Skip to main content

Movie Review: Architecture & Action Movies

In a sense, many action movies are "about" architecture or engage directly with buildings; think of Ethan Hunt scaling skyscrapers and crawling through ducts in all the Mission: Impossible movies, or car chases through city centers and urban parcours in the Bourne movies.  Some other obvious ones are Blade Runner, known for its futuristic nighttime cityscapes that launched a thousand architectural dreams, and, apparently, Die Hard, as described eloquently in BLDGBLOG.  (Also thanks to Geoff Manaugh of BLDGBLOG for inspiring this entire line of thought.)  Here are a few more action + architecture movies I've seen recently that I think are of particular interest.

The Towering Inferno (1974): architect as hero, building systems as dangerous adversaries or heroic resources (but ultimately the architect is instructed, at the end of the film, to subordinate himself to the firefighter, who apparently knows best about how tall to make buildings)

Earthquake (1974): engineer as hero, saving people by knowing where the utilities run on the edge of the site and where to create a strategic horizontal opening, all while advocating for more robust structural design

Escape from New York (1981): dystopian vision of then-contemporary urbanism, urban decay, architecture of the police state, megaprojects (if we don't like it, put a giant wall around it!) - all shot in East St. Louis, Missouri.  Faked "digital wireframe" sequences, using blacklight and tape on a real physical model.

Logan's Run (1976): dystopian vision of the future, everyone lives in a mechanical bubble run by computers, while outside the "real" world (Washington, DC) lies in ruins, depopulated and awaiting humanity's return.  My favorite part of the movie was seeing the imagined ruined monuments of Washington.

All of these movies propose new ways to move through buildings, laterally and horizontally, diagonally...  out windows and into air shafts.  Maybe it's already trite to talk about this (see Deleuze and Guattari, if you're into that sort of thing), but I still think it's interesting to see how buildings are used and abused in these types of films.  Even movies like the recent Bond film Skyfall, or Home Alone and its sequels for that matter, show a different side to architecture: weaponizing the house.  These movies fascinate me for the way in which the characters are shown to rethink completely the functions of the house and of everyday objects within it.  There's probably an architecture dissertation in there somewhere.  For better or worse, now that I've started seeing movies this way, I've found that it's difficult to stop.  If you've seen any other films that use buildings in novel ways, please let me know!


Popular posts from this blog

Book Review: "Theory and Design in the First Machine Age"

Reyner Banham's Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (1960) is an engaging overview of the important theoretical developments of the early 20th century leading up to the "International Style" of the 1930s-40s.  Banham does a fairly good job, in my opinion, of avoiding excessive editorializing, although he has a clear viewpoint on the Modern Movement and finishes with a strong conclusion.  In opposition to his teacher, Nikolaus Pevsner, whose own history of modernism came out in 1936, Banham dismantled the "form follows function" credo that became the stereotype of modernism, arguing instead that formalism (a preoccupation with style and aesthetics) was an important, if not overriding, concern of Modern architects.  Two sections of the book struck me in particular: his analysis of Le Corbusier's famous book Vers une architecture (Toward a [new] architecture) from 1923, and his Conclusion (chapter 22), where he breaks the link between functionalism and …

Vertical Bike Rack

The work of our hands!

A little backstory:  We bought two bikes as soon as we could after moving here, so we could both bike to work.  After a few uneventful months of chaining up our bikes next to our car in the carport of our apartment building, Justin's bike was stolen.  (Mine was mysteriously left behind, together with Justin's pannier, which the thieves helpfully folded up and placed on top of my bike.  My only guess is that the chain holding my bike was harder to cut than the chain on Justin's.)  Since then, we've kept our bikes inside, hauling them up and down two flights of stairs to our third-floor apartment every time we take them out, which is usually a few times a week.  Ugh.  Better than buying a new bike every few months, though.

We needed a rack that would keep the bikes off the floor, off the walls, and in as small a footprint as possible, without requiring us to drill into or otherwise damage the walls (or floor or ceiling).  This proved a challenge t…

Voter's Guide - June 5, 2018 Election, Santa Clara County

If you're like me, you spend a lot of time figuring out who to vote for, because there is no single place to get all the voter information you need.  So, since I have already spent the last several hours deciding how to vote, I've compiled all the information I used here, so you can decide for yourself!  This is relevant to the Santa Clara County election here in California, so if you are looking for San Francisco-specific information, you can try SPUR or other sources.  Obvious disclaimer:  I am looking for progressive candidates who support strong liberal policies on the environment, housing, education, human rights, and the economy.  If you disagree with me, you may want to look elsewhere.

For each position or proposition, I'm going to list the position, my recommendation, link to my sources, and then note other viable candidates (if any).

State & National Offices

Governor:  Gavin Newsom
Former SF mayor Gavin Newsom has an almost overwhelming amount of policy object…