Movie history is filled with iconic homes. Architecture has always had a starring role in film, sometimes playing a part more akin to a character than a setting. At the same time, while the stately houses used in movies like The Graduate or Mr. and Mrs. Smith might look good in real estate listings, they don’t have the quirks or architectural idiosyncrasies that stand out in film. Of course, the pretty clapboard that Mr. and Mrs. Smith lived in finally demands some attention when it gets blown up at the end.
Modernist architecture has always gotten a bad rap. Detractors say it’s cold, unfriendly and antiseptic -either too angular or too curved. Who wants to live, exposed for the world to see, in a floor-to-ceiling glass and steel home? However, these types of ultra-modern properties make for stunning and memorable film settings, the perfect backdrops for thrillers, mysteries, or science fiction films. Here are 9 iconic modernist homes used in popular movies.
9. Casa Malaparte: Contempt
Not even the legendary screen goddess Brigitte Bardot could compare with the modernist marvel perched 30 meters above the sea on the island of Capri. Okay, maybe she could. And French new wave director Jean-Luc Godard seemed as happy filming her curvilinear form as he did the architecture of Casa Malaparte in the film Contempt.
In the early 1940s, Italian architect Adalberto Libera built the villa for Cuzio Malaparte, a magic realist writer. Malaparte described the house as “a self-portrait in stone,” and its reverse pyramidal stairs, freestanding curving white wall, and patio roof are perfect reflections of the Italian writer’s magic realist style.
8. The Overby House: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Director David Fincher filmed most of Stieg Larsson’s bestselling mystery novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, in Sweden. For the home of Martin Vanger, the main antagonist in the story, Fincher chose the Overby House, a sleek, contemporary summer home designed by John Robert Nilsson.
Located on Varmdo, one of the many small islands outlying Stockholm, the property is comprised of lacquered steel, plaster, white ash wood and limestone, as well as floor-to-ceiling glass. According to Architectism, “the project was designed to comply with rigorous design requirements and was executed in a very precise manner to have clean lines throughout, bringing a contemporary piece of architecture to the rocky headlands of the Stockholm archipelago.”
7. Hoke Residence: Twilight
Not only are the days of living in castles or run-down Victorians over, but it also appears modern vampires have good taste in architecture. Located on the border of Portland, Oregon’s Forest Park, the Hoke House was the residence of Edward Cullen and his family in Twilight. Skylab Architecture, one of the West Coast’s most inventive firms (it recently finished the W Hotel in Seattle) designed the contemporary, viewfinder-like home.
The house was completed in 2007 as a private residence for John Hoke, the director of footwear design at Nike. The 4,800 square foot property features slatted wood paneling and concrete, both of which blend seamlessly with the landscape. According to Skylab Architecture, “The residence provides a venue for interplay between the vibrant outdoor environment and dramatic interior spaces that simultaneously shelter occupants, and frame the expanse of the surroundings.”
6. The Sculptured House: Sleeper
When asked about his “Sculptured House,” architect Charles Deaton said, “People aren’t angular. So why should they live in rectangles?” Constructed in 1963 on Genesse Mountain outside Denver, Colorado, the Sculptured House is a three-level, elliptically curved structure. It was originally designed as a sculpture –hence the name, although locals call it the “mushroom” or “clamshell” house –and the floor plan was drawn up later.
The 7,500 square foot curiosity was featured in Woody Allen’s film, Sleeper. According to The Denver Post, the Sculptured House’s new owners, Larry and Toni Winkler, plan to transform the energy-sucking home (there are 56 windows) into a showcase of energy efficiency. They’ve even contacted HGTV to see if the network has any interest in basing a realty show on the renovations.
5. Lovell House: L.A. Confidential
The Lovell House was the home of Pierce Morehouse Patchett, a drug baron and porn king, in the 1997 film noir L.A. Confidential. Designed by Richard Neutra, the Lovell House was built in Los Angeles in 1927. It was the first steel frame home in the U.S. and an early example of the use of gunite -sprayed-on concrete. Born in Vienna, Richard Neutra studied under Adolf Loos, and later in his career he worked briefly with Frank Lloyd Wright. Frank Lloyd Wright’s influence can be seen in Neutra’s European style modernism and openness to the landscape. The interlocking volumes and complex framing of the Lovell House recall abstract sculpture, and there’s a cubistic sense of place in how the building looks toward the California sky. According to the Financial Times, “This combination of central European complexity and west coast sunshine proves the perfect foil for Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential, with its labyrinthine plot and corrupt characters.”
4. The Ben Rose House: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Designed by James A. Speyer, a student of Mies van der Rohe, the glass and steel box Ben Rose House was built in Highland Park, Illinois in 1953. The 5,300 square foot property has four bedrooms and four baths and is admired by architecture enthusiasts for being cantilevered and glass-wrapped. In 1974, David Haid, a student of Speyer, built the glass car pavilion that became famous in the John Hughes classic, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. In the film, Cameron Frye suffers one of the greatest teen angst meltdowns in movie history and accidently pushes his father’s beloved Ferrari through one of the house’s glass windows and into the ravine below. After being on the market five years, the Ben Rose House recently sold for $1.06 million. The house was originally listed in 2009 at $2.3 million. No word yet on whether or not the midcentury, modernist structure came with a vintage red Ferrari.
3. The Sheats/Goldstein Residence: The Big Lebowski
“The Dude’s” misadventures in Joel and Ethan Coen’s cult classic, The Big Lebowski, find him at the party crib of Jackie Treehorn, producer of adult entertainment including the classic, “Logjammin.” Treehorn’s posh Malibu pad is actually the Sheets/Goldstein residence, a property designed by John Lautner and located in Benedict Canyon. Built between 1961 and 1963, the house is an example of American Organic Architecture, a school of design that promotes form as an extension of the environment. The Sheets/Goldstein residence is built into the sandstone hillside, with a uniquely styled roof that shears down from the living room to the pool in one continuous angled line. The roof is comprised of 750 skylights. The Sheets/Goldstein residence also appeared in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.
2. Ennis House: Bladerunner
Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Ennis House is currently owned by billionaire Ronald Burkle. Located in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, Wright built the residential home in 1924. The Ennis House is based on ancient Mayan temples and the symmetrical reliefs found on buildings in Uxmal. Its prominent detail is the relief ornamentation on its interlocking, pre-cast concrete blocks.
Over the years, the Ennis House has become one of the most iconic and recognizable film settings. It’s appeared in over a dozen movies, from House on Haunted Hill and Day of the Locust to Rush Hour and The Thirteenth Floor. However, the home is best remembered for its appearance in Ridley Scott’s 1982 dystopian masterpiece, Bladerunner. Although only a few scenes were actually filmed at the Ennis House, molds of the Mayan-inspired patterns on the textile blocks were taken and used throughout the set of the sci-fi classic, creating a mise-en-scene both ancient and futuristic.
1. Chemosphere: Body Double
Designed by John Lautner in 1960, the Chemosphere is a modernist octagon house that hovers over the San Fernando Valley like a flying saucer. Due to a 45-degree slope, the home is perched atop a 5-foot wide concrete pole thirty feet in the air, which not only gives the occupants of the house a spectacular view, but makes it look as if the structure is floating in the sky.
Lautner’s work combines progressive engineering and space age flair; his unconventional style breaks down architecture’s four-wall paradigm, so it’s no surprise his buildings often show up on TV and in the movies. The Chemoshpere was first used as a futuristic residence in The Duplicate Man, and the house later appeared in an episode of the sci-fi series The Outer Limits. The retro-futuristic property, however, is best known for its role in Body Double, Brian De Palma’s 1984 erotic thriller.
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