photo: lines and color, architecture and movies

color and lines

To get away for at least a day from culture and soical issues just a little bit on architecture. It odd how color can give more depth to an object like a wall and lead the eye around and up. The awareness of how color and shapes can be planned to lead the eye of the observer in certain directions is one of the subtle ways that well designed buildings draw us in as observers.

Architecture has played a large though silent role in movies for years. Lived Space in Architecture and Cinema . The photos at the link are from movies that are over fifty years old yet look futuristic. Buildings are there as a kind of motif in the same way that the repetition of some key words are in short stories. The buildings set a mood; if you see a barn or white picket fence you’re probably not about to watch a film that has the pace, the grit of a film where the opeining scene is the front of the Empire State Building. The movies have in turn influenced architecture,

The interaction of cinema and architecture – the inherent architecture of cinematic expression, and the cinematic essence of architectural experience – is equally many- sided. Both are art forms brought about with the help of a host of specialists, assistants and co-workers. Regardless of their unavoidable nature as the products of collective effort, both film and architecture are arts of the auteur, of the individual artistic creator. The relations of the two art forms could, for instance, be studied from a multitude of viewpoints: how different directors depict a city, as Walter Ruttman in Berlin, der Sinfonie der Grossstadt (1927) or Fritz Lang in Metropolis (1927); how buildings or rooms are presented, as in German Expressionist films with their fantasy architecture suspended between reality and dream; over the real architectural projects of these architects of notable buildings. An architect who made superb projects both as a designer of buildings and set designer was Paul Nelson. His project Maison Suspendue (1936-38), a house in which individual rooms are suspended withing a steel-and-glass cage like bird nests, is as fantastic as any of the ideas expressed through the art form of projected illusion. Vice versa, one could speculate on the kind of buildings the wizards of cinema architecture would have built had they not decided to devote their architectural talent to the service of the illusory art of cinema.8

Marcel L’ Herbier, L’ Inhumanite,1924.

Furthermore, we could take the influence of cinema on today’s architecture as our subject of study. Vincent Korda’s visions of multi-storey atria in Things to Come, for instance, have fully materialized, five decades later, in John Portman’s gigantic hotel projects. Portman’s projects are an example of an architecture which cold-bloodedly serves the economic interests of the developer, utilizing means of persuasion deriving from stage sets designed for cinematic spectacles. The thematized architecture produced by the Walt Disney Corporation during the past decade with the help of a host of international star architects, also reverts to the strategy of illusion and seduction familiar from film. But even artistically more serious architecture today often seeks its inspiration and visual strategy from the language of movies. Jean Nouvel, for instance, declares cinematic imagery and experience as a significant inspiration for his architectural work

Its a little stuffy in a scholarly way, but if you can wade through the whole thing little lights of recognition go off, especially if you’ve seen some of the older films that he mentions. I think Metropolis is in the public domain, but I can’t find a download link for it. There are quite a few older films where buildings, shapes, and shadows are  important elements of the film like The Man Who Knew Too Much available for download at the Internet Archive.

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