Architecture in Movies – The Matrix Trilogy

The 1999 Science Fiction Action movie, The Matrix, directed by The Wachowskis and starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving is undoubtedly one of the most complex and entertaining movies of the late 20th century. The Matrix Trilogy began with the feature film The Matrix and continued with two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded in May, 2003 and The Matrix Revolutions in November, 2003. It features a cyberpunk story incorporating references to several religious and philosophical ideas. It also shows influences of various mythologies, anime and different martial art forms. Amidst all the breath taking visuals and action sequences this futuristic fantasy movie gives a lot of prominence to architectural styles and design. The Wachoski brothers’ keen interest in detailing was also evident in their recent release, Jupiter Ascending. The Matrix surprisingly contains many of the real world buildings along with the fictional virtual reality cities within The Matrix.

Mega City can be considered as a conglomeration of many cities fused into one large city with a gigantic downtown and an impressive skyline
Mega City can be considered as a conglomeration of many cities fused into one large city with a gigantic downtown and an impressive skyline

The most notable of architectural features in the movie is the Mega City, an enormous virtual city in which the inhabitants of the Matrix live. Mega City can be considered as a conglomeration of many cities fused into one large city with a gigantic downtown and an impressive skyline. The city was designed to represent an amalgam of major cities in the United States and Australia during the 1990s characterized by grey and utilitarian areas with small pockets of colour and entertainment. The cities that provided inspiration for the Mega City include Sydney (where most of the film as shot), Oakland (where some of the car chase sequences in The Matrix Reloaded were filmed) and Chicago (the birthplace of The Wachowskis). Hence we see yet another movie in which the major city is designed based on existing cities. Other examples include the Gotham City in Batman Trilogy and the fascist architecture inspired structures of Equilibrium.

The concept of the city in The Matrix is actually an archetype of the hyper reality theory developed by prominent author Umberto Eco, who wrote the popular novel, The Name of the Rose, which was filled with detailed description of the cathedrals of Italy. The hyper reality theory states that the virtual city constructed by the machines controlling the society is more convincing and realistic to its inhabitants than the real world itself.

The logic behind the creation of the harsh grey and uninteresting landscape was to ensure that the unknowing inhabitants of the Matrix did not question their living space given that they lacked an alternative. It can also be possibly said that the City is an inhabitant-unique environment, where no one sees things the same way. Other theories state that the visualization of the City could possibly be a result of the redpills’ experience outside of the Matrix. Further, Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) describes to Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) that earlier instances of the Matrix which were cheerier did not meet the expectations of the humans hosted within. The Architect later expands on that explanation telling Neo (Keanu Reeves) that the first versions failed because they were designed around the two extremes of perfect paradise and absolute hell that the human mind was unable to accept.

A map of Mega City later provided to the designers of the game The Matrix Online by The Wachowskis splits the city into four main districts Downtown, International, Richland and Westview
A map of Mega City later provided to the designers of the game The Matrix Online by The Wachowskis splits the city into four main districts Downtown, International, Richland and Westview

A map of Mega City later provided to the designers of the game The Matrix Online by The Wachowskis splits the city into four main districts: Downtown, International, Richland (ironically called the slums by the redpills), and Westview. The map shows that the actual shape of the city represents the Y-shaped symbol which can also be seen at the end of the code sequence in The Matrix Revolutions.

The beautifully designed mansion is based on the traditional designs and is lined inside with numerous Greek like statues and ancient armours and weapons
The beautifully designed mansion is based on the traditional designs and is lined inside with numerous Greek like statues and ancient armours and weapons

An architectural feature that stands in stark contrast to the modern or futuristic styles in the old fashioned Chateau or the Merovingian mansion located in the mountains. The beautifully designed mansion is based on the traditional designs and is lined inside with numerous Greek like statues and ancient armours and weapons. The Chateau provides the audience a real world atmosphere amidst all the virtual reality.

