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What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

edited by RubĂŠn A. Alcolea contributions by AmĂŠrica Castillo / Luba Valkova / Patricia Muumba / Jeannette Pang / Stefan Krawitz / Paul Fuschetti / Sisi Yu / Jessica Jiang / Won Ryu / Olawayimika Osusanya / Raksarat Vorasucha / Ted Kim / Mikki Heckman / Stephanie Cheung / Tara Oberoi / Marwan Omar / Linning Zhang / Tianshu Liu / Viktoriya Maleva / Kenneth Chow

AAP College of Architecture, Art and Planning Cornell University

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

edited by RubĂŠn A. Alcolea contributions by AmĂŠrica Castillo / Luba Valkova / Patricia Muumba / Jeannette Pang / Stefan Krawitz / Paul Fuschetti / Sisi Yu / Jessica Jiang / Won Ryu / Olawayimika Osusanya / Raksarat Vorasucha / Ted Kim / Mikki Heckman / Stephanie Cheung / Tara Oberoi / Marwan Omar / Linning Zhang / Tianshu Liu / Viktoriya Maleva / Kenneth Chow

AAP College of Architecture, Art and Planning Cornell University

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies / edited by Rubén A. Alcolea 188 p. / 6x9 in / 15.24x22.86 cm / 2017 Includes bibliographical references 1. Architecture in motion pictures. 2 Architects in motion pictures. 3. Motion Pictures-setting and scenery. I. Alcolea, Rubén A., 1975Printed and bound in Ithaca, NY, United States by Cornell Print Services This publication is an academic production that compiles some of the work produced at the seminar ‘Living the House. Architecture and Film’ instructed by Rubén Alcolea at AAP Cornell University, Spring Semester 2017. Cover Image: Home Alone, by Marwan Omar © The authors © 2017 AAP College of Architecture, Art and Planning, Cornell University. All right reseved. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution and for a NonCommercial Use. All material is compiled from sources believed to be reliable, but published without responsability for errors or omissions. The authors have included and tryied to contac copyright holders, but this was not possibe in all circumstances. No part of this work may be reproduced or used in any form without written permission from the editor. The opinions and statements of facts expressed in this volume are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent those of the editor.

What is a House?, 4 by RubĂŠn A. Alcolea The Space House, 8 by America Castillo and Luba Valkova Machine House, 28 by Patricia Muumba and Jeannete Pang Alfred Hitchcock: Architect, 44 by Stefan Krawitz The American Psychosis, 58 by Paul Fuschetti and Sisi Yu Lovell Health House, 70 by Jessica Jiang and Won Ryu Glass Houses, 86 by Oluwayimika Osusanya and Raksarat Vorasucha Stahl House and Luxury, 102 by Ted Kim Dis(abled), 116 by Mikki Heckman and Stephanie Cheung Not a Home, 128 by Tara Oberoi and Marwan Omar House as a City, City as a House, 144 by Linning Zhang and Tianshu Liu Villa Malaparte - The Moored Ship of a Modern Ulysses, 164 by Viktoriya Maleva Blade Runner and the Ennis House, 180 by Kenneth Chow


The Primitive Hut, frontispiece in Essai sur l’architecture by Abbe Marc-Antoine Laugier, edition 1755

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

What is a House?

For some centuries, the architecture discipline has been looking for the type that better represents domesticity. The goal to find architectural categories, geometrical proportions, repetitive patterns or just a plain and scientific definition of the well known spaces where our lives run, has been even more stressed by modernism. Its results for the last century have been many time gorgeous but have also brought some of them completely depictable, in a mixture of intellectualism, praxis, sociological and even psychological exercises, which not always have clarified the path to improve our domestic lives. Nevertheless, the single house is perhaps that typology where architecture has been pushed far beyond the stablished ideals of what a living space should be. Some of the more outstanding architecture realisations have evolved from the same question: is it possible to define a perfect home?

RubĂŠn A. Alcolea


Human interaction gets domestic in spaces which are more than just a plain answer to our basic needs. Those built environments show the evolution of human living through our history, and also define a research field for spatial, perceptive and constructive experimentation. Since the very beginning, domesticity has been associated to single houses, and from the so-called primitive hut to the contemporary home, those spaces have become a field to search for the anthropological relationships between man, the natural environment, and the intellectual discourses that allow us to comprehend its complexity. The home is one of the fundamental elements which supports the creation of architecture, and it is commonly associated although not necessarily identical to the concept of the ‘single house’. But a home is not just a house, and that forces us to somehow enter into the realm of the immaterial, far beyond the built rooms. Among others, a home is perhaps that persistent idea that could bring human life back to its lost ideal state, fused with nature, and symbolised in western culture by the recreation of the hut built by Adam in Paradise, which inevitably relates our existance to the deepest of our origins and intimacy.


Ben Rose House, by A. James Speyer, 1953, as depicted in ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’, 1986.

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

This publication compiles some of the work produced at the seminar “Living the House. Architecture and film�, which was hold at the AAP Cornell University for the spring semester 2017. The topic is highly seductive, and in many other occasions, researchers have gone through the mutual relations of film and architecture as standalone disciplines interacting to each other, or even showing how they have evolved and related through their very particular history. Nevertheless, the seminar focused more on the spaces themselves, where the stories are told, and the single houses in particular. It may be not arbitrary that some of the great houses that are part of our history books are the sets where both outstanding but also banal films have been shot. More than any other visual medium, film, by virtue of the size of its audience, its global dissemination and its growing influence on culture, shapes the popular perceptions of architecture. Movies have been used as an open field, rather than singular items or case examples. By learning how some of the most prominent modern houses are depicted in films, we can better understand how they are disseminated. Rather than focusing in houses as objects, the aim is to identify the concepts which make those locations work better for telling the story the filmmaker wants to share. In some occasions, they perform even differently to how they were supposed when designed, opening the door to a new range of interpretations beyond an orthodox historical approach. The concepts vary from a wide range, such as the glass box; the machine house; the minimalist apartment; the palace; the monument; or the enclosed landscape, among others. The list is far from being closed, althouh those few help to better understand the ideas that have driven the practice of this outstanding and successful architecture typology. What is a House?


Our modern society deserves something better than just a space that it is the addition of spatial elements or individual cells. Radical approaches often define a non characteristic nature that underlines how all the parts relate and behave, forcing the house to acquire its own personality. So, it is not accidental that the most successful modern houses are no more just a muted space or a standard scenario: they have been transformed into an active character that definitely plays a role in our quotidian stories. Those magical spaces usually have the ability to transform our human daily events into something closer to ontological categories rather than being only particular scenes of our day to day events.


Experimental homes commonly associated to architectural futurism.

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

The Space House

The first of the contributing factors to the development of the space house paradigm was the rise of architectural futurism, which began in 1909 with the Manifesto of Futurism by Tommaso Marinetti. In its first decade, it remained an Italian movement, but later grew to international prominence in the post-war era as the Space Age, the Atomic Age, car culture, and plastic gained prominence. In conjunction with Googie architecture, another radical aesthetic of the 1950s, futurism tied seeminly disparate trends under one name and one common goal: to create a formal language of bold and dynamic shapes that incorporated popular fascination for innovative technologies. In the 1960’s, the movement reached its most potent phase, later evolving into Neo-Futurism — a style later associated to big name architects such as Archigram, Jorn Utzon, and Oscar Niemeyer.

América Castillo Luba Valkova


The concept of the “space house” was born in the 1960’s as a result of science (the Space Race), film (the Science Fiction genre), and architecture (Futurism) coming together to form one common vision of domesticity. As technology advanced and further mediated between environments and people, self-sufficiency and domesticity were no longer bounded in the cultural imagination. Rather, the definition of what is technically ‘inhabitable space’ expanded. This bold mentality and attitude was mainly geared toward function and radical exploration, and therefore affected the ways in which construction, programs and functions associated with human habitation were understood. Ultimately, the space house questions the way one can define a space as truly ‘domestic’, and thus highlights the distinction between a house and a home. Taking the historical context of the concept and its subsequent representations in films such as ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ into account, the space house serves as an area where inhabitability is pushed to its limits and where what can be considered a ‘house’ or a home must be questioned.


1962 Life Magazine cover art by Robert MacCall; photograph photograph found in “We Go To The Moon! – The Art Of Robert Mccall”. 2017. Ultra Swank

Meanwhile a similar era began to take place in the scientific community. The so-called Space Age movement began quietly in the early 20th century as space travel began to seem as a real possibility. This new hope inspired plans and vision sketches which later became visual icons of the modern world. Amongst the visionaires was Robert McCall, whose work, more than any artists’ of the time, captured the excitement and optimism of early space exploration. First brought to fame by his cover work for the 1962 Life magazine issue on the space race, McCall is still best known as one of the only ‘in-house space artists’ for NASA. Throughout his career, he was commissioned to produce concept art, vision drawings, mission insignia, as well as mural artworks for NASA space centers and museums across the country.1 Shortly before the filming of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke invited McCall to prepare concept drawings and promotional pieces for movie— posters which not only served as the largest promotional strategy for

1. “NASA - Robert McCall Gallery”. 2017.


What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

In 1968, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ was released, and soon became one of the most influencing films of its nature to depict space travel. Not only did it raise the standard for realistic space set design, but it also set the precedent for the space science fiction genre as a whole. In itself, the film is a strange epic depiction of a near-future space age that raises many philosophical questions with multiple interpretations. The story begins with a sequence titled “The Dawn of Man,” where a strange monolith appears on the surface of the earth, and humankind experiences its first major evolutionary development. As the film progresses, the monolith reappears in the context of higher forms of technology, in particular, space travel. The larger part of the plot then follows the story of David Bowman and Frank Poole, who along with Hal 9000 (an artificially intelligent computing system) and 3 The Space House

Robert McCall artwork for ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’


film at the time, but that to this day continue to be amongst the most memorable imagery associated with the film. McCall was greatly responsible for the verisimilitude attributed to Kubrick’s film given that the images had an uncanny resemblance to the original NASA promo pieces. Years later, he went on to work on other science fiction films such as Star Trek and Black Hole. Eventually, his work made its way onto postage stamps and established itself in a collective memory of space age icons.


other researchers, are on a mysterious mission to Jupiter. In it, technology plays a major role in setting an atmosphere of the future. In particular, Kubrick’s depictions of technologies that seem almost prophetic, when seen retrospectively, support the idea that this film may have influenced contemporary aesthetics of modernity just as much as it was influenced by existing science of the time. On July 20, 1969, only 15 months after the film’s release, NASA’s Apollo 11 mission landed on the moon and effectively ended the space race.2 Space exploration then gained even more popularity. Over the next 20 years later, NASA’s Space Shuttle program dispatched over 40 missions that aided in the construction of what would become the most important space project to date, the International Space Station (ISS). As the largest structure in space and the most expensive object ever, the ISS has served as a temporary ‘home’ for up to 38 crews since it was finilized. Yet with the termination of the Space Shuttle in 2001, global curiosity for extra terrestrial living has changed focus. In recent years, various programs have been anticipating the feasibility of Mars exploration, and as a result focus on creating Earthbased simulation habitats for research and training. Amongst these are the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station, and the ongoing Mars Desert Research Station, both of which are still in a relatively young age compared to the research spectrum achieved with the construction of the ISS.

Exterior shot of the International Space Station showing astronauts on a space walk

2. Stenger, Richard. 2001. “Man On The Moon: Kennedy Speech Ignited The Dream”. CNN

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

Although the space race is essentially over and funding for space exploration has diminished, the fascination with the space age has not ended. Rather, it is an integral part of the human need for discovery, and perhaps of a desire for self-sufficiency. So, the space house is not just a phenomenon of science, or of science fiction culture. Instead, it is also part of the continued evolution of domesticity on Earth. The influence of the “space age aesthetic,” along with new materials and utopian forms of collective living, deeply influenced designers and their visions of modernity. (below top) Buckminster Fuller 1927. Dymaxion House; photograph by Brettmann/Corbis via // (below bottom) Carl Strandlund, Lustron Corporation 1948-1950. Lustron House; photograph by Steve Date in “Exploring Nicollet Avenue’s unusual Lustron houses.” Minnpost. November 17, 2011.


Among the many houses that have introduced the unknown and unfamiliar into the domestic realm is the Dymaxion House. Designed in the 1920s by Buckminster Fuller, this model home provided a solution to affordable housing that was mass-produced, transportable, and sustainable. Priced nearly equally to a car, it could be shipped worldwide and could adapt programmatically thanks to its material benefits. Meanwhile, the Lustron House also emerged as a product of the post-World War II era and as a response to the housing shortage. Made of prefabricated enameled steel

The Space House


by the Lustron Corporation, they were marketed as “almost maintenance proof.” Mainly auto-industry veterans helped design the houses, which came in four models of two or three bedrooms. As a result, they were perceived more as machines than homes, similar to how space ships are percieved. In 1968, Matti Suuronen designed the Futuro house, a 24m2 pod-like shelter fabricated from reinforced polyester plastic. Each unit was factory made and could house either a small family or be combined to each accommodate different domestic functions. Finally, the Maison Bulle (the Bubble House) was designed in 1963 by Benjamin Maneval, and is one of the most wellknown futuristic plastic houses of the time. Maneval’s idea to create small, “democratic” buildings of synthetic material was such that they could be cheap, modular, movable, compact, industrially manufactured, durable, and integrated into the landscape. Each house required an assembly time of just a few days, and could easily be tucked into a variety of sites. Though formal production ended in 1970, the largest and most well known example of the units remains in the village of Gripp, in the Haute-Pyrenées region of France.3

3. Bianchini, Riccardo. 2017. “The Bubble House By JeanBenjamin-Maneval - 1963”.


(below top) Matti Suuronen 19681978. Futuro House; photograph found in “Futuro House by Matti Suuronen.” Dprbarcelona. 2009 / (below bottom) Jean-Benjamin Maneval 1963. Maison Bulle; photograph found in “The Bubble House By Jean-Benjamin-Maneval - 1963”.

Plans showing the main difference between activity distribution on Earth houses and Space Houses.

Beyond the artifact of the house, what makes a space domestic, or what turns it into a home, are the individual objects that pertain to specific activities of home-living. The typical house as one knows it is often a conglomeration of rooms, each of which serves a particular function and houses appropriate objects for that activity. The interior space of a house will normally consist of a bedroom, a bathroom, a living room, a dining room, etc., thus separating activities into their own setting. Customization occurs throughout; however, the essence and the functionality of the space remains associated to that primary activity. In contrast to this, the space house operates as a single vessel, where all of the essential activities of living (eating, sleeping, cleansing/the toilet, socializing, working or researching, and exercising) are often combined into one, single, compact domestic space. Its design is heavily influenced by the physical limitations of extra terrestial living, including the absence of gravity and air pressure. Furthermore, some activities may simply not function like they do on Earth, thus requiring different kinds of spaces to make dwelling more The Space House


What is a House? The Living Space in Movies


comfortable and manageable. The extent of these so-called minimal functional needs varies film director to film director. Therefore, the quality of living depicted in each space-themed film, as well as the degree of involvement of technology in the dwelling, is not always the same. While many interpretations of the ‘space house’ exist, it is undeniable that the futuristic living scenarios depicted in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ have become a major aesthetic reference point for many other space science fiction films and recent popular modern living representations. In many case, this has meant a literal visual translation of camera takes, scenes and set designs into blockbuster films. One unprecedented aspect of Kubrick’s film was that it was one of the few of its moment to show outer space as a silent place, a concept similar what it might realistically be like. The first space station that appears in the film is the Space Station V, which functions similarly to how the International Space Station does today, except in an infinite ring form. It features US and USSR segments as well as a Hilton Hotel. On board, nearly all things are controlled by an computer operating system, although human roles, such as secretaries and flight attendants are still present. The aesthetic features endless glowing grid tiles on floor and ceiling (a common motif ) that loop the circular corridor of the station. It is both an interpretation of machine-house ideas of automation and of new, clean, and comfortable environments. The second space ‘house’ shown in the film is the Discovery One, a large ship on course to Jupiter, and the space

Comparison of interior spaces between Kubrik’s film and ‘The Martian’; photographs fouind in “The Amazingly Accurate Futurism of 2001: A Space Odyssey”. 2015. Wired, and in “The Martian”. Jessica Chastain, scene still. Dir. Ridley Scott. 20th Century Fox, 2015.

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

The Space House

Interior of the Space Station V


in which most of the film plot develops. Within the spacecraft, HAL 9000 is a sentient computer that performs as a crew member and as the main artificial intelligence system that controls most aspects on board. He is an omnipresent character throughout the entire ship, a condition which forces characters and audiences to question how necessary or beneficial this form of absolute technology is. In the Discovery One, the environment, once more, takes the form of a looping continuous walkway that maintains gravity. The centrifuge is the single continuous room that hosts all domestic activities throughout the voyage— includinng exercising by running laps, sleeping in coffin-like pods (suspended animation), eating, working at the desks, and playing chess with HAL. No windows are found in this room, making it completely inward-focused, and in some ways, scale-less. In the case of

Centrifuge from the Discovery One; phographs from “2001: A Space Odyssey”, scene still. Dir. Stanley Kubrick. MGM, 1968.


both Space Station V and the Discovery One, the domestic spaces of the future are extensively influenced by a clear-cut modernist aesthetic. In particular, they are characterized by streamlines (grids), pure geometric forms (spheres, rotundas), and contrasting colors—all of which have also been repeated in a number of successive films in the genre. In many cases the ships also double as machine houses, given that they feature sophisticated AI operating systems responsible for controlling the access and environmental qualities.4 The final scene of the film takes place in the iconic Jupiter Room, where time and space are no longer linear nor bound. The main character, David Bowman, reaches the room after an unusual trip through time and possibly dimensions. Upon his arrival, he finds a constantly shifting room where he sees himself aging as he progresses through it. In its design, the room features classical elements complemented with Renaissance paintings, which are fixed into alcoves rather than simply being framed and are suggestive of windows or mirrors. The room also consists of a bed, several chairs, cabinets, and the same glowing floor tiles as before, which up to this point have served as a compositional guide throughout the entire film.5 Most importantly, the architectural style of this space reverts back to a classic greek aesthetic, a decision which in the end suggests a return to a more pure and traditional understanding of a dwelling.

4. Schuldiner, Herbert. June 1968. “How They Filmed ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’”. Popular Science.

5. Interiors Journal. 2017. “INTERIORS: Stanley Kubrick”. 2017. Archdaily

Jupiter room interior; phograph from “2001: A Space Odyssey”, scene still. Dir. Stanley Kubrick. MGM, 1968.

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

The Space House

Dining room in the Serenity ship; photograph from “Serenity”, scene still. Dir. Joss Whedon. Universal Pictures, 2005.


As mentioned before, the parameters for visualizing space-age domesticy varies per film and per director. As a contrast to the modernist, almost unnerving, aesthetic shown in Kubrick’s piece, the 2005 film ‘Serenity’ shows a type of space house which is much more similar to the individualized, warm, home aesthetic most are familiar with. Filmed nearly thirty-four years after ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ was made, the film is a sequel to the previously famed Firefly TV Series, and therefore remains loyal to the already established atmosphere of the set. The plot follows the story of nine crew members on the Serenity, a “Firefly-class” space ship traveling in a distant start system. Set in a post apocalyptic future, the film shows the nine as fugitives from the Alliance who spend their days escaping, smuggling, and stealing. The Serenity Transport ship is a “rust-bucket” and thus has aspects that may resonate with the theme of a fixed or a ‘self-made’ home. The setting is a merge between industrial and domestic, combat set and home. Within, the spaces have very clear divisions, much like the rooms of a conventional house, each one expressing the unique personality of its inhabitants. For some characters, this means a direct translation of their personalities into design features such as color or textures. For instance, a character may exude warmth or sensuality, and respectively her private space uses reds, tapestries, and candles to better represent her. The communal areas, meanwhile, often seem as a conglomeration of all the different personalities put together. They also embody the warmth associated with familial activities such as home dinners. As an example of this, the kitchen and


dining room spaces features warm lighting, a more yellow color palette, and includes furniture made of wood. In this film more than any other, familiar domestic elements such as dining tables, hammocks, and four-poster beds, define a domestication of the space that audiences can identify more easily with.

Interior of the Serenity ship showing the character of a room according to it’s occupant’s personality; photograph from “Serenity”, scene still. Dir. Joss Whedon. Universal Pictures, 2005.

In 2009, the film ‘Moon’ presented a similar post crisis narrative but in a different spirit. The film tells the story of Sam Bell, the sole worker and care-keeper of a lunar station managed by alternative fuel mining company Lunar Industries. Following his three year contract, Sam is ready to return to Earth, but an accident leads him to make a discovery that makes him question his identity, sanity, and the company’s motives. The base he inhabits, Sarang Station, is grounded on the surface of the moon, and resembles the traditional house in some aspects. Sam’s activities are dispersed

Interior of the Sarang Lunar Station showing GERTY; photograph from “Moon”. Sam Rockwell, scene still. Dir. Duncan Jones. Sony Pictures Classics, 2009.

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

More recently, the 2015 film ‘The Martian’ also depicts a grounded out-of-Earth shelter. The plot revolves

The Space House

Sam’s personalization of space in the Sarang Station; photograph from “Moon”. Sam Rockwell, scene still. Dir. Duncan Jones. Sony Pictures Classics, 2009.


among separate spaces, which are defined by some walls and niches in the plan but have no door enclosures. Unlike the normal house, however, there are only small windows and the day-night cycle is controlled by changes in artificial lighting. Furthermore, the interior spaces are characterized by a heaviness, which comes across thanks to the unusual thickness of the walls. This aesthetic may also be linked to the technology that lies behind the walls. This home, much like the Discovery One feautures qualities similar to a machine house. GERTY, an artificial intelligence system, functions as the house servant as well as a social companion to Sam. Overall, GERTY’s meddling in Sam’s life, and all the problems it brings represents the existing tension between the machine house and the home, between practicality and comfort.

