Architects and Architecture in Television and Film


by 
Tania Thompson
 | May 08, 2017
The Monster Builder

​Danny Scheie is Gregor, foreground, with Gareth Williams and Susannah Schulman Rogers in Amy Freed's The Monster Builder.

Dr. Caligari

A movie still from Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Metropolis

The NewTower of Babel, Fredersen's headquarters in Metropolis.

The Fountainhead

Design and architecture of the Ayn Rand Fountainhead House by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Blade Runner

A still from the movie Blade Runner.

Brazil

A still from the movie Brazil.

The Belly of an Architect

Movie poster for The Belly of an Architect.

Gehry

Fondation ​Louis ​Vuitton ​Paris drawings by Frank Gehry.

Mike Brady

Mike Brady at work in "The Brady Bunch."

George Contanza

Jason Alexander as George Costanza on "Seinfeld."

Wilbur

Wilbur Post and Mr. Ed in "Mr. Ed."

The Many Who Paved the Way for The Monster Builder’s Gregor

In the 2014 film, Cathedrals of Culture, six renowned directors explore the question, “If buildings could talk, what would they say about us?” Architects and their buildings fascinate people. Amy Freed’s starchitect—Gregor Zubrowski in The Monster Builder—is no exception. He designs buildings that rise from the earth like twisted post-post modern megaliths, matched only by the size of his ego.

Here’s a look at some fictional and real architects and the buildings (or worlds) they created for film and television.

  • Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). Known for its architectural set design, built out of paper with painted shadows.

  • Metropolis (1927). In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the son of the city's mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences.

  • The Fountainhead (1949). From Ayn Rand’s novel, an uncompromising, visionary architect (Gary Cooper) struggles to maintain his integrity and individualism despite personal, professional and economic pressures to conform to popular standards.

  • Mon Oncle (1958). Monsieur Hulot visits the technology-driven world of his sister, brother-in-law and nephew, but he can't quite fit into the surroundings.

  • Away From All Suns (1961). This Russian films follows three people on a mission to protect the architectural heritage of Moscow’s 1920s-era Utopian buildings.

  • Contempt (1963). A screenwriter’s marriage to his wife disintegrates in a story layered with conflicts between art and business. Character portrayed by Jack Palance lives in an unusual house on the island of Capri, designed in the 1940s by Italian architect Adalberto Libera, who is better known for his large civic buildings. Directed by Jean-Luc Goddard.

  • The World of Buckminster Fuller (1974). A documentary about the architect (geodesic domes), system theorist, designer and inventor.

  • Blade Runner (1982). Known for its overbearing megalopolis setting of the future, with outlandishly scaled buildings.

  • Antonio Gaudi (1984). A documentary about Gaudi, the Catalan architect known for the still-unfinished Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona.

  • Brazil (1985). The architecture of a dystopian future is the backdrop for a harried technocrat in a futuristic society that is needlessly convoluted and inefficient. He dreams of a life where he can fly away from technology and overpowering bureaucracy, and spend eternity with the woman of his dreams.

  • The Belly of an Architect (1987). An American architect arrives in Italy, supervising an exhibition for a French architect, Boullée, who is famous for his oval structures. Through the course of 9 months he becomes obsessed with his belly.

  • The Milagro Beanfield War (1988). A major new resort development is planned for the small town of Milagro, in the American Southwest. Activists, local farmers and the developer come to the proposal with different viewpoints.

  • Philip Johnson: Diary of an Eccentric Architect (1997). A profile of Johnson, whose buildings include the Glass House (New Canaan, Conn.) and the Seagram Building (New York City).

  • Frank Lloyd Wright (1998, documentary). Filmmaker Ken Burns profiles the 20th century architect.

  • My Architect (2003) Director Nathaniel Kahn’s look at his father, noted architect Louis Kahn.

  • Kochuu: Japanese Architecture / Influence and Origin (2003). The film looks at modern Japanese architecture—rooted in Japanese tradition—and its influence on Nordic architectural traditions.

  • “American Masters: Sketches of Frank Gehry” (2006, television). A PBS documentary that looks at the life and work of the renowned architect.

  • Visual Acoustics (2008). A look at the life and career of architectural photographer Julius Shulman, whose images brought American architecture into the mainstream.

  • Infinite Space: The Architecture of John Lautner (2008). Lautner apprenticed with Frank Lloyd Wright before he opened his own practice in the late 1930s. He contributed to the development of the Googie style and Atomic Age home designs.

  • Rem Koolhaas: A Kind of Architect (2008). A profile of the Dutch architect whose designs include the Seattle Public Library and the Dutch embassy in Berlin.

  • How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster? (2010). A documentary about noted architect Norman Foster. His building designs include the Beijing airport (the largest in the world), the Reichstag, the Hearst Building in New York and the Millau viaduct, tallest bridge in the world.

  • Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio (2010). A look at the late Mockbee, who founded Rural Studio to teach about the social responsibilities of architects.

  • Eames: The Architect and the Painter (2011). The documentary follows the work of husband-and-wife designers Charles and Ray Emes and the Eames Office known for chair design, architecture, photography and more.

  • The Ideal City (2012, film). A man takes his ecological lifestyle to the extreme.

  • The Human Scale (2012). Danish architect Jan Gehlas explores how modern cities repel human interaction and examines how a next generation of city-building can take human needs of inclusion and privacy into account.

TV Characters as Architects

  • “How I Met Your Mother”—Ted Mosby is an architecture intern with no money, no girl, no success and no life.

  • “The Brady Bunch”—Mike Brady is an architect with a groovy house and did his design work on a drafting board in the den at home.

  • “The Simpsons” (Episode 14)—Architect Frank Gehry stars as himself. Marge asks Gehry to design a concert hall for Springfield. Gehry refuses at first, but is soon inspired after he crumples Marge's letter and hurls it to the ground.

  • “Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place”—Pete, an architectural grad student, is strapped for money so he takes a job at Beacon Street Pizzeria.

  • “Seinfeld”—George Constanza has no architectural training, but whenever he wanted to impress someone, he referred to himself as an architect named Art Vandelay.

  • “Family Ties”—Elyse Keaton is an ex-hippy-turned-architect married to a public television producer.

  • “The Building Blocks of Life”—Isaac is a rising architect in a Chinese construction company in this 2007 television series.

  • “Mister Ed”—Wilbur Post is an architect with a home office in a barn, which he shares with a talking horse.

  • Monty Python’s Flying Circus (Episode 17)—“The Architect’s Sketch” with five gumbies who shout that. Also, an architect who designs slaughter houses proposes to build an apartment tower that slaughters people. British humor.

Learn more about The Monster Builder and buy tickets.