Architecture in Movies

“To face art or any other form of art, you have to answer another question, which is, “Why  does man exist?” and I think the process and attempts to find answers to it, create art” 

Human lives crave to listen to stories, witness drama, create grandeur as well as destroy it.  Over centuries these experiences have made us scale space and time. Even for a few seconds,  they teleport us to worlds never dreamt of. Movies are one such medium of human tales,  sound, and poetry, and architecture is the reality of it. Architecture is the art and science of  designing buildings and environments. It encompasses various fields in its design process and  forms a deep understanding of how proportional things came to be. Architecture and cinema  are distant arts, yet near relatives. Creators behind them have the understanding of both  fields of expressions and the common thread being both are made by the people, for the  people. 

Before movies, architectural spaces like the colosseum, and down the line theatre acts immersed people in images of entertainment. These structures had elements of advanced  acoustics, panoramic designs, excellent art direction, and a sense of viewing which submerged  the audience in the act in motion. For example, the ancient theatre of Epidaurus is known as  an acoustic marvel that allowed the spectators to hear clearly in the back row and made the  performances seem real without any advanced technology. In the 4th century Greece, a day  in a common man’s life was pretty much the same today except for the nature of the  occupation. So, on most days after work, these arenas of entertainment provided them  escape, just that the 21st century hasreplaced them with theatres and easily available movies  on streaming platforms. 

From painting caves for capturing souls of animals to painting a beautiful scene to wanting  to capture an active image, photography was developed. Cinema is an art that originated  from photography, by creating a sequence to convey the impression of movement to the  viewer. The earliest known film recording is from 1895, picturing the arrival of a train at  Ciotat station in France, a trivial event in the daily life of 19th-century European cities. The  more beauty and wars happened more the dramatic our lives became and the need to show  it increased. Human curiosity polished its technicalities and we witnessed the world’s truth,  beauty, and cruelty. 

Architecture has a wonderful duality of being a whole public and transition right into small  personal spaces. It shapes our minds by shifting perceptions, conditions, and memories. Cultural constructs are broken or made because of walls and windows. Although it goes  unnoticed that we are the creators and also the actors of these cities and houses we live in.  And that is exactly what we see in cinema. The stories, angles, split screens, and imaginations  of how we look to other people and the space above. Movies portray our realities through  different perceptions. It is a clear portrayal of reality, emotions, and stories. Sometimes by  defying laws of physics, altering time and space, and other times by locking us in. A movie  can be anything and everything, like the possibilities of our imagination. The only platform  

where right and wrong can be explored, a place where we can just be one with our raw, open, and most honest thoughts. 

“There is no art without transformation…” – Robert Bresson 

Architecture has enabled movies in framing human conditions in huge civilizations and the  private perimeters of our human lives whereas movies give meaning to spaces through  motion, by montage, focal range, and camera mobility. A second way occurs in fiction films  through the acting-out of behavioral, affective, and psychological potentials that may be  suppressed in actual surroundings and places. Cinematography, colors, and emotions create  cultural disruptions, a slow brewing love story, or a timeless mumblecore confined in a room.  Films are an archive of evidence of how rooms, buildings, cities, and places might be lived in  ‘truth 24 times per second’ (Godard). The amalgamation of architecture and movies has stood  as evidence of transformation in Architectural styles and culture. 

For instance, in Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983) images of iconic places like CST, Juhu beach, and  Marine Drives are used as a backdrop. The city constructs the movie in the context of rapid  economic and political changes in a “big city” and how it affects the lives of two ordinary men.  Discovery documentaries about architectural history make us travel through styles of  architecture. But in motion pictures, we travel in lifestyles, surroundings, and living spaces,  how Art Deco underwent an evolution from a lifestyle of grandeur in The Great Gatsby (2013),  a movie set in 1920’s to residential facades on streets of Miami and Bombay.  

Satya (1998), a Ram Gopal Verma film is the best example of an era of turning point in Bombay  under the pressure of gang wars. The raw, unnoticed and underprivileged living sectors of the  city and their aspirations are honestly documented in the movie. The Man from Earth (2007),  explores how a group of people can engage in conversation in a cabin for one and half hours.  The content of their topics may differ but conversations like those are also part of our daily  lives. University staircases, alleys or bars have witnessed secrets and ideas beyond  comprehension. All these scenarios are products of architectural designs. Architecture and  filmmaking bond when the spatial continuity transforms into the story and its humane  elements. 

This continuity is either used directly or indirectly. In movies like Metropolis (1927), Fritz Lang  uses architecture as a direct plot narrative to show elitism and class structure rather than just  as a background. High Rise structures and new constructional technology being very alien in  the 40s gave rise to Playtime (1967), where Bauhaus makes the workers go in a straight line  and the atmosphere makes one feel dehumanized. Modernism and brutalism are also a  favorite in sci-fi movies, Blade Runner 2049 (2017), gives it structural possibilities whereas  Gattaca (1997) and Brazil (1985) explore its alienation and straightforwardness. 

The most recent portrayal of class structure and social conditions is well shown in South  Korean movies through values and a very visible landscape difference. Parasite (2019), blurs  the line between filmmaking, architecture and class division by bringing a modernist house at  the top of Seoul and a basement apartment together into the narrative. Indirect continuity  serves as a background or acts as a build-up to reveal whispers and ghosts behind a closed  door or a ritual in an open church. The camera moment and editing accentuate the psychology  of the space. One-point perspectives in Space Odyssey 2001 (1968) and excellent mending  and bending of space in Inception (2010) gives these art forms to rise together into outer  space and evolve in our dreams. 

Framing and sculpting an arch or a room requires an immense amount of decision-making.  Same goes for weaving images together and creating a motion picture. Finding two art  disciplines as closely aware of each other as cinema and architecture is unlikely nowadays.  Though an impressive amount of art direction and selection of atmosphere is gone into  narratives, the disciplines aren’t really studied together. As Architects the possibilities of  filmmaking make us dream of creating a real Tomorrowland, Penrose staircase from Inception  and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. But what if we really understood and started acting  on these ideas? Not just with the dynamic eye appealing designs but by also studying natural  human reactions with respect to space and analyze solutions to create natural and habitable  utopias. 


• A Parallel between Cinema & Architecture 20th May 2015, Akshita Garg • Changing environments in Inception. 24th February 2016. Zaintanweer 

• Andrei Tarkovsky – Poetic Harmony, 29th April 2016. The Cinema Cartography. 

• A Very Brief History Of Epidaurus Ancient Theatre, Greece. 8th December 2016, Ethel  Diouambaka: history-of-epidaurus-ancient-theater-greece/ 

• The Element of Continuity Between Cinema & Architecture: Prelude. 31st May 2018.  Replaced by CGI : 

• 7th June 2018, Film and Architecture. AA School of Architecture 

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