Architecture and Film

Architecture In Film: When Buildings Steal the Show

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Ever noticed how in some films, it’s not just the characters that leave a lasting impression, but the very spaces they inhabit? We’re diving deep into the world of architecture in film, exploring iconic films that prove that sometimes, the backdrop can be the star. From the grandeur of ‘Metropolis’ to the dystopian vision of ‘Blade Runner’, let’s unravel how these architectural wonders shaped cinematic history.

Lights, Camera, Architecture!

In movies like ‘Metropolis‘(1927), ‘Casablanca’ (1942), and ‘Pulp Fiction‘ (1994), the setting often takes on a life of its own. These films consistently find their way to the top of every cinephile’s list, thanks in no small part to the way the director brings the chosen location to life. Whether it’s a quaint village, a bustling cityscape, or the vast expanse of outer space, the backdrop isn’t just a setting—it’s a character in its own right.

Futurism: Embracing the New

Back in 1914, Italian architect Antonio Sant’Elia threw traditional architecture out the window. He championed materials like glass, steel, and concrete, foreseeing a future where houses were built anew by every generation. The Futurists were all about speed, noise, and the marvels of a modern city. While their vision was radical, only a fraction of these innovative designs ever saw the light of day.

Futurism in Architecture and Film

Futurism in Architecture and Film

Expressionism: Architecture as Art

Around the turn of the century, Erich Mendelsohn took a page from Sant’Elia’s book, embracing new materials and pushing the boundaries of architectural design. His magnum opus, the Einstein Tower, stands as a testament to the marriage of science and architecture. Not only did it symbolize Einstein’s revolutionary ideas, but it was also a marvel of functional design.

Einsteinturm 7443a

Einstein Tower

Fritz Lang: Architectural Visionary Turned Filmmaker

Born into a family of architects, Fritz Lang’s early years were steeped in the world of design. After a stint at the Technical High School in Vienna, he transitioned into filmmaking, leaving an indelible mark on cinema. ‘Metropolis’, a breathtaking expressionist drama, showcased Lang’s ability to use architecture to evoke emotion. It remains a classic, hailed by critics and architects alike. Lang’s visit to New York was a revelation. The city’s skyline, with iconic landmarks like the Flatiron Building and the Woolworth Building, left an indelible mark on his creative vision. The towering structures seemed to pierce the heavens, dazzling against the night sky.

Fritz Lang, inspired image

Fritz Lang, inspired image

New York: A Concrete Jungle of Architectural Marvels

In the early 20th century, architecture and film was embodied by New York, which was a hotbed of architectural innovation. The cityscape was dominated by towering skyscrapers like the neo-Gothic Woolworth Building and the art deco Chrysler Building. The completion of the Empire State Building in 1931 solidified New York’s status as the ultimate metropolis. The integration of technology into society gave rise to a revolution in industry and technology. Architects like Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and Frank Lloyd Wright sought to create new architectural forms that would reflect this transformation. The result? A city skyline that seemed to touch the sky.

New York Architecture

New York Architecture

Bauhaus: Where Art and Architecture Collide

In 1919, Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus school, a melting pot of modernist thought. It emphasized industrial design and questioned traditional notions of architecture. The Bauhaus movement birthed a style characterized by functionality, simplicity, and a focus on space. This style would go on to influence a generation of architects and filmmakers.

Bauhaus School of Architecture in Germany

Bauhaus School of Architecture in Germany

Ridley Scott: From Steelworks to Sci-Fi

Ridley Scott, a student of the arts, drew inspiration from the industrial landscapes of Middlesbrough for ‘Blade Runner’. The stark, smoky surroundings served as a partial muse for the dystopian future he envisioned. Scott’s dissatisfaction with the architectural direction of Los Angeles in the mid-20th century led him to create a cityscape of decay and disrepair in the film.

Bladerunner (1982)

Bladerunner (1982)

Architectural Appreciation: From Blueprint to Big Screen

Many filmmakers, including Lang and Scott, started their journeys in architecture. This background undoubtedly shaped the way they presented spaces on screen with architecture and film.. Films like ‘Metropolis’ and ‘Blade Runner’ stand as testaments to the impact of architectural appreciation on cinematic storytelling.

So, whether you’re a budding architect or just a lover of great films, remember, sometimes it’s not just the actors that steal the show—it’s the spaces they inhabit. Happy exploring! 🎬🏙️


📐Russell M. Henderson is a practicing RIBA Chartered Architect based in Tanzania, East Africa.

🎥Russell (Architect Russell) also makes videos on YouTube , TikTok  Instagram & Skillshare  sharing thoughtful, honest and pragmatic knowledge while working and living abroad.

Architect Russell Uncensored is podcast also available on YouTube, talking about an architect’s life unfiltered. The education of 7 years to controversial topics such as RIBA and ARB, to unusual architect experience abroad like in Bangkok and Tanzania. This is content never before released on any platform and you can only get it here first. The truth through the eyes of Architect Russell, unfiltered and uncensored.

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