View of sleeping quarters inside the Hab; photograph from “The Martian”, scene still. Dir. Ridley Scott. 20th Century Fox, 2015.


around the survival experience of astronaut Mark Watney, who is left stranded on Mars by his mission crew following an emergency evacuation. The Habitat (or ‘Hab’ for short) is designed as a temporary settlement to sustain life on the red planet for the duration of the mission only, and therefore is supplied as such. Yet in an unexpected turn of events, it becomes Watney’s home for a span equivalent to 1 year and 3.5 months on Earth. Watney is then forced to modify the Hab, turning it into a home of sorts, and even a greenhouse for his own survival. The unit is constructed of industrial canvas and features a smart system that actively regulates living conditions like temperature, pressure, oxygen and humidity levels. It is powered by solar panels and includes tank-sized rovers on site that allow Watney to explore beyond the limits of the Hab. Much of this design is based on recent NASA advances in Mars habitation simulators. Unlike the other films, ‘The Martian’ shows a house that can develop openness to the site through Watney’s modifications. Nonetheless, the inhospitable atmosphere necessitates a strong boundary between in and out, with technology systems mediating the enclosure. The automation of the house here has much less to do with comfort and leisure than providing the bare minimum for extending human survival. In the interior spaces, however, the characters are able to personalize their corners by using their limited amount of intimate items, such as photographs and toys, all of which give the rooms a small sense of life. Though all fictional environments, many of these space film houses are based on real scientific prototypes. As mentioned previously, the most recent developments of the

Exterior view of the ‘Hab’ showing Mark Whatney making modifications; photograph from “The Martian”. Matt Damon, scene still. Dir. Ridley Scott. 20th Century Fox, 2015.

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies


(above) panorama of upper deck inside the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah // (side) exterior view of the MDRS; photograph via

space program include simulation habitats on Earth. One of those habitats, the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) is located in the San Rafael Swell in Utah and has been inhabited by 130 crews of 6 people over a span of 12 years. This “hab” is an 8-meter diameter cylindrical unit with a two-deck structure. Photographs reveal it as an enclosed, compact and fluid space that accommodates all activities with minimal separation. Though meant to similuate a realistic extraterrestrial experience, the interior posseses a very “Earth-like” character, given that many of the objects inside are actually familiar household and office accessories. In fact, the lower and upper decks seem as pieces of a small bunker shelter, more than of a futuristic environment as has been depicted in some of the films mentioned before. When contrasting this shelter with the Hab shown in ‘The Martian’, it becomes clear that although slightly similiar, the real-life version of a Mars The Space House


(above) Interior view of the International Space Station showing sleeping module // (side) diagram of the ISS and its components; photograph by NASA/Crew of STS-132

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

Meanwhile with regards to true space inhabitation, the International Space Station remains as the most important reference point. Today, it is still strong and in orbit, with crews occupying it for an average time span of 6 months (and one and a half years record). It is a 109m long vessel formed by 14 clusters of pressurized, human habitable modules, all of which attach to a long main truss that supports giant solar panels, heat radiators and other exterior equipment. Each node or module has a particular function such as storage, laboratory, or crew. Unlike the film representations of space living, the ISS has no clean surfaces and no artificial gravity. All surfaces are covered in various wires, operable elements, technology, etc. Traditional functions such as bathing and grooming do not have large designated spaces, while personal spaces are small sleeping cabins with enough room for a human body and a few belongings. Here, the limits of ‘inhabitable’ space are pushed to the absolute limit, often meaning that interiors are as frugal as can be from a domestic sense. Instead, liveability is very much targeted toward work and basic survival, more than anything else. Modules are also charecterized by a mess of compartments and floating objects all throughout. In the ISS, the “comfort of home” is a matter of bare functional necessity and modest object-scale additions, rather than the atmospheric qualities that are associated to a typical home. Analyses of the space house through real and fictional settings, or even residential design, all point to a set of common attributes: minimal, functional, self-contained, and compact. A certain coherence in aesthetic is just as much a result of inherent constraints of space habitation as it is of intersections between the three movements at a critical moment. Whether or not space actually becomes man’s next ecosystem, the space house is already a present reality here on Earth. Film has sustained it as a fascination in popular culture, while architecture has made it a physical reality. The concept of the space house then bases itself on an idea of domesticity not defined by leisure and openness but of selfsufficiency and control. The Space House


home is much less rigid and more open to modifications. Configured as a circular and relatively open floor plan, the MDRS provides room for its users to adapt the space and perform all necessary activities for survival, from research to yoga or communal cooking.


What is a House? The Living Space in Movies


Redrawn plans to scale of all space houses in th films and of real NASA stations.

Redrawn plans to scale of all space houses in the films and of real NASA stations. (left top) Serenity // (left bottom) Sarang Station // (right top) ISS // (right bottom) Jupiter room, Hab, MDRS.

The Space House


Back to the Future 1955 (top) // Sleeper, 1958 (bottom)

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

Machine House

Through the lens of various movies from different time periods, the definition of machine houses and how their depiction changed along with modernity and technology simultaneously. Films could, for the purpose of this paper, be divided into three categories: home with machines;1 machine as a home;2 and home as a living organism.3 The movie Back to the future (1989) is about a young man called Marty McFly that is sent back in time where he meets his future parents. However, by accident he becomes his future mother’s romantic interest. th emovie is centered around how Marty’s friend Dr. Emmett Brown helps him repair the damage to history by helping make his parents fall in love again before he has to return to the future. In this movie, the house is depicted as a home with machines that can be controlled with the owner’s voice. This film was very ahead of its time and showed how at this time people forsaw that modern machine homes would have a number machines that made the way of life much easier. Sleeper (1958), directed by Woody Allen is a movie that follows the story of Miles Monroe, who has been revived after 200 years of cryopreservation. The scientists who have revived Miles use him as a spy to infiltrate the Aries Project, because he is the only member of this society without a known biometric identity. After the scientists are arrested by the authorities, Miles escapes by disguising himself as a robot, and goes to work as a butler in socialite Luna Schlosser’s house. The house becomes one of the earlier examples of machine houses, and is a full embodiment of the notion of a home with machines. Various machines like an instant pudding maker in the kitchen and a debris disposer that burns whatever objects that are placed in it occupies the house, yet does not affect the overall structure and design of the house. In

Patricia Muumba Jeannette Pang

1. In this category we explore the time when machine houses were depicted as containers that hosted a number of appliances that could ease people’s way of life. 2. In this category we e lored films here a machine house is depicted a s a vessel in which people live. The best example of this phenomenon is a space ship. 3. Relates to homes that were taking on personalities of their won. They are directly invovled in the daily running of the owner’s day to day activities in the home.


What does it mean for a house to be a machine house? How did this phenomenon become common?


Star wars, 1977 // (bottom) Star Trek, 1979

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

other words, the machines are merely objects placed inside the house. Miles attempts to utilize the machines, yet the result only turns out to be cumbersome and ineffective. A discourse is raised between the machines and the dwellers of the home, making the integration of machines in the house unsuccessful. Stars wars (1997) is a well known space film series that depicts events in an unnamed fictional galaxy in the distant past. Many species of alien creatures and robotic droids appear throughout the films, and space travel is common. “The Force�, an essential element in Star Wars, allows users to perform various supernatural fears and can amplify certain physical traits. Characters occupy spaceships, which is another example of a machine house.

Different from the previous examples, the spaceships depicted in both of these films are machines themselves. Hence, both films layout the idea of a machine as the home. Having machines as the essence of the house influences the design in significant way. Here the interior of the spaceships are almost all built with metal. The reflectivity generates a sense of omnipresence, inducing alertness in the users. Huge machineries occupies the space, and geometrical shapes like hexagon and circle are seen everywhere. This robust style creates a cold atmosphere that makes living in the spaceships undesirable. However, it attains to the need of the users as they occupy their time with mostly trainings and preparation for war. The dwellers make use of the machines for their advancement. These homes clealry show the lifestyle the characters in both of these movies live. They are soldiers fighting to keep their homes safe. Just like the soldiers that are known today, when they are away it is time for war and when they come home, they can return to comfort. Tron (1982) by Steven Lisberger is centered around a character named Sam whose father disappeared when he was a kid, and later discovers that his father might be in an alternative universe. Sam fights his way to survive in this universe and reunites with his father. The movies starts Machine House


As a contrast, Star Trek (1979) is set on a spaceship called USS Enterprise which the characters are aboard and refer to as home. The characters in this movie are trying to defeat Nero who is their enemy that is trying to destroy the United Federation of Planets. To defeat Nero, they need to continuously travel back and forth through time so as to save their planets.


off in Sam’s apartment, a home that is occupied with large couches and some other minimalist furnitures. Stylized with a warm tone, the space is cozy and welcoming. When Sam is transported inside the software world of a mainframe computer where his father resides, the color of the shot changes immediately into one that is tinted blue, making the space cold and daunting. This house introduces the third theme, which is the home as a living organism. Machines are not only integrated into the house, but they take on their own being and recognizes the need of the users. As a result, it operates according to different situations and aids the users, with one example being dressing Sam when he first arrives to this new universe. Matrix Reloaded (1999) is a science fiction film written and directed by The Wachowskis, starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, and Joe Pantoliano. It depicts a dystopian future in which reality as perceived by most humans is actually a simulated reality called “the Matrix”, created by sentient machines to subdue the human population, while their bodies’ heat and electrical activity are used as an energy source. Computer programmer “Neo” learns this truth and is drawn into a rebellion against the machines, which involves other people who have been freed from the “dream world.” The last example of a home as a living organism could be the film Smart House (1999), directed by Levar Burton. Ben, a teenage computer whiz, wins a computerized home called Pat. Ben begins to reprogram the house, and it helps Ben win over his crush and get rid of his bully for good with different parts of its machinery. However, Pat starts to go AWOL on them because of its learning capabilities and changing personality, and eventually traps the family in the house. Ben ends the lock-down by telling Pat that she isn’t real and human, and reboots her to her original state. This movie shows the amplified result of a machine house; one that rebels its dwellers and works against them. It cautions dwellers on the extent machinery should be included and used in a house.


What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

Tron, 1982 (Top) // Matrix Reloaded, 1999 (Centre) // Smart House 1999 (Bottom)

Machine House


Buster Keeton in the Electric House (above) // Buster Keaton’s Italian Villa that was used in the film

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

During around the time this movie was filmed, two major trends were happening in America. Electricity was becoming a utility one could have in their domestic home versus just being in factories and public or government buildings. Secondly, the art and architecture realm was going through the Art Nouveau period. In this period furniture design moved from making things that just fit into the home like tables and chairs and instead went into designing the architecture of the buildings as well. During this period, the architects often designed everything in the house including the furniture, carpets, light fixtures, doorknobs, and other decorative details. Because of this the line between decoration structure became more and more blurred. Keeping these two things in mind, as depicted in the film Keaton when he was asked make an electric house he combined these two trends to come up with what at that time would have been considered an electric house. As we further discuss this issue we will realise that the idea of an electric house is bound to change as more and more technological advances are made. In his design of this house, we see a collection of moving parts. As he was exhibiting the home to the owners in the film when they returned he showed them that first he had transformed the stairs into escalators. Secondly he had transformed the pool table in the study so that it could automatically reset itself every after a game. He had also redesigned the bath tub in the master bedroom so that it could come to the bedroom, one could get into it and then it would by means of a rail go back into the bathroom. Finally he made also redesigned the dinner room so that dinner could be served on something like a train track. All these different changes made in htis house are very unique ideas that show that each change was designed to fit

Machine House


Electric House(1999) is one of Buster Keaton’s silent movies that has Buster Keaton himself cast as an engineer hired by a rich man to renovate his home and turn it into an electric home. However Buster Keaton had his diploma switched at his graduation ceremony and was handed another man’s electrical engineering degree. So the rich man hires Buster Keaton based on this and is unaware that he is employing a person that doesn’t have single clue as to what electrical engineering entails.

this particular house as worked best in the engineer’s mind. All chnages were designed as a group of systems or in this case what would be referred to as furniture that is run by electricity so that the house is transformed into an electric house.


Because of this movement at this time, the trend of modern homes moved away from what art one had in their home to how exceptionally the different parts of their home could work while utilising electricity. Notice that the aesthetic of the home on the outside or even the inside was not altered at all. For example the home in Buster Keaton’s “Electric House” was an Italian Villa style home and even after the transformations, it still looked like an italian villa the only difference was it had a number of moving parts installed in it. However this does not stay true as we will see in the house in the next film.

Floor Plan of Buster Keaton’s Italian Villa


What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

(Pool Table in Study // (Bottom) Dining table

Machine House


Villa Appel, house in the film Mon ncle (centre) Floor Plan of Villa Appel // (bottom) Livingroom space in the Villa Appel

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies


Mon Oncle (1958) is a film directed by Jacques Tati that tells the story about a gentleman who goes to visit his uncle at what at that time is considered to be a modern home.The architecture is modern because it has moved away from the generic building styles and are going into more rational shaped homes. The invention of steel also aided this trajectory. This style of architecture is usually referred to the mid-century modern, and is characterized by clean simplicity and integration with nature. This style emphasized creating structures with ample windows and open floor plans, with the intention of opening up interior spaces and bringing the outdoors in. The movie is from the period when the working class in America could afford electricity. The middle class was able to have a machine house that would have belonged only to the upper class a few years before. The machines in the home make the house a machine house and therefore, revolutionary. The house consists of an elevator, sprinkler system, washing machine, cooker among other things. An emphasis placed specifically on targeting the needs of the average American family. Mainly appliances are available to ease the dwellers’ lives at home. However, this does not equate to a more comfortable home, as efficiency does not make the house into a home. Function was as important as form, if not more important. Therefore, objects in the house often appear as not so user friendly and inviting.

Kitchen Space in Mon Oncle’s Villa Appel

Machine House


Iron Man (2008) is an American Superhero motion picture directed by Jon Favreau that is based on a Marvel comic book character called Iron man.4 The main character Tony Stark (acted by Robert Downey JR.) is a famous industrialist and master engineer that comes up with an exoskeleton mechanized suit that can be used as a weapon to keep the world safe from evil. However he inherited Stark industries from his father who had been a defense contractor for the US government. Once the government discovers that he has made a weapon, they want him to mass produce these weapons so they can be used by the soldiers of all the branches of the army. But Tony Stark doesn’t want his suit to be mass produced. Because of this he is forced to work at home where he can control who has access to his projects. His entire home is controlled by an interactive operating system he programmed into practically every single part of his home. All the way from the gate to the windows, doors, garage,living room and kitchen but most importantly in his laboratory. The house is ruled by an operating system. A computer with a voice that can control different machines on before of the human being. And to ease the way of life what better way to do that than to bring an autonomous brain into the home. The house starts to run itself more. The house can respond to requests by its owner, it can open the shades, and wake up its owner. It keeps track of Tony’s schedule, gives him news updates and lets him know when specific people are walking into his home. The owner and the house are in a partnership and have a sense of co ownership of the living space. It is important to note though that the design of the house itself slowly tends to go back to the traditional design in the kitchen, livingroom and bedroom which is very interesting in terms of architecture trends. During the time that Electric House (1922) was filmed, electricty had just become an amenity that people could have in their homes. As a result electricity played a big role in making the electric house a machine house. However the influence of electricity was not on the shape of the house as much as it was on the different elements of the house. there was very many moving parts in this home versus a change in the buiding type or aesthetic. There is an intergration of machine sin the hosue as part of the design and because of this, there is more interaction between the people and their houses. People rely on these machines and thus there is this continuous dialogue between the house and the owner.

4. Iron Man; Alarm Clock Wake Up Scene. https://www. watch?v=sXH2K2ZlrjQ Iron Man; Tony Stark’s Lab https://www. watch?v=PPqnC2DPrU8

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies


When Mon Oncle(1958) was filmed technology had progressed to the manufactring of Steel. When people started using steel as a building material, shapes of houses suddenly started to take on rational shapes that steel frames could make. Also now appliances that used electricity started to be manufactured from steel. This explains why the home in Mon Oncle had a lot of machines that made it identify as a machine house. There is a different rate of growth between advancement of machines and people’s knowledge of them. Because of this there is a discourse. Machines are aloof from the house but in for aesthetics. The Iron Man House (2008) show clearly the idea of a computer driven space. The computer enables designers to make irrational shapes that by hand would have been hard for them to make sense of. The computer opened up a new dimension of what a machine house could look like. Through these various observations we came up with a timeline that shows the different collarations between technology, innovation and modernity in architecture.

Tony Stark in his labaratory with his personal assistant // Iron Man Mansion as seen from a distance

Machine House



What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

Graphic representation showing collarations between technology, innovation and modernity in architecture.

Machine House


The cityscape for Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis,” under construction.

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

Alfred Hithcock: Architect

Alfred Hitchcock was well aware of the evocative power of cinematic spaces. A set designer by training, he fully understood the narrative capabilities of setting and place. To some degree, Hitchcock’s partiality towards architecture even extended to his perception of society and mankind. As Camille Paglia notes: Hitchcock’s vision of architecture as the grand but eternally provisional frame of human meaning is evident everywhere in his major films, from the glass-skinned towers of North by Northwest and the arched suspension bridge of Vertigo to the cantilevered

Stefan Krawitz


The history of architecture encompasses not only the proposed and built designs of distinguished architects and designers, but also the interpretations and portrayal of such spaces in the arts and popular culture. Consequently, the modern-day architectural historian ought to consider not only the tangible constructions which have shaped our built environment, but the fabricated architecture of the cinema as well. Through the art of film, designers are given ultimate freedom to envision idealistic, even gravity-defying, structures and futuristic utopias which evade the confines of reality. Conversely, cinematic settings can reflect vernacular architecture and depict the ways in which society places meaning on the idea of home and domestic culture, for example. With the exception of select ‘high-style’ features, in cinematic architecture, use and meaning are given priority over form. Through the creation of narrative space, films depict architecture in use and serve as a visual record to what Marxist philosopher, Henri Lefebvre, often described as lived space.1 By portraying bedrooms, stairs, and attics, for instance, the cinema viscerally conjurers our memories, dreams, fears, and desires, and places meaning to familiar domestic settings. As we escape into the architecture of the screen and empathize with its protagonists, we are reminded of where we lived, felt secure or isolated, and experienced sensations of awe or fear.

1. Lefebvre, Henri, and Donald Nicholson-Smith. The Production of Space. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2009. Print. p.15


On set photograph from “Marnie.”// Hitchcock directing scene.

