Films & Architecture: “The Architect”

, is not a renowned film. We have to admit that there’s not that much unique about it in terms of cinematography. However, for us the plot of this movie is quite relevant. The director uses an specific example, one built utopian residential complex in to illustrate the issues that were not considered during design of these uniformity-driven blocks.

Tell us your thoughts about this topic, and what is the kind of responsibility that relies on architects, or on the whole profession of architecture?


Original Title: The Architect
Year: 2006
Runtime: 82 min.
Country: United States
Director: Matt Tauber
Writer: David Greig, Matt Tauber
Cinematography: John Bailey
Soundtrack: Franz Waxman
Cast: Anthony LaPaglia, Isabella Rossellini, Viola Davis, Hayden Panettiere, Sebastian Stan, Walton Goggins, Paul James


Architect Leo Waters’ life is in trouble and in order to have some sense of control he attempts to laud over the other members of his family. His career appears to be going nowhere; his wife Julia (Isabella Rossellini) is a bored housewife who spends her time tending to the luxurious modern house he has designed for them; their son Martin drops out of college, and has no interest in taking up his father’s dream of also becoming an architect; their daughter Christina has entered her mid-teens, and her father has started staring at her maturing body in an unfatherly way.

Tonya Neely (Viola Davis) is a black community organizer who lives in the high-rise public housing Leo designed several years before. Her own son committed suicide, her eldest daughter just sits at home all day while her youngest daughter has managed to get a scholarship at a fancy school in a middle-class neighborhood where she lives with a wealthy black family, and feels ashamed of her background and even her own mother. Many of the residents in the housing block want the projects razed, but the local gangs are content to control the blocks where they sell drugs. One day Tonja turns up at one of the lectures Leo gives at the local university school of architecture – where he comes across as a jaded teacher – to confront him over his work and to ask him to sign her petition calling for their demolition. He initially defends his own work, but later comes up with his own idea of how to improve the housing blocks by the addition of glass and artworks. Tonya arrives at his house to see the scheme but is appalled at his approach, especially as he has not even bothered to visit the area to see how it has failed. His wife turns to support Tonya.

Martin had been sitting in the lecture hall when Tanja confronted his father and becomes intrigued enough to visit the area, and begins a friendship with a black boy, Shawn, who turns out to be a gay prostitute, and who initially thinks Shawn has come to the area to pick up men. They end up having sex, anyway. In the meantime, Christina has realised that her own father has started looking at her maturing body too closely: she wishes to escape his overbearing control yet also seek affirmation of her own maturity, for which she puts herself at risk by going to a bar, getting picked up first by a young student but then ditching him for a lorry driver to whom she offers to have sex, but which he refuses. Things come to a head when Julia announces that she is leaving Leo. He goes to the housing block and meets Tonya; he agrees to sign her petition, but she informs him that the authorities have already agree to demolish them. Leo walks to the roof of the block where he unexpectedly bump into his own son.


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Previously posted on this section…

Cite: Portilla, Daniel. "Films & Architecture: “The Architect”" 14 Aug 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 May 2015. <>
  • Eric

    Leo: I think you’re going to be excited about what I’ve done here. OK, now this represents part of the problem. Each building is going to be resurfaced with the same glass facing. And then I’m going to open up the apartments, and use the glass atrium as a community porch. See, that way the residents have a place where they can interact and relax. Now, the sculpture in the middle unifies the whole design. Its a bekon, for the community. Aside from the external design, there are internal modifications and repairs than need to be taken care of…
    Tonya: This doesn’t solve anything, Mr Waters. There are systymic problems that go beyond repair.
    Leo: Well, its not the design, it may be the excecution, but its not the design. Tanya, I was hired to build cheap homes. This was a state funded program. These are not luxury homes, Architecturally, this is a good design.
    Tonya: People are lining up to leave. They are unhappy, they get sick.
    Leo: Its mass housing. Mass housing does not cater to the individual needs of people. Look, you can redesign it, you can tear it down, but the problems are still going to be there. There will always be unemployment, there will always be drugs.
    Tonya: Mr. Waters, they did not hire you to build houses, they hired you to house people. Can’t you see this isn’t about you, this is about so much more than you. We’re not blaming you, clearly you put alot of work into this, but couldnt’ you see from the state of the projects that they were beyond repair?
    Leo: I redesigned this from my own original plans.
    Leo’s Wife: (butting in) You haven’t seen them?
    Leo: What?
    Leo’s Wife: You didnt visit them? I mean, things must have changed since you designed it. Did you want to see?
    Leo: I didnt think it was necessary. I didn’t want to cloud my perspective.
    Leo’s Wife: (who previously was infavor of the redesign) I think you should knock them down.