We have been entertained by various shows, where characters play a vital part in their own work lives as well as personal life. Chartered accountants, firefighters, doctors, and the favourite of all the people in the world – police! All the content made in visual media has seen growth in showing people of all professions as time progressed. 

Location to a story is equivalent to a canvas that holds the smears of slate and colour. They are the real heroes that enhance the scene. What astounds us the most is the fact that the makers of these very scenes (and in general) are not kept in high regard when compared to the aforementioned professions.

Disclaimer – We shall be covering movies, shows, web series, and any visual medium that has character(s) playing professional architect(s). These do not include movies made about, for, and by the architects and their work.

HOW DO WE SEE ARCHITECTS?

For an uninitiated viewer, any opinion of a profession comes through the content they consume. Perception about any profession is imprinted upon the viewers, just as they see it. It becomes their reference point for relating with upon meeting others with the same job.

Many movies toe around realism and fantasy through their storytelling, unless the genre necessitates detailing. And rightfully so, not every movie works in detail when exploring the characters’ relation to their profession within the frames. But upon misrepresentation, stereotyping would lead to loss of the genuineness of the title or the profession as well.

The architectural fraternity has been represented the same way hackers were shown hacking computers in earlier movies; it’s cartoonish, wordy, jazzy, or just downright reduced character trope limited to their quirks and habits and not the actual skills.

Adulting

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‘Adulting’ (2018), Dice Media

Ray Madhav (left, played by Yashaswini Dayama) plays an architect in the Dice Media’s Adulting (TV Mini-Series). This is not apparent until she herself says it, or the supporting character points it out through dialogue or worse, an exposition. This scene itself lacks a typical architect’s desk look, which in itself is disappointing. However, the travesty within this scene is the use of a mechanical drafter within this set (left, behind the chair); this tool has NEVER been used, EVER. Not even in schools!

Many movies and TV shows suffer from superficial explanations of the duties of architects; you cannot find anything distinctive within the functioning environments. Schools of architecture have typical classrooms (not studios), firms housing closed-plan cubicles devoid of any taste or style, models of buildings scattered for display (in rare cases) and renders of major projects pasted along ‘vision’ statement with a logo of the said firm. All of these set pieces could as well be a generic office if the character’s profession were to be changed.

To give you a taste, these are the two shots of protagonists in their workplace. Keeping aside the awareness of the said movies and their stories, one would be less likely able to guess the nature of their professions through their surroundings alone.

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Imran Khan in ‘Katti Batti’ (2015), UTV Motion Pictures
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James McAvoy in ‘Wanted’ (2008), Relativity Media

ON A BRIGHTER NOTE

Some stories around the world have put a spotlight on the world of architecture and practice. In a world where people rely on quacks instead of actual professionals to help their cause, representation of our profession has taken baby steps to realise the sheer determination and rigorous penance to graduate and practice. However, a lot is lacking in terms of real-world issues that plague the practitioners and learners alike, ranging from racial segregation, unequal opportunities, unpaid internships and many more. These real-world issues are rarely integrated with the ongoing stories, supplement very less to the already mysteriously guarded profession.

Kismat Konnection

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‘Kismat Konnection’ (2008), UTV Motion Pictures-Tips Music Films

This Aziz Mirza movie surprisingly captures the life of an actual architect’s struggles. Albeit his ‘streak of bad luck is stretched to amplify the huge gap of ‘achievements’ he achieved in college life, real-life hasn’t been kind to Raj Malhotra (left, on the podium) in the professional front. Five years since his graduation, he faced multiple failed proposals on grounds of less experience by the industrialists and many such prospective clients; this movie has been the closest to portraying a real architect’s life in India, if not on proper professional details involved within the profession.

 How I Met Your Mother (2005), CB

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Josh Radnor in How I Met Your Mother (2005), CBS

Ted Mosby plays a more traditional version of architect, affected by the otherwise a major ‘corporate wash over treatment. His character arc has inspired ‘Kismat Konnection’s’ storyline. Teddy’s journey as a practising member and profession is mildly intertwined with the overarching story. His surroundings supplement us with the details of his work life accordingly and show a basic understanding of how architects function, if at least on a superficial level. However, the overall story doesn’t really affect the outcome of his professional, save one regarding his first public project.

The Architect

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James Frain in ‘The Architect’ (2016), Parker Film Company

For anything titled ‘The Architect,’ this movie has managed to totally ride upon the clichés of architects and the way designs are (not) discussed. In a weird way, this movie shows everything and anything we should not be, at any costs.
The set-pieces and surroundings, on the other hand, are top-notch; the only saving grace in this train-wreck for a movie.

THE PROBLEM?

The bone contention of all said examples discussed displays a bland, under-recognised presentation of our profession, resulting in outputs that lacks complexity and stands uninvolved with the overarching stories written. Not many stories are inclusive to the growth, pain and struggles of the professional architects’ making. For a profession that makes the majority of all stories come alive and acts as a catalyst (or a character unto itself), we have managed to keep ourselves hidden openly like plainclothes policemen.

Parasite 

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Parasite (2019), Braunson E&A – CJ Entertainment

Park family home plays a central character in this story with a well fleshed exposition flashback of its making. This house and all the set-pieces within this movie reflect their own story with few lines or none at all.

All the content made in visual media has seen growth in showing people of all professions as time progressed. We believe it is time architects get their due growth in representations as people and be recognised for the duties in the reels and panels.

Author

N. R. K. S. Teja is an architect, who loves minimalist works, survives on spicy food and an internet junkie, absorbing all kinds of information related to interior design and architecture. He believes if drawings speak more, words articulate better.

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