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

A product of human innovation and culture, architecture, to Hitchcock, was a tool to understand our humanity. Nonetheless, what truly defined his work was not merely his recognition of the power of space, but his masterful ability to encapsulate it through film. As Pascal Bonitzer notes, “the set in Hitchcock is more than just a mere set; rather, it is a labyrinth in which everyone – characters, directors, and audience – loses and finds themselves, in the intensity of their emotions.”3 Hitchcock himself expressed that “a rule I’ve always followed is: Never use a setting simply as a background. Use it one hundred percent… You’ve got to make the setting work dramatically. You can’t just use it as a background. In other words, the locale must be functional.”4 As the French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard observed, the ‘Hitchcockian’ cinema compels not with story, but with images—the openpalmed hand reaching for the door, the simulated fall down the staircase, the spiraling retreat of the camera from a dead woman’s face.5 These iconic snippets embed the films with their eerie allure and imprint themselves in the mind of the spectator much more effectively than any of Hitchcock’s convoluted plots.6 In fact, the director often placed trivial attention to the overarching diegesis. In many of his films, momentous occurrences will take place, but the events that gave rise to them are easily forgotten. You quickly forget how A leads to B or, for example, why and how Roger Thornhill finds himself at the peak of Mt. Rushmore. Ultimately, in Hitchcock’s often suspenseful architectural narratives, the dialogue is rendered secondary to the captivating spatial voyages he creates. Among other elements, such visual narratives are largely credited to Hitchcock’s meticulous creation of production sets and his ability to embed meaning within architectural elements. In an effort to understand the architecture of Alfred Hitchcock, this study seeks to unmask such cinematic devices and techniques in the hopes of deciphering North by Northwest, Hitchcock’s only film where modern architecture, alone, valiantly stands as the dominant catalyst. However, before one can begin to appreciate the virtuosity of Hitchcock’s production design, it is imperative to recognize the revered filmmaker as an architect. In other words, one must accept, “the absurd premise that all the Alfred Hitchcock: Architect

2. Paglia, Camille. The Birds. London: BFI, 2009. Print. p.4

3. ZÌizÌek, Slavoj. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Lacan. London: Verso, 2010. Print. p.56 4. Hitchcock, Alfred, and Sidney Gottlieb. Hitchcock on Hitchcock: Selected Writings and Interviews. Berkeley: U of California, 1995. Print. p.72 5. Godard, Jean-Luc, Jean Narboni, Tom Milne, and Richard Rould. Godard on Godard. London: Secker and Warburg, 1972. Print. p.42 6. Godard 1972, p.34


brassieres designed by Barbara Bel Geddes in the same film.2


important buildings in his films are designed by one and the same architect whose oeuvre includes a modernist villa in South Dakota, a Manhattan penthouse, a London apartment, a suburban house in a Californian small-town, numerous Victorian mansion, and a colorful collection of other buildings.”7 However, such a thought is far less preposterous once one recognizes that the architect and filmmaker share much in common. Intrepid and tenacious, both professionals seek to impose their personal visions on an often unreceptive audience. Orchestrators of elaborate productions, both also practice synthetic arts, where collaboration and compromise are rules rather than exceptions and where clients have financial—if not creative—control.8 However, as compared to most filmmakers of his time, Hitchcock was renowned for the meticulous supervision he exerted over his sets. Originally trained as a set designer, in his early career Hitchcock was responsible for the stage production of several German features including The Blackguard (1925), filmed on the stages of the vast Neubabelsberg studio in Berlin. Consequently, he was heavily influenced by the architectural prominence of Weimer cinema. As author Patrick McGilligan noted: German cinema was more architectural, more painstakingly designed, more concerned with atmosphere. The Germans shot the sets, not the stars, and when they shot the stars they anatomized them into eyes and mouth and hands. The Germans loved shadows and glare, bizarre camera angles, extreme close-ups, and mobile camera work; the ‘floating camera’ that became a Hitchcock trademark was first Murnau’s.9 Aside from the significance of the image of double and a captivation for terrors, Hitchcock was especially enthralled by the German spatial motifs of shadows, stairs, mirrors, and ominous landscapes.10 Just as influential was the contending practice of Kammerspielfilm. Conversely, “these filmed chamber plays focused, with a meticulous attention to details, on the life of individuals in everyday claustrophobic environments.”11 Emphasizing intimacy, the use of highly charged objects, and mobile camera work, Kammerspielfilm elements are easily discernable in countless Hitchcock films, including The Lodger and Dial M for Murder.12 Ultimately, both genres of film were pivotal in shaping Hitchcock’s attitude on the powerful capabilities of set design and the

7. Jacobs, Steven. The Wrong House: The Architecture of Alfred Hitchcock. Rotterdam: 010, 2007. Print. p.5

8. Lamster, Mark. Architecture and Film. New York: Princeton Architectural, 2000. Print. p.24

9. McGilligan, Patrick. Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light. Redwood City, CA: Paw Prints, 2008. Print. p.145 10. Jacobs 2007, p.16

11. Jacobs 2007, p.16

12. Jacobs, p. 17

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

narrative roles of cinematic architecture. In an interview on production design, Hitchcock prominently stated the following: An art director must have a wide knowledge and understanding of architecture. On the other hand, he must be able to distinguish between what characterizes a type of dwelling and what individuates the inhabitant of that dwelling. The profession of man may be characterized by what is on his walls. His untidiness, however, will be personal to him. Indeed, it is only the more imaginative aspects of art directions that require the art director to depart from the letter of his research. His basic information is not the answer to the actual requirements of a character or a scene.13

13. Hitchcock, Alfred. “Alfred Hitchcock on Film Production.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 04 Aug. 2014. Web. 10 Apr. 2017. p.144


Ultimately, while he favored narratives with characters that were persuaded, terrified, or confined by their architectural environments, Hitchcock would specifically shape his sets in relation to these personalities. In essence, through his meticulous production design, Hitchcock sought to reveal the characters even before they appeared on stage.

This predilection for visual presence over narrative is also visible in the director’s use of highly charged objects to convey the identities and emotions of his characters. As Jean-Luc Godard noted, Hitchcock “proves that cinema today is better fitted than either philosophy or the novel to convey the basic data of consciousness.”14 According to Godard, with Hitchcock one remembers shots rather than scenes. Whether Alfred Hitchcock: Architect

Hitchcock on the set of “Rope.”

14. Godard 1972, p.50


left with the vision of handbag, a glass of milk, or a curl of a hair, for example, we find ourselves recalling specific images, rather than dialogues. Far more than mere props, these objects are the very substance of his cinema. “These objects embody the feeling and fears of characters as object and character interact with each other in dramas within drama.”15 Of particular note is Hitchcock’s fetishizing of domestic architectural elements: a set of keys, a doorknob, a closed door, a darkened window, or even the top of a staircase.

In Hitchcockian cinema, each household object is intrinsically connected to a theme or narrative structure. The motif of the closed door, for instance, is highly indicative of a secret hidden within the confines of the house. Such prominent instances of concealment and reveal can be found in countless of Hitchcock’s works, including Rebecca, Notorious, and The Birds. Similarly, the polarity of interior vs. exterior is best exploited through Hitchcock’s strategic use of the window. Aside from serving as a mediator between light and shadow and as a point of meditation, the window is often linked with the idea of voyeurism, one of Hitchcock’s favorite themes. In fact, several of his films, “even open with the image of a window that marks the transition from an urban exterior to the seclusion and mysteries of an interior.”16 As suggested from its title, Rear Window is a model example of this strategic use of windows to create voyeuristic situations. Along with doors and windows, the hyper-signification of stairs was also highly prevalent among Hitchcock’s many films. As author Steven Jacobs writes: “dynamic and spatially fragmented structures, staircases are often places of crisis and their perspectival effects seems to isolate and confine characters. A central spine of domestic space, the staircase presents itself as an arena for psychological tensions.”17 As sheer inquisitiveness drives characters upstairs or downstairs, an impending sense of trouble is eerily palpable. Through the staircase, suspense is continually heightened as

15. Sarris, Andrew. The American Cinema: Directors and Directions, 1929-1968. New York: Da Capo, 1996. Print. p.142

Highly charged elements of ‘Hitchcockian’ cinema.

16. Jacobs 2007, p.27

17. Jacobs 2007, p.28

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

18. Jacobs 2007, p.28


every step both advances and delays the ultimate climax. This action of climbing or descending, not only stairs, but even the exteriors of buildings, is visible in several of Hitchcock’s films, including Number 17, Vertigo, and North by Northwest. In each of these features, architecture is presented as a vertiginous force, a situation that Hitchcock epitomizes in the famous Vertigo tower scene where a dizzying effect is created through the strong architectural cues of the staircase, as perceived from the vantage point of the hanging protagonist.18

Ultimately, whether through doors, windows, or stairs, Hitchcock’s use of highly charged domestic elements was essential in revealing a deeper architectural narrative that transgressed mere dialogue. And while all of Alfred Hitchcock’s approximately fifty films exhibit this ability to embed meaning through both set design and the use of highly charged objects, few compare to the architectural significance of his 1959 film, North by Northwest. In the gripping, suspenseful, and visually iconic scenes of North by Northwest, Hitchcock’s only production for MGM, modern architecture, alone, courageously assumes the role of the dominant catalyst. As we follow the escapades of the debonair bachelor Roger O. Thornhill, played by Cary Grant, we see our protagonist become physically trapped by architecture throughout the film. This idea is even referenced by the prominent opening credit sequence which portrays an abstract arrangement of lines that steadily transforms into the reflecting glass curtain wall of the C.I.T. building.19 In essence, through the opening scene, the viewer is immediately introduced to the urban space of the metropolis, whose Alfred Hitchcock: Architect

Scene of staircase from “Vertigo.”

19. Jacobs 2007, p.229


“North by Northwest� opening credits // Cropduster chase scene. // Shots of the Vandamm House.

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

congested geometric grid is best characterized by the orthogonal forms of Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie-Woogie. The lines also address the idea of directional vectors, just as the film’s title, North by Northwest suggests.

Situated in a fictitious forest atop Mount Rushmore, the Vandamm House is a prime example of Hitchcock’s ability to create visual narratives and embed meaning through the architecture and spaces he creates. Even his positioning of the house above the stoned faces of Washington and Jefferson provokes meaning, suggesting an impression of ‘national’ importance. The site’s location in the Black Hills region of South Dakota also vindicates the film’s title as Thornhill continues his expedition west. Consequently, the residence also echoes the motif of the ‘prairie house,’ and what Frank Lloyd Wright describes as a ‘Usonian’ architecture shaped to the open planes and removed urbanizations of the American Alfred Hitchcock: Architect

20. Zlizlek 2010, p.28

21. Jacobs 2007, p.300


In any case, the idea of the grid stands as recurring motif throughout the film, including the famous scene where Thornhill is attacked by a crop-dusting plane along deserted prairie crossroads. At this stage, the picture serves as an exploration of America’s open spaces, reflecting Midwestern nature as an urban grid of industrial agriculture.20 The depiction of Thornhill traversing an endless, open plane also vaguely resembles Oscar Niemeyer’s famous sketch of two miniature figures wandering a similar barren landscape. This notion of geometric simplicity and the perpetuity of space evokes, “an emptiness that gives not only spatial but also sociopsychological shape to the modern city-dweller’s condition.”21 Such is the condition of Thornhill, who is found crossing both vertical and horizontal grids as he tackles a vicious succession of architectural traps. The first of which is the famed UN Headquarters where glass panes, open plazas, marble forms, and elegant lobbies set the scene of a staged murder, forcing our protagonist to escape. As the plot progresses, Thornhill finds himself trapped in yet another icon of modernism: the prominent twentieth century limited train. A symbol of speed and confinement, the train facilitates the confining cat and mouse chase between Thornhill and the police. Here, our protagonist is also trapped in deceit by the chilly, blonde double agent Eva Kendall who cunningly poses as an industrial designer. Ultimately, as Thornhill’s expedition nears its peak, he finds himself imprisoned by none other than the stone and wooden walls of the sleek Vandamm House.


West. Reminiscent of Leo Marx’s 1964 study, The Machine in the Garden, the Vandamm House stands a testament to the clash between pastoral scenery and technological ingenuity. “Combining the idyllic log cabin with the modern penthouse, Vandamm’s eyrie blends nature and culture.”22 Inevitably, like many of Hitchcock’s more daring architectural creations, the Vandamm House acts as the archetypal residence of a rouge. With ‘damnation’ embedded even in his surname, Mr. Phillip Vandamm epitomizes the modern Hollywood villain, emphasized by the opulent décor of his home. “I didn’t realize you were an art collector,” Thornhill remarks, “I thought you just collected corpses.”23 Embellished with 1950s furniture and art including plush armchairs and geometric textiles, the house visually exudes wealth and extravagant luxury, often associated with villainous corruption. One should also note that the Vandamm House is Hitchcock’s only “high-modernist” domestic building. In spite of utopian aspirations of architectural modernism, its appearance in North by Northwest is associated with cruelty, control, and vanity. This idea has since been popularized by Ian Fleming’s James Bond series, where master criminals with thick foreign accents inhabit remotely sited, ultramodern hideaways, confirming the relation between modern design and villainous acts.24 A symbol of high modernism, the Vandamm house was unequivocally influenced by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. The iconic design of Wright’s Fallingwater, specifically, is easily discernible by the clear horizontalism, bold cantilever, and natural textures of Hitchcock’s creation. Additionally, both designs exhibit asymmetrical floor plans, interpenetrating and free-flowing interior volumes, recessed entrances, and a centralized fireplace.25 However, while Hitchcock was clearly captivated by Wright’s personalized brand of modernism, an analysis of the film reveals that the Vandamm house was deliberately designed as an integral piece of the film’s narrative. For instance, in discussing one the film’s climactic scenes, production designer, Robert Boyle recalls the following: I knew we had to have a house where Cary Grant would be in a precarious position if he was discovered; he had no way out. It also had to be in a position where he could see everything in the house: he had to see her bedroom, he had to see the living room, he had to see the balcony over the living room, and he had to

22. Jacobs 2007, p.302

23. North by Northwest. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Perf. Cary Grant. MGM, 1959. DVD.

24. Jacobs 2007, p.307

25. Jacobs 2007, p.308


What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

Interior shots of The Vandamm House from “North by Northwest.� // Drawings of The Vandamm House.

Alfred Hitchcock: Architect


be able to get down and away. So this was not a house we could find. The Fallingwater house, which Frank Lloyd Wright designed, was partly cantilevered, but that wasn’t what interested me; it was the stonework in the Fallingwater house, which was horizontal striated stone. That was perfect for someone to get a handhold and climb up; that’s why I selected it.26

As Boyle’s statement perfectly describes, Hitchcock and his set designers did not simply select the architecture for the script, rather, the script superimposed the architecture. With careful attention to detail, he and his team designed and constructed only the essential narrative spaces, namely the living room, part of the bedroom wing, the carport, and a piece of the hillside. Once again, though such meticulous set designs coupled with skillful location shots and the use of highly charged spaces, in North by Northwest, Hitchcock masterfully embeds narratives deep within the architectural creations of his invention. In essence, the ‘real’ architecture of the Vandamm House was merely a deception. A collection of shots filmed with distinct sets and locations, the fictitious structure was quite simply a cinematic exaggeration of Wrightian architecture. And yet, just as the Vandamm House served as a reflection of modernism, so too did it begin to shape the very notion of modern design as we perceive it even today. Alfred Hitchcock’s sleek, cantilevered creation, encapsulated through brilliant Technicolor, was proof that modernism was capable of creating an enhanced domestic setting, perfectly suited for the rituals of contemporary life. Nonetheless, precisely because it is only a cinematic image, the Vandamm House strikingly embodies the nature of 1950s architectural design, fusing the richness of postwar consumer culture with idealistic utopias of the modern movement.

26. LoBrutto, Vincent. By Design: Interviews with Film Production Designers. Westport, Conn: Praeger, 1992. Print. p.178

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater paired with Hitchcock’s Vandamm House.

Scenes of The Vandamm House in “North by Northwest.”

Alfred Hitchcock: Architect


What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

Patrick’s notebook that discloses his internal psyche


Shots showing of the living room, bedroom, corridor and kitchen in the American Psycho

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

The American Psychosis

American Psycho is set in Manhattan in the 1980s, where the protagonist, Patrick Bateman, works at a Wall Street Office. The movie illustrates how America has become an indifferent society. Each individual is selfish and narcissistic. It is a cross between fantasy and reality, banality and insanity. The film mocks the materialistic lifestyle. Bateman’s world is superficial as he has everything, but yet he is unsatisfied. The director artfully uses the apartment both as a scene of crime as well as a manifestation of the inner world of the protagonist. The only times when the audience begins to understand the thoughts and feelings behind the cold facade is through his monologues. The first monologue opens in the form of a self introduction: “I live in the american gardens building, West 81st street, on the 11th floor. My name is Patrick Bateman, I’m 27 years old, I believe in taking care of myself and a balanced diet and a rigorous exercise routine.” [00:04:54] The first time we are introduced to Patrick Bateman’s apartment is through a continuous shot that takes the viewer through the apartment as he completes his lengthy morning routine. The monologue goes on while classical music plays in the background as he completes these intricate steps that make up his daily morning ritual. In the first shot we see down the hallway to a white minimalist living room sparsely decorated with peculiar objects including a telescope by the window (as

Paul Fuschetti Sisi yu


Architecture is often used as a strategic tool by directors to connote a certain message and in the development of character in cinema. In the case of American Psycho, directed by Mary Harron, the Manhattan apartment undertakes subtle changes as his character becomes more and more psychotic and violent. Eventually, just as his “mask of sanity is about to slip”, the facade of the apartment also crumbles and begins to reveal objects concealed within.

Shot of Patrick’s bathroom // (below) his lengthly morning routine


The motif of the mirror is brought up at various moments throughout the movie

Shot of Patrick removing his mask, alluding to the motif of the mask of sanity and the idea of a metaphorical facade

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

The bathroom is shown for the most part in this opening scene of his daily morning. A strong theme in the film is one of cleansing, or in Patrick Bateman’s case the application of many layers of skin care products only to peel the mask off. He talks about all skin care products in excruciating detail, identify each one’s intended use, chemical composition, and effect, even going as far as warning us to avoid alcohol based facial washes. This level of detail stems from his own personal obsessive nature about cleanliness and order which we see slowly unravel as the film progresses. Also, the entirety of the back wall is a mirror, which introduces one of the other recurring themes, self-reflection and observing oneself. He does need the mirror to apply product to his own skin, but paired with the last few lines of the monologue where he states that (he is an abstraction) it is evident that the mirror is also symbolic of certain themes. The last few lines of the monologue are particularly important. Bateman says, “There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction. But there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory. And though I can hide my cold gaze, and you can shake my hand and feel the flesh gripping yours, and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles may be comparable, I’m simply not there”, this is said while Patrick slowly peels off his facial mask revealing his unblemished skin.

The American Psychosis


if ready to be used to observe people on the streets below) and a (modernist) chair placed in such a way that makes it seem as if it has no real function. Similarly, the bedroom, which is shown in the following scene is empty, adorned by a single large sculptural vase that sits in a niche above the entirely white bed. Patrick Bateman comes into the scene first in the bathroom, like the rest of the apartment it too contains a stark sense of adornment that includes a single “Les Miserables” poster over the toilet and several stacks of neatly folded white towels on dark wood shelves. The last major room of the apartment is the kitchen which only briefly comes into view during the first monologue, a glimpse of the fridge door, a monolithic stainless steel plane, from which he removes an ice pack to put on his eyes as part of his beauty regiment. This brief glimpse into the apartment sets the tone for how the apartment is simultaneously a reflection of his wealth as a young, sophisticated, member of the Wall Street elite as well as a mask hiding his true psychological disturbances.


Shot of the Living Room wall showing the artwork of Robert Longo

Unrolled elevation showing the living room


What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

Pllan showing the layout of Patrick’s modernist apartment.

Before the second monologue, there is a distinct separation of the home, social and work place.

The American Psychosis

Harron intentionally introduces the apartment through a long, unbroken shots, enabling the audience to appreciate its modernity and bringing them into the spaces. Patrick Bateman’s apartment is an immaculate white bachelor pad that is monochromatic, the vision of modernist ‘80s chic. Yet there may be many other apartments identical to Patrick’s, white, modern and empty. The apartment comes across as generic and interchangeable, echoing the idea that Patrick is one of many on Wall Street.


The layout of the apartments are crucial in our understanding of the development of the film. Patrick’s apartment appears open, with a open kitchen. Initially there are clear boundaries between the idea of home, social place and work. The scenes often switch back and forth between his apartment and office. Eventually the rooms start to blend into each other, just as his psychotic tendencies start to invade his brain and daily life. Initially the murders only happen in the private confines of his apartment or down a large secluded alley. However as the film develops, the murders start taking places in public as he begins to go into a frenzy. “I have all the characteristics of a human being, flesh, blood, skin, hair but not a single clear identifiable emotion, except for greed and disgust. Something horrible is happening inside, and I don’t know why. My nightly bloodlust has overflown into my days. I feel lethal, on the verge of frenzy. I think my mask of sanity is about to slip.” [01:18:00] The second monologue marks a turning point in the progression of the movie and character development. He realized that he is deeply rooted in a shallow empty person in a shallow, empty society. Like his apartment, there is “not a single clear identifiable emotion”. He realized that he is only satisfied through his bloodthirsty fantasies, hungry for blood and carnage. He is beginning to slip from sanity and it is show through the depiction of the starkly white apartment. Patrick invites his rival Paul allen to the apartment after pretending to be someone else. Suddenly all the furniture in the living room is covered by cloth, as if preventing mold, and newspaper line the ground, in anticipation. The real odd moment is when Patrick proceeds to the bathroom to put on a raincoat. Before killing Paul Allen, Patrick goes to the bath and fetches his raincoat. The scene is shown entirely through the mirror. The large pane mirror gives the reflection of Patrick, alluding to the notion that what we see is a projection of who

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies


The Living room furniture covered and Patrick wearing a raincoat dancing

Comparison of color scheme being adopted by the director in the portrayal of the two apartments

The American Psychosis

he really is. The motif of the mirror continues to be used in the bedroom scene where Patrick is filming himself having a threesome with the prostitutes. During the act he is shown only to connect with the projected image of himself through the mirror. The mirror here represents narcissism and the importance of outward appearances. It is also disturbing to note that in this case the prostitutes mean nothing more to him than objects on display, just like the modernist vase in the background.


The concept of light and dark and the careful curation of color is a major theme within the film, in the way the scene transitions from being brightly lit to being extremely dark. The eyes first have to adjust to the light levels before distinguishing what is happening. The bedroom is suddenly being transformed into a chamber of Patrick’s darkest secret and fantasies. Slowly the audience is introduced to the contents of the drawers. There is something sinister and lethal about the surgical tools, especially under the moonlight. Although the rest of the scene is ambiguous in what he does with the clothes hanger, you only see the prostitutes leaving bloodied. A key turning point in Patrick’s mental psychosis is when the audience is introduced to Paul Allen’s apartment. It is the only other apartment interior shown in the movie. In a way Paul’s apartment is significant because it represents Patrick’s alter ego, the site of the slaughter and carnage. It is also important to note that the apartment is located right opposite central park, adjacent to the Guggenheim, a symbol of wealth and status. He feels “a moment of sheer panic, when I realized that Paul’s apartment overlooks the park, and it’s obviously more expensive than mine.” Everything is about the comparison of an image, a facade. There is a tone of scorn in Patrick’s response when the blonde prostitute says “This is nicer than your other apartment”, he replies curtly, “It’s not that nice”. Unlike Patrick’s modernist home. Paul Allen’s apartment’s living room does not have the stark white walls or modern furniture, but similarly void of a clear identity. The apartment seems to reflect the norm of the rejection of marriage and domestic life. There is nothing personal about the apartment, besides the array of alcohol bottles. While listening to Whitney Houston CD, Patrick begins to preach the message of self preservation to the prostitutes, and talks of the betterment of the self, which almost seems ironic. He

The concept of light and dark can be seen through the director’s careful choice of color palette as well as the use of light and shadow in the scenes.

