Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Architecture is Like the Movies

One of the best architecture magazines on the market today is Hospitality Design, published by Nielson Business Media. It is a trade publication that specializes in hotels, restaurants, resorts, and spas, intended for professionals who design or manage such venues. While not specifically an architecture magazine, it features architecture and interior design regularly and lavishly.

The hospitality industry is highly competitive. To stay on top, popular venues are revamped every few years. The half-life for architecture and interior design in the hospitality game is short. New ideas are introduced at lightening speed and creativity thrives in this environment. At top restaurants in New York and L.A. and big resorts on the Vegas strip, there are ample funds to support leading edge ideas. Good design is used as a marketing tool without hesitation - in fact, with a sense of obligation. For these reasons, Hospitality Design features exciting architectural concepts in nearly every issue. It is a "must read" for me.

I was struck by a statement in a recent issue by hotelier Grace Leo: I see myself as a movie producer - but I produce hotels. I orchestrate everybody's efforts to make the vision a reality.

Comparing the creation of a hotel to making movies strikes close to home.  I have often used the simile, aarchitecture is like the movies.

Architecture is a complex art. It interweaves the talents of many different professions, trades, and consultants. Like the movies, all of these entities must work in concert at top capacity to produce a hit. A great movie must have a great script (the design) but also a willing client (the producer), talented actors (craftsmen), and a capable director (the builder). Add to this the many extras, bit players, FX artists, etc. that are necessary to make a movie and to make architecture. If any part of this assemblage falls short, a movie will be less than a blockbuster and a work of architecture will scar the landscape.  The movie world does not want another Water World. The built
Victor Emmanuel Monument. A study in architectural excess.
environment does not need another Victor Emmanuel Monument.

When Hollywood has a premier, everybody notices, but nobody has to watch.
When a building has a premier, it is hard to avoid and
it tends to stick around for a long time.
The simile is also something of a plea for tolerance for those works of architecture that fall short. Sometimes good architects produce bad works, but it is not always the architect's fault. Interior design can make a a good building look bad or a bad building look good. Landscape architecture can do the same. The budget has to be sufficient. The client must be willing and, sometimes, brave. This is not an excuse for architectural misfires, but a recognition of the importance of assembling the right team. Quality, talent, commitment go a long way in making good movies. They are requirements for good architecture. 

It is tempting to think of architectural successes as a brilliant tours de force that spring from the minds of lone auteurs. Certainly, credit should be given to great talents when it is due. In reality, however, the list of credits is usually quite long. 

1 comment:

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