Architecture in Movies – Interstellar

It is very interesting to note that movies which consider architecture as an essential element of the film fall under two categories, fantasy and futuristic. Though people may argue that futuristic movies are quite similar to fantasy ones, we have to admit that futuristic movies are made with much more scientific reasoning and backing and surprisingly the architecture elements of such films are generally derived from the past. We have seen how many of the futuristic movies take inspiration from the fascist architecture styles of the Nazi or Soviet era. But here is one movie based on a futuristic story line which has chosen to ignore this clichéd architectural representations and have gone for a much more simplistic approach (After all, Less is More).

Christopher Nolan’s 2014 Science Fiction film Interstellar tells the story of a crew of astronauts who travel through a wormhole in search of a new home for humanity. The incredibly talented star cast of the movie include Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn, Mackenzie Foy, John Lithgow, Michael Caine and Matt Damon.

Christopher Nolan had revealed in television interviews how he would have chosen architecture as an alternative career option. He had demonstrated his knowledge in the domain of architecture earlier in movies like Dark Knight Series and Inception. His approach has always being quite simplistic and grounded to reality, whether it was designing the city of Gotham in Batman movies or the spherical futuristic abode of humans in Interstellar.

So, many of you might be wondering what is there to talk about if the architecture style in the movie is quite simplistic and real. Well this is where we should not underestimate a man of Christopher Nolan’s calibre.

TARS
TARS

First let us discuss about the articulated machines present almost throughout the movie – The sleek grey acerbic robot named TARS (Voice by Bill Irwin). These rectangular slabs of shiny metal that walk, talk, have a sense of humour and operate like a cross between a Swiss army knife and an iPhone. Their blocky fragments can disconnect and rotate to perform a variety of actions, from pushing buttons to cart-wheeling across alien planets.  It also relates strongly to the architecture style of Mies van der Rohe, widely regarded as one of the pioneering masters of modern architecture along with Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusiner. Nolan explained in an interview how he honed in on the idea and asked the art designer of the film, Nathan Crowley who is a very big fan of modern architecture, “What if we designed a robot as if Mies van der Rohe designed a robot?” We can see how the machines of the movie are quite different from the anthropometric robots that we generally see in fiction (Like C3PO and R2D2 from Star Wars).

One of the most fascinating yet confusing part of the movie is the scene involving the Tesseract
One of the most fascinating yet confusing part of the movie is the scene involving the Tesseract

One of the most fascinating yet confusing part of the movie is the scene involving the Tesseract. (Spoiler Alert!) This appears when Coop (Matthew McConaughey) jumps from the space craft and is drawn into a black hole. Inside this black hole Nolan envisages an Escher-like architectural structure representing a single moment in time – the scene in which Coop leaves his daughter. Maurits Cornelis Escher is a Dutch graphic artist known for his often mathematically inspired woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints which feature impossible constructions, explorations of infinity, architecture, and tessellations.

Inside this black hole Nolan envisages an Escher-like architectural structure representing a single moment in time
Inside this black hole Nolan envisages an Escher-like architectural structure representing a single moment in time

Most of the other architectural features in the movie like the spaceship, the travel pods, and the station of Dr Mann (played by Matt Damon) are based on real scientific elements and have also taken inspirations from classic science fiction movies like 2001 Space Odyssey. These spaces focus more on functional aspects. Even the futuristic abode of humans shown at the end of the movie is quite simplistic from an architectural point of view. Most of the buildings shown are similar to any modern day buildings we find around us. Be it the houses near which the kids play baseball or the interiors of the hospital where Coop meets his aging daughter, Murph. Of course the shape of the terrain and the play of gravity makes them look fascinating.

Overall we can say that Christopher Nolan has tried to provide a simplistic treatment to the architecture elements in the movie. Considering the already complicated plot and scientific elements in the movie, we can assume that he wanted the buildings to be as near to present day structures as possible. These simplistic elements help make the movie easy to relate to for the audience.