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies


The fridge later transforms into a container for dismembered bodies, almost as trophies displayed on a shelf

The knives in the Kitchen become possible murder weapons Inside the drawer of the bedroom in Paul Allen’s apartment

The American Psychosis

stressess upon the importance of being able to empathize with oneself, as if he is trying to convince himself before the killing frenzy begins. Paul’s apartment appears much more fragmented, especially with each room disjoined by closed doors. Bateman then process to kill his friend Elizabeth during sex and he kills the prostitute by dropping a chainsaw on her head, but not before she stumbles into rooms containing female corpses in the apartment. The themes that drive throughout the film are not only mirrored in the architecture and design of Patrick Bateman’s Manhattan apartment, but they are enhanced by the subtle changes in how that architecture is presented during the movie. By revealing certain hidden moments within the details of the four key rooms of the apartment we peel back the layers of his psyche, letting us into the mind of a young Wall Street superstar. At first we see him as his counterparts, materialistic and egotistical, but by the end we realize this is simply a façade for something even darker.


The film ends with the third monologue. “There are no more barriers to cross. All I have in common with the uncontrollable and the insane, the vicious and the evil. All the mayhem caused and my utter indifference toward it are now surpassed. My pain is constant and sharp and I do not hope for a better world for anyone. In fact I want my pain to be inflicted on others, I want no one to escape. But even after admitting this, there is no catharsis. My punishment continues to elude me and I gain no deeper knowledge of myself, no new knowledge can be extracted from my telling. This confession has meant nothing.”[1:35:21] Just as Patrick finds no catharsis in his final confession, the movie ending simply does not have a catharsis. We never find out whether he actually killed all those people or they were all just a fragment of his imagination. At some point, all the characters become interchangeable. Patrick simultaneously becomes Marcus Halberstram, then Paul Allen, then Davis. So who is Patrick Bateman, and perhaps he just represents a dark fantasy, a figment of our imagination?

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies


Paul Allen’s apartment next to Guggenheim

Paul Allen’s apartment after Patrick returns, finding it a lank can as

The American Psychosis


Exterior of Lovell Health House, photographed by Julius Shulman, 1929

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

Lovell Health House

The design for Neutra’s Lovell Health House began in 1927. The late 1920s and early 1930s coincided with the emergence of the International Style abroad, and this shift within architectural theory and practice proved to be a substantial influence. Neutra (1892-1970) was born and educated in imperial Vienna, eventually relocating to Los Angeles after working with Frank Lloyd Wright.1 PostWorld War I, the development of the International Style and growing popularity of Le Corbusier gave rise to the ideal of the machine-made house as a framework for producing affordable, functional housing. Technological advances coupled with increased necessity for housing and an interest in industrialized mass-production techniques implied a broad reconceptualization of houses as “machines for living” in order to maximize efficiency and affordability.2 Although these prototypes ultimately manifested themselves in fundamentally different ways, the utopian vision of the prefabricated machine house persisted.3

Jessica Jiang Won Ryu


As simultaneously a tangible place and a concept, Hollywood has catalyzed a range of popular cultural attitudes towards images; its images have shaped the collective perception of luxury, evil, and comfort. Hollywood’s penchant for the modernist avant garde implies a certain position towards the mode of living associated with these houses. The Hollywood cliché of placing film noir villains in modernist villas brings up the question: to what extent does the presence of modernity in a house provide an indication of malevolence or immorality? This paper aims to focus specifically on one of these houses, Richard Neutra’s Lovell Health House. Through analyzing both historical and contemporary representations of the Lovell Health House, ranging from the original documentation photographs to recent Hollywood films such as L.A. Confidential (1997) and Beginners (2011), it becomes possible to identify both similarities and disparities in the way the house is depicted to imply varying ideas of domesticity.

1. Hines, Thomas S. “Richard Neutra’s Hollywood.” Architectural Digest 31 Mar. 1996: n. pag. Web. 14 Apr. 2017.

2. Jordy, William H. “The International Style in the 1930s.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 24.1 (1965): 10-14. JSTOR. Web. 20 Mar. 2017. 3. Armstrong, Paul J. “Transforming the n isi le and edefining the Machine-Made House.” Without A Hitch: New Directions in Prefabricated Architecture (2008): 21220. Web. 14 Apr. 2017.


Ideas of the home as a sanctuary were intricately tied to the experience of chaos during World War I. The significance of natural light, open spaces, and fresh air within homes became a significant component of what was understood to be healthy living in this strand of 1920s Modernism. The single-family dwelling thus became an instrument for the propagation of the idea that the need for a healthy living exceeded personal concern and was instead a social and architectural need. With respect to these trends, Neutra’s architecture during the late 1920s and 1930s exemplified the attitudes and symbolisms of the International Style. Neutra arrived in California after a hard-bitten route from Europe across America4, and ultimately his work would be recognized as the “first mature example of the International Style in America”. By 1928, Neutra was “hard at work on what would become his masterpiece”, a house for Philip and Leah Lovell.5 Leah Lovell ran a progressive kindergarten based on a liberal education paradigm of free-association, learn-bydoing methods. Philip Lovell was a practicing naturopath and anti-drug physician; he became a popular figure through his popular column regarding health and beauty published in the Los Angeles Times.6 Philip Lovell held radical beliefs regarding health; he advocated for natural methods of healing that emphasized exercise, massage, open-air sleeping, nude sunbathing, and vegetarianism. As a character, Philip Lovell became hugely symbolic of the “California lifestyle”, and his house would inevitably and fundamentally become a demonstration of his ideas of health. The Lovell Health House was intended to epitomize the healthy lifestyle: it was a beacon located high in the hills where openness was a defining characteristic. It was arguably an authentic representation of the utopian ambitions of creating a machine for living. Technologically innovative and highly functionalist, the Lovell Health House was assembled from precision factory-steel made components. It was one of the first residential constructions in the United States to use steel, and the architectural presence of steel was everywhere: the sweeping horizontals, extensive cantilevers, thin lines, and the suspended balconies.7 The steel frame was assembled in 40 working hours. The open-web skeleton was pre-fabricated in sections and then transported to the hillside where the lattice trusses of the floors and ceiling were welded. Further, the walls

4. Hines, Thomas S. Architecture of the Sun: Los Angeles Modernism, 1900-1970. New York: Rizzoli, 2010. Print.

5. Hines, Thomas S., and Richard Joseph. Neutra. Richard Neutra and the Search for Modern Architecture: A Biography and History. Berkeley: U of California, 1994. Print. 6. Davies, Colin. Key Houses of the Twentieth Century: Plans, Sections, and Elevations. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006. Print.

7. Jackson, Neil. The Modern Steel House. London: Spon, 1996. Print.

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

The house appears to be suspended from the steep hillside, terracing downward. The house is tethered to the cliff by suspension cables. Natural light and therapeutic life were crucial components of the house; the double-height windows of the unenclosed staircase allocates ample southeastern light into the house. Each bedroom is associated with an adjacent screened porch, providing the opportunity to sleep in open air. The entry procession is one of the unique characteristics of the house. From the front door and small entry hall on the top floor, monumental stairs wind down to the living room on one side with the library and exercise law on the other side. Private living quarters are grouped on the top floor while more public programs exist in this middle level. Below, the sequence of the house ends at the open terrace and the open swimming pool where bands of concrete break out of the box into the hillside, becoming curving retaining walls. The visitor was “dropped into the centre of the building from above�.8 Modern technological developments characterized the experience of the house; in this sense, it was an artifact of Neutra’s manifesto of the house as a machine for living. The electric and lighting installation was complex, along with an internal telephone, water filter, electric dishwasher, innovative heating and cooling systems, and electric stoves.

8. Jackson, Neil. The Modern Steel House. London: Spon, 1996. Print.

Lovell Health House

Lovell Health House


were made of concrete sprayed onto metal mesh suggesting a planar treatment of the house, a reading of the house as a frame wrapped with layers of wall.

Exterior of Lovell Health House, photographed by Willard Morgan


Exterior of Lovell Health House, photographed by Arthur Luckhaus

Exterior of Lovell Health House, photographed by Julius Shulman

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

Following the house’s completion, Lovell proudly showcased it in his newspaper column and invited many groups to visit. The initial common reaction to the house was repulsion by its unfamiliarity and outlandish character. However, the house pushed forward California Modernism and was celebrated in the famous 1932 MoMA Exhibition, “International Exhibition: Modern Architecture”. Philip Johnson, one of the curators of this exhibition, applauded the Lovell Health House as the first mature example of the International Style in America.

Designed for Doctor Philip Lovell, a prominent naturopathic doctor, the Lovell Health House had profound impact on Southern California culture and how architecture contributed to the concept of well-being. However, Hollywood saw Neutra’s residential architecture from a different light- the ultra modern, internationalist style houses around California became a norm as houses associated with villain. The monochromatic tones achievable within the space, rooms that are easily configurable with arrangements of furnitures, the way the house is integrated on the site providing privacy with open view towards the city made the building an attractive place for filmmakers. L.A. Confidential is a 1997 neo-noir crime film taking place in the City of Angels directed and produced by Curtis Hanson. The story takes place as three detectives, all with individual drive and passion, tackles a case revolving police corruption and Hollywood celebrity scandals, where at the center of the crime sits Pierce Patchett. Patchett is a very Lovell Health House

9. Rosa, Joseph. “Architectural Photography and the Construction of Modern Architecture.”History of Photography 22.2 (1998): 99-104. Web.


The original photographs Neutra submitted for the 1932 MoMA exhibition were taken by Willard Morgan, photographed intermittently between 1929 and 1930.9 However, Johnson protested that the exterior view looked too barren. Neutra then hired Arthur Luckhaus to take a new set of photographs, and in subsequent publications, the interior photograph was taken by Morgan while the exterior was by Luckhaus. The photographs in this exhibition were more utilitarian in the sense that the novice understanding of light caused buildings to look more faded against the sky and self-similar. Later, the house was photographed once again by Julius Shulman. These early photographs documenting the house are black-and white and depict the house as minimally furnished; the photographs do not suggest domesticity or human inhabitation.


wealthy businessman who runs a high class prostitution ring, where all of the prostitutes are made up to look like famous actresses. The Health House, appears in the movie as Patchett’s beautiful hillside abode and it is within the iconic living room that he meets his death. Interestingly, the movie only depicts three spaces of the house throughout the plot, where each has been photographed and documented as iconic spaces of the house. The spaces include the garage with a view over the house, the living room adorned with luxury set of furnitures, as well as the main staircase with a double story window casting stark shadows into the space. The audience first meets Patchett as he encounters the detectives at the garage, and the architecture gives off the impression that the owner is someone who can embrace new technology, and is willing to venture outside the normal rules of convention. Aside from architecture, Hanson effectively utilizes lens length, colors, and props to accentuate the feeling of the villain house. While wide angle lenses are used primarily to capture the entirety of the spaces, they also help to extend the vertical and horizontal lines throughout the building, and strong contrasts between light and dark and the use of modern furniture adds to the lucrative and double-faceted nature of Patchett’s underworld. Scenes from L.A. onfidential feat re ell known key spaces of the house

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies


Isometric diagram showing where the two movies take place in the house

The Hollywood cliché of the villain in the modernist house has recently transformed, culminating in Tom Ford’s A Single Man (2009) in which the sympathetic protagonist, rather than a crime kingpin, lives in John Lautner’s Schaffer Residence. Similarly, despite being the sunny backdrop to Pierce Patchett’s lifestyle in L.A. Confidential, the Lovell Health House is also the childhood home of Oliver in Beginners. Released in 2011, Beginners, similar to the use of John Lautner’s architecture in A Single Man, has distorted the perception of the modernist house from a villain’s retreat into the home of a troubled protagonist. Beginners tells the story of Lovell Health House


Oliver, who is reflecting on the life and death of his father Hal. The film is structured through a series of flashbacks, showing vignettes of Oliver’s childhood in the house, his mother’s death, his father coming out as openly gay, and eventually the challenges of his own relationship. The Lovell Health House becomes its own character, transforming parallel to its occupants over time through these memories. The Lovell Health House is a backdrop to Oliver’s introspection; small details such as the furnishing of the house and use of light and color provide indication of when the flashback takes place and contribute to evoking nostalgia in the film. Director Mike Mills chose the Lovell Health house because it was appropriate for the character Hal Fields.10 The décor used in the house was distinctively Californiandeveloping the character of Hal entailed using the house as a vessel for accumulating objects and art from around the world. The concept was for Hal to live in a classic, clean Modernist house with warm and multicultural furniture. A heterogeneous collection of chairs and rugs, plants, and paperwork scattered across the home exemplify the culmination of Hal’s life. Furniture used for the set was an eclectic combination of the Mike Mills’ family furniture, iconic design pieces such as the classic Eames LCW Design or the Noguchi lamp, and even furniture acquired from Salvation Army. In the film, Hal was reinventing himself towards the end of his life; his home was thus a familiar patchwork surrounding him as he explored new territories of sexuality and identity. Hal and Oliver represent the California mentality; the characters are portrayed as individuals who piece together their spaces from their experiences. Rather than painting an image of Los Angeles dominated by fakeness, the glamour of Hollywood, a seedy yet captivating underground (as in the case of L.A. Confidential), Hal and Oliver embody an opposite, bittersweet Los Angeles. The Lovell Health house, their home, was something deeply personal in the movie, a backdrop that was both intimate and protective. The contrast of Pierce Patchett and Hal Fields occupying the same home expresses the inevitable interdependence of good and evil and differing attitudes towards the house as a home. While L.A. Confidential chose to use the iconic, recognizable spaces of the Lovell Health House, Beginners utilized many narrow framed shots in the more banal, unfamiliar spaces of the house. Mike Mills, during an

10. Keeps, David. “Set Pieces: The Neutra House in Mike Mills’ ‘Beginners’.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 12 Feb. 2012. Web. 14 Apr. 2017.

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

interview noted that he “looked for the parts of the house that weren’t the signature Neutra parts”.11 Thus, L.A. Confidential relied on the recognition of the house as a pristine, machinelike Modernist masterpiece to provide contrast to Pierce Patchett’s character development. On the other hand, the Lovell Health House was portrayed as more of a home, a blank shell for Hal’s life and experiences to accumulate within. The deliberate creation of the impression of warmth within the house makes it a unique dwelling for the associated character and diverges from the more typical depictions of the house where it appears uninhabited.

11. Budds, Diana. “Mills & McGregor on “Beginners”.” Dwell. N.p., 08 June 2011. Web. 14 Apr. 2017.


Scenes from Beginners include views of the house that are less familiar

Lovell Health House


The use of particular cinematography techniques in Beginners de-emphasized the iconicism of the Lovell Health House. Often, scenes were shot through doorways or interior openings, utilizing often a blank and banal foreground to frame the scene occurring in the background. In this case, the viewer is only permitted a narrow glimpse of the house beyond through the frame of a doorway; the lack of wide-angle shots precludes a holistic understanding of the space. The deliberate choice to focus on the more unfamiliar spaces humanizes the house; it no longer holds the association of the villain in the clean, hard lines of a Modernist villa. The film further emphasizes the association of the house with nostalgia and memory through the treatment of color and light. During an interview with the L.A. Times, director Mike Mills revealed that the Lovell Health House was chosen because it allowed them to shoot with natural light. Capitalizing on afternoon light, the color tones used in the movie were overwhelmingly composed of yellow, green, and blue hues. As opposed to the monochrome color palette of L.A. Confidential, the vibrant color and natural light used in Beginners contributed to an atmosphere of familiarity in the home. As the Lovell Health House gets depicted through multiple lenses of different photographers and filmmakers alike, one can observe the transformations the architecture icon went through. Adorned with details specific yet simple in nature, the architecture acts as a blank canvas adaptable to each scenarios - once for a luxury villain, and once for an elderly waiting for his last days to come. In each story, how the building is revealed adds an important layer to the development of characters, and through the alteration of props, colors, and focal length, the building can be represented to accommodate a grander scope of atmosphere and character development. Starting with iconic framings of the house depicted in early modernist photographs, we used similar techniques used by filmmakers to alter the space for a speculative scene. The exterior view looking up to the building was altered to create a party scene exploding with colorful lights flowing out from within, while another scene almost void of color and life depicted the same view with a suspenseful, mysterious atmosphere. The iconic interior spaces were also transformed through the use of color and materials to suggest even the extremes of scenarios. A highly futuristic, and a dystopian

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies


Speculative scenes created through visual imaging techniques

rendition of the living room space, as well as an obsessive nature of a crazy artist with that of an elderly cat lady have been imagined. The images produced for this project take a position towards the house not as a sacrosanct historical artifact but rather a container in which various characters’ lives culminate. This operates parallel to the paradigm in Beginners where the house’s identity exists beyond its status as a Modernist icon. The immaculate, prototypical house behaves as a generic house; modifications of light, decor, and material personify various characters that occupy the house. The original Modernist photographs, L.A. Confidential, Beginners, and finally the visualizations speculating upon the future of the Lovell Health House provide insight into the Lovell Health House as an object over time and are indicative of recently changing attitudes towards Modernist icons in Hollywood. The recurring Hollywood motif of “evil people in Modernist homes” has been altered by films such as Beginners and A Single Man. Lovell Health House

Beginners and L.A. Confidential film only two overlapping spaces of the Lovell Health House. Both movies portray the detached garage; in the former, the garage is closed and obscured by piles of garbage while in the latter, the garage is open, revealing a classic luxury car. This exemplifies character differences in the house’s occupants. Furthermore, the second shared space that plays an important spatial role in both films is the living room. In Beginners, the living room functions as an exhibition for Hal’s life and is transformed across the flashbacks, from a celebrated collection of furniture, plants, and rugs, to a bedroom near the end of his life, and finally to an empty room packed away in boxes. In L.A. Confidential, the living room is shown in wide-angle shots and is ultimately where Pierce Patchett is found dead. However, this space does not appear to change over the timeline of the movie and is decorated with generic, minimal furniture.


Overlapping SpacesLiving room and Garage scenes as represented by the two movies


What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

There are very few indications of Pierce Patchett’s personal taste and past portrayed in the living room scenes. L.A. Confidential takes great advantage of the exterior of the house, often showing the white linear concrete and the steep elevational changes within the profile of the site. Pierce Patchett is characterized as embracing the new technology of the home with a subversive undertone; the film reveals that his professional affairs likewise show a more clandestine application of these principles. Choosing the Lovell Health House as Pierce Patchett’s home becomes a device to frame his character. Arguably, Pierce Patchett could have lived in any clean, white Modernist home. On the other hand, Beginners only shows one exterior image of the house and takes advantage instead of the interior of the home. The interplay and sequence of spaces is not utilized in L.A. Confidential due to the sole focus on the living room area. Meanwhile, in Beginners, the less recognized interior spaces such as the bedrooms and kitchens formulated a large portion of scenes. Utilizing the house owner’s personal furniture and the director’s family furniture in Beginners offered the tone of family warmth within the house when compared Lovell Health House


Non-overlapping Scenes from the two movies

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

In conclusion, the portrayal of an iconic Modernist home, The Lovell Health House, has altered over time. Original photographs appeared more utilitarian, documenting the home with minimal furnishings and appearing unoccupied. L.A. Confidential utilizes the Hollywood typecast of the villain in a contrasting Modern setting, maintaining the house as a foil to the character. In this situation, the house maintains a generic image and a sense of coldness; the film relies on wide shots of identifiable spaces and highly choreographed, impersonal furniture choices. Finally, as part of a recent shift away from this Hollywood clichÊ, Beginners chose to view the Modernist house as a container for curated accumulation of the character’s personal belongings and memories, contributing to a warmer and more domestic image of the house.

Lovell Health House


to the generic, basic interiors in L.A. Confidential and the original photographs. Thus, the rendition of the house in L.A. Confidential is more aligned with the original black-and-white documentation of the Lovell Health House while Beginners and the new images shift away from viewing the house as Modernist artifact. The emphasis on the occupants and their modifications to the architecture in the latter two sets of images facilitate an understanding of the house as a home, an explicitly domestic space rather than a palatial, detached backdrop.


Farnsworth House, Mies van de Rohe, Illinois, 1945-1951

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

Glass Houses

One of the first examples of glass exploration is the Crystal palace. It was an exhibition space designed by Joseph Paxton and located in Hyde Park, London. The invention of the cast plate glass method in 1848 made possible the production of large sheets of cheap but strong glass, and its use in the Crystal Palace created a structure with the greatest area of glass ever seen in a building. This new found invention of glass as a container can be said to have translated directly to the modern perception of glass as house. As seen in the sectional drawings through the building, light steel framing was used as interior structure for the building and can hence be considered as the idea which birthed the modern curtain wall. A few years later, the glass pavilion by Bruno Taut was built. It was erected in the year 1914 and became an object of interest due to the specific name it was given. It consisted of a combination of glass and concrete construction. The purpose of the building was to demonstrate the potential of different types of glass for architecture. It also indicated how the material might be used to orchestrate human emotions

Oluwayimika Osunsanya Raksarat Vorasucha


Glass is a material which began being explored during the industrial age. The production of glass and steel promised an era of modernism especially in architecture. The idea of mass production and materials with greater strength encouraged architects to dream big. Anything was possible. The concept of transparency in construction became idealized which led to the introduction of glass elements in construction. Before the actualization of glass large enough to be used as entire facades, it had been used in smaller quantities to define space while trying to capture its unique qualities such as transparency and light effects. Varying buildings over the years have utilized glass in groundbreaking ways. Breaking free of the use of glass in normal aspects such as windows or doors, these buildings were revolutionary in their time and all hint at a movement towards the modern concept of a glass house.

