Terri Meyer Boake BES BArch MArch LEED AP
Associate Professor _ Associate Director _ Undergraduate Academic Officer

Arch 443/646: Architecture and Film
Fall 2005: Course Home Page


contemplations _ of _ zero _ gravity


Wednesdays 10:00 to 2:00, Cambridge, Main Floor Lecture Hall
Please note: With the exception of the first class/film, the class will begin at 10 a.m. with discussion/responses to the previous week's film. The film listed for the week will start around 11 a.m. "Visitors" will always be welcome to the class.

Course Description:
This course explores the relationship between Architecture and the development of early and modern films. Students will look at the source and portrayal of architectural expression in film: precedents for imagery, its relationship to the development of early modern architecture, and its vision of the urban future. Contemporary and futuristic architecture will also be examined in recent films to study its expression of the vision of the future of urban built form.

Film gives us the rare opportunity to completely question all that has come to be accepted in terms of the language of architecture as well as architectural and historic convention. Much of the development of this convention is based upon the existence of gravity. Gravity has driven the design of structures and architectural systems since the notion of shelter was first conceived. The development of all structural form, from the simple beam, round arch, gothic arch and systems of vaulting, to more complex structures, has responded to the need to control gravitational forces.

The focus of the term will be the exploration of expressions of zero gravity architecture in films over the past 100 years. Film, particularly since the advent of computer graphics and advanced modelling and cinematographic editing software, has increasingly been able to first ignore the force of gravity, and ultimately, to exploit its absence.

The final student film productions will also be asked to both question and address the issue of gravity in their subject matter and formal expression. The question will be asked, and answered: How do we build buildings? How do we build movies?

We will be using FinalCutPro to make our films this term. The undergraduate work will also require the creation of a website using Dreamweaver. Masters student will prepare more "advanced" text intensive research related websites. Tutorials in both of these softwares will be provided.

Students wishing to explore some of these ideas using iMovie, are recommended to look at some additional plug-ins that are available at http://www.imovieplugins.com/ that enable rotation of movies and adjustment of image height (when it goes sideways...). This is not meant as an endorsement of the product. It just works and the plug-ins are relatively inexpensive.... invert clip, angle clip

Pedagogic Objectives:
The course is intended to develop a critical perspective of the use of architecture in film. Students will learn to examine both the medium of film and the form and style of architecture as they relates to the development of both film media and culture. Students will engage in research to understand the choices and expression of architecture used in film, as well as the relationship between the idea of the future and its relationship to both built and natural environments.

Completion Requirements:
The course will be run in a seminar format. Each week we will view a film, discuss its relevance to architecture, culture, environments, and the perception of all three. The discussions will take place in a “for credit” mode. Attendance is mandatory. Two missed classes will constitute failure of the course.

443 course outline link
646 course outline link



Schedule of Classes and Films:
Please note: With the exception of the first class/film, the class will begin at 10 a.m. with responses to the previous week's film. The film listed for the week will start around 11 a.m. "Visitors" will always be welcome to the class.
Date Film Name and Details Reviews and Links

Sept 14
discussion questions
Aelita: Queen of Mars
(1924) (111 minutes)

A Soviet sensation upon its heavily publicized release in 1924, Aelita, the Queen of Mars is now a curiosity of post-revolutionary Russian silent cinema, a bit laughable in its revolutionary zeal not only on Earth but on Mars as well! Despite a cool reaction from critics, the film was such a hit with the Soviet public that many Russian babies born in '24 were named Aelita, and the Cubist designs of the Martian sets--heavily influenced by the avant-garde "constructivist" style--would in turn influence science fiction films in the years to follow (most notably the Flash Gordon serials). With costume designs performances that are truly out of this world, Aelita was the 1924 equivalent of a Spielberg spectacular; now it's a museum piece, unlikely to raise anyone's pulse, but it's startling to think that this film was even possible in 1924 Russia.

