Depictions of Architectural Spaces in Film

By Maha Zeini Al-Saati, David Botta and Robert Woodbury.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Film spaces can sometimes communicate narrative experiences to the viewers as strongly as those conveyed through characters. Audiences have grasped the feeling of Blade Runner’s (Scott 1982) despair in a dystopian futuristic city, Alice’s nonsensical endeavors in Wonderland (Geronimi et al. 1951), Dorothy’s eventful adventures on the yellow brick road of The Wizard of Oz (Fleming 1939), WALL-E’s (Stanton 2008) loneliness in the midst of the garbage piles planet, and the gladiators’ feeling of diminishment in front of the grand coliseum in Gladiator (Scott 2000). By watching these spaces onscreen, one could glimpse the experience of being there without actually visiting these places. These film images portray architectural forms filled with experiences that play on emotions we strongly identify with, as we follow the protagonists venturing into these spaces. To better understand the types of spaces constructed in film and the experiences they convey, a number of film scenes with strong depictions of spatial exploration and architectural components were selected for analysis. We have coded for spatial archetypes with concern to two aspects: form and experience. Accordingly, we have identified spatial archetypes such as: open space, landmark, path, arcade, tunnel, clearance, layered space, grid, labyrinth, shaft, rotunda and court. Such findings can help assist the communication of spatial experience through moving images manifested in both architectural films and animations.

Keywords: Spatial Archetypes, Spatial Exploration, Spatial Experience, Narrative Space

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp.107-118. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 5.004MB).

Maha Zeini Al-Saati

PhD Candidate, School of Interactive Arts and Technology, Simon Fraser University, Surrey, BC, Canada

Maha Zeini Al-Saati is a PhD candidate at The School of Interactive Arts and Technology, Simon Fraser University (SFU). She has received both her Master of Architecture (2006) and Bachelors of Interior Architecture (2003) from King Faisal University, Saudi Arabia. Her current research interests lie in the intersection of architecture and the moving image.

Dr. David Botta

Post Doctoral Fellow (2010-2013) at Simon Fraser University, School of Interactive Arts and Technology, Simon Fraser University, Surrey, BC, Canada

David Botta’s interests include the intersection of vision, information, and communication; and methods for requirements-gathering in design. He attained a PhD in Interactive Arts from SFU in 2010, a Master of Fine Arts from the U. of Calgary in 1989, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from UBC in 1985. His experience includes holding a Post Doctoral Fellowship at SFU; teaching at SFU, the Grande Prairie Regional College, UBC, DigiPen Computer Graphics Inc., and the U. of Calgary; ethnographic research of IT security management through UBC; web service and product development, and 3D animation (mostly under UBC’s Media and Graphics Interdisciplinary Centre).

Dr. Robert Woodbury

Professor, School of Interactive Arts and Technology, Simon Fraser University, Surrey, BC, Canada

Dr. Robert Woodbury received a PhD. in Architecture from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Pittsburgh, PA, USA in 1988, a M.S. in Architecture from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Pittsburgh, PA, USA in 1982, a B.Arch. in Architecture from Carleton University, Ottawa, ON, Canada in 1981. In 2000, Dr. Rob Woodbury was awarded the Stephen Cole the Elder Prize for Excellence in University Teaching from Adelaide University, Australia.