The Crystal Palace, Joseph Paxton, London, 1848


The Glass Pavilion, Bruno Taut, 1914

Maison de Verre, Pierre Chareau, Paris, 19281932

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

and assist in the construction of a spiritual utopia. Taut pushed the boundaries of the form which can be created from glass. Although not the classic modern day glass house, Taut heavily conceptualized the idea of a transparent house. In his case he dared to create a structure which wasn’t simplistic as most modern day glass houses are but rather highly stylized. Again funding was readily available for this project as it was sponsored by a glass production company.

As the structural strength of steel and glass became more affordable, more houses were built with fully glazed walls to promote transparency. In order to provide enough privacy to the residents despite the glass walls, these houses are often located in isolation, hidden away from their neighbors by thick layers of trees. With the transparent shells, glass houses create a blurred line between indoor and outdoor, and the surrounding nature is brought into the living space. Glass houses allow humans to have dwellings that are in close contact with the environment, but still receives full protection from the outside through transparent walls. They create intimate relationship between the house and its environment. What might be the roles that the environment plays in the houses? These roles can be categorized into two main groups: one is when a glass house acts as an exhibit, and another is when it acts as an exhibition space. The former refers to cases where the glass house acts as a stand-alone object sitting in the environment. It is the most prominent entity within its context and receives most attention. The latter includes glass houses that contain valuable items, where the houses, as well as the surroundings, are pushed to the background in order to present the arts or artifacts inside. To further investigate these concepts, four houses (two from Glass Houses


Unlike the earlier mentioned examples, a residential project adopted glass as the major construction element to be used. The house which is called Maison de Verre is located in France. Although this house is extremely different from the modern idea of a glass house. It begins to address the issue of glass as façade in residential buildings. It was designed by Pierre Chareau between 1928 and 1932. The architect attempts to play with the idea of transparency and an extension of the indoors outside through the use of light in particular. The glass was molded to resemble usual building or construction material so as to test the strength of glass also as a structural element and not just as a filler for an aperture.

classic, real-life glass houses and two from films, to reinforce the existence of these ideas through depictions in movies) will be studied and discussed.


Designed in 1945, the Farnsworth House is Mies van der Rohe’s (as well as the world’s) first attempt to create a dwelling that is completely transparent. The house was meant to be a weekend retreat for Dr. Edith Farnsworth, and was to be built by the bank of Fox River, in Plano, Illinois. In order to avoid floods that were common in the area, Mies lifted the house up on steel columns, detaching it from the ground and its context. The use of white color on steel frames further differentiates the house from the surrounding greeneries. At a quick glance, Mies wanted to juxtapose the man-made structure with the natural surroundings, creating “an object” that is being exhibited within its environment. Despite the clear distinction on the outside between the house and its context, the glass cladded walls allow transparency throughout the house, and the boundary between indoor and outdoor becomes ambiguous; the interior is expansively open to the exterior. From inside, one constantly feels the presence of the surrounding environment. Sitting on Barcelona chairs that are placed along the walls would feel like sitting outside in the backyard. Everything seems to be happening out there in the environment, but only separated by thin, transparent glass walls that vaguely mark the line between indoor and outdoor. The Farnsworth House was also Mies’ first completely open-plan building. Through the use of steel structures, supports are pushed out to the peripheries, allowing a continuous, column-free space inside. Apart from the core of the house that reaches from floor to ceiling, this weekend residence can be perceived as a transparent box with objects, or the furniture, scattered around. These are day-to-day items that are more on the minimal side and are usually taken for granted. They do not interfere with the dignity of the house, and the presence of the glass box amidst the field of trees is still reinforced. Inspired by Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, Philip Johnson, who was originally a big advocate of the heavy use of glass in International Style, designed this glass house in 1949 for himself as a reinterpretation of Mies’ glass house. Johnson kept the ideas of the free plan, one core that runs from the floor to the ceiling, the thin steel supports, and


What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

The Farnsworth House, sitting prominently in the midst of trees. The interior of the house that is closed off from outside by the thin transparent glass wall

Glass Houses


Philip Johnson Glass House with steel columns that blend into the dark tree trunks behind. Two Circus Women, one of the art pieces exhibited in the house.

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

glazed walls, all major characteristics of the Farnsworth House. Unlike its precedent, Johnson’s Glass House is symmetrical and stands directly on the ground. It also has thinner steel supports that are painted black instead of white. When seen among the surrounding tall pines, these thin dark steel columns seem to mimic the neighboring tree trunks, and the entire house begins to disappear into the woods as one moves further away from the house.

Apart from glass houses in real life, glass houses in film have slowly become increasingly popular. In the films, houses are constantly being filmed in relationship to the environment they are placed in. The idea of glass tends to conjure up images of luxury and modernity, hence it is understandable that movie produces utilize his material when trying to describe wealth or influence. Two popular movies which showcase two of such houses are ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day off’ and ‘Batman vs. Superman; Dawn of Justice.’ The perception of the house from an onlooker’s standpoint is especially vital as films attempt to capture atmosphere and description with only a few select shots and images which showcase these features. In the movie ‘Batman vs. Superman’, the glass house belonged to Bruce Wayne’s (Batman) butler’s character. The house was built specifically for the movie and was modelled closely after the Farnsworth house. In the case of the movie, the house was painted black probably as an attempt to increase the mysteriousness. Like its predecessor the house is lifted off the ground and is spatially arranged in the same manner as the Farnsworth house. The furniture used in the house are pieces by Mies which further enforces the correlation between both Glass Houses


As the structure dissolves into the environment, the objects placed inside begin to receive more attention. David Whitney, Johnson’s lifetime companion, was an art critic and curator. Apart from helping design the landscaping around the Glass House, Whitney brought in a few of his collected art pieces and displayed them inside the house: the sculpture Two Circus Women by Elie Nadelman from 1930, and a painting by Nicolas Poussin from 1648. These items break Mies’ model and introduce another use of a glass house, an exhibition space. The main focus shifts to these art works, and the surrounding environment that is highly present in the Farnsworth House is now reduced to a backdrop for those artifacts.

houses. An addition in the case of this house was a car port which can be seen outside the glass façade. The house was completely prefabricated and assembled when the parts arrived on site. This assemblage took a few days to complete. Another difference which exists between the this house and the farnsworth house is the siting and environment conditions in which the two buildings find themselves. On the first hand, the farnsworth house is sited in a green park space which was discovered to be prone to flooding. On the other hand, the batman house is placed in a seemingly marshy area beside a lake, this atmosphere created in the movie better services the genre to which it belongs.


Bruce moves in to the premises after his manor is completely destroyed. Two main spaces of the house are shown in the movie, the bedroom and living room spaces respectively. The first scene which shows the house is set at dawn and the shot is taken in the bedroom. Due to the dark nature of the shot, the glass fades out and the fog on the exterior of the house looks like it is seeping into the room itself. By doing this, the viewer is made very aware of the situation of the house and the outside condition in relation to the inside. In other words the environment becomes one with the interior. The color palette for the scene is grayscale. This artistic choice leads to the reduction of details into simplified planes and surfaces, hence there is a smoother transition between external and interenal. As Bruce walks toward the glass façade, views are changed and the exterior is shown looking into the space. In this scene, a very strong sense of the house as object is introduced. In this clip, the house is seen floating above the lake as the black structure of the building blends into the darkness and disappears. One’s perception of the space can be likened to that of a pearl in an oyster shell. The two are very much connected and in a relationship yet the pearl still stands as icon in the shell. In this shot a viewer is able to see the patform in front of the house which is place in imitation of the one found in the Farnsworth house The third scene with the house, which is the longest portion of the three, shows a conversation between Bruce and his butler. Although the characters in the scene are in focus, there is a constant presence of the environment around them. The color palette for this scene was a combination of varying

(1) Still showing bedroom scene as fog appears to envelope the room // (2) Still showing Bruce as he gazes through the glass faรงade, the house appears to be oating o er the ater // (3-5) Stills showing conversation between Bruce and his butler, the greenery becomes an ever present extension of space

Glass Houses


What is a House? The Living Space in Movies


ed errari fills centre screen, the bright colour dominating the space // (4) Ferrari remains the main focus in still // (5) still showing exterior using very dull colors as the Ferrari peeks from inside the building

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

shades of grey. The background on the exterior was slightly punctuated with green foliage which always demanded a bit of the viewer’s attention. This ever present environment begins to suggest an extension of the building itself and can be likened to the building’s back garden.

In the movie, the garage contained expensive cars which belonged to the father of a friend to the main protagonist. The most iconic car in the collection was a red Ferrari which took the center in the room. There are two major scenes in the movie in which the house is highlighted. the first shows Ferris askin Cameron to use the Ferrari. The second scene for which the film is famous is the one where the audience sees the car crashing though the glass curtain wall. In the most iconic scene, Ferris’s friend, Cameron recites a long monologue which is interjected with heavy hits to the Ferrari. As Cameron beats up his dad’s car Ferris looks on. The final image is one of the car crashing through the glass. The scene is filmed in such a way that the angles which the viewer gets is either one with the car in frame or one from the perspective of the car. This tends to draw an audience’s eye away from the environment and rather look at the car. The color scheme also helps to reinforce this distinction as the car is a shocking red and completely out of place from the monotonous arrangement of color. This complete disassociation from the houses exterior in those first moment help to reinstate the idea of glass as divide as the car eventually makes its way through the glass. This jolts the viewer back to reality and forces them to recognize the environment which had already become a backdrop to the specialized object which the house carried.

Glass Houses


The Ben Rose house was filmed in the movie Ferris Bueller’s day. The whole house was not used in the film, and only the garage was shot in the movie. The actual house belonged to a textile artist and his wife. It was designed by A. James Speyer who happened to be a student of Mies Van der Rohe. it can be found in Highland park, a small suburb in Illinois. Once again this house was modelled and built after the Farnsworth house. The house is lifted completely off the ground and looks like it hangs in the air above and between trees,shrubs and greenery. It can be accessed by a walkway which opens up to the singular space.

The major factor in glass houses as we have discussed is its relationship with the environment. As the environment in this sense represents the periphery of the house, people engage with the showcased surroundings by engaging with the glass façade which wraps the periphery of the house. It becomes interesting then that one’s perceived notion of circulation can be contested by the placement of few key pieces in the building. We compared the building plans for the selected four houses, each one subdivided into the house if it was empty (the true state of a glass box), and the house with its occupants – or in the case of the film houses, the characters – moving through space.


With such an ambiguous line separating the outside from the inside as well as the big unobstructed space, the Farnsworth House creates a perfect setup for its occupants to freely move through the interior and circulate along the peripheries, closer to the environment outside. Even though the inside is filled with furniture, the lack of artifacts or special items still allows the natural surroundings to receive the most attention. The occupants are therefore more likely to still move along the edge of the house and be immersed into the outside. The Batman House reflects many qualities of the Farnsworth House. The free plan and the similar design as well as placement of the furniture in the house already suggests the pattern of circulation of the Farnsworth House that holds true in Bruce Wayne’s residence. As seen in the circulation diagram on the opposite page, the peripheral pattern of movement is only interrupted when furniture is added to the space, but the circulation still seeps into all possible gaps so one can get closest to the facade. In the movie, the characters are always seen with the nature outside on the background. This suggests how the mix of the surroundings and the interior of the house can be amplified through circulating along the peripheries of the glass box. The house due to its open plan leaves occupants to wander freely around the space. In an ideal world this would more usually than not lead people to circulate as close as possible to the façade. We notice though that when furniture and objects are placed in the space, the flow of people begin to change. As Philip Johnson designed this house to contain some artwork, it comes as no surprise that some objects thus begin to receive more attention than the priced engagement of the house with the environment in which it is situated.

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies


Circulation through the Farnsworth House, if it was empty // Circulation through the Farnsworth House when furnished - notice the very small change from the circulation diagram above

Circulation diagram of the Batman House, unfurnished // Circulation diagram of the furnished Batman House

Glass Houses


Circulation diagram of the Philip Johnson Glass House, without furniture - notice the default movement along peripheries // Circulation diagram for the Glass House when fully furnished, with the art pieces

Circulation diagram of the Ben Rose House without any objects - again, the clear path along the edges of the house // Circulation diagram of the Ben Rose House as depicted in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, with the prominent, red Ferrari

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

This causes occupants to circumnavigate certain objects as highlighted in red in the images. Once a spectator’s focus is placed on the special piece, the glass and environment fades into a secondary backdrop, a setting for these valuable collectibles.


The director of the movie ‘Ferris Bueller’s day off’, takes a similar approach in portraying the Ben Rose House. His framing aids the audience to shift their attention to the beautiful car around which the camera pans. As the tension builds during Cameron’s monologue, we as spectators are made fully aware of how the car reacts or moves. This erases the specificity of the glass house in its environment and turns it into something of little to no importance until the end of the scene. The audience is only reminded of the elevated nature of the building as well as its glass skin when the object of focus breaks through it forcing one to acknowledge once again the environment. As shown the movie creates a circulation diagram much different from the ideal.

Glass Houses


The Stahl House by Pierre Koenig, Case Study #22, L.A. 1959

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

Stahl House and Luxury

Within the trend of high density and efficiency society, residential architecture became organized into typologies to achieve efficiency in terms of maximized living space within limited square foot area while promoting closest access towards the transportation fabric. This caused the importance of residential architecture’s visual appearance, physical scale, and representative aspect through ornaments to be largely disregarded since the majority of target users were working class citizens for whom the affordability of the dwelling was of primary importance. At the same time, development of construction techniques and materials including application of structural steel and plate glasses triggered architecture striving for both affordability and life quality. This evolution in dwelling typologies was an aspect of modernist movement “aimed at the revival of artistic craftsmanship as an antidote to the ugliness of mass production and dissemination of handcrafts as an antidote to the dehumanization of the industrial production process”.1 Application of steel and glass while disregarding traditional architectural wooden and masonry ornaments soon became a revolutionary trend of housing architecture that iconized the leap of American architecture in late 20th century largely inspired by Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House and Philip Johnson’s Glass House.

Ted Kim


After Industrial Revolution spread throughout the United States in 19th century, the velocity of development in every field of industry became dramatically accelerated causing the mainstream of economy shifting from site specific domestic industries to mass productive and business centered industries. This triggered the formations of factory plus corporate based systems which required efficiency in access towards waterfront and transportation system. Consequently this led to the creations of metropolitans and satellite cities where the highest values of finance, industry, and business, became centered, and naturally residential architecture spread throughout the highly densified urban fabric.

1. Fine Arts Site, WorldMuseum, “A History of Architecture Modernism, Architecture in the Late XIX Century”, p.1


Eames House interior, Arts and Architecture magazine, photographed by Julius Shulman, 1958

Stahl House, photographed by Julius Shulman, 1960

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

The most noteworthy aspect of this program is that Julius Shulman’s photographs capture the life qualities of the case study houses with the users’ activities within the architectural space being the main theme of the picture, which was unprecedented since architecture images before had been all about the physical and visual aspects of the building. Julius Shulman’s photograph of Eames House interior with Charles and Ray Eames having a conversation depicts natural human activity that would most likely occur in particular space in the house. Furniture is scattered all over the place according to the needs of the users without any trace of manipulations for the camera. This capture of moment was striking by the viewers in the way that the image immediately conveys the ideals of the life sustained by the space, without necessasrily imagining out of blank spaces: ideal positions of bookshelves and carpets, appropriate orientations of lamps, location of couches that would grant the guests the brilliant view or the warmest sunshine in the early afternoon. By diminishing the presence of the architecture, Shulman brilliantly depicts the vibe and life created by the non-architectural elements and the users of the house by diminishing the presence of the rigid architectural elements. The photography of Shulman was perceived by the people as a striking and revolutionary way of coveying luxury of dwelling, since it exactly tells what the portrayed house is intended capable to do for them. This striking aspects of revolutionary way of depicting dwelling architecture via magazines eventually branded the houses of Case Study Programs. In other words, media made case study houses as an icon of dwelling luxury of the modernist era.

Stahl House and Luxury

2. From an interview with Tom Ford (designer), “Visual Acoustics - The Modernism of Julius Shulman”, video documentary.


Modernist era of mid to late 20th century “was a period of time when architects believed that they could change the world... they beieved that life could be enhanced through good design...”2. Charles Eames and John Entenza, both editor and publisher of ‘Arts and Architecture’ magazine initiated Case Study House Program (1945-1966) with an intention to showcase luxury modern housings targeted for post World War II families. The most influential American architects of 20th century including Richard Neutra participated in this program and was widely advertised in ‘Arts and Architecture’, and ‘LIFE’ magazine through the lens of the world class photographer, Julius Shulman.


media promotions investments advocate advertisements

win quality over others production method ingredient originality history etc.

Pre-Modern Dwelling

privacy hierarchy


privacy hierarchy

Modern Dwelling

Type.1: isolation within itself


Type.2: isolation by staying away

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

Case Study Houses could play significant role in the invention of modernist dwelling luxury since the project itself became a brand. A brand is an isolation from the similar by winning the vast majority’s preference with its quality values. Unlike factory based produced products including liquor, automobiles, cosmetics, and so on, it has been only in 21st century when architecture gained brand values, which are recognized with corporates and “starchitects”, because architecture had been slow on the transition from maker-based industry to corporate based industry due to the absence of the media’s advocate. luxury 1.great comfort, provided by expensive and beautiful possessions,surroundings,or food,or something enjoyable and often expensive but not necessary 2. A luxury is also any unusual, enjoyable activity3

efinition of r Cambridge

Stahl House (No.22), designed by Pierre Koenig, is considered to be the most iconic among the Case Study House program. Its exclusive elegance and simplicity in design and fantastic orientation on the hill overlooking the city of Los Angeles was effectively advertised by the night image taken by Julius Shulman in 1960. The night shot depicts bizarre contrast between precarious edge haning off the cliff, and warm and comfortable atmosphere of the interior. This image became embedded in people as an enduring icon of a new dwelling luxury around the globe engaged with that “time when we were building rockets to go to the moon... planning colonizing Mars... popular zeitgeist at that time was caught perfectly in that picture”.4 The impression of a house as a transparent box enabling to communicate with the surrounding context entierely, exposed while the users allowed to enjoy the perfect privacy, space dedicated to the inside but as well to the outside, spread throughout the world as a definition of qualified living space, high-end life of Californians, and a new trend of luxurious dwelling. Stahl House and Luxury


Sudden rise of unprecedented typologies of dwelling architecture with a clear theme of luxury of rich, comfortable, enjoyable, yet privileged, appealed as striking enough towards the media, enough to bring attention from vast majority of people. Shulman’s images of the case study houses on the media successfully created the link to the icon of modern housing luxury in people’s perception.

4. From an interview with Tom Ford(designer), “Visual Acoustics - The Modernism of Julius Shulman”, video documentary


Cornelius Vanderbilt II House 1883

Azuma House (Row House in Sumiyoshi), Tadao Ando, 1976

Farnsworth House, Mies van der Rohe, 1945-1951

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

Since the rapid urbanization in 20th century, densificcation of residential fabric evoked general urge to long for the life qualities they have sacrificed along the way - privacy, green space, and transparency, in turn of achieving efficiency within the urban context. Case Study House Program showcased the examples to return those lost qualities back to the residents in the categories of two types, isolation within itself to create micro private context and isolation by staying away to go into the fantasy world. Physical scale lost its purpose in the course of densification of the urban fabric to accomodate spacial efficiency, and this caused the modernist urge to shift its focus from addressing its presence towards the public for dedication towards qualified experience for the user. Therefore, the focus of residential design shifted from ‘shaping the looks’ became solely dedicated to dwelling, how the space qualifies the life of the user, and how architectural elements work together to present unique experience to the owner, which were the primarily focus of the Case Study Program. Achieving brand by isolating in two types and qualifying experiential aspects has been widely applied to dwelling architecture since 1960s across nations and time period. For instance, modern luxury dwellings that isolate within its walls to create a private fantasy world are widely developed within highly dense Japanese residential context, including Azuma House by Tadao Ando, completed in 1976. Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, completed in 1951 located in Plano Illinois, is an example of ‘isolation by staying away’ type where appreciable natural context with low population is farily accessible from the urban context. Stahl House and Luxury


Luxury of dwelling until modernist era had been measured by its scale and programmatic capacity. A house was considered as luxury when it is big enough to become a monument to address its presence to the general public, and capacious enough to become a private office, gathering space, governmental facility, storage, and so on, beyond containing essentials to contain more than one family unit. Therefore, each of these houses became a brand being isolated from other dwellings by its physical presence and clear differentiation with its quality being able to contain diverse functions. Also, some degree of buffer zone around the periphery of its orientation reinforced it being isolated to have hierchical difference in private and public circulation.








e terior night ie

details of interior

B. 11:56 ~ 13:53 - day view, details of interior



0 :10 : 00


e terior ie

from interior

1 : 42 : 00

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies Where the Truth Lies (2005)




A. 50 : 50 ~ 51 : 35 - day view, procession towards the entry B. 51 : 36 ~ 53 : 31 - day view, interior C. 53 :32 ~ 54 : 02 - day view, slow panning of the interior towards the city view e terior ie main character and view towards the city E. 58:27 ~ 1:04:44 - day view, procession towards the door, interior details F. 58:27 ~ 1:04:44 - day view, procession towards the door C. I.


