The Architecture of “Metropolis (1927)”

The classic 1927 silent, black-and-white film Metropolis, from German director Fritz Lang, showcases a look decades ahead where futuristic urban dystopia cities are designed and built in vertical layers (rather than horizontally) based upon reflecting the varied social statuses in society. The film’s plot involves a futuristic city that is sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, and the son of the city’s mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their social class differences. The architecture of Metropolis could pretty easily be seen and recognized in several major cities across the world today, and shows influences from a number of architectural styles, including (but not limited to): Futurist, Art Deco, and Gothic.

Futurist Architecture is an early-20th century form of architecture born in Italy, characterized by anti-historicism, strong chromaticism, long dynamic lines, and the suggestion of speed, motion, urgency and lyricism. It was part of the Futurism Art movement founded by poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, based on his manifesto, the Manifesto of Futurism in 1909. Futurism (as a whole) was considered a rejection of history and the past, while celebrating speed, machinery, violence, youth and industry. Futurist architecture was also an advocation of the modernisation and cultural rejuvenation of Italy.

Art Deco Architecture is a varied and eclectic design style that began in Paris in the 1920s and flourished internationally during the 1930s and late 1940s. The style influenced all areas of design (not just architecture), including interior design, industrial design, fashion and jewelry, paintings, graphic arts and film. Art deco represented elegance, glamour, functionality and modernity, and its use of linear symmetry was a distinct departure from its predecessor’s — Art Nouveau — style, which utilized flowing asymmetrical organic curves. Art Deco embraced influences from many different styles of the early 20th century (i.e., neoclassical, constructivism, cubism, modernism and futurism), while drawing inspiration from ancient Egyptian and Aztec forms. Art Deco is also noted for its basis and meaning being purely decorative, as many other design movements before it and after it had political or philosophical beginnings/intentions.

Gothic Architecture is a style that flourished during the high and late medieval period, and is most familiar as the architecture of many of the cathedrals, churches, castles, palaces, town halls, guild halls, universities and to a less prominent extent, private dwellings throughout Europe. Its characteristic features include the pointed arch, the ribbed vault and the flying buttress. In Gothic architecture, the whole building is designed to make people look up, and the a goal of the building’s design was to construct the structure so high vertically that it would “reach the heavens.” In many of the great churches, cathedrals and civic buildings that embrace the Gothic style, their powerfully expressed characteristics lent themselves to appeal to the emotions of the building’s patrons.

In 2008, a print of Lang’s original cut of the film was found in a museum in Argentina, and after a long restoration process, the newly-restored film was publicly shown in Berlin and Frankfurt on February 12th, 2010. You can check out the trailer to the restored edition of Metropolis below and enjoy the future today! #TimeParadox FTW!

[Find Metropolis on Metacritic, Rotten Tomatoes, and purchase it here]

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