In honor of Her winning best original screenplay in the Oscars last weekend, I am going to finally post this.
Spike Jonze's Her is a masterpiece of a movie that lends itself to comparison to Brazil. At least, architecturally and urbanistically, it does. One could also develop a comparison in terms of the role of commerce (Her) versus the state (Brazil) in these two narratives of a technologically-driven future, but here I am more interested in the film's ability to produce an analogous city.
The phrase 'analogous city' is one I am borrowing from Aldo Rossi's The Architecture of the City. Rossi famously cites the Canaletto painting above as evidence of the autonomy of architecture. Canaletto deploys the architecture of un-built projects and projects sited elsewhere to produce a recognizable image of another Venice - an analogous Venice. Michael Hays replaces Rossi's notion of the analogous city with the phrase virtual city, which he links to the capacity of architecture to produce or engage with a model of ontology. (See Hays' stellar October 2012 lecture on that here.)
The world of Her presents a city that is more virtual Los Angeles (Hays) than analogous Los Angeles (Rossi), since the architectural forms avoid specific reference.
Her takes place in a hyper-dense Los Angeles that looks like a contemporary East Asian city - endless towers, massively efficient infrastructure. Amazingly, Her shows its characters moving through Los Angeles without a single car. Still, Los Angeles is recognizable as itself. (Though, one of the many towers visible from Theodore's apartment may look a lot like the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco.)
As much as the cityscape panoramas of Her present the virtual Los Angeles, the interiors show us something that might be closer to the Rossi idea of the analogous. In these corporate interiors the color palettes and affinity for acrylic point toward a dot-com aesthetic that looks already passe. The interiors are similar to the costumes in this sense. This passe-ness is part of the speculative dimension of the film that makes its architecture so empathetic to the narrative.
Her is a science fiction that dares to acknowledge nostalgia.
This blog started with research, theory topics, travel and architecture discoveries during my fellowship at Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany. It continues, somewhat sporadically, with my relocation to Detroit as an Assistant Professor at University of Michigan. The blog spans architecture, urban design, planning, and tangents from these.