniel explores his father’s legacy.

24 City (2008). This Cannes Festival Palme d’Or submission follows the transition of a Chinese state-owned factory to a modern apartment complex.

My Playground (2010). Blends together the worlds of architecture and parkour to provide a fresh perspective on urban space and how we use it.

Fictional Portrayal of an Architect

The Architect (2016). This comedy follows a couple’s quest to build their dream home while battling against their stereotypically egotistical, uncompromising, modernist architect.

High-Rise (2015). Based on JG Ballard’s dystopian novel, High-Rise details the descent into chaos of a luxury tower block designed to meet every human need. Meanwhile the project’s architect observes from his penthouse suite.

Architectural Setting

Blade Runner 2049 (2017). Building on the 1982 original, this sequel depicts a dystopian world of vertical mega-structures and architectural ruins.

Russian Ark (2002). Filmed entirely in St. Petersburg’s Winter Palace, a single 96 minute Steadicam shot follows a ghostly narrator as he wanders the elegant hallways.

The International (2009). The climactic shoot out scene takes place in Frank Lloyd Wright’s exquisite Guggenheim Museum. A unique way to experience this New York building.

Short Film

Architecture Should be More Like Minecraft (2015). Starchitect Bjarke Ingels uses his skills as a cartoonist to argue architects should imitate players in the bestselling videogame Minecraft and use imagination to build our world.

Mumbai: Maximum City Under Pressure (2014). Using Mumbai as a case study, this film explores the informal city and examines critical issues impacting urban spaces while asking what architects can do to help. 


 


Since 1995 AASL has maintained a list of Core Periodicals inArchitecture. This discussion prompted interest among some members in building a similar list for film and architecture. Although in early stages, we may continue this initiative by addressing additional topics in future columns, for example black and white movies, or the silent era. If you have an interest in this area, or recommendation for AASL please email Lucy Campbell at lcampbell@newschoolarch.edu.


 

[1] Pallasmaa, J. (2007). The architecture of image: existential space in cinema. Helsinki: Rakennustieto.

[2] Neumann, D., Albrecht, D. and Seebohm, A. (1999). Film architecture. Munich: Prestel.

 

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