0 :10 : 00

Stahl House and Luxury

night e terior ie from ool deck towards city night interior stage like condition 1:09:41 ~ 1:15:03 - morning interior

1 : 48 : 00

Crazy Stupid Love (2011)





night ie interior e terior ie ith raining ackgro nd

B. 1 : 11: 21 ~ 1 : 16 : 00 - love scene, presence of the house is unimportant

C. 1 : 35 : 43 ~ 1 : 35 : 55 - love scene, presence of the house is unimportant


0 :10 : 00

2 : 20 : 00

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

Movies act like a media in the way that they portray an architecture with actors in it according to what people may envision and wish about the space. In other words, movies are like Julius Shulman’s photography used as advertisement in Arts and Architecture magazine. Therefore, spacial qualities of Stahl house can be investigated through analysis of the movies that contains it.

Vince : “Any trouble with the directions I gave you?”, Karen : “... on the parcel I had to turn”, Vince : “Sorry, it’s the price of seclusion...”5 All three films become very effective in advertising the high-end life quality of Los Angeles through Stahl house and thereby effectively defining the main characters. For the viewers, Stahl house becomes an icon of Californian dream of high-end luxury.

Stahl House and Luxury


Stahl house is portrayed in three movies, Galaxy Quest (1999) by Dean Parisot, Where the Truth Lies (2005) by Atom Egoyan, and Crazy Stupid Love (2011) by Glenn Ficarra, and John Requa. Even though these movies are all different in genre, which are Fantasy/SF, Thriller/Indie, and Comedy/Drama, the main characters are strikingly similar in the way that they are all bachelors; In Galaxy Quest (1999), the main character Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen) is a successful television show actor, single man, wealthy, and even Galaxywide famous. In Where the Truth Lies, Vince (Colin Firth) is the United State’s most famous comedian, host of the most popular show, influential, intelligent, and confident single man, In Crazy Stupid Love, Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling) is a rich and young man with inherited wealth, who is a ladies man being a wanna be of all men. In all three movies, shots taken with or within the house is concentrated in one part, which means its architecture does not influence the plot, but the house is used as a tool to reinforce the character of the protagonists. Story line of the movies releases hints of the wealthiness and influential aspects of the main character from the beginning and the house appears at the middle, filming the exterior, interior, and details with wide lens and numerous panning techniques in order to show the luxurious aspect of the house, even though this extensive description is often unnecessary for the plot.

5. Conversation from ‘Where the Truth Lies’ (2005), 50 : 50 ~ 51 : 35


What Stahl House is

What Stahl House does

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

“The photograph [of Stahl House] lives on as absolutely pure and simple restatement of the ideas of the Case Study movement and serves as a metaphor that no other houses can...”6 Stahl house stays away from the dense urban condition to become exposed itself to grant the owner the fantasy world. The house is all about the exterior perceived from inside. All the necessary elements composing a house disappears into the background of trees, rocks, and buildings, and there’s eventually you alone overlooking everything below, intermingled with every element surrounding, without the barrier of inside & outside all of a sudden.

6. From an interview with Rob Rothblatt(architect), “Visual Acoustics - The Modernism of Julius Shulman”, video documentary, http:// cornell kano streaming com/video/visualacoustics-0


Physical scale is reduced just enough to functionally sustainable for a single family. Architectural traits are minimized by the free plan allowing Furniture to be scattered all over the place, and functional spaces to be hidden away from the view. Columns are camouflaged among the window frames to reinforce the continuity of the horizontal view. The roof had to cantilever in order to compensate the sharp Californian glare, but this actually reinforces the mood of being elevated above due to the light direction from the below to above. The house is a fortress where the king would solely overlook his kingdom, or a gorgeous observatory of your own. The house consequently tells who you are and where you at, what you have gone through to win this privilege, power, and freedom. Architecture of Stahl house is fully dedicated to qualify the experience of the user by casting itself into and filling itself with the fantasy world. “I don’t have to have a physical church... what can be more beautiful than the church in which you are surrounded entirely by the nature? This is my God...”7 Stahl house is the essence of Case Study House movement, which was a bold experiment to invent an unprecedented dwelling luxury. With Julius Shulman’s brilliant talent, the modernist reinterpretation of dwelling luxury could spread throughout the globe, and late 20th century became the turning point of the history of architecture, of which human becomes the protagonist in architecture for the first time. Stahl House and Luxury

7. From an interview with Julius Shulman (photographer), “Visual Acoustics - The Modernism of Julius Shulman”, video documentary


Jerome, Vincent and the doctor standing in the main atrium of the house. Screen capture from Gattaca (1997).

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies


Gattaca (1997) takes place in a dystopian now, where humans are conceived through genetic engineering, allowing couples to design the perfect offspring. Breaking convention, the protagonist, Vincent (Ethan Hawke), was conceived naturally, giving him a genetic disadvantage to his peers, as an “invalid”. His parents having regretted their poor planning, decide to engineer their next child, Anton (Loren Dean), who is constantly “better” than Vincent throughout their childhood. Vincent has dreams of becoming an astronaut, but facing biological discrimination, he must assume the identity and appearance of a “valid,” Jerome (Jude Law), faking everything from his physical appearance to his DNA samples in order to be accepted among “valid” society and into the space program. Living with the paralyzed Jerome in a fortress-like home, Vincent, assumes the name and DNA of Jerome, but maintains his own personality, while Jerome lends his DNA and decides to go by his middle name, Eugene, to avoid confusion. All is well until a murder takes the life of the space mission chief, and suddenly, a stray eyelash of the

Mikki Heckman Stephanie Cheung


A comparison between the house in the 1997 film Gattaca and the iconic Bordeaux House, the overarching theme that emerged was the role that physical, emotional and biological disabilities are played out in an architectural context. Both houses are inhabited by owners with a physical disability, specifically paralysis, which repositions of their lifestyle around a living in wheelchair. In Gattaca (1997)1, Jerome and Vincent further experience emotional disability, promulgated by their respective physical and biological disabilities. The architectural response to this adaptive lifestyle derives the house as a necessary enabler for living, as well as a device protection, but also entrapment. In the two films, the house is subject to three key portrayals: the house as a fortress, the house as a prison, and the house as both an accessible and inaccessible living environment. Thematic and stylistic similarities between the two films also emerged.

1. Gattaca. Dir. and by Andrew Niccol. Perf. Ethan Hawke, Jude Law, and Uma Thurman. Columbia Pictures, 1997. Amazon Video.


Plan of Bordeaux House. Living Architecture // (side) Hydraulic elevator home office for the client of the Bordeaux House. Living Architecture.

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

real Vincent makes him a prime suspect in the case. While Vincent did not commit the murder, his fraud is threatened to be exposed, and he must “run out the clock” until his launch a week later. Finding an ally in Irene (Uma Thurman), Vincent manages to hold off the detectives until they discover the real killer; nevertheless, he is discovered by a detective who turns out to be his brother, Anton. After facing their childhood differences in a swimming match, the film ends with Vincent’s last physical examination before he steps on the spaceship to go to Saturn.

The understanding of the house as a fortress derives from the need for security and shelter, but moreover for privacy. This relationship is deployed in the architecture’s materiality, elemental components, and contradictory play of opacity and transparency. While the design of the OMA project is widely known, the family is extremely private, avoiding presence in the media and disconnecting their name from the project. Consequently, the project is popularly referred to as Bordeaux House, which is the name of the location, not the family. OMA’s sections and diagrams compare Bordeaux to a castle. The use of thick, robust concrete for the slab and wall of the house give way to a furthermore “castle-like” materiality. Similarly, Jerome’s home in Gattaca, draws from the same architectural language of robustness and protection. In this film, though, the fortress-home also serves as protection from society, in addition to promoting privacy. Therefore, in Gattaca, the fortress is also a refuge for biological pariah Vincent and handicapped recluse Jerome, and the only place where they can be their own identities. These works can also be evaluated from an elemental analysis, wherein classic fortress architectural components function with a new context. The presence of hierarchical (Dis)abled

2. Interview with Rem Koolhaas. Filmmakers Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine. Feat. Rem Koolhaas. Bêka & Partners, 2013. DVD.

3. Koolhaas Houselife. Filmmakers Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine. Feat. Guadalupe Acedo. Bêka & Partners, 2013. DVD.


The documentaries, Koolhaas Houselife (2013) & Interview with Rem Koolhaas (2013)2 are part of the Living Architectures series by Bêka & Partners. The film was created by Louis Lemoine and Ila Bêka. Louise’s father, Jean-François, was a newspaper publisher who was paralyzed by a car accident, when the family commissioned the Bordeaux House. Having grown up in the home, Louise, now a filmmaker, set out to make a documentary about the quotidian experience of the inhabitants after the loss of her family, for whom the home was designed 3.


boundaries or layers of protection is classically elemental to fortress designs. Medieval castle compounds use a series of barriers starting with the city walls, then a number of walls of within the city protecting and encircling the royal compound at the center. In the same way, Bordeaux uses a concrete courtyard entryway as a protective buffer from the rest of the city. The concrete walls of the courtyard are even detailed to reinforce this conceptual reference to the barrier wall, as the exterior detailing appears like a block wall, while the interior finish is smooth and creamy, giving it a warm and comforting appearance4. This dichotomy characterizes the exterior face as a guard and the interior as home. Gattaca also follows this rule of hierarchy. The concrete parking lot, walled pathway, and entry all can be seen as layers of security. Next, we observe the incorporation of the locking mechanism. In Bordeaux, the lock is a joystick device and an alarm system5, while in Gattaca, there is a special intercom and locking system to prevent intrusion. Finally, we see the notions of the “watchtower”. The watchtower is an architectural viewing element, wherein a higher vantage point allows the viewer to perceive and more effectively defend against an invasion. Two specific window shots from each movie beautifully follow this concept. In Koolhaas Houselife, we see this concept through the scene viewing the visitors, who are carrying a ladder to wash the windows, through the small circle window on the top floor. In this case, the viewer can view these visitors without risking exposure6. In Gattaca, the concept is played out less efficiently, but nevertheless is still demonstrated, as Jerome/ Eugene views Vincent/Jerome leaving on a date with Irene from the above rectangular window. Finally, the play of opacity versus transparency engages a dialog between cover and exposure. The concept of exposure is directly tied instinctually to vulnerability, and likewise, cover is link to protection. Limiting exposure of the inhabitants to the outerworld provides further protection. In Gattaca, this condition is played out in a static situation, where ribbon windows and selective openings keep the outside from looking into the home. Bordeaux innovates this concept, specifying the window typologies according to program and giving the user the agency to adjust their level of exposure according to circumstance. The top floor, which is private quarters, features a series of small circular windows7, limiting the exposure of the interior to the exterior by allowing the interior to receive sufficient natural light. The more public floors towards the

4. “Bordeaux House.” 100 of The World’s Best Houses. Ed. Catherine Slessor. Mulgrave: Images Group, 2002. 44-47. Print.

5. Bêka, Ila, and Louise Lemoine. “Koolhaas Houselife: Diary.” Living Architectures. Bordeaux: BêkaPartners Publishers, 2013. 9-68. Print.

6. Craven, Jackie. “What’s So Special About Maison à Bordeaux?” ThoughtCo. About, Inc., 7 Nov. 2016. Web. 12 Apr. 2017.

7. Melhuish, Clare. “House near Bordeaux.” Modern House 2. New York: Phaidon, 2004. 94-102. Print.

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

bottom are curtain wall, but include adjustable curtains, giving the user the ability to control aperture.

8. Unwin, Simon. “Maison Á Bordeaux.” T ent fi e ildings Every Architect Should Understand. Second ed. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2015. 105-14. Print.

The design of the windows in both houses reveal and conceal its inhabitant’s views towards the outside. In the case of the Bordeaux House, Koolhaas employs windows of different types - he juxtaposes round glass penetrations with floor to ceiling windows on the other side of the building. Additionally, there is even a round porthole window that direct and frame views toward the main part of Bordeaux. The round windows are designed to make it easy for the client to pivot and open the windows. The round penetrations draw inspiration from ship architecture, where its round shape is necessary for function, and derived from the need to avoid weak points where cracks can form and develop. Thus, Koolhaas suggests the notion that the penetrations are placed there just because of necessity with no need for luxury. It is also ironic that many of these trademark round windows cannot be seen and reached by the client in his wheelchair. However, it is important to note that Koolhaas actively

Final scene in Gattaca, when Vincent pulls himself up the stairs.



Both the Bordeaux House and the house in Gattaca share qualities and characteristics often found in prison architecture. The design of prison architecture manipulates views and circulation to increase degrees of surveillance, and thus, coerce obedient behavior. Although the points below share many similarities with the characteristics of Fortress Architecture, the design of both houses almost force its inhabitants to be confined within their respective houses8.


Film stills from the 1997 film attaca The images portray Vincent in the fortress and prison like setting.


What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

Top: Plan of the Bordeaux House compared to the proportions of the Bordeaux House // (bottom) Section drawing of an archetypal fortress.



decided to juxtapose the restricted views with vast floor to ceiling window. This juxtaposition allows for a large variety of light and views which simulates the microcosmic world created inside prison structures. On the other hand, the house in Gattaca has long, narrow, ribbon windows. These windows limit the amount of light that could penetrate into the space. These windows also limit Vincent and Jerome’s ability to see into the outside. The function of these narrow slits serve to conceal Vincent/Jerome’s whereabouts within the house and thus protect Vincent’s acquired identity. The limited views and access to the outside enhance the feeling of being trapped within the house which heightens the sense of fear of being surveilled and in trapped in confinement. Both houses are only accessible for a selective group of people. Especially considering the Bordeaux House, it is ironic that a house that is celebrated for its accessibility for the handicapped is designed to be inaccessible for non handicapped people. In the film, the house is very difficult to navigate up and down - the maid struggles to bring cleaning supplies around the house because the circulation stairs are extremely narrow. Additionally, the only means of circulation for the handicapped client is only via the elevator. Hypothetically, if the elevator were to break, the handicapped man would have no means of coming down. Since the death of the client, the remaining occupants are confined to using the residual, awkward circulation because the elevator has become unnecessary. The central, binding circulation and programmatic feature of the house has transformed into a moving monument for the client. In contrast, the two floors of the house in Gattaca are connected through a dramatic spiral staircase. Since Jerome is debilitated, he is unable to access the top floor of the house. The film culminates in the final scene where Vincent dives from his wheelchair and struggles up the stairs using his arms. The shaky camera, and the look of pain on Vincent’s face underscores the struggle the Vincent goes through to navigate through his own condo. The design of the circulation ensures that Vincent cannot escape from the house and reveal Jerome’s fabricated identity. The house serves as a prison for its inhabitants. Moving the both houses alters the architecture of both houses. The rhythm and speed of circulation also alters one’s perception and understanding of the house. Navigating the Bordeaux house involves several different speeds - the slow,

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

The material choice for both houses exudes the aesthetic of industrial grit traditionally associated with prison architecture. The primary materials of the Bordeaux House are steel and concrete, and in Gattaca, concrete is the sole material. The cold connotations of these materials heighten the high-tech, and futuristic nature of the space but also create an aura of coldness that is not associated with the warmth of a traditional household. When comparing the artistic works themselves, that is Bordeaux House as an architectural masterwork and Gattaca as a motion picture film, thematic comparisons and underlying motifs also arise. The timeless theme of “appearance versus reality” plays a large role in both works. In Bordeaux, OMA uses a faux structural framework to fool the viewer and give the cantilevered third level the appearance of floating. Meanwhile, in Gattaca, the fabrication of illusion and masking of truth is the basis of the major conflict of the plot, where an “invalid”, Vincent, fraudulently poses as a “valid”, Jerome, fooling society in order to be accepted. Another artistic theme connecting the two works is the condition of being “trapped by perfection.” Bordeaux’s proportioning is derived from the “golden ratio”. The “golden ratio” following the Corbusian principles of the ideal abled man’s body and how it can translate into architecture proportions and relationships. While the result is an architecture popularly recognized as a masterpiece, the irony of this “abled man” proportioning technique is that the entire project is conceptually based in the quotidian needs of a disabled man. Therefore, while the owner is not literally trapped, he was continually haunted by this discriminatory ratio. Additionally, the plan itself is trapped by the perfection of the golden ratio, unable to break free or adapt form in any way, resulting in some awkward situations like the spiral staircase and crumbling exposed staircase, which cannot be reconciled later. Meanwhile, in Gattaca, Jerome is tortured by his own perfection, or moreover the perfection of his DNA. (Dis)abled


processional transition of ground plane created by the elevator coupled with the syncopated accession using the narrow, spiral staircase. With the house in Gattaca, the spiral staircase slow’s one’s circulation into the lower level. The geometry of the stair forces the body to go through a grand, sweeping, procession of steady footsteps, and 360 degree views of the space before reaching the bottom level.


He is never able to overcome the struggle between his inherent imperfection as a human with the inherent perfection of his engineered DNA. The scene in which he crawls up the stairs is extremely symbolic, as the spiral staircase, reminiscent of the DNA helix, evokes the sentiment of him climbing up and overpowering his DNA, both demonstrating and breaking his own biological perfection. Finally, the motif of swimming is used as a device for dramatic irony in both the film and in Bordeaux. A long lane exercise infinity pool is located a brisk walk away from the Bordeaux house and down a hill. The pool was intended for physical therapy as well as exercise; however, ironically enough, the path to get to the pool is not wheelchair accessible, as one much process down a set of stairs to reach the clearing where the pool is. The irony is here physical, but also dramatic, as the house designed specifically for a paralyzed man, once again proves to be inaccessible.

Therefore, the issue of the swimming pool is ironic, but also a tragedy, further exploiting the differences in ability between the inhabitants of the house. In Gattaca, the swimming competition is a major motif and metaphor for the conflict between the engineered reality and the natural world. Growing up, Vincent, who was naturally conceived, and his brother Anton, who was biologically engineered, used to engage in swimming competitions of the game chicken. Anton would always win, until the day he almost drowns and is rescued by Vincent. The symbolic moment is played out again at the end of the movie in their final swimming competition as adults where Vincent proves that his sheer will and determination are worth more than Anton’s biological perfection. The motif stretches further, as Jerome’s insecurity of his humanness derives from losing a swimming contest. It is the reason he originally attempted suicide by jumping in front of the car, which caused his paralysis. His physical disability is a reminder of his failure--both the failure to live up to his biological potential and the failure to execute his own suicide. In the final scene, Jerome ends his struggle, by taking ownership of his imperfection and then ending his life. He wears the second place medal of the swimming competition around his neck and then proceeds to incinerate himself. Therefore, swimming is an important symbolic activity in Gattaca, engaging the audience in questioning the impact of disability on the life of a human being. The main character, Jerome’s house in the film Gattaca (1997) shares many thematic and stylistic similarities with the canonical Bordeaux House (1998). The characters in Gattaca experience different degrees of physical and biological disability. Similarly, the main client of the Bordeaux house is physically impaired in a wheelchair. The unique conditions of such disabilities are played out in the architectural scale. The houses reveal themselves as vessels that enable and fracture mobility. As such, the houses become vessels that capture the spirit and personalities of its respective inhabitants. In both houses, the house presents itself as a fortress and a prison with various degrees of accessibility for disabled and abled bodies.



What is a House? The Living Space in Movies


Caption for the picture above. Include here the source.

(above) Villa Necchi exterior, front entrance // (below) “Home Alone House� exterior, front entrance

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

Not a Home

To understand the dismissal of the concept of the “home”, one must define what a home is. A home could be defined as a place that one can feel safe in. It is a vicinity of an area where one can be oneself in. A “home” doesn’t necessarily have to be a house of permanent residence, although it is most commonly associated with one’s primary residence, it is often the manifestation of the place that is most frequently visited by its user. The “home” is a term to describe an intimate relationship between a user and the user’s personal area.1 Throughout time, humans have taken great time and effort to decorate their “home”, however, the reasoning behind this aesthetic enhancement is more to do with how it can make us feel, emotionally and physically. The ornamentation and deliberateness of decoration, or accumulation, in a house is closely related to the psychological intensions of the house’s specific user. The state of the “home” and its contents can be a physical and special representation of the state of mind of its user. Individuals exhibit very strong connections and relations to personal mementos. Even a room, whether it is a kitchen or

Tara Oberoi Marwan Omar


Through the comparison of two films, the perception of the traditional “home” is challenged as the architectural precedents of I Am Love (2009) and Home Alone (1990) reject the conventional motifs of the house. The traditional view of the house as a comfort space for one to feel at peace is denied as both films turn the “home” into a stage for its inhabitants to perform. The Villa Necchi Campiglio and the “Home Alone House” become characterized by their users and each house takes on the life of the actions that occur within the space of the house. The “home” as an informal place of being, is lost within the context of the two houses. The Villa Necchi is transformed into an event space for the family to organize dinner parties, while the “Home Alone House” is transformed into a playground for the boy to escape from his thieves. The common motifs of the “home” are differentiated to fit purpose of the house as a theatrical stage.

1. Csikszentmihalyi, Mihal, and Eugene Rochberg-Halton. The Meaning of Things: Domestic Symbols and the Self. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002. Print. Page 72.


(above) Villa Necchi Ground Floor // (below) Villa Necchi First Floor


What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

(above) “Home Alone House” Ground Floor // (below) “Home Alone House” First Floor

Not a Home


Villa Necchi scene sketch (view from main foyer) shows the house without decoration

The “Home Alone House� (view from main foyer) shows the house adorned with ornamentation

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

living room, can be considered a memento with strong links to memories and emotions.