As mentioned earlier, many of the real world buildings and structures are either referred to or are seen in the film. The Sydney Tower is visible on the construct TV screen. In the famous roof top bullet scene the audience can catch a glimpse of the UTS Tower building. Other prominent buildings from Sydney that are visible include Martin Place and St. James railway station. Early drafts of the movie’s screenplay identified the city as Chicago and most of the street and landmark names referenced are from Chicago, such as Wabash and Lake, Franklin and Erie, State Street, Balbo Drive, Cumberland Ave, the Adams Street Bridge and the Loop Train. Apart from the cities of Sydney and Chicago, the film also refers to the Heathrow Airport, the United States Congress to name a few.

Overall we can say that The Matrix Series captures the design of a futuristic all inclusive city with great detail and accuracy. With the huge influx of population to urban areas, the future cities would in all probability end up resembling the Mega City of The Matrix with loose connection to the base city from which it expanded.

The Impact of Bauhaus

A research work for a presentation in History of Modern Architecture class.

What is Bauhaus?

  • A school in Germany that combined crafts and the fine arts, and was famous for the approach to design that it publicized and taught.
  • It operated from 1919 to 1933.
  • Founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar
  • Has become one of the most influential currents in Modernist architecture and modern design.
The main influences behind the Bauhaus:
  • Modernism
  • The English Arts and Crafts movement
  • Constructivism
Ideals of the Bauhaus movement:
  • Absence of ornamentation.
  • Harmony between the function of an object or a building and its design.
  • Integration of art and mass production
  • Inexpensive building.
  • Unity of form and function
  • The idea that design is in service of the community
  • A belief in the pearfection and efficiency of geometry.

The Impact of Bauhaus:

The White City(Tel Aviv):

  • Refers to a collection of over 4,000 Bauhaus style buildings built in Tel Aviv from the 1930s by German Jewish architects who immigrated to Palestine after the rise of the Nazis.
  • Tel Aviv has the largest number of buildings in this style of any city in the world.
  • An UNESCO world heritage site
  • The Engel House in the White City of Tel Aviv. Architect: Zeev Rechter, 1933. A residential building that has become one of the symbols of Modernist architecture. The first building in Tel Aviv to be built on pilotis.
  • Major Architects:Arieh Sharon, Ze’ev Rechter, Joseph Neufeld, Dov Carmi, Benjamin Chlenov, Carl Rubin, Shmuel

Key aspects of Design in Tel Aviv:

  • The depicted sense of “togetherness” and collectivity was well anchored in the climate of the Jewish community (Yishuv) in Israel at the time.
  • The needs of the “public” or “collective” as a whole were more important than the “individual”‘s uniqueness.
  • An “intermediate space” was created between public street life and residents’ private lives.
  • In Tel Aviv most roofs were indeed intended for tenants’ use, yet instead of gardening, communal laundry rooms were constructed.

Impact on  Architecture in the rest of the world:

  • After the patrons had left Germany due to political reasons they took the Bauhaus movement to USA, Canada & Israel and the rest of Western Europe.
  • When Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer fled Germany, they both arrived at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, in an excellent position to extend their influence and promote the Bauhaus as the primary source of architectural modernism.
  • When Mies fled in 1936, he came to Chicago.

Chicago:

  • The city’s skyline was decisively influenced by the theories of the Bauhaus.
  • The abundance of connections between German and American architecture in Chicago provides rich grounds for exploration and research.
  • Architects involved: László Moholy Nagy,Helmut Jahn

Students of Gropius who later propagated the ideas of Bauhaus:

  • Philip Johnson
  • I.M. Pei
  • Lawrence Halprin
  • Paul Rudolph

Conclusion:

  • The impact of Bauhaus was not limited to Germany but spread around the world because of the patrons travelling to various nations.
  • The patrons turned Professors further spread the movement
  • The international style is simply another name for the Bauhaus style

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