Both cinema and architecture operate as languages communicating through a library of signs.

These signs can be divided into two parts, the signifiers, which are the physical states of signs, and the signified, which are the thoughts, ideas and notions of what the signifiers embody.

Architecture is used as a communication tool through which directors and film makers send certain messages.

Architecture gives cinema its believability; setting the mood, character, time and place for the action.

Architecture plays an important role as a good signifier, signifying different aspects of the society (economical, political, sociological, ecological, technological, etc…).

Film provides architecture with an outlet for realizing visions that can never exist and entreats experiences that in reality have not occurred.

In the medium of film, architects can create ‘pure’ architecture, without worrying about such things like weatherproofing, contract bidding, or building codes. Cinemarchitecture is, thus, an ideal fulfillment of what architecture can be about.

In professional life, architecture can’t always act as a real mirror for its society or its context, this is due to the involvement of different factors in the design and building process, (financial, political, ecological, technological l, etc…).

Sometimes, these factors blur the message to be sent to the viewer or the user of the architectural work, resulting in a misunderstanding in the motives and significances of this architectural work. In the medium of film, this misunderstanding rarely happens.

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«Blade Runner» (1982), Ridley Scott | Photo from Wall Street International

The architecture in films can be described as pure architecture, as it’s not bounded by any constrains, it exactly signifies the visions of the director and send exact and definite messages to the viewer through its expressions. In film architecture, the motive coincides with the signified.

No matter how a city’s depicted in science fiction, it’s always doing more than just setting the scene, it relies on an audience believing in the world they are presented with.

Architects and designers often find themselves experiencing movies a little differently than the vast public, especially when it comes to the science-fiction genre featuring buildings, cities or urban landscapes that are “out of this world”; they see the buildings in the background (or foreground in some cases) and begin to analyze how they are designed.

Some sci-fi movies or TV shows suggested technologies that have inspired generations of scientists to research and develop them.

In other cases, the images of buildings and cities envisioned some 30 or 40 years ago, predicting the future, have a striking resemblance to some present day urban environments; there are also movies with visions radically different from what we have today. Sci-fi can sometimes serve as a warning but often enough can be a source of inspiration.

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«New City», Antonio Sant’Elia (1888-1916)  | Photo from Wall Street International

Several movies have acquired a cult status, not only in popular culture but also in the scientific community, their images becoming almost iconic, referenced by many architects, theorist and researchers. Some movies drew inspiration from various architectural studies or models of utopia, on works from the avant-garde or competition entries.

The first thing that comes to mind when science-fiction is mentioned is the future, future advancements in technology, a future society developed from current paradigms. Usually the future is portrayed in such a way that it makes a statement about present day issues regarding society, environment, politics, economics and religion or to question progress in various fields of science.

The dawn of cinema coincided with the emergence of the modern city as a beacon of hope. Almost as soon as science fiction cinema latched onto the idea of the city as the hope of the future, filmmakers also saw in it a metaphor for social ills.

The emergence of animation technologies means that there are now a host of digital alternatives available to production designers to create fictional worlds – which you would expect would reduce the reliance on tangible structures in film.

While this may well be the way things go, we are still seeing a prevalence of modern architecture in contemporary sci-fi films.