He’s not the first person to get hooked on Hollywood architecture—lots of us admire the spectacular homes we see in movies.
|Gone With The Wind's Tara consisted of the two walls|
facing the camera, and a great deal of matte painting
to either side. Yet how many fans of antebellum
architecture have been inspired by this image?
As for the imposing staircase that Scarlett O’ Hara descended so dramatically, it was just that—an isolated stairway built on a soundstage. Much of the imposing architecture was simply matted in later.
Just because Hollywood architecture is make-believe, however, doesn’t mean it can’t provide design inspiration. In fact, sets are often excellent inspirations precisely because they’re make believe. Set designers aren’t encumbered by mundane requirements like bearing walls and watertight roofs the way we architects are. They can concentrate on the essence of the thing. The result, in visual terms at least, is a remarkably pure form of architecture.
|The post-war Tara staircase, a stand-alone set built at the|
Selznick International Studio in Culver City. Note
the obvious matte painted background
of the ruined countryside beyond the carriage.
Despite all this artifice, however, you shouldn’t hesitate to find inspiration in Hollywood's papier-mache monuments. Next time you see a good film (or even a bad one), make a mental note of any architectural spaces that strike your fancy—perhaps a particular room shape, or a style of furniture, or a dramatic lighting technique. You may well be able to adapt that feature to your own use someday.
More than once, I’ve cribbed an archway or a flight of steps from some old Boris Karloff movie. And why not? The film industry routinely spends millions to create a charismatic “look” for sets, often employing exceptionally talented designers. Hence, movie sets are the furthest thing from fluff. They’re carefully calculated to evoke a certain mood or to reflect a character’s personality—which is exactly what good architecture does.
|The gargantuan "stone" portal built for Cecil B. DeMille's|
epic The Ten Commandments (1927). Bits and pieces
of these structures still occasionally surface
sat the film's Guadalupe Dunes location.
Of course, DeMille’s towering "stone" structures were really just flimsy, hollow sets built of wood and plaster. After shooting finished, his Egyptian city was pulled down by a few men with cables and buried beneath the dunes, where you can find fragments of them to this day.
That’s the big difference between Hollywood’s monuments and your own. Yours will last a lot longer.