Films & Architecture: “Blade Runner”

Following with the films we will recommend every week, this time we want to introduce “Blade Runner”. Another classic from the ’80 that shows a future with an atmosphere that intents to shape the urban space within which we will move in the current century. The soundtrack, composed by Vangelis deserves to be mentioned as it plays a fundamental role in the comprehension of this futuristic American city.

More info after the break.


Original Title: Blade Runner
Year: 1982
Runtime: 117 min.
Country: United States
Director: Ridley Scott
Writer: Hampton Fancher, David Peoples y Roland Kibbee
Soundtrack: Vangelis
Photography Director: Jordan Cronenweth
Cast: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, Daryl Hannah


In Los Angeles 2019, humans have genetically engineered Replicants, which are essentially humans who are designed for labor and entertainment purposes. They are illegal on earth, and if they make it to our planet they are to be hunted down and killed.

Rick Deckard is a “blade runner”, or a hunter of replicants. A group of replicants make it to Los Angeles to seek out a way to extend their life span. Sent to the Tyrell Corporation to ensure that the test works on Nexus-6 models, Deckard discovers that Tyrell’s assistant Rachael is an experimental replicant who believes herself to be human; Rachael’s consciousness has been enhanced with false memories to provide an “emotional cushion”. As a result, a more extensive test is required to determine if she is a replicant. Replicants have a built in 4 year life span, and this group is at the end. Although he hunts them to the end, the replicants end up teaching the detached Deckard what it really means to be human.


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The former designer for Ford Motor Company, as well as “futurist consultant” for companies like Sony or Chrysler, Syd Mead is responsable for the development of these futuristic ideas. Specifically for the film he worked close to designing the environment for the movie, and his drawings of  the “spinners” (flying cars) shaped the 25 models utilized on the movie.

Cite: Portilla, Daniel. "Films & Architecture: “Blade Runner”" 15 May 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 20 Sep 2014. <>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down +7

    should mention Syd Mead

  2. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    something interesting about the architecture that I noticed is that the atmosphere in LA seems to be so dense with smog that it is always raining and its never sunny out, so they need street lights all the time. So, taking advantage of this new source of light, all the interiors I can remember only use window lighting. There are hardly any lamps inside buildings. This effect caused mullions and blinds to cast deep shadows everywhere.

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      Scott chose the smog and rain as a gimmick to hide the cranes moving the flying cars, though the atmospheric result became almost prophetic now that we have to deal with issues like global warming and acid rain.

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    No mention of the architecturally significant buildings – FLW’s Ennis house & the Bradbury Building – used as a backdrop??

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      The Ennis House wasn’t actually used. One of the set designers took a mold of an Ennis House block and used it to make tiles.

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    Scott has been accused by Conspiracy theories of injecting Blade Runner with a lot of subliminal symbols of Masonic undertones, like the giant Pyramid that’s the headquarters of Tyrrell corporation.

    Truth be told, the movie is deeply gnostic in its undertones of trying to find the truth behind the nature of reality, and ultimately personal nature. Themes that obsessed Philip K. Dick.

  5. Thumb up Thumb down +4

    i like the idea of publising architectural significatn movies on arch daily, but i think it should contain information about production designers and the way how the movie was designed, or how it integrates real architecture into storytelling… this article doesn´t contain anything worth reading… come on, this is the best site about architecture, so give us best informations:)

    • Thumb up Thumb down +1

      Ondrej, the idea is to propose films relevant to architecture every week. Sometimes it is about the designers, sometimes about the locations, or about the cities were it was filmed, about the composition of the scenes, etc.

      I understand your point, but that part should be developed by you, the readers, after watching the movie that we propose. Actually, every movie post can be updated with significant information if this is provided.


  6. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    please acknowledge syd mead, the designer/ futurist who created this vision alongside scott, one that is still surprisingly fresh and has had and continues to have a major influence on entertainment design as well as architecture. also, this was the last significant totally analog sci fi movie. it marks the culmination of a century of pre-digital effects and movie magic!

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    Sasha Vierny did NOT shoot Blade Runner – the DP was the late Jordan Cronenweth (who also shot, among other things, Altered States for Ken Russell, and Stop Making Sense for Jonathan Demme).

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    What I like most about the urban design in Blade Runner is that it’s retrofuturistic. It means the architecture not only belongs to the future, but it bears things from the past. By things I mean objects, forms and ideologies at the same time. In the movie we have ruins from the past and achievements of the future, and the inhabitants (humans and androids) are still living in a polarized society.

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      i understand what you want to say and is something that i noticed and i found interesting but all the features that we find retro is to them the “present”, since the movie was shot in 1982. so after all the observations come to the point that the movie carries elements from the world as know back then and the assumptions of how it is going to look in the future.

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