Architecture in Movies- Aeon Flux

 

Aeon Flux

Aeon Flux location -  Baumschulenweg Crematorium, Berlin

Well Aeon Flux‘s fictional city of Bregna would once again(Quite similar to what i had written about the movie equilibrium) remind one of the works of Albert Speer in Germany and the Soviet architects . Well, this forces one to think whether the futuristic architecture would end up like the fascist architecture. A friend of mine recently pointed out that in Hollywood it’s always the villains who have the best taste in architecture and decor, and this is often specifically true for science fiction. Well it certainly seems like the architecture of the so called villains of the 20th century are inspiration for Hollywood film makers working on futuristic architecture

The future city of Bregna was built as a utopian haven but quickly reveals itself as a dark dystopia, its superb architecture suddenly taking on a more chilling nightmare feel.

Aeon Flux

Many of the buildings used in the movie are actual exisitng buildings in Germany. For example the now disused 1935 Berlin Windkanal or aerodynamic testing wind tunnel for German aircraft, built in 1932 and now designated a technical landmark is widely seen in the movie. After WWII the Soviets removed all the equipment from the building , leaving only the tunnel behind. It stands in for the “maze” and government complex in the film.

Aeon Flux location - Benjamin Franklin Kongresshalle

The Benjamin Franklin Conference Center Kongresshalle, above, by Hugh Stubbins with Werner Düttmann and Franz Mocken, 1957. It has been renamed House of World Culture, but Berliners call it the ‘pregnant oyster’. Its roof, which has been rebuilt after a collapse in 1980, is the setting for a nighttime battle between Aeon and guards.

Aeon Flux location - Tierschutzheim by Daniel Bangert

Numerous scenes in the film were shot in the Tierschutzheim Berlin by Dietrich Bangert, above. The building is actually a large, privately-funded animal shelter complex.

Aeon Flux location - MexicanEmbassy, Berlin

Berlin’s modern concrete and glass Mexican Embassy, above, was a public marketplace in the film. It was designed by Francisco Serrano in collaboration with Teodoro González de León and completed in 2000.

Aeon Flux

The Volkspark Potsdam, 2001, popularly known as the BUGA Park, also includes the biosphere used as a tropical greenhouse in the film. Its recreation area, with standing concrete planes, appeared during the assassination mission sequence.

Aeon Flux

The scene above was shot at the Radsporthalle (Velodrom) by Dominique Perrault at the Landsberger Allee in Berlin Prenzlauer Berg. 1995-96.

Aeon Flux, Bauhaus Archiv

Aeon Flux

Bauhaus Archiv, which served as the exterior of the building where Aeon and her sister Una live.

So now lets conclude with some world’s from the Bauhaus archive”: “The museum building is a late work of Walter Gropius [1883-1969], the founder of the Bauhaus. It was planned in 1964 for Darmstadt and was built 1976-79 in modified form in Berlin. Today, its characteristic silhouette is one of Berlin’s landmarks.”

Architecture in Movies – Equilibrium

Futuristic movies of Hollywood have always given great focus on the architecture of the mentioned era. Equilibrium is different from all those conventional futuristic imaginations, because the core of the architectural concepts of the movie lies in Soviet or fascist style of architecture.

  

Equilibrium presents a vision of a world at peace, with a tremendous human cost. This is a world where war is a distant memory, yet where there is no music, no art, no poetry, where anyone who partakes in such banned activities is guilty of a “Sense Offense,” a crime that carries a death sentence. It is a world where the age-old question “How do you feel?” can never be answered because all feelings have been shut out.

Libria, the main focal point of the movie is a stark, black-and-white metropolis, which is run by a tyrannous dictator named the Father who wields power through a group of Ninja-like “clerics” who enforce his vision of peace through the chemical control of all emotion.

The city of Libria  in Equilibrium presents a controlled state taken to its extremes. The emotion suppressing state’s agenda is clearly expressed through the city’s architecture. Buildings, like the people that inhabit them are faceless and devoid of any feeling. The fascist’s states media manipulative machine is inbuilt into the infrastructure of the city: giant billboards overtake whole build facades, and loud speakers that air a constant stream of propaganda are located at every corner.

Visual effects supervisor Tim McGovern worked alongside Kurt Wimmer and Wolf Kroeger to formulate the look of the walled Librian metropolis. McGovern, who won an Oscar for “Total Recall,” started with a theme of grandiosity. He explains: “The whole idea of fascist architecture is to make the individual feel small and insignificant so the government seems more powerful and I continued that design ethic in the visual effects. For example, Libria is surrounded by a seventy-five feet high wall, the walls just keep going on and on and use vertical and horizontal lines in a Mondrian-type way. ”