“The Art that is closest to the cinema is architecture.” – René Clair

Set design, scenic design, theater design, theatrical design, or stage design is the creation of the physical space in which the action of a performed event occurs. Primarily used to describe a film or theatre production, it constitutes all the scenery, furniture, props, appearance, and overall look of the stage. Set Design is more popularly known as Art Direction as it requires a bit of all three sections i.e.,  Art, Architecture, and Interior Design – the dependency of Set Design is more on Art and Replication.

Set designing is creating a space with the essence of some particular feeling, illusion, and state of mind that a story requires. An assembled set also represents a specific location for a movie, theatre, or event. The prime difference between architecture and set design is the aging of the created structure. Architecture is about constructing structures that last for a longer period and represents the regional contexts. In contrast, a set is constructed for a shorter span, maybe even less than a day to describe a location, real or hypothetical, for a movie, theatre, or any other kind of show.

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However, the thin line between Architecture and set design is blurred apart by the evocation of a strong sense of space, all while working within a limited capacity and within the same constraints like budget, program requirements, site specification, and ultimately, the creative depiction of real life. Being a field of creativity, Architecture truly compliments the process of set designing as the movie or theatre sets are just the representation of a snippet of the built environments.

The process of set designing somehow intersects with the process of architecture as the set designers, primarily, also use two-dimensional construction drawings to convey the three-dimensional structures. Set designing can trigger specific emotions and create a mood through the use of perspective, space, proportions, light, color, details, and proportions, similarly to what Architecture channelizes. Therefore, just like the architects, set designers are artists who appreciate and produce spaces that relate to human beings and their perception of emotions.

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Cinema and Architecture stand as distinct arts, dynamic and static respectively, whose complex relationship gives life to each other. Architecture gives films their believability by setting the mood, place for the character, time, and action. Films, on the other hand, provide an outlet for realizing visions that exist or can exist and entreat experiences that in reality have occurred or have not occurred, when we talk about both movies based on the real world and science fiction respectively.

“Film provides a very rich representation of architecture” – Christophe Gérard.

According to Christophe Gérard, film as a medium develops the conception of architecture with both the mental picture and the art of conceiving. He elaborated on this topic by describing how the filmic space confronts the viewers with specific aspects of physical space that the architects can contribute to.

The architectural space has many resemblances with cinematic space i.e., space on

the screen. The audience enters into and subsequently becomes immersed in the body of a film or a theatre as they would a building. While creating a movie or theatre scene, the director arranges shots or scenes in sequence as the architect designs a floor plan, framing and confining, dissecting, and condensing elements through which the spectator is encouraged to partake in the flow of movement. Set designing, just like architecture, is a pure representation of space, how one space can be used for the depiction of a particular emotion, and how it can foster a sense of connection between the spectator and the scene. Therefore, both architecture and a movie or theatre set possess the ability to affect the audience in a somewhat unconscious manner.

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SET OF INCEPTION_©vanityfair.com

Various fields of art and creativity are entwined by the notion of design and architecture. Consequently,  Architecture as a field constantly evolves and hence offers a lot of possibilities for the process of set designing to reach higher levels of imagination. Set designing is a field of creativity and set designers play a vital role in the depiction and defining of space on the screen. And having a piece of detailed knowledge of the paradigm of space arrangements, Architects hold the ability to enrich the field of set designing. 

Set designing is one of the most creative, high-profile fields that can offer an architect a wide range of positions in the film industry. One of the renowned names pursuing this grand transition is Ar. Anshuman Prasad. He has designed the sets for popular movies such as Captain America: Winter Soldier, Die Hard 4, The Hangover, No Strings Attached, and Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Prasad believes that the most critical aspect of set design is proportion, where his architecture degree is especially useful. Looking back on his career trajectory, Prasad stated, “I believe it was the diversity of the work that has always attracted me to set design and there was a lot of passion as well, after all, this was Hollywood.  For someone who still believes in the magic, it was a dream job.”

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It seems that architects can work in the set designing field but it may not be as familiar. However, it depends on the specific architect and their skillset. Some architects may be able to work in the set designing field, while others may not have the necessary skills.

Many skills are needed for both set design and architecture such as creativity, innovation, and problem-solving. Architects can be successful in the set designing field if they possess the right skills and knowledge. They can bring their unique perspective and skills to the table, which can be a valuable asset to any production. With their knowledge of space and design, architects can help create sets that are both functional and visually appealing.

So, if anyone has a passion for both fields, they must go for it by keeping one thing in mind the set designing field is very competitive and it may be difficult to get a job in this field without the right connections.



  • https://alochonaa.com/2014/03/23/space-and-time-the-experience-of-architecture-in-cinematic-works-of-andrei-tarkovsky/
  • https://www.archdaily.com/388732/star-architects-the-story-of-4-architects-who-made-it-in-hollywood
  • http://arch-exhibit.blogspot.com/2011/02/interview-with-christophe-gerard.html
  • https://thedesigngesture.com/set-designing/
  • https://www.huffpost.com/entry/star-architects-the-story-of-four-architects-who-made-it-in-tinsel-town_n_3465042
  • https://issuu.com/akshitagarg7/docs/chapter_1_new_-_copy

Shiwangi is a student of Architecture and a writing enthusiast. She is very keen to explore and experience the world of Architecture and discover different aspects of it to humanity as she believes in the influence of design on people and spaces.