A lot of the wonder of science fiction comes from imagining future structures, and the strange worlds they inhabit. So it's no surprise that several of science fiction's most influential creators have either studied architecture formally, or thought about it a lot.
Whether its cool visuals or a deeper appreciation for the systems that make cities work, an awareness of architecture can make science fiction both realer and more amazing. Here are some of our favorite creators who've been steeped in architecture.
Top image: Promo picture from Christopher Nolan's Inception.
Roger Corman (Death Race 2000, Battle Beyond The Stars)
Formal training: A degree in civil engineering – similar – at Stanford after WWII:
Money quote: "I did shoot at the Agora, a rebuilt ancient city, to show the architecture of the time. But I had to shoot long rows of columns very carefully and at sharp angles to block the spaces between columns and obscure any view of downtown Athens.
The permit we got to shoot at the Acropolis was for stills only and with no people in them. Since this wasn't my doctoral thesis in architecture, we had to find another site for the Walled City of Thenis. I drove around and discovered a monastery was just off a major freeway and my crew could barely back uo twenty feet from the Walled City of Thenis without having freeway traffic whipping by. So the battle for Thenis was the military equivalent of a half-court basketball game – with very shallow views of Thenis." –- On filming
Atlas (1961) in his book, How I Made 100 Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime.
Joseph Kosinski (Tron Legacy, Horizons)
Formal training: Attended grad school for Architecture at Columbia:
Money quote: "Architecture school taught me that a single idea or concept can help define all the details of a project from the very big to the very small. And in film, because you are dealing with narrative and character as well as all the technical aspects, being able to take these core concepts of the project and roll them out into all the different aspects was a really important skill. It's more than just space. Space and film is everything on the screen and it's a lot more than just architecture. It's everything." — to Build Magazine.
Christopher Nolan (The Prestige, Inception, Batman films)
Formal training: No that we know of, but his interest in architecture is well known, and reflected in many of his films, especially Inception.
Money quote: "The only job that was ever of interest to me other than filmmaking is architecture. And I'm very interested in the similarities or analogies between the way in which we experience a three–dimensional space that an architect has created and the way in which an audience experiences a cinematic narrative that constructs a three–dimensional reality from a two-dimensional medium - assembled shot by shot. I think there's a narrative component to architecture that's kind of fascinating." — to Wired
Fritz Lang (Metropolis)
Formal training: He briefly attended the Technical University of Vienna to study civil engineering. His father was an architect, and wanted him to follow in his footsteps.
Money quote: "Metropolis, you know, was born from my first sight of the skyscrapers of New York in October 1924… I thought that it was the crossroads of multiple and confused human forces, blinded and knocking into one another, in an irresistible desire for exploitation, and living in perpetual anxiety." — via WetPaint.
Syd Mead (Blade Runner, Tron, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Aliens)
Formal training: He worked as an architect with no formal training. Syd Mead, Inc. provided architectural renderings for hotel chains and other huge clients. He designed the interior of a Manhattan eatery for the New York firm of Philip Koether Architects.
Money quote: "I've called science fiction 'reality ahead of schedule.' I am associated with the technological world; how things are made and the techniques that make things a certain way. My futurist tendencies are to design the technologically-oriented. Architecture is part of that scenario too but I come up with architecture elements as the background, not my primary object." — Interview with Rajeev Nair.
Sir Kenneth Adam (set designer, James Bond films, plus Addams Family Values)
Formal training: He trained as an architect in London
Money quote: "I knew I wanted to be a designer, but it wasn't until my family had left Germany to settle in England, and, aged 15, I met the art director Vincent Korda, that I set my mind on film. I followed Korda's device to study architecture first and this background gave me a knowledge of different period styles and made it easy for me to provide a functional, acceptable set." [Via] At left: Design drawing for The Spy Who Loved Me.
Warren Ellis (Freak Angels, Transmetropolitan, Global Frequency, etc.)
Formal training: None, but he's a big fan. Here's a picture of him addressing the Architects' Association.
Money quote: "I think perhaps this building says a little more than it was intended to. In fact, let's admit it. IT'S A FORTRESS WITH A FUCKING MOAT. It doesn't say "welcome to a little piece of America, one of the best ideas the world ever had and a country that welcomes the tired and poor and afraid." It says "if you even look at us funny we'll pour boiling oil on you from the roof. Raise the drawbridge! Release the Mongolian Terror Trout!" – On the U.S. Embassy in London
Dr. Rachel Armstrong (The Gray's Anatomy, Space Architecture, Sci-Fi Aesthetics)
Formal training: She is a Teaching Fellow at the Bartlett and member of Professor Neil Spiller's AVATAR Research Group, developing a new architectural methodology called Systems Architecture, which is which is the study of complexity within the discipline of the built environment that enables the convergence of the nano-bio-info-cogno technologies and extends from the macroscale flow of information to the micro scale organization of building materials. She has worked as a technical tutor at the Bartlett School of Architecture with students exploring the connections between biology, medicine and architecture. (From her Bio.)
Money quote: "I am currently designing living technologies that are sensitive to the environment and may prevent or even correct the negative impact that modern technology has on our surroundings. They are Living Technologies and are made of different kinds of materials to the hard, dry, cool metals that make up our modern machines. Instead they are soft, wet and warm to the touch.
An example of one kind of Living Technology is a smart paint that can trap carbon dioxide of the surface of our buildings and convert the gas into a solid substance like limestone. The idea is to form a protective layer or ‘shell' around our homes that would have an additional knock on benefit of mopping up the carbon dioxide and binding it in a ‘paint' but we would also burn less fossil fuel to heat our better insulated homes." — via Virtual Futures
Greg Lynn (Forms, Bodies & Blobs, Animate Form)
Formal training: Professor of architecture at University of Applied Arts Vienna, a studio professor at the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, and the Davenport Visiting Professor at the Yale School of Architecture.
Money quote: "I took on the science-fiction genre because I found that architectural theory was always promising - it was always saying, "Please, please in the future, think about architecture in this way. But in Sci-Fi, you always write as if it's already happened. It gives you a whole other approach to how you can write. More importantly, I've started writing more visually. I try to do all of my writing using an atmospheric vocabulary." — Interview with Index Magazine
Frank Hampson (Creator of Dan Dare)
Formal training: A degree in design from the Victoria College of Arts and Sciences
Money quote: "He must have known a lot about architecture. You can see the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright. We looked at magazines from Life and National Geographic to, well, anything really. We sat on the roof of the old Hulton Press overlooking Fleet Street at lunchtimes, watching new buildings going up around old, bombed-out ones. I think you can see those influences in the drawings. Frank had also seen V2 rockets close up, during the Allied push into Germany." — From a Guardian article discussing how he influenced a generation of designers and engineers.