Celluloid architects: fictional architects in movies
Presentation held in English by Giorgio Scianca, architect and cultural promoter of events and happenings connected with architecture. See his bio here.
There are about 2,5 million architects in the world. The architect is an actor of its own society.
I considered the 120 years that the cinema has lived – in terms of a global media – as a period overlapping the 120 years of the figure of the modern architect. Through this lens I have collected and arranged in a database (starting from the 1901) photos, playbills, trailers and significant sequences belonging to 1.500 films produced all over the world and having the figure of the architect as a main character or a co-star.
The cinematographic fiction wonderfully describes the complexity of the profession both in its popular and elitarian meaning. From the university days and lifestyle to the professional achievements (or failures), from the middle-age crisis to the senility acceptance this experiment is a journey throughought time and space of a profession narrated by the cinema with great generosity.
From Boris Karloff and John Wayne to Henry Fonda and Fernandel; from Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwick to Kirk Douglas and Michel Piccoli; from John Cassavetes and Charles Bronson to Robert De Niro and Warren Beatty; from Paul Newman and Jean Luis Trintignan to Carol Baker; from Richard Gere and Donald Sutherland to Michel Pfeiffer and Keanu Reeves; from Gabriele Ferzetti and Claudio Gora to Vittorio Gassman and Nino Manfredi; from Umberto Orsini and Gastone Moschin to Mimmo Calopresti and Anna Galiena.
«The picture of the architect spread out within the people together with the partial idea of what architecture is today, does not lay on direct experiences but rather on second-hand information presumably deriving from the social groups the character is in touch with or from the mass media».
This was the outcome of the survey carried out in 2003, led by the Italian National Council of Architects and coordinated by me together with the support of the ABACUS, based on a representative sample of the adult Italian population. The survey aimed at identifying the representation the citizens had of the profession of the architect in order to verify which cognitive blindness and indirect knowledge this may possibly procure – in case they had any.
The retrieval of the films where “the story of an architect is told” has today filled a gap of that research. The “cognitive blindness” derived from the cinema and then not taken into account, is substantial to the understanding of the “private and public” figure of the architect in any nation worldwide. The public imagination has been strongly influenced by the hundreds of films projected or broadcasted all over the world. This because the “movie” product differs from the tv fiction as it is really global.
The film has represented and still represents – be it either dubbed or subtitled – the main emotional and subliminal mean of transmission. Then, with the coming of the web, this potential has been increased tenfolds. The web has introduced – though through ways that differ from the traditional ones (big and small screen) – a variety of phenomena of perception and consumption of the cinematographic product.
The research was carried out almost exclusively on the web. In some thousand hours of connection I could select more than 1.500 titles from databases, identify almost every actor, give them a face, download trailers, short shots, photos and playbills and buy DVD. Mostly English websites mixed with French, German, Castilian, Hindi, Polish, Slovenian, Russian, Romanian, Korean, Danish, Arab, Czech, Japanese and of course Italian ones. The Google translator did an excellent job.
I did not carry out any genre selection since each one of it is represented – safe for the “documentary”. Fiction is necessary in cinema, as it is in novels where “events and characters are a fantasy outcome and any connection to reality is purely casual”.