The two theatrical films display houses with environments of opposing moods. The moods of the houses are reflected in the target age of the films. Both films depict families that do not represent the traditional family household. I Am Love shows a dysfunctional family with strong Not a Home

2. Limnander, Armand. ‘Leading Mansion.” The New York Times, 01 May 2010. Web. 19 Apr. 2017. Page 267.


The style of the Villa Necchi and the “Home Alone House” reflect the dramatic emotions felt by its users. Both houses were built in the 1930s and embody a style that was typical for its geographical region. The Villa Necchi Campiglio was built in 1932 for an elite industrialist family of the Milanese society to be a house that would be both a home and a status symbol. The house is tucked away in the centre of Milan with a wall separating the villa from its neighbors. The wall reflects the family’s preference for privacy; secrecy as an important theme for the film. The family commissioned Milanese architect Piero Portaluppi, whose innovative and extravagant style led to the design of the rationalist building. The spaces were designed according to the principles of the modern style that had begun to emerge at the time, with spare, orthogonal construction that avoided decoration.2 The original owners, producers of cast iron and enamelled sewing machines were comfortable with the rejection of traditional decoration and set about transforming the villa into an expression of modernity. The “Home Alone House” was built in the 1930s for an American middle-class family. The house is the depiction of the quintessential American home, and its Georgian style presents an accurate depiction of Chicago’s North Shore suburbs. The house, located at 671 Lincoln Ave in Winnetka, Illinois, is one of many sold under the “Sears Modern Homes” name. The Sears Catalog of Homes was a catalog and kit of houses that supplied 70,000 houses in North America between the years of 1908 and 1940. The “Home Alone House” style is of an American Colonial Revival architecture, one of 370 different styles that could be chosen from the catalog. The house is a representation of the mass production that was demonstrated in the United States during its years of major growth. The catalog houses are designed as copies of traditional Georgian houses and architecture in the United Kingdom. The architecture of the house favors ornamentation and decoration as it attempts to follow the classic ideals of “more is more”.


Villa Necchi scene sketch (exterior view from front entrance) shows the motif of the door

The “Home Alone House� (interior view of window) shows the motif of the window

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

The Villa Necchi and the “Home Alone House” exhibit typical mid-to-large scale residential housing structures. Both houses have similar plans and room structures with a central entrance foyer with a main stairwell that adjoins two living rooms (public spaces) either side. The main staircase leads up to the second floor where there are private spaces, like the bedrooms. Both houses share similar volumes and aspect ratios, as well as similar programmatic zoning, however, the treatment of both spaces are very different. The window and door elements become a central motif in the analysis of the two films. In I Am Love, the actions of the people in the house “look outwards” beyond the interior of the rooms, a yearning to the outside via the windows and portals. This method is seen in the cinematography as the characters are filmed through the viewpoint of the portal, and as the motif of the window is visible in most shots. The characters are Not a Home

3. Dina, Lucia Borromeo. “L’intervento Di Tomaso Buzzi A Villa Necchi Campiglo 1938-1957”. Saggi e Memorie Di Storia Dell’Arte, no. 38, 2014. Print. Page 53.


miscommunication and acts of adultery, while Home Alone displays a family with strong neglect as the child is forgotten at home. I Am Love is directed for an older audience with a serious undertone, while Home Alone is filmed as a children or family movie with a lighthearted undertone. The Villa Necchi Campiglio represented a new idea of luxury typical of the period, one that favored technological innovation and fine materials over classical majesty. The villa is stark and bare, reflecting the family’s wealth and the idea that “less is more”.3 The vast available space in house denotes great fortune and contributes to the empty and vacant feeling that is present in the atmosphere of the villa. The Villa Necchi is perceived as a cold, harsh place that rejects the idea of a comfortable and safe “home”, especially as the events within the house go against the traditional concept of a “happy” family. The villa depicts the “home” in a deliberate way, where the decoration and architecture is curated and purposefully commissioned for a specific family’s needs. The “Home Alone House” has a familiar nature due to fact that the building is a duplication with an unoriginal format. The “Home Alone House” is perceived as having a warm and playful atmosphere, however, the house also rejects the idea of a comfortable and safe “home” as the house is under threat from burglars. The house shows the “home” as a place that develops character through the accumulation of items that belong to the family. The cluttered items that adorn the house are important in making the nondescript house, from a catalog, into a “home” for the average family.


Villa Necchi scene sketch (interior view from library) depicts a view where one can see through the house

The “Home Alone House� (interior view near window) depicts the tension created from the proximity to the window and the containment in the house

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

The key rooms in both houses are the main stairway and the kitchen. The entry way and atrium space are the central areas for movement, as people are welcomed into and out of the house through the front door. Additionally, the entry way of the home is the connector of the ground floor to the upper floors. The “modern” home often describes the heart of the house to be in the kitchen, and both these houses depict the kitchen as a central space for use. In I Am Love, the house is only depicted when the family puts on dinner parties for guests, reinforcing the concept that the house is more of a place to showcase than to live. There are three main dinner parties that take place over the course of the movie, transforming the dining room and kitchen spaces, the spaces for the production and consumption of food, into significant zones within the house. The kitchen as the production space for food becomes the “glue” to the family, a space commonly associated with bringing people together. In Home Alone, the traditional use of spaces in the home and the order in which these spaces are used are subverted as the child transforms the entire house into a single entity, the playground.

Not a Home

4. Winslow, Colin. The Handbook of Set Design. Ramsbury: Crowood, 2015. Print. Page 68.


filmed compositionally through doors, windows, and between character heads to create a configuration akin to set design (with a foreground, middle ground, and background).4 The distribution of the figure in the set gives the sense that the characters are not the focal point of the shot, instead the house finds its way into the scene. The negative energy and drama that surrounds the family as well as the vacant feeling in the house is portrayed in scenes where the window and outside is clearly visible, alluding to the fact that the house is a container for bad circumstances to occur. In Home Alone, the actions of the boy are contained within the vicinity of the house itself. Tension is created in the moments where the boy is in close proximity to the window but manages to stay within the confines of his “safe” zone, the house. The house becomes the focus of attention as spaces and items are actively used when the boy plays tricks on the thieves. The house becomes concerned with interiority as little of the outside is depicted in the film shots. The “outside”, around the house, is perceived as the unknown and dangerous area where the robbers are situated. The house is viewed as one large portal in which the actions of the boy are displayed.


Villa Necchi scene sketch (interior view from stairs) depicts pockets of social interaction

The “Home Alone House� (interior view from stairs) depicts the vertical crosssectional movement

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

Not a Home

5. Vido, Alfredo De. House Design: Art and Practice. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996. Print. Page 359.


The concept of scale is important when analyzing social interaction within the two households.5 In I Am Love, most interactions that take place in small pockets of areas that are dotted around the house, emphasizing the secretive nature of its residents and the poor communication and transparency within the family. The cross-sectional movement through the household is in a horizontal direction where characters mostly run through the house through the sequence of rooms adjoined to the main foyer. In Home Alone, the crosssectional movement is in a vertical direction where the boy is running up and down the stairs and throwing items down at the thieves. Both houses incorporate the central foyer with the staircase as a key path for circulation. The Villa Necchi exhibits social interactions that allude to the vacancy within the household by showing views into other rooms and to the outside. The “Home Alone House” contains the interactions of the boy and the thieves through magnified views of scenes within the house. The cinematography in the film present the house in “zoomed-in” shots of the interior, dictating the scene. In both films, the house becomes an integral part of the movie as it references and conveys the feelings and moods of the character and of the scene. In conclusion, the emotional attachment to each of the houses is not one that feels like a “home” as the house’s traditional purpose as a comfortable place of living is transformed into an event space and stage for the characters of each film. Although the houses differ in focus (outward versus inward), the opposing and distinct stages are remarkably similar and comparable in: floor plans, aspect ratio, linear division of zoning, surface treatment, openings, and its partially elevated entry ways. Both houses have attributed to the success of its associated movie as they play an essential part in the production of film’s spatial quality. In the I Am Love film stills, greenery is emphasized as life is visible through the large windows and is heavily contrasted with the cold, social interactions within the house. In Home Alone, the festive greenery and the variety of ornaments within the house conveys that life exists within the home. Direct comparison of the sketch stills show the Villa Necchi as bare and vacant without family photos on its marble walls. The architectural motifs inside the Villa Necchi are too dominant as the deliberateness of its design inhibit the growth of life inside the house. The “Home Alone House” is adorned with ornamentation, reinforcing the concept of an accumulated design that fosters the growth of life inside the house.


Villa Necchi scene sketch (interior view into veranda) shows greenery outside the house

The “Home Alone House� (interior view from hallway) shows the adornment of the walls


What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

Screenshot scenes of I Am Love and Home Alone

Not a Home


(above) Villa Necchi interior living room // (opposite) the “Home Alone House� interior living room


What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

Not a Home


The Last Emperor (1987) Movie poster

(left) The Last Emperor (1987) A shot without editing // Shot from the final mo ie

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

House as a City City as a House

“A house must be like a small city if it’s to be a real house; a city like a large house if it’s to be real city”

Linning Zhang Tianshu Liu

The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty—the years from 1420 to 1912. It is located in the center of Beijing, China. The Forbidden City served as the home of emperors and their households as well as the ceremonial and political center of Chinese government for almost 500 years. It is known as a cultural symbol of China, and also one of the most important cultural heritage in the world. After serving 24 emperors in the history of China, it is now called the Palace Museum with more than 1.5 million artifacts. Numerous researches have been done related to the master plan and architecture style of the Forbidden City. In this study, in order to illustrate more vividly about the Forbidden city, the analysis is combined with movies (Selected movies were filmed in the Forbidden City). “The Last Emperor” is chosen to be the main source material. Bertolucci, the director of this film, was given complete freedom by the authorities to shoot in The Forbidden City, which had never before been opened up for use in a Western film. For the first ninety minutes of the film, Bertolucci and Storaro made full use of its visual splendor. The audience can enjoy the great views of the palaces inside the Forbidden City. This essay can be separated into two parts: House as a city and city as a house. The first part will talk about why the Forbidden City can be interpreted as a city while the second part will focus more on how the emperor and his households use this huge palace complex as a house. The Forbidden City (also called Zijin Cheng) is a 178 acres (720,340 square meters) palace complex in Beijing that was used by the emperors of China from A.D. 1420 to 1911. The complex consists of about 999 buildings, mainly in yellow


—— Van Eyck


Thomas More’s Utopia from 1516 // (below) Johannes Valentinus Andreae’s Christianopolis. from 1619

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

and red colors, surrounded by a wall 32 feet (10 meters) high and a moat 171 feet (52 meters) wide. If one takes a close look to the original plan of the forbidden city, It’s not difficult to find the main idea of the planning, security and hierarchy.

It reduces the connection points between the Forbidden City and the outside world to only four main gates, which are located on each side of the palace to ensure the safety of the emperor and his households. Another example is the City of the Sun from Tommaso Campanella. It’s also an early work of the illustration of utopia city. In this case the utopia city is protected and defended by seven circles of walls, constructed of palaces that serve as dwellings for the citizens, the city is located in a place with an ideal climate, conducive to physical health, and on the slope of a hillside because the air there is lighter and purer. The same tool is used in the Forbidden City where the several layers of walls protect the inner court in the middle of the palace complex. Although the original purpose of the master plan of the Forbidden City is to protect the security of the emperor, this layout of city plan then provides the possibility to imprison the last emperor of China for 10 years. The film, “The Last Emperor”, is a true story of AisinGioro Pu Yi, the last ruler of the Chinese Ching Dynasty. Told in flashback, the film covers the years 1908 to 1967. We first see the three-year-old Pu Yi being installed in the Forbidden City by ruthless, dying dowager Empress Tzu-Hsui (Lisa Lu). Though he’d prefer to lark about like other boys, the infant emperor is cossetted and cajoled into accepting the responsibilities and privileges of his office. In 1912, the young House as a City, City as a House

The City of the Sun by Tommaso Campanells_A Poetical Dialogue between a Grandmaster of the Knights Hospitallers and a Genoese Sea-Captain, his guest.


The whole palace is isolated from the outside world by the moat around it and also by the 10 meters’ wall. The palace complex is arranged according to the hierarchy system. Officials need to go through many layers of doors to access the main palace(to see the emperor). This is something quite similar to Thomas More’s idea of how a utopia city should look like. The first version of the utopia city depicted by Thomas More is an isolated island, surrounded by seas, with castles and buildings. It’s undoubtedly an ideal location for a city to defend itself from influences of the outside environment. Similar to the sea around the island in plan of Thomas More’s utopia city, the moat around the palace complex also serves as the wall separating the Forbidden City from the outside danger .


The Last Emperor (1987) One shot from the movie

Raphael, The School of Athens, 15091511 // (right) Along the River During the Qingming Festival Zhang Zeduan (1085–1145)

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

emperor, forced to abdicate when China is declared a republic, is a prisoner in his own palace, “protected” from the outside world. Puyi and the imperial court were only allowed to remain in the northern half of the Forbidden City (the Inner Court) as well as in the Summer Palace. And for political reasons, he can not step out of the Inner Court.

Something is worthy to be discussed about this film in terms of its intended audience. It is a film about China made by Europeans in English. One would argue that the goal of this film is to bring Eastern Culture to the Americas and interestingly it was put together by Europeans who happen to be geologically between both extremes. What the director did is perfectly bridging the traditional eastern and western compositional approaches. There is a key difference that makes the composition of an image distinctly Eastern or Western. Traditional Western composition focuses on one primary part of the image, having the rest of the image contribute and guide the eye to this one area. So in the typical Western image, one will find a primary object and a background of everything else that supplement it. There will be both distant view and close shot in one scene. And it’ll be easier for the audience to have a clue of the whole space. One example in drawings is The School of Athens by Raphael. And in the film “The Last Emperor”, it’s quite obvious that each scene has a distant view and a close shot which gives the audience a feeling of the whole space. While Traditional Eastern composition is mostly concerned with a general flow. The eye moves through the entire composition but does not resolve in one area. In most cases, an artist will focus on every objects in the drawing and make them all equal important in the image. Then there is no priority in the final outcome. One example is the Qingming Festival Drawing. To illustrate how the same space is presented differently in the Western way and the Eastern way, we take an Eastern version of “The Last Emperor” for reference. It is House as a City, City as a House


Layers of walls made of palaces are presented as a symbol of hierarchy and dignity before, but later, those layers became the barriers towards freedom. In the film, Puyi climbs up the high walls to the roofs, in order to look at the outside world, imagine that one day he may have the chance to flee from the “prison”. It is easily to find out that although the buildings and spaces remain the same, the atmosphere in the film is in constant change as time goes by.


Shots from The Last Emperor Movie (1987) (Above) Shots from The Last Emperor TV Series (1988) (Below)

Diagram (Drawn by the authors)

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

On the other hand, The Forbidden City is actually a city scaled house, it used to be the house of 24 emperors in the history of China. It was so named because it could only be accessed by the emperor, his immediate family, his women and thousands of eunuchs and officials. It’s quite special because it’s a house for the emperor at a city scale. Public and domestic spheres are clearly divided in the Forbidden City. The southern half, or the outer court, contains spectacular palace compounds of supra-human scale. This outer court belonged to the realm of state affairs, and only men had access to its spaces. It included the emperor’s formal reception halls, places for religious rituals and state ceremonies, and also the Meridian Gate (Wumen) located at the south end of the central axis that served as the main entrance. While the outer court is reserved for men, the inner court is the domestic space, dedicated to the imperial family. The inner court includes the palaces in the northern part of the Forbidden City. Here, three of the most important palaces align with the city’s central axis: the emperor’s residence known as the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqinggong) is located to the south while the empress’s residence, the Palace of Earthly Tranquility (Kunninggong), is to the north. The Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial Union (Jiaotaidian), a smaller square building for imperial weddings and familial ceremonies, is sandwiched in between. Each palace in the Forbidden City can be seen as a single-function room in a house. There are bedroom palaces, kitchen palaces, living room palaces and so on. And the film provided us with a way to get to know the space by experiencing it. In the film we saw how the emperor used this huge palace as a house. At 5am. in the morning, the emperor will get dressed (pic1) at his own bedroom palace called Yangxin Palace. Usually, the process will take several servants a quite long time to finish. This process was so important because clothing was House as a City, City as a House


a TV series filmed in China that talks about the same story as the film. The TV series was also shot in the Forbidden City but the way it presented the space is quite different. Instead of showing the whole space, the film used a series of individual elements to illustrate the space. And the audience will imagine the space by connecting those elements by themselves.


Layers of Forbidden City

One day of the Emperor

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

seen as a status symbol for many dynasties, and was the mark of an individual’s position in society. An old Chinese proverb says that the reign of every emperor starts when he dons his new robes. The imperial wardrobe during the Qing Dynasty included gowns and robes of all kinds. There were robes for celebrations, special robes for ceremonial occasions, travel clothes, and clothes for bad weather, snow and rain, as well as clothes for everyday use in the private apartments and outdoor areas.

After leaving his mother’s palace, at 7, the emperor will go to the office palace for morning reading (pic3). There is a huge space for book storage in the Qianqing Palace. The palace is divided into three parts. The outer part is for meeting with officials and the two inner parts are for reading and snapping. The emperor will spend his morning vigorously absorbing lessons in historical records passed down by his ancestors. Through constant learning, he aspired to streamline his own governance. The emperor will move to the Outer Court at 9 am for a meeting with officials (pic4). It was during this time the emperor announced policy and gave his orders. The outer court is made up of three main buildings, the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian), the Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghedian) and the Hall of Preserving Harmony (Baohedian). These halls were where the emperors attended the grand ceremonies and conducted state affairs. Officials representing different advisory bodies and government agencies would submit imperial reports, or memorials, to the emperor, which he read at breakfast. He would then choose which men to meet individually from a list of available officers provided by a eunuch, and then head to court for a one and a half hour session. House as a City, City as a House


Then, the emperor will go to his mother’s palace for a daily greeting to show his respect and gratitude for his mother (pic2). The greeting will take place in the outer space of the palace. It’s the old belief that the emperor should be a good son before becoming a good leader of the country. And this belief comes from the religion at that time. During the period of the Chinese Qing Dynasty, which lasted from 1644 to the end of imperial China in 1912, Confucianism was the dominant and officially sanctioned religion. All emperors adopted this religion and visited sacred altars to make sacrifices. Filial Piety was one of the main concepts of confucianism.


Pic1: Shot from Kangxi Dynasty (2001)

Pic2: Shot from Kangxi Dynasty (2001)

Pic3: Shot from Kangxi Dynasty (2001)

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies


Pic4: Shot from The Last Emperor (1987)

Pic5: Shot from The Last Emperor (1987)

Pic6: Shot from The Last Emperor (1987)

House as a City, City as a House


Pic7: Shot from The Last Emperor (1987)

Pic8: Shot from The Last Emperor (1987)

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

After the meeting, at 12 to 1 pm, the first meal will be served. In accordance with Manchu custom, the Qing monarchs took two major meals daily, one in the morning, the other in the early afternoon (pic5). Two departments— the Office of Palatial Affairs and the Imperial Household Department—tended to the emperor’s diet.An enormous variety and number of dishes were served to the emperor for each meal. Thus the dinning area is quite large.

At 7pm, it’s worship time (pic7). Education and religion were integral to the worldview of the enlightened Qing monarchs starting from the first emperor, Shunzhi, who established the tradition of daily Buddhist worship. Aside from a morning session, the emperor would spend much of the evening participating in Buddhist prayer or shamanistic rituals, passed down through his Manchurian heritage. All major rituals, such as those respecting Heaven and Earth, or soil and grain ceremonies, were sure to be attended and led by the emperor personally.There are structures for the imperial family’s religious activities in the east and west sides of the inner court, such as Buddhist and Daoist temples built during the Ming dynasty. Last but not least, in the end of the day, the emperor usually goes to bed at 9pm in the evening (pic8). As illustrated above, the emperor has a routine of moving around in this large house. In the Forbidden City, men, except for the emperor, is forbidden to enter the Inner Court. Even sons of the emperor can not enter without permission. Administration offices of the Forbidden City and residential area for prince and princess are located in the Outer Court. Other officials live outside and they can only enter the Outer Court. Except for the emperor, everyone stays in his own working area and can not move without permission. The emperor stays in the Inner Court for most of the day and go to the Outer Court for important meetings and ceremonies. Because of the large scale of the forbidden city, it is not a walking-friendly house. Especially in the outer court. So there is a special kind of transportation method in this city scale house, which is called the sedan chair(Jiaozi). It is a House as a City, City as a House


After the meal (around 3pm), the emperor will spend a few hours in the Imperial Garden(Yuhuayuan) shipping, wandering and watching operas (pic6). At each of the four corners of the garden there is a pavilion. These symbolizes the four seasons. The Pavilion of Myriad Springs is the most famous and occupies the eastern corner.



The Last Emperor (1987) Shots from the movie


What is a House? The Living Space in Movies



The Last Emperor (1987) Shot from the movie

House as a City, City as a House


Large Square

The Last Emperor (1987) Shots from the movie

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies


Narrow Street

The Last Emperor (1987) Shots from the movie

House as a City, City as a House



The Last Emperor (1987) Shots from the movie

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

chair that is carried on poles by two or more people and that is used for carrying the emperor and some high-level officials as is shown in the film. The special historical background this film is based on contributes to another interesting way of circulation - bicycle. This is something be brought into the forbidden city by the emperor’s foreign teacher. There is a long shot in the film The Last Emperor shows how the emperor goes from the inner court to the outer court by bike.

