My Film About Architecture

October 26, 2018

I’ve been asked several times why I don’t write a film about architecture.  It makes sense, as I’m a trained architect licensed in three states, architecture was my first love. I hem haw around and never give my reasoning as it is a very negative outlook.  I try not to be negative about architecture.

Unfortunately, I feel that architecture is being killed by the virtual world and personal devices.  You could die of starvation if you did not eat unless you could see a person on the street looking at buildings in wonder.  Likewise, you would explode if you took a bite of food every time you see a person glued to their phone or lost in a video game or movie. It seems as a society we rarely build spaces just for the sheer joy of creating epic space, making a piece of art in light and shadow we can walk through.

The majority of spaces created today are for housing the brands that the masses want to buy or fondle.  Workplaces, shopping districts, and performances spaces are created as watered down backgrounds for all the people that play inside.  We design spaces not to be photographed but as the backgrounds for people’s Instagram photos.  Our streets continue to become homogenous facades remodeled in the cheapest way possible, the entire focus on vehicles, lease packages, and signage.

The greatest architectural commission in decades, The Obama Presidential Library, is a buried building giving all the power to nature and the people that will run around outside; the thought of creating a modern Crystal Palace, were Chicago gains an interior park to warm our bones all winter, was never considered.

On social media the amount of time devoted to analyzing, praising, sharing virtual worlds (movies, games, filters) is astronomical.  People know nothing about the architecture in their cities yet they know everything about the next spaceport released by Hollywood.   People spend hours shooting holes in their friend’s avatars inside mind boggling virtual games. We speed through our towns on cold bypasses; we sit in shareride vehicles following the trip’s progress on our phones instead of taking in the scenery.  Our collective laziness and the need to create a safe space between our eyeballs and phones cause the buildings of our cities to weep.

The process of creating architecture is so different these days. The classic film ‘The Fountainhead’ is a great example of a film capturing the passions and processes involved in architectural design.   A remake of that film would be a boring mess.   Drawing and model building by hand is a thing of the past.  Young designers creating virtual worlds on laptops in arty coffee shops have replaced taking a job in a stone quarry.  The old ways of creating architecture is cinematic the new ways are visually boring.   You could create a film that skews to an artificial depiction of the design process, keep Howard Roark building physical models and smashing stone, but that would be a dishonest portrayal of modern architectural design.

Virtual worlds are still the domain of interactive video games. If showing virtual worlds in movies is difficult or boring, then showing the creation of virtual worlds in movies is insanely difficult and boring!   This is a big problem with doing a modern film about the design process, the audience will think, “We get it already- move on!”   This is why both video game movies and virtual reality creation movies die at the box office.

So all these reasons highlight my struggle to tell a cinematic story about architecture, one that honestly communicates the difference between this art form and all the other art forms.    The way it deals with space that people occupy, the fact it needs to both inspire and protect individuals, it is the intersection of art and science.

On my drive through Wisconsin, on my annual fall trip to hike among the golden maple leaves at Devils Lake, I forced myself to think of a cinematic story that would express architectural ideas in an entertaining movie.  I thought of many ideas over the seven hours of driving before ‘cracking the code’ as I like to say.  More to come!