Based (very very loosely) on Aelita (1922) by Alexei Tolstoy: This is the classic case, from the early times of film, of the movie being rather untrue to the book. Whereas the focus of the book is on the trip to Mars and at least insofar as the description of the trip recognizes the experiences of space travel, the planet Mars does not.

promise of science-space travel

Sept 14
Timelines of Science
Super Structures: The Making of the International Space Station (2000) (52 minutes)
Modern civilization has been built by the unlimited imaginations of those who have been undaunted by what seems to be insurmountable obstacles and challenges. In 1998 construction began 250 miles above the earth on the International Space Station. Astronauts have been doubling as construction workers on one of the largest projects ever conceived. It will take 45 space missions to provide the materials necessary to build the station. In the end it will weigh over 1 million pounds and cover the size of two football fields.



Space: Home Away From Home


Sept 21
discussion questions

H.G. Wells: First Men on the Moon
(1964) (103 minutes)

H.G. Wells' fantastic account of life on the moon is vividly brought to the screen by special effects master Ray Harryhausen in this amazing sci-fi epic featuring unforgettable extra-terrestrial creatures. The film begins with a team of United Nations astronauts planning an upcoming moon mission. The astronauts are both confused and intrigued by a man (Judd) who claims he, his fiancee and a scientist journeyed to the moon 65 years ago and were attacked by "Selenites," grotesque, human-like ant forms that live in immense crystal caverns. Now it is up to the U.N. team to attempt a lunar landing that could be more horrifying than ever believed possible.

The movie is based upon the book, written by Wells in 1901. It is important to consider the timing of the writing of the book in conjunction with the timing of the film production. When the book was written they still believed that there were "canals" on Mars, evidence of water... look at timelines of science!!!

The Ray Harryhausen special effects again take center stage and they still hold up, even today. This film represented a technical and stylistic challange for Harryhausen because it was shot in the widescreen Panavision format, which did not allow for the use of traditional stop-motion animation techniques. Consequently, blue screen superimposing was used throughout and this lends a real sense of scope and spectacle to the film. The art direction and design are well thought out and are first rate, making the underground lunar empire seem all the more probable on the otherwise airless moon.

The film:

Ray Harryhausen:

Other interesting links...
look at the feet on the landing module...


Sept 21

Just Imagine (1930)

(we are just looking at the trip to Mars sequence from this film)
Very rare 1930 science fiction film about futuristic 1980 New York where airplanes have replaced cars and features a combination of booze jokes, sci-fi, lewd sex, vaudeville jokes. Babies are gotten through vending machines, and a trip to Mars proves Martians to be twins, (Each set has a good over-sexed one, and an evil homicidal one.) Pepper this oddity with bad puns, miniature effects, and musical numbers and you got a bizarre wacky film! It stars El Brendel, Maureen O'Sullivan & John Garrick.


Sept 28
discussion questions
Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey
(1968) (148 minutes)

2001: A Space Odyssey is a countdown to tomorrow, a road map to human destiny, a quest for the infinite. It is a dazzling, compelling drama of man vs. machine, a stunning meld of music and motion. To begin his voyage into the future, Kubrick visits our prehistoric ape ancestry past, then leaps millennia into colonized space, and ultimately whisks astronaut Bowman into uncharted realms of space, perhaps even into immortality. And meet HAL. Douglas Trumball, who is involved in the sets for this film, goes on to direct Silent Running and then become involved in the Star Wars saga.





promise of science-computers

Oct 5
Dreamweaver Tutorial
All undergrad students are required to submit a website as part of this course. This tutorial will address the use of Dreamweaver to create your site. ALL STUDENTS ARE WELCOME TO ATTEND.
Introduction to Dreamweaver Tutorial link
Oct 12
discussion questions
Silent Running
(1971) (90 minutes)

As this science fiction classic opens, botanist Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern) has spent 8 years aboard the space freighter "Valley Forge" preserving the only botanical specimens left from Earth under huge geodesic domes. When he receives orders to destroy the project and return home, Lowell rebels and hijacks the freighter, while plunging the craft into the gaseous rings of Saturn. From that moment on he has only the trees, the gardens and two drone robots to keep him company on his greatest adventure of all. You HAVE to think of this film as a "period" piece. It immediately preceded Star Wars and many of the people working on the sets for Running were also involved in Star Wars. It also speaks to a political time where the world is still involved in the Vietnam War and the US and Russia are still taunting each other with nuclear weapons. The budget was a mere $1M.





