A Brief History of Old Buildings Going Futuro On Film

West
Monday, August 30, 2010
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UCSD Geisel Library/ Snow Fortress, one of several older buildings pegged for the future in movies

Talk of William Pereira’s Geisel Library, the well-known symbol of UC San Diego, has been abuzz online because of its Snow Fortress doppelganger in Inception, which has so far totaled close to half a billion dollars in ticket sales.  Built in the late 1960s, this textbook example of Brutalism perfectly encapsulates the hostile, uncommunicative theme of Inception. Critics of the style say Brutalist architecture disregards the history and harmony of its environment. Thus, the Snow Fortress, featured at the film’s climax, is a symbol of disregard for preordained fate.

Although the Geisel Library, named after Theodore Seuss Geisel or Dr. Seuss, was conceived over five decades ago, it does not seem out of place in a futuristic world. Similarly, the Bradbury Building in Los Angeles, designed by George H. Wyman, was built in 1893. Yet, this “retro-futuristic-gothic”  building was featured in Blade Runner, The Outer Limits and Mission: Impossible, among others.  Minority Report used the Ronald Reagan building  in Washington, D.C. as its Orwellian police headquarters (Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House also starred as Harrison Ford’s residence in Blade Runner). Greene and Greene’s Robert R. Blacker House in Pasadena is an iconically American house that served as Dr. Emmett Brown’s house in Back to the Future and a grandfather’s house in Armageddon. It seems regardless of how futuristic a movie is, the buildings of yesteryear and today can still lend their symbolic power to help layer a movie with meaning.

LA's Bradbury Building; a star of Blade Runner (along with FLW's Ennis House)


Another star: Greene & Greene's Blacker House

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