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Architecture in films: 6 iconic buildings

In addition to an A-list cast, witty script and awe-inspiring locales, some movies are truly visually-driven masterpieces which feature beautiful cinematography and exquisite architecture.

Expectedly so, with an influx of architects crossing over to the film industry over the past centuries – as both are creative, high-profile fields. According to BBC, architecture students who spent five-figure sums on their education are using their digital animation and design skills to break into Hollywood. With all that glamour, who could blame them?

The result? Stunning movie sets, buildings and apartments that we design-centric nerds focus on – even more than Ben Affleck or Scarlett Johansson themselves. After all, brilliant architecture in a movie is just as important its characters.

Take a look at these major films which feature iconic architecture that stand out and are memorable – sometimes, even when the movies are not.

(Main image credit: Marvel Studios

A Single Man

The John Lautner creation in A Single Man is what mid-century architecture dreams are made of. With designer-turned-director Tom Ford leading the filming process, it is no surprise then that aesthetics and design plays a huge role in the movie.

The architecture featured in the movie is the Schaffer Residence in Verdugo Hills, hidden in a wooded valley at the foot of the Verdugo Mountains – featuring redwood, concrete and glass exteriors. Built in 1949, the form and orientation of the architecture was influenced by the oak forest surrounding it.

(Image credit: Judith Lautner/John Lautner Foundation)

Grand Budapest Hotel

Anyone who has seen Wes Anderson’s movies wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Anderson once dreamt of being an architect. Quite evidently, as his movies mostly revolve around a single, highly detailed, often custom-built location. His 2014 award-winning film Grand Budapest Hotel is no exception.

Inspired by features of several different hotels, the focus of Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel is a lavish, pastel-hued building situated atop an alp. Bearing a strong resemblance to the architecture featured in the movie is the Palace Bristol in Valencia – which features the same ornate pink facade, grandeur and surrounding landscape.

(Image credit: Grand Budapest Hotel

Iron Man

Tony Stark’s mansion built in Malibu is #mancavegoals. Boasting stunning sea views of the Californian coastline, an infinity pool and a dedicated helipad, the property dreamt up by Phil Saunders is the perfect residence for a multi-billionaire.

The mansion may be conceptual and a product of computer graphics, but it was apparently modelled after a real apartment perched on a cliff of La Jolla in San Diego – an 11,000 square feet mansion with 4 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms and private access to the beach. You can ball like Tony Stark, after all.

(Image credit: Marvel Studios

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

One of the most memorable houses captured on film is the all-glass, freestanding modernist garage in the 1986 movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The garage nestled in Highland Park, Chicago is the same one lead character Cameron Frye drove his dad’s 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder convertible into.

The 4-bedroom, 4-bath house was designed in 1953 by A. James Speyer and David Haid – and was sold in 2014 for S$1.5 million after five years on the market.

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures


The 21st-century vampire doesn’t lurk in the shadows in a medieval castle and sleep in a coffin. The 21st-century vampire is a broody, (arguably) handsome man who lives in a beautiful glass house in the forest – and glitters in the sun.

The Hoke House, designed by architect Jeff Kovel, is the home base of the Cullen family in the Twilight series. In real life, the building is home to Nike executive John Hoke and his family. Located at the border of Portland’s Forest Park, the residence’s design is an interplay between the vibrant outdoor environment and dramatic interior spaces that frame the expanse of the surroundings.

(Image credit: Skylab Architecture


The Great Gatsby

Watching The Great Gatsby, we were dazzled by the raucous parties and lavish flapper costumes. However, what really stood out was Jay Gatsby’s outrageous Long Island mansion. After all, the F. Scott Fitzgerald did want to illustrate America’s obsession with wealth and material things – and the house itself is symbolic of that.

With interiors just as lavish as its exterior, the Gatsby’s mansion is undoubtedly one of the most memorable settings in movie history. While the film took place in the Roaring Twenties, the mansion was dreamt up by set designer Catherine Martin and based on Long Island’s real architectural flair – with its architecture inspired by Oheka Castle, La Selva, and Beacon Towers.

(Image credit: The Great Gatsby) 


Dewi Nurjuwita
Senior Writer
Dewi Nurjuwita is a travel and design writer who can be found exploring the streets of foreign cities with passport in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.