Oct 19
FinalCutPro Tutorial
Use of this software is not mandatory to produce your movies but it will be "supported". The video lab at the school is set up with computers for exclusive FCP use by students. Students may also use iMovie as the regular lab computers are all equipped with iMovie/iDVD.
This looks like a great help site:

Oct 26
discussion questions

Star Wars IV: A New Hope
(123 minutes)

The debut Star Wars film requires revisiting as it launched a new generation of science fiction films about space travel. Much of what was proposed felt credible due to the level of humour in the film. It is the humour, almost as much as the change in technology of special effects, that separates this from the final piece produced for 2005. Douglas Trumball works on the sets and models. Of special interest is the character of R2D2.

For this class the first portion will be pre-empted by the Accreditation review decision announcement. Class will start at around 11:30/noon and we will look at the extras on the DVDs that address the making of the film. I will schedule the showing of the film itself at another time if it is desired by the class.

(1972) (169 minutes)

The Russian answer to 2001, and very nearly as memorable a movie. The legendary Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky made this extremely deliberate science-fiction epic, an adaptation of a novel by Stanislaw Lem. The story follows a cosmonaut (Donatas Banionis) on an eerie trip to a planet where haunting memories can take physical form. Its bare outline makes it sound like a routine space-flight picture, an elongated Twilight Zone episode; but the further into its mysteries we travel, the less familiar anything seems. Even though Tarkovsky's meanings and methods are sometimes mystifying, Solaris has a way of crawling inside your head, especially given the slow pace and general lack of forward momentum. By the time the final images cross the screen, Tarkovsky has gone way beyond SF conventions into a moving, unsettling vision of memory and home. Well worthy of cult status, Solaris is both challenging art-house fare and a whacked-out head trip.

This is NOT the recent film of the same name starring George Clooney.


(1981) (110 minutes)

Io, Jupiter's innermost moon, hosts mining colony Con-Am 27, a high-tech hellhole. There Marshall O'Neil probes some mysterious deaths, among the miners. In pursuit of the truth, he is alone. In Outland, writer/director Peter Hyams depicts a chilling extension of today's corporation-driven world. Dehumanization is vividly evoked in the environments of production designer Phillip Harrison and special-effects wizard John Stears.

The film was the first use of "Introvision", a new method of blending models with human actors.

dennis fanti - research paper
film images
Total Recall
(1990) (124 minutes)

This Schwarzeneggar film is set in the future (but filmed in Mexico City) and speaks about travel to Mars and vacations that are the result of brain implants. It makes interesting use of present day modern architecture to speak of an architecture of the future (all in concrete...) and presents a view of life on Mars and living conditions on the planet.

Based on the Philip K. Dick short story, "Remember It Wholesale". Dick also wrote "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep", base story for Bladerunner, as well as those for Minority Report.

Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith
(2005) (142 minutes)

We will look at the final installment of the 6 episide set with respect to its architectural and fx development in comparison with episode IV from a few weeks earlier. The first and last production pieces are almost 30 years apart in the making. How have things changed? How have they not?

We will also look at some of the "how this was made" type parts of the DVD set.

Richard Edlund on Motion Control Filming
Nov 30
Final Student Film Presentations!!!
All students must be prepared to have their final films ready for showing on this date. Please be sure that they are burned to a DVD-R format disk! (or they won't work on a regular DVD player).

Undergraduate Requirements:
Weekly Comments 20%:
Each week I will distribute a series of "questions" regarding the film viewed. The answers will be submitted and discussed at the beginning of the next class. The answers will be posted on this webpage. To see what is involved, please visit the web page from Arch 443 Fall 2004. Look under "discussions" at each week's film entry. link

Assignment #1: The Review 30% DETAILS!!
A web style review or exploration of the terms' films based on the use of architecture in the film. There should be a minimum of 1500 words of paragraph style text included in the web site that relates to the discussion of the link between gravity, architecture and film. The web sites should include links to external references, a bibliography, and give credit for included images and information. The reviews will be posted on the course webpage. The reviews are due Monday, December 19, 2005 at 9 a.m.. You may use the Mac lab at the school to create your project. Be aware that the lab is shut down as of the morning of due date for its rebuild.
Link to introduction to Dreamweaver Tutorial link