The essay explores the possibility to better understand a building via the moving images. Film is a combination of art, culture, technology and also space. Thus, it can be a tool to understand space in a certain aesthetic, cultural and technical background. By analyzing the film “The Last Emperor” and other references, a different version of the Forbidden City comes into being.

House as a City, City as a House


There are three typical space types that are depicted in the film. Large open square, narrow street, and gradient space. The large open space becomes the emperor’s main area for doing sports, playing with friends, etc. And the narrow street is a circulation area which presented a sense of isolation and desperation. In order to emphasize the importance of the emperor, the main palaces of the emperor is built on a really high base, this is how the gradient spaces come into being. Those slopes and staircases are depicted several times in the movie.


McDonough, Michael. Malaparte: A House like Me. New York: Potter, 1999. Print.

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

“So I informed my shipmates point by point, all the while our trim ship was speeding toward the Sirens’ island, driven on by the brisk wind. But then—the wind fell in an instant, all glazed to a dead calm …”1

Viktoriya Maleva

Once at a public conference, four architects from different generations were asked to name the best film in which architecture is a protagonist. Russian architect Eugene Ace, rector of the Moscow Academy of Architecture (MARSH) without a moment of doubt answered: Godard’s Contempt. He added, “Although the protagonist in the film is the beautiful Brigitte Bardot, the real protagonist is villa Malaparte. A film in which architecture plays on par with the actors... “

1.Homer, Robert Fagles, and Bernard Knox. The Odyssey. New York: Penguin Books, 1997

The great cinematographic revolutionary Jean-Luc Godard, whose work is often identified as pertaining to the French “New Wave” movement, has managed to masterfully tell more than thirty-five stories through his films. What makes his world-famous film Contempt extraordinary among all his works is the unusual architectural protagonist Villa Malaparte, which creates the necessary contextual and ideational background for the story of a modern-day Ulysses. At first glance, the film presents the prosaic end to the love story of writer Paul Javal (Michel Piccoli) and his wife Camille (Brigitte Bardot) with accordance to the original plot of the novel by Alberto Moravia. Under more perceptive analysis, however, Godard’s story is a deep philosophical reflection on the mythical power of temptation. To present a modern interpretation of the Homer’s Ulysses, the director situates the most dramatic plot elements (climax and resolution) against the backdrop of a visually similar context to that of the myth about Ulysses. The rocky shores of Capri Island Jean-Luc Godard transforms into the


Villa Malaparte The Moored Ship of a Modern Ulysses


(above) Sketch - Villa Malaparte elevation // (side) Sketch of a ship elevation

rocky landscape of ancient Ithaca and the ideal of modern villa by Italian architect Adalberto Libera into the moored ship of Ulysses. The creative choice to situate the story on Capri Island is provoked by much more than just the visual similarities between Odysseus’ Ithaca and the Italian pearl - Capri. The picturesque mountainous terrain, lush Mediterranean scenery and amazing seascapes are undoubtedly conducive to the contextual adequacy, but for Godard the superficial similarities are never sufficient. The legend points to Capri as the island where Odysseus met the beautiful and dangerous sirens whose songs charmed every sailor and consequently, Capri was the place of Odysseus most deadly temptation. In an interview in 2007 with journalist Katia Nikodemus, Godard hints at the complexity of his own creative strive: “I am always trying to see things with my eyes closed. With open eyes one cannot see the same. With the camera is no different. I show with the open eye (of the camera) what one could only see with their eyes closed.2 Villa Malaparte seems almost like specifically designed scenery for the modern story of temptation. The building is situated on a rocky 32-meters-high promontory covered in dense vegetation and penetrating deep into the sea. Villa Malaparte - The Moored Ship of a Modern Ulysses

McDonough, Michael. Malaparte: A House like Me. New York: Potter, 1999. Print.

2. Interview quote from an issue of the German newspaper - Die Zeit, pp.49 of 29.11.2007


What is a House? The Living Space in Movies


The camera of the director first presents the villa from above to position itself in the mind of the viewer both as a place and as an object in itself. This top view also presents a striking resemblance to a ship berth. Godard leaves it to the imagination of the audience to determine whether this view is an analogy to the Odysseus’ return to his beloved Penelope in Ithaca after 20-year-long absence or an analogy to the Sirens’ Island of temptation, where Odysseus’s ship is slammed into sharp rocky cliffs. Respectively, Villa Malaparte could be read either as a moored ship of a successful and long-expected arrival or as a wrecked consequence of a non-withstood temptation. Both of these possible interpretations apply with equivalent force to the modern ideas in architecture, under which the villa was designed and built. With his masterful positioning of the building as a protagonist rather than just as a plain context in the second part of the film, praises Godard not only as an interpreter of social and characterological phenomena, but also as a subtle but astute architectural critic. Villa Malaparte built in 1937 is one of the best examples of Italian modern architecture located on the island of Capri and owned by Curzio Malaparte – a journalist and and writer. He single-handedly altered the original design for the villa projected by the famed Italian modernist architect Adalberto Libera in order to eliminate the familiar for that time rigid geometry and to transform the design into a proposal that is a suiting materialization of his own character. The flat roof is designed as a sun terrace reminiscent of a ship deck, which has views in all directions to the sea. That same exterior space together with the monumental staircase that leads to it is intentionally the setting for some of the most important scenes in the film. Precisely there the main character - screenwriter Paul tries to revive the lost affection of his wife, but instead he repeatedly hears the worst words that he is no longer loved.


What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

(above) Contempt. Dir. Jean-Luc Godard. By Jean-Luc Godard, Carlo Ponti, and Georges De Beauregard. Perf. Brigitte Bardot, Jack Palance, and Michel Piccoli. S.n., 1963. // (below) Newell Convers Wyeth. Ulysses and Calipso.

Villa Malaparte - The Moored Ship of a Modern Ulysses


The living spaces in villa Malaparte resemble closely the spatial arrangement of the organization of common spaces of a large ship. The building is drawn along its longitudinal axis and is relatively narrow in the direction of its transverse section. While the common living spaces in a traditional house are on the ground level and the bedrooms on the upper levels, in villa Malaparte this common logic is inverted. In the same way in which the service spaces of a ship are under the water, in villa Malaparte the service spaces are under ground. That is a rather unusual space organization for a modern villa. The symmetry and repetition of elements have a graphical impact that adds to the specific virtual geometry. They create a clear order and give tightness to the overall image. The visual analogy with the construction specifics and ordering systems of a ship allow for panoramic views of the sea simultaneously from the exterior space above and from the interior space below through the four windows. However, the beauty of the site seems to remain visible primarily to the eye looking through Godard’s camera lens, because the contemporary Odysseus - Paul feels no sense of freedom or aesthetic appreciation in the spaces of the villa. He is pacing around nervously from window to window, from view to view, trying to pick up the pieces of his crumbling world, as if instinctively seeking the support of nature. His knowledge that there could be no useful move for the preservation of the love of his wife becomes a palpable presence in the house.

Contempt. Dir. Jean-Luc Godard. By Jean-Luc Godard, Carlo Ponti, and Georges De Beauregard. Perf. Brigitte Bardot, Jack Palance, and Michel Piccoli. S.n., 1963.


What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

(above) Villa Malaparte plans.McDonough, Michael. Malaparte: A House like Me. New York: Potter, 1999. Print. // (below) Sketches of a typical ship plan space organization

Villa Malaparte - The Moored Ship of a Modern Ulysses


Precisely on the rooftop deck of villa Malaparte the protagonist realizes that if he were to give in to the temptation of compromising his creative vision, he will forever lose the love and respect of his wife. Ironically, even the fact of considering such a possibility has caused Camille to despise her husband forever. The most revealing dialogue in the movie starts on the roof top terrace and the camera follows the couple as they continue their conversation while coming down the stairs to the sea level. There, on the narrow steps meandering through the rocks, their conversation becomes more and more determinative with regards to the impossibility of a common future. The scene and the continuous movement of the camera end with Camille sudden decision to go for a swim in the sea. Goddard uses the stairs as a materialization of the idea of the lost love. The slow process of erosion of the relationship that has started in the initial scenes of the movie, has climaxed in the villa, and in this last moment of the conversation it completely disappears into the sea. . In order to accentuate on the importance of the roof terrace as a plot structuring element, it is important to also mention that it is the is the intended setting for scenes from the film for Odysseus and also the place where Paul witnesses the intimate moment between the producer and Camille. In a masterful way Godard manages to use the space in order to construct symbiosis between moral and aesthetic views.

Contempt. Dir. Jean-Luc Godard. By Jean-Luc Godard, Carlo Ponti, and Georges De Beauregard. Perf. Brigitte Bardot, Jack Palance, and Michel Piccoli. S.n., 1963.


What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

Contempt. Dir. Jean-Luc Godard. By Jean-Luc Godard, Carlo Ponti, and Georges De Beauregard. Perf. Brigitte Bardot, Jack Palance, and Michel Piccoli. S.n., 1963.

Villa Malaparte - The Moored Ship of a Modern Ulysses


(above)Contempt. Dir. Jean-Luc Godard. By Jean-Luc Godard, Carlo Ponti, and Georges De Beauregard. Perf. Brigitte Bardot, Jack Palance, and Michel Piccoli. S.n., 1963. // (below) Chirico, Giorgio de. Ulysses’ Return. 1968. Oil on canvas. 59.5 x 80 cm.

It is often mentioned by film critics that Godard is using Casa Malaparte as a surrealist lens for his cinematographic representation in spite of the predominantly rationalist architectural properties of the building. This is an intriguing interpretation when put in direct comparison with some of the most famous paintings and illustrations of the ancient myth about Odysseus. Placed directly next to each other, the composition of the film frames and that of famous illustrations like Ulysses’ Return by Giorgio de Chirico, Arnold Böcklin’s Ulysses and Calypso, and Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer in a sea of fog all present striking similarities. In the first place, when considering the use of surrealist elements, it becomes impossible to omit the relevance of Chirico’s painting. He situates the whole journey of Ulysses within the interior of a house with elements of modernist furniture. In the same way that Chirico implies that the journey of overcoming temptation is contained within the everyday reality of our existence and often lived within the space contained between four walls. With regards to the ambivalent indoor-outdoor relationship, a passage from Hebdomeros (1929) states that Odysseus “turned circles with his boat in his room, continually forced into a corner by the undercurrent and, at last, abandoning his frail craft and gathering all his strength and skill as a former gymnast, he hoisted himself up to the window which was placed very high, like the window of a prison, helping himself by the moulding.”3 That is precisely the journey undertaken by the two protagonists who are taken on a journey of temptation by the circumstances and fail to preserve their love.

Villa Malaparte - The Moored Ship of a Modern Ulysses


What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

3. “Ulysses’ Return, 1968.” Fondazione Giorgio e Isa de Chirico. Accessed April 17, 2017


(above) Contempt. Dir. Jean-Luc Godard. By Jean-Luc Godard, Carlo Ponti, and Georges De Beauregard. Perf. Brigitte Bardot, Jack Palance, and Michel Piccoli. S.n., 1963. // (below) Fresco by Italian artist Pinturicchio (1454–1531) depicts Penelope being harassed by suitors while weaving at her loom. In the background a ship returns Odysseus to his home island.


What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

(above) Contempt. Dir. Jean-Luc Godard. By Jean-Luc Godard, Carlo Ponti, and Georges De Beauregard. Perf. Brigitte Bardot, Jack Palance, and Michel Piccoli. S.n., 1963. // (below) Ulysses and Calypso, Arnold Bรถcklin, 1883, 104 ร— 150 cm , Kunstmuseum Basel, Odysseus Gallery

Villa Malaparte - The Moored Ship of a Modern Ulysses


(above) Contempt. Dir. Jean-Luc Godard. By Jean-Luc Godard, Carlo Ponti, and Georges De Beauregard. Perf. Brigitte Bardot, Jack Palance, and Michel Piccoli. S.n., 1963. // (below) Cover of Ulysses by James Joyce depicting Wanderer in a sea of fog by Caspar David Friedrich. The Complete Works. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2017

In a similar way, Godard compositionally replicates the well-known painting by Arnold Böcklin’s Ulysses and Calypso. The barren landscape of the painting is substituted with the clean geometry of the architectural elements of villa Malaparte, but the message remains unchanged – the nature of an empty relationship is present in the tension between the figures of the lovers. The symbolic meaning of the red cloth laying under the nude figure of the women in both cases carries the promise of temptation and the danger of a forever betrayed trust. The scene of the movie where Paul is positioned on the roof sun terrace alone against the background of the endless seascape reminds of another painting connected indirectly to the illustration of the myth about Odysseus - Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer in a sea of fog. The painting has been chosen and used as a cover illustration of Ulysses by James Joyce. This image of a lonely male figure in a contemplative single moment of time emphasizes the nature of a metaphysical journey, which one always undertakes alone. It seems that Godard was very conscious of the positioning of the characters with regards to the architecture in order to preserve a visual and ideational relationship both with the mythological story and with its contemporary interpretations.

Villa Malaparte - The Moored Ship of a Modern Ulysses


What is a House? The Living Space in Movies


Ennis House by Frank Lloyd Wright, L.A. 1924

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

Blade Runner and the Ennis House

While the film underperformed in its time, it has since then become a cult classic and the progenitor of the cyberpunk aesthetic, which is characterized by high technology, contrasted with low quality of life.1 Within Blade Runner specifically, this is shown through the drastic lifestyles of the rich and the poor. The rich live in the higher city where everything is clean and orderly. In the film, Eldon Tyrell is the wealthy genius and owner of the Tyrell Corporation that creates replicants. He lives in his corporation headquarters, which pierces through the Los Angeles skyline as two massive monuments. Whenever the Tyrell Corporation buildings are shown on screen, the shots are lit with a warm golden orange glow. The poor on the other hand live in the disheveled and disorderly lower city where the buildings and streets are cluttered with once temporary infrastructure that has since become permanent and spaces are appropriated and retrofitted to serve a new purpose. The lower city is depicted with rain, dim lighting and a dusty haze. Within the film, there are two main residential locations, Deckard’s apartment and Tyrell’s corporation building. This essay will compare and contrast the architectural elements of both spaces and their relationship with their reallife inspiration, the Ennis House. The Ennis House was built in 1924 and was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. This structure was the fourth and largest of Wright’s textile block designs. The square concrete blocks were cast with an ornamented face that was inspired

Kenneth Chow

1. Sammon, Paul M. Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner. New York: HarperPrism, 1996. Print. pg. 79


Blade Runner is the famous 1982 science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott, with Lawrence Paull as the film’s production designer. The film itself is an adaptation of the 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? written by Philip K. Dick and stars Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard, a Blade Runner who is tasked once more to hunt and ‘retire’ a group of genetically engineered replicants who have illegally arrived in a dystopian future Los Angeles.


Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House

Deckard’s Apartment in Blade Runner

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

There are also two main dichotomies in the Ennis House. First is between the modernity of the design of the house versus the antiquity of the materials used to build it. In plan, the Ennis House does not look like a home at all, with the program spaces spread out and placed along the loggia. But the materiality of the house hides its modern design with suggestive masonry stonework. Second is the socialeconomic status of the house. In all respects the Ennis house is for the upper class, the client was the owner of a clothing store, the site was atop a hill overlooking Los Angeles, and the architect was a renowned designer. However, the building was constructed from the cheapest material. In an interview question with Frank Lloyd Wright asking about why build with concrete blocks, Wright himself answers that, “it was the cheapest thing in the building world. It lived mostly in the architectural gutter as an imitation of rock-faced stone. Why not see what could be done with that gutter rat?”3 Apart from two exterior shots of Deckard driving up and parking at his apartment building, none of the interior shots were actually filmed in the Ennis House. Instead Lawrence Paull had castings of the concrete blocks made and used them to build Deckard’s apartment from scratch. So why then did they use the Ennis House at all? It was because of the dichotomies that the Ennis House brings that added a unique depth and richness to Deckard’s apartment and the Blade Runner universe. Similar to how modernity was covered up by antiquity in the Ennis House. The architecture in the Blade Runner universe flips that concept by having futuristic utilities cover up contemporary facades and interiors. On top of that there is a strong theme of economic inequality in the film that is also relatable to the Ennis House and its polarity with its social-economic status and the act of appropriating the Ennis House to become a high-rise apartment for the working class helped to illustrate that point. Lawrence Paull worked hard on his designs to suggest that Decker’s apartment felt properly like an Ennis House interior. Firstly, the visual elements such as the concrete blocks Blade Runner and the Ennis House

2. “The Top Houses from the Movies.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 02 May 2012. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.

3. Sveiven, Megan. “AD Classics: Ennis House / Frank Lloyd Wright.” ArchDaily. N.p., 23 Oct. 2010. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.


by Mayan stepped pyramid temples.2 The house also takes symmetrical and organizational cues from ancient Mayan architecture. The Ennis House 10,000 square foot is terraced with a loggia acting as the spine of the house, connecting the private and public spaces and also integrating the outdoor terraced space more into the house itself.


and the ironwork gate bring continuity between Deckard’s apartment and the Ennis House. By using the same modular dimensions, Deckard’s apartment properly feels like an Ennis House interior even though it is not. Even the layout of the ornamental versus plain concrete blocks in Deckard’s apartment follows very similarly to the Ennis House with the decorative blocks outlining columns, edges and trims and the plain blocks creating negative space. Secondly, both spaces use columns to subdivide a larger space. And lastly, both homes also delineate spaces with different ceiling heights. There are many differences between Deckard’s apartment and the Ennis House. Firstly, while both divide spaces with ceiling heights, the ceiling height of Deckard’s apartment is extremely low and compressive. The ceiling is also made of concrete, a material that has the connotation if cheap as compared to the high wooden ceilings of the Ennis House. Another thing to note is that with the Ennis House, as the space becomes more important, the ceiling heights increase. For example, the ceiling rises from the foyer to the loggia and finally to the dining room. This procession is reversed in Deckard’s apartment and the highest point of Deckard’s home is the foyer and the lowest is the main space. Secondly, the windows that are decorated with diagonal stained glass patterns in the Ennis House are completely covered up by shutters in Deckard’s apartment and suggested to be completely plain and normative. Stained glass is a note of wealth that clearly would not belong in Deckard’s apartment. Deckard’s apartment was not the only residence that took ideas from the Ennis House. The Tyrell Corporation building in the film also took a number of design decisions from Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture. Firstly, the two monumental corporation buildings take on the shape of a pyramid, drawing from the same inspiration as Frank Lloyd Wright as he looked at Mayan stepped temples. Lawrence Paull purposely decided to create two buildings to reflect the World Trade Center in New York City.4 On top of that, the massive size of the buildings enforces their importance in the Blade Runner universe. Secondly, the exterior of the building is adorned with large ironwork panels that are reminiscent to the stained glass windows in the Ennis House. This enforces Tyrell’s economic status in the Blade Runner especially because the cyberpunk aesthetic makes embellishments a rarely commodity only reserved for people who can afford it.

4. Bulluck, Vic. Blade Runner Souvenir Magazine. Vol. 1. N.p.: Friedman, 1982. Print. pg. 7

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

This ornamentation carries itself into the building’s interior as well and the rooms that the film depicts are decorated with classical trinkets. In Tyrell’s meeting room, the columns are expressed with layered angles that suggest complexity and sophistication. The polished gridded floor is similar to how the shadows are casted on the marble floor of the loggia in the Ennis House. And there is also an ornamented stone block that runs along the walls of the room as a trim similar to the Ennis House, but also ties a connection to Deckard’s apartment. This ornamented design also appears on the monumental doors of Tyrell’s abode, further conveying Tyrell’s character.


In the film, viewers are also shown Tyrell’s bedroom. Many of the visual aspects of the meeting room are brought to this room as well. The columns are treated the same way and the fact that there are free standing columns in this bedroom attests to the size and scale of the space. The ornamented trim and door are also the same. But the main difference is the

furniture dressing the space itself. In the meeting room, the furniture is mostly pushed off to the sides except for the long table and chairs in the middle. In Tyrell’s bedroom however, the space feels more lived in with lit candles, random machines and other furnishings. This shows the contrast between the private and public spaces that Tyrell occupies. In conclusion, there is a hidden richness in using Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House as a film location and design inspiration that is not apparent at first glance. Of course there is the literal casting of the ornamental blocks of the Ennis House to build the set of Deckard’s apartment. But there are also a lot of deeper themes that are carried along with the visual aspects. First, the dichotomy between the Blade Runner and the Ennis House

Tyrell Corporation Building in Blade Runner


Deckard’s Apartment

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies

futurist and the classical aesthetics where the modern design of the Ennis House is contrasted with the antiquated stonelike concrete blocks is mirrored in the film with futuristic infrastructure covering contemporary facades and interiors, and second, the illustration of economic disparity in the film by using similar design and visual choices in two completely different residences that express their dwellers social-economic status.


Lastly, to further solidify the connections between the Ennis House, Deckard’s apartment and Tyrell’s corporation building. In an interview with the director Ridley Scott, Scott announces that Deckard is in fact a replicant himself. This means that Tyrell is Deckard’s creator who lives in the Blade Runner equivalent to the Mayan temple where as the creation lives in the universe’s equivalent to the Ennis House, creating this hierarchy that also exists in reality.

Axon of Tyrell’s Meeting Room

Blade Runner and the Ennis House

Profile for Ruben Alcolea

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies  

Human interaction gets domestic in spaces which are more than just a plain answer to our basic needs. Those built environments show the evol...

What is a House? The Living Space in Movies  

Human interaction gets domestic in spaces which are more than just a plain answer to our basic needs. Those built environments show the evol...

Profile for ralcolea