Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Architecture in Iconic Films and TV Shows

Article originally posted by Architectural Digest

Long after his 1959 death, the collaborations between Frank Lloyd Wright’s foundation and everything from fashion to tea brands stand as proof that the architect’s impact cannot be overstated. A number of Wright-designed builds have been classified as UNESCO Heritage sites, while some of his most celebrated work has moved admirers to create their own reimagined versions in homage. The Wisconsin native was, without a doubt, a starchitectsome would argue, the first modern master to have earned the designation. But he might also be thought of as a rather successful set designer, considering the myriad FLW edifices that have served as backdrops for Hollywood productions over the years. From the Guggenheim Museum’s appearance in Men in Black to Ennis House’s role in Blade Runner, Wright’s unique builds have enjoyed their own star turns in film and television. For TV lovers, cinephiles, and Frank fans alike, read on to see which of the architect’s spaces have played supporting roles on the small screen and in major motion pictures.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

A pivotal action scene in The International, starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts, takes place in the Guggenheim Museum. Photo: TCD / Prod.DB / Alamy Stock Photo

The swirling form of Wright’s pale gray 1959 build certainly sticks out among the other structures on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. While the Guggenheim Museum’s distinctive style was panned upon its debut, the general public seems to have warmed to it in the years since, with big names like Beyoncé and blockbuster productions like the 2000 sci-fi comedy Men in Black offering their co-signs.

The Guggenheim is an example of organic architecture. Photo: Ben Hider/Getty Images

The stark color palette and many curving floors of its interior creates a compelling, cinematic playground for action sequences, such as in Men in Black and the 2009 action thriller The International. Though its striking limestone façade is also scene-stealing, even in quick cameos, including its brief appearance in Christian Bale’s 2000 black comedy–horror classic, American Psycho.

Manhattan, Woody Allen’s 1979 paean to New York, might be the museum’s most famous film role. The rom-com features the Guggenheim alongside a number of famous Big Apple locales including the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art and Lincoln Center, shot in black-and-white.

Marin County Civic Center

Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) stands atop the Marin County Civic Center in the sci-fi film Gattaca. Photo: TCD / Prod.DB / Alamy Stock Photo

The interiors and exteriors (even the roof) of the Marin County Civic Center lent a considerably futuristic feel to the 1997 cult classic Gattaca, starring Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and Jude Law. Glass walls and barrel-vaulted skylights are among the many features of the San Rafael, California, structure that make it shine on screen. The space had been used to a similar effect for George Lucas’s debut feature THX 1138, a sci-fi thriller released in 1979.

A 1961 photo shows the 172-foot tower is being brought into place during Marin County Civic Center’s construction. Photo: Duke Downey/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

“We know that the good building is not the one that hurts the landscape, but is one that makes the landscape more beautiful than it was before [it] was built,” said Wright, who was a controversial pick for the publicly funded project at the time. “In Marin County, you have one of the most beautiful landscapes I have seen, and I am proud to make the buildings of this county characteristic of the beauty of the county.”

Marin County Civic Center marked Wright’s final commission. The architect died several years before construction was completed in 1962.

Ennis House

Textured blocks frame a passageway in Wright’s Ennis House. Photo: Liz O. Baylen/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

While 1982’s Blade Runner only used the home for an exterior shot of its façade and motor court, Ennis House’s Mayan Revival–style was emulated off-site at the Warner Brothers sound stages for interior scenes of protagonist Rick Deckard’s (Harrison Ford) apartment.

The 1959 horror film House on Haunted Hill used exterior shots of the peculiar Los Angeles home to set a spooky tone. “In just a minute, I’ll show you the only really haunted house in the world,” Watson Pritchard (Elisha Cook Jr.) warns the other characters before ushering them inside.

The 6,000-square-foot home has four bedrooms and three full bathrooms. Photo: Michael Buckner/Getty Images

Also known as the Ennis-Brown house, the Los Feliz dwelling was originally built in 1924 and named for its owners, Mabel and Charles Ennis. Over 27,000 blocks hand-cast into aluminum molds were used to construct the abode. Wright designed four LA-area structures in a similar textile block style.

Eucalyptus trees and tall grasses on the property contribute to the structure’s overgrown, hidden temple atmosphere. Ricardo DeAratanha/Getty Images

Also known as Millard House, this Southern California home has been featured in two sci-fi heavy hitters: a 1994 episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and again in season two of the HBO prestige drama Westworld. The show reproduced a version of the home for scenes in season three.

“We were able to use Frank Lloyd Wright’s Millard House in Pasadena in the second season because the house was currently on the market during filming, and we had been looking for Wrightian houses at the time,” production designer Howard Cummings said in 2020. “We wanted to go back to the house [for season three], but we weren’t allowed back because it had just been sold. Shooting in the actual house was quite difficult anyway because it’s small and highly protected, so at some point, it became more reasonable to rebuild it as a set.”

The two-story build, set into the ridge of a Pasadena hill, was commissioned by rare book dealer Alice Millard. Construction on the four-bedroom, four-bathroom residence was completed in 1923. The textured concrete blocks that comprise its dynamic façade are also featured throughout the interiors. Despite being a century old, and harkening even further back into history with its ancient temple-like design, both sci-fi productions clearly considered Wright’s structure to be timeless.

La Miniatura underwent restoration work after it was purchased in 2000. Photo: Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

One thought on “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Architecture in Iconic Films and TV Shows”

  1. Peter Baechle says:

    What about the “Clinton Walker” house in “A Summer Place”?

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