Assignment #2: (HBAS)The Video 50%
The major work will be the creation of a Music/Architecture 'video' taking a piece of music of choice and create a visual/animated/video piece that relates selected architecture to the music. The project exposes students to a scaled down version of the process of selecting/designing the architectural set for film. The requirements and media will be left quite open. You may work in teams of up to 2 students or alone. You may select your own piece of music (minimum 3 minutes in length, maximum 10 minutes). You are to create a “video” that uses architecture and architectural images in such a way as to support the music, and vice versa.

Graduate Requirements:
Weekly Comments 20%:
Each week I will distribute a series of "questions" regarding the film viewed. The answers will be submitted and discussed at the beginning of the next class. The topics of the weekly questions given to the class at large will be designed to feed into the research/website/essay requirement. The answers will be posted on this webpage. To see what is involved, please visit the web page from Arch 646 Fall 2004. Look under "discussions" at each week's film entry. link

Assignment #1: The Video 40%
The major work will be the creation of a Music/Architecture 'video' taking a piece of music of choice and create a visual/animated/video piece that relates selected architecture to the music. The project exposes students to a scaled down version of the process of selecting/designing the architectural set for film. The requirements and media will be left quite open. You may work in teams of up to 2 students or alone. You may select your own piece of music (minimum 3 minutes in length, maximum 10 minutes). You are to create a “video” that uses architecture and architectural images in such a way as to support the music, and vice versa.

Assignment #3: Advanced Web Site/Research "Piece" 40% DETAILS!!
M.Arch. Students will be responsible for a 3,000 word research paper that is contained within a web site interface. The research papers will address a series of topics that will attempt to identify and connect different themes in the development of the use of architecture and urbanism in modern film. Such topics will include: representation of the metropolis, environmental change, transportation, methods of presenting architecture (sets, backdrops, live shoots, digital media), cinematic devices, shooting angles and positions, light and darkness, etc -- or anything else that reflects the content of this course or which may be relevant to your thesis. Full bibliographic references (and links to such if possible) are required to be posted on the webpage(s). If not, plagiarism can be charged.


Deitrich Neumann, editor. Film Architecture from Metropolis to Blade Runner. Prestel, 1999. (only available now through amazon.com, please pre-purchase!)

More recommended texts coming... This is a carry over list from last year. Some of these are out of print. There will be new listings coming that are more in line with the topic of this year's course.

Mark Lamster, editor. Architecture and Film. Princeton Architectural Press, 2000.

Donald Albrecht. Designing Dreams: Modern Architecture in the Movies. Hennessey + Ingalls, Santa Monica, 2000.

Maggie Toy, editor. A.D. Architectural Design Profile no. 112. Architecture and Film. Academy Group Ltd. 1994.

Maggie Toy, editor. A.D. Architectural Design Profile no. 150. Architecture + Animation. Wiley-Academy. 2001.

Francois Penz, editor. Cinema & Architecture: Melies, Mallet-Stevens, Multimedia. British Film Institute, 1997.

Thomas Hine. Movie Houses. Architectural Record. 04.02.

Terry Smith, editor. Impossible Presence: Surface and Screen in the Photographic Era. University of Chicago Press, 2001.


Other miscellaneous, but helpful links:
(fantastic sci-fi film course homepage from Clemson University -- great links and reading references for a wide range of films)



The Cinematic City: The City and Architecture in Motion Pictures




Filming Locations used in Many Movies:


Avoidance of Academic Offenses
Students are expected to know what constitutes academic integrity, to avoid committing academic offenses, and to take responsibility for their actions. Students who are unsure whether an action constitutes an offense, or who need help in learning how to avoid offenses (e.g., plagiarism, cheating) or about rules for group work / collaboration should seek guidance from the course professor, TA, academic advisor, or the Undergraduate Associate Dean. For information on categories of offenses and types of penalties, students should refer to Policy #71, Student Academic Discipline,
Students who believe that they have been wrongfully or unjustly penalized have the right to grieve; refer to Policy #70, Student Grievance,

last updated October 15, 2008