Architecture: the Unsung Hero of Your Favorite Film

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Columbus, IN. Columbus, IN.

How does the built environment--whether fictitious or entirely founded in reality--impact how we experience and process film? From lesser-known indies to blockbuster movies, the ways in which architecture and the built environment inform everything from scene and setting, to dialogue and character development has far-reaching effects on the audience’s cinematic experience. Below, a roundup of everything from recent releases to classic cinephile favorites uncovers the myriad ways in which film utilizes architecture as a means of achieving a more authentic and all-encompassing form of storytelling.

An unrecognizable Los Angeles skyline in "Blade Runner 2049." An unrecognizable Los Angeles skyline in "Blade Runner 2049."

1. Blade Runner 2049 (2017), directed by Denis Villeneuve

Villeneuve’s sequel to the original 1982 neo-noir sci-fi classic transforms Ridley Scott’s eerie vision of future Los Angeles into an even more dire, environmentally-ravaged megalopolis. As the movie journeys across desolate landscapes and unfamiliar, crowded cityscapes, closer inspection renders Villeneuve’s vision perhaps not entirely

Gotham frames the Joker in this pivotal scene from "The Dark Knight."
Wakanda as seen from above.
Tokyo is both intensely fascinating and alienating for the film’s two protagonists.
The architecture of Columbus, IN functions as a character in its own right.
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The Sims Lend Aspiring Architects a Hand at World-Building

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Some gamers work diligently to recreate historically-accurate structures or design their own renditions. Some gamers work diligently to recreate historically-accurate structures or design their own renditions. Avid gamers and casual observers alike have probably heard of The Sims, a life simulation video game and one of Electronic Arts' (EA) most popular franchises. The Sims, which has undergone multiple iterations and expanded its virtual universe many times over the past decade, allows players to dream and control elaborate stories for their Sims. This "virtual dollhouse," as The Sims creator Will Wright describes, also lends players the ability to endlessly customize and construct their own houses and cities for their Sims–a feature that has allowed many gamers to interact more closely with the real world of architecture.
The Sims player Jason Sterling’s virtual rendition of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Seth Peterson Cottage. The Sims player Jason Sterling’s virtual rendition of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Seth Peterson Cottage.

As Dr. Luke Pearson, a lecturer in the University College London's prestigious Bartlett School of Architecture, observes, world-building games such as the

Mela Pagayonan's midcentury Modern inspired home in The Sims.
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