Since ancient times, architecture has links with numerous realms of art and science like music, literature, physics, engineering, and other fields. Film and architecture have been intrinsically tied since the invention of the moving image. Both are cultural expressions that deal with space, time, and people, addressing the human predicament through spatial narrative. The architect, like the filmmaker, creates realities out of fiction.

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The relationship between Art and Cinema

The relationship between architecture and filmmaking is sometimes regarded as a complex and entangled discourse between the two disciplines, that cannot be characterized as a single entity and is instead examined as the intrinsic architecture of a cinematic representation. 

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Film Craft has always been a mystery. It has several overlapping layers that the director and creative team put together to tell a tale in various ways. The cinema has the delicate ability to transport us away from reality and into a world of make-believe. The entire notion has been envisioned, developed, choreographed, designed, and given to life for us by the director. But it is the cinema’s backdrop and architecture that first pull us into the spirit of the story. It establishes the idea for the spectator to kick back and relax in a world of speculation and virtual reality. 

Architecture adds meaning to a film’s story and helps set the scene, both geographically and chronologically. Cinema allows for the preservation of historical buildings and the invention of futuristic styles that have yet to see the light of day.

Visualizing Art & Design through Cinema

Aside from a clever plot, humorous writing, and riveting performances, what makes a good film great is the fine line between transporting us into a new time and location and enveloping us in the plot through visual storytelling. The world of movies transports us to a never-ending dimension of mystic charm, from burned-out brutal battles to spotless civilizations, the thrill of secret-ridden spies, gangster haunts, alternate futures, dramatic comedies, and sad romances. 

The significance of architecture in filmmaking has been crucial since its inception to depict a world, whether utopian or dystopian. With limited space and money, production designers and architects work together to create a physical fictional world packed with emotions that transport us to a new state of mind, away from the daily realities of existence. Film sets and such production designs are more than simply a backdrop; they assist in creating context and are one of the most significant, yet often overlooked, supporting actors in a film. Here are some of the most extravagantly designed architectural film sets globally:

1. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Director: Wes Anderson
Set Designer: Adam Stockhausen & Anna Pinnock

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“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” an Oscar-nominated film from 2014, is one of the most famous films with great screen design of all time. Set at the start of World War I in the fictitious European country of Zubrowka, this is more than simply a narrative about murder, purple-suited lobby boys, and prison breaks; it’s a story inside a story set in its own universe that establishes an unusual tone for an unexpected plot. The well-preserved and renovated town of Görlitz in Germany served as a primary inspiration for the town center lined with 14th and 15th-century houses.

2. Midnight in Paris

Director: Woody Allen
Set Designer: Anne Seibel and Hélène Dubreuil

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Bringing back the “real-time” of contemporary Paris by showcasing the gorgeous era of la belle epoque embroidered with tones of Art Nouveau in Paris. Finding a match for the 2010 remnants of the “Moulin Rouge” which was later recreated in an empty concert hall called “La Cigale” with similar balconies and alleyways and used custom light fixtures, drapes, and finishes to take it back to the 20s was one of the major challenges of recreating the facets of 1920s, Paris. Such care and attention to even the smallest details earned the picture enormous acclaim, including a nomination for Best Art Direction at the 84th Academy Awards.

3. The Harry Potter Series

Director: David Yates, Chris Columbus, Mike Newell & Alfonso Cuaron
Set Designer: Stuart Craig

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The novel follows the young wizard Harry Potter and his companions in their ultimate battle against his arch-enemy set in the magical environment of Hogwarts in the wizarding world, which every youngster wishes to be a part of. Stuart Craig, with the assistance of Stephenie McMillan, has been the production designer for all eight films in the series, designing iconic sets such as the immaculately designed Ministry of Magic, the Chamber of Secrets, and the Malfoy Manor, among many others, as well as continuously evolving the plan for the majestic Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

4. Parasite

Director: Bong Joon-ho
Set Designer: Lee Ha-jun

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Since winning the 2019 Academy Award for Best Picture, the dark Korean drama about class discrimination has dominated the conversation, not only for the finely crafted storyline and performances but also for the infamous Park Family residence and the Kim family apartment that were specially designed to meet the film’s technical and emotional requirements. One of the most shocking aspects of these enterprises’ creation was their use of a language of contrasts to highlight society’s shortcomings. The insides and outsides, solids and voids, convey social class discrepancies and gently establish the tone for visual storytelling.

5. Bahubali

Director: S.S. Rajamouli
Set Designer: Sabu Cyril

The two-part series of the iconic fictional story of Bahubali, set in the mythical kingdom of Mahishmati unfolds the grand saga of betrayal, bravery, and drama. It is one of the highest-grossing films in the history of Indian cinema. One of the most striking aspects of the design was the magnificent kingdom of Mahishmati set in 500 BC, which included phallic statues, multi-level structures with intricate carvings inspired by the Ajanta and Ellora caves, and the Mahabalipuram temple resembling Greek and Roman temples.

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As we progressed through art movements, filmmaking as an art form, in and of itself, evolved alongside architecture. Architecture has shifted from the spotlight to a more central and pivotal position as technology, set design, and elements have improved. It is no longer just the characters and themes that carry the weight of the picture; it is also the film’s commitment to creating a compelling setting. The screen is a temple of thinking, a portal into the filmmaker’s head. Observing sites, backdrops, and architecture becomes second nature to an architect. 

Relating scenes with the characters and noticing how they add drama to give the film a distinct style is a mind-expanding experience. The immediate surroundings that allow the mood to set in, making a scene complete to the last dot, are costumes, jewelry, accessories, music, and colors. Cinematic sets are impressive simply because they are used in the appropriate amount and in the proper place. Every element is in harmony, which is why everything melts together flawlessly to make a magnificent work of art. Finally, all these exciting characteristics and qualities assemble and allow us to live differently for a short time!

References:

  1. Find-my-architect.com. 2022. Find my architect | The Relationship Between Architecture and Cinema. https://www.find-my-architect.com/uk/en/actualite/the-relationship-between-architecture-and-cinema
  2. Lindenmayer, M., 2022. The Cinematography of Architecture: A Narrative Perspective. https://sites.psu.edu/arch311ws15/2015/05/03/the-cinematography-of-architecture
  3. Magazine, W., 2022. Architecture in film: modernism, futurism and beyond. https://www.wallpaper.com/architecture/architecture-in-film-through-the-decades
  4. RTF | Rethinking The Future. 2022. The World’s Most Architectural Film Sets. 
  5. https://www.re-thinkingthefuture.com/designing-for-typologies/a5808-the-worlds-most-architectural-film-sets/
  6. Gettyimages.in. 2022. Royalty Free Stock Photos, Illustrations, Vector Art and Video Clips – Getty Images. https://www.gettyimages.in/
Author

Gargi is strong willed, sure of herself and fiercely moral. Whether it’s taking on a challenge at work or striking up a conversation with a friend, she can always be counted on to make the courageous move. Gargi’s drive to create and inspire fuels her every move - at work, with friends and at home. Whether she’s involved in artistic pursuits or problem solving at the office, her creative side always backs her up.

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