Architects in Movies 00 – Introduction

There has been a lot written about architects as protagonists in movies. In fact, I was deliberately avoiding wading in because, like the subject of music, it’s a common topic on design blogs and I don’t think anybody really brings anything new to the debate. Why architects are written into movies is well documented: nobody knows what they do, so they make a nice neutral canvas. People are dimly aware that architects are intelligent and they do something creative, and that’s usually enough shorthand to form the basis of a good-hearted protagonist. A character’s occupation doesn’t usually figure prominently into the plot of the movie anyway, so you really only need one shot of the lead sitting over a drafting board; after that you’re free to carry on with whatever movie you’re making.

The Monuments Men came out this weekend, a movie featuring an architect character that might turn out to be something a little different. I’m excited about this movie because as far as I can tell Bill Murray plays an architect, a double whammy I wouldn’t miss even if the movie didn’t otherwise interest me. My excitement may be misplaced given the mixed and negative reviews but I’m probably going to go see it anyway. The architect character promises to be intrinsic to the plot, so I have hope that the movie might go a little deeper into the development of said character than the surface portrayals that we see in a lot of other movies. Usually the protagonist just happens to be an architect; in this movie, the architect is specifically chosen for his skill set. I’m excited to see how the architect fits into an ensemble and I’m curious to see what traits get highlighted in order to convey “architect”.

So that’s where I think I can bring something different to the table. I want to start watching some of these movies that have architects in them and see if they pass the smell test. Why does the movie feature an architect in this role? Does the movie portray the architect in a good and/or accurate light? Would an architect really act this way? Would there be a better career backdrop for the character? I thought I would make a list of movies that feature architects, and that list turned out to be insanely long. These are just the good ones:

  • Towering Inferno with Paul Newman
  • Indecent Proposal with Woody Harrelson
  • Sleepless in Seattle with Tom Hanks
  • 12 Angry Men with Henry Fonda
  • 500 Days of Summer with Joseph Gordon-Levitt
  • White Noise with Michael Keaton (this movie gets a head start because Michael Keaton is from Pittsburgh and this movie is supposed to be scary)
  • Click with Adam Sandler
  • HouseSitter with Steve Martin
  • It’s Complicated, again with Steve Martin (so pumped for some Steve Martin)
  • Jungle Fever with Wesley Snipes (see below: brilliantly captures the sultry undertow which psychically guides the creative energies in every architecture firm, which I would describe as a boiling sex kettle ready to bubble over at any minute)

what is a sex kettle?

  • One Fine Day with Michelle Pfeiffer (questionable choice in direction: Michelle Pfeiffer does the whole movie in her Catwoman costume)
  • Firewall with Virginia Madsen (two out of the 12 movies on this list feature women, a fraction that approximates the actual proportion of female registered architects)

Notable exclusions include Love Actually with Liam Neeson. Angela and I have seen that movie probably 10 times between us and neither of us had any idea that Liam Neeson played an architect in that movie. I have also seen a character in There’s Something About Mary incorrectly identified as an architect; I think he’s actually a private investigator that pretends to be an architect to impress a woman. I’m also restricting this to movies so I don’t have to put myself through 16 seasons of How I Met Your Mother. #realtalk: Ted Mosby has banged more people than everyone in my last office put together. I know this for a fact because of an exceptionally awkward reply>all situation.

I had a lot of fun collaborating on last weeks’ post, so if you have seen or want to watch one of the movies above and either want to work together or do a guest post, let me know. Either way, I’ll try and tweet or put up on facebook when I am going to watch one of those movies so that if you want to watch you’ll be better prepared to let me know what you think in the comments. Like my page on facebook, follow me on twitter or search the hashtag “sexkettle”.

And now for no reason here’s a photo montage of all of Ted Mosby’s relationships for no other reason than I don’t think one existed before.

RMBd_HIMYM collage

That’s all for this week, next week I promise not to start a series of posts that I may or may not ever continue.

3 thoughts on “Architects in Movies 00 – Introduction

      • I recently bought it on Blu-Ray, so if you want to watch a buttload of extras, let me know. I can think of at least 3 Architects in Inception…Di Caprio was one but couldn’t build any more, Ellen Page was the architect-in-training and Michael Caine played an architecture professor.


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