In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Architecture and Cinema

  • Introduction
  • Edited Collections and Special Journal Issues
  • Journals
  • Theories of Film and Architecture
  • Architects as Filmmakers
  • Postmodernism
  • Architecture and Gender
  • Architecture and Race
  • Commercial Space: Skyscrapers, Offices, and Hotels
  • Urban Planning
  • Infrastructure
  • Studio Architecture
  • The Architecture of Cinemas
  • Television
  • Photography
  • Architecture as Media

Cinema and Media Studies Architecture and Cinema
Lawrence Webb, Anna Viola Sborgi
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 August 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 August 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0354


The interdisciplinary dialogue between architecture and film studies has a long history. Early film theorists were fascinated by the affinities between architecture and cinema as spatial arts, especially their shared capacity to organize space and time. Modernist architects were equally captivated by the possibilities of cinema to reproduce movement, the use of editing to create multiple perspectives, and the screen as a component of design. Such early connections established the basis of academic inquiry into architecture and cinema, which has expanded rapidly in film and media studies since the 1990s as part of the spatial turn in the humanities. Architects and architectural historians have also focused on cinema and screen media across theory and practice, especially in relation to digital technology. Architecture and the moving image is now a varied and heterogenous area of research with several distinct but overlapping clusters of interest; partly due to its multidisciplinary history, there is no unified theoretical or methodological approach. From a text-oriented perspective, scholars have analyzed and theorized the filmic representation of architectural space and cinema’s engagement with a range of styles and movements. Such work frequently addresses the narrative and ideological properties of specific types of cinematic space, such as the house and the skyscraper, especially in relation to questions of gender, race, and class. Within this representational approach, scholars have examined directors whose engagement with architectural motifs is central to their authorial style, and illuminated the architectural conventions and possibilities of genres such as science fiction, crime, and horror. Historical research into sets and art direction has also provided an important means for understanding the concrete ways that architectural design has influenced production, especially in the studio. A significant branch of the literature examines the architectural design of motion picture theaters as part of the social and technological history of exhibition. Beyond cinema, questions of consumption and viewership are central to the engagement between architecture and television studies, which has often emphasized television’s privileged place in domestic space. The digital turn has created new areas of convergence between architecture and the moving image, from the apps used by architects and visual effects studios to the proliferation of screens in public space. Contemporary research into architecture and the moving image therefore addresses both “media as architecture” and “architecture as media.” The term “architecture” itself has also expanded far beyond its traditional scope—a move this bibliography acknowledges by including work on areas such as planning and infrastructure. Though there is some necessary overlap with scholarship on the cinematic city and production design, researchers are encouraged to consult the separate Oxford Bibliographies in Cinema and Media Studies articles on The City in Film and Art, Set, and Production Design.

Edited Collections and Special Journal Issues

There are a number of edited collections on architecture and the moving image that provide useful overviews of the field. Penz and Thomas 1997 and Lamster 2000 played a key role in consolidating the study of architecture and film in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Both volumes take a historically diverse and theoretically eclectic approach. Architecture is a recurring theme in Rhodes and Gorfinkel 2011 as part of the book’s wider engagement with the concept of place. Troiani and Campbell 2020 pays special attention to the crossover between theory and practice. Toy 1994 and Fear 2000 are special editions of Architectural Design magazine that are comprised of short, accessible articles on a range of themes. Lewis 2013 collects short articles exploring the architectural aspects of a single film frame.

  • Fear, Bob, ed. Special Issue: Architecture and Film II.” Architectural Design 70.1 (January 2000).

    Following Toy 1994, this special issue reprises the theme of architecture and film with short, illustrated articles on topics including German Expressionism, horror films, modernist homes, LA disaster films, 3D digital effects, and cinema design. Contains a short interview with Patrick Keiller.

  • Lamster, Mark, ed. Architecture and Film. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2000.

    A general introduction to the field, with chapters on a variety of topics including set design, modernism, and film noir, and directors such as Jacques Tati, Michelangelo Antonioni, and George Lucas.

  • Lewis, Diane, ed. Special Issue: Architects on Film: Architects on the Frame. Framework 54.1 (Spring 2013): 79–119.

    Special dossier of short articles on the relationship between the architectural frame and the cinematic cut. Each article examines one cinematic frame in relation to time, space, and architectural structure.

  • Penz, François, and Maureen Thomas, eds. Cinema and Architecture: Méliès, Mallet-Stevens, Multimedia. London: British Film Institute, 1997.

    Wide-ranging collection of work by scholars and architects on the relationship between cinema and architecture in history, theory, and practice. The collection spans from silent cinema to digital multimedia.

  • Rhodes, John David, and Elena Gorfinkel. Taking Place: Location and the Moving Image. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816665167.001.0001

    Collection exploring the history and theory of place in the moving image across varied global contexts and different kinds of media objects. Not all chapters engage explicitly with architecture, though the built environment is a recurring theme throughout.

  • Troiani, Igea, and Hugh Campbell, eds. Architecture Filmmaking. Bristol, UK: Intellect, 2020.

    Collection of essays on cinema and architecture, with a special focus on filmmaking in architectural research, teaching, and practice.

  • Toy, Maggie, ed. Special Issue: Architecture and Film. Architectural Design 64.11–12 (1994).

    Special issue on architecture and film, with essays on canonical films from Metropolis and Blade Runner to Citizen Kane, The Fountainhead and The Conformist.

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