No discussion about architecture and film is complete without mention of Ridley Scotts 1982 release Blade Runner. Unlike many futuristic films of the time, where characters are surrounded by a sanitised world of white and chrome, Scott depicts a grimy, overpopulated city with palpable desperation and a combative mentality.
This man made hell is stacked against the common man. Literally. The claustrophobic streets are overshadowed by hulking towers inhabited by those with money. The look of the film is quite architectural (the oppressive built density is present throughout the film) and one we have grown quite accustomed to - the film spawned a whole generation of computer games graphics - but it is the use of one very special house which brings it all together.
Frank Lloyd Wrights Ennis House in Los Feliz has a list of TV and film credits to rival any of those on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (as well as its own imdb listing) but it is the appearance in Blade Runner which is the most commanding.
The Buildings’ distinctive architectural language forms the foundation for much of the production design. A mould of the Mayan inspired patterns on the textile blocks was taken by the production team and used throughout the set design so although few scenes were actually filmed at the house, its character is ever-present. In this context, the Mayan symbolism speaks of ancient decay and a civilization past its prime.
Harrison Ford stars as Deckard - a policemen who has made a career of ‘retiring’ rouge androids who try to escape their fate as menial labour ‘off world’ and return to earth to pass as ordinary citizens. So advanced is the technology in their creation that the only way to determine their origin is to test their ability to empathise (a quality the androids are not designed to possess), particularly their sympathy towards animals (is that what makes us human?). As well as the insect-like machine used to carry out this test, the film also features technology such as jet propelled hover cars, a bionic snake and (my personal favourite) a glass dome hairdryer, 30 seconds under which gives instant 80’s hair. Genius.