Hollywood’s love affair with the architect – The Property Chronicle
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Hollywood’s love affair with the architect

The Professor

… and why other property professionals get lumped with the bad guy roles.

This article was originally published in April 2019.

“I don’t build in order to have clients, I have clients in order to build!” raves Howard Roark, the architect hero of the 1949 film, The Fountainhead, based on the Ayn Rand novel of the same name.

The client’s representatives, facing him across the boardroom table, have just asked him to make “a small compromise” to his austerely Modernist proposals for their new office building. He refuses to budge – and when they remind him that they’re the ones who will be paying for both the building and his professional services, he tells them that (though they may not realise it) they are actually there to serve him

Not surprisingly, he doesn’t get the job. 

Although seldom as untamed as Roark (he later blows up one of his own schemes when it is not built to his exacting specifications), in movieland the architect has often been portrayed as the Good Guy – a principled, creative, sensitive type, rarely motivated by money. 

Other property professionals have been the Bad Boys – greedy and ruthless (real estate investors, property developers, fund managers and owners) or sad and somewhat desperate (property agents). Even though there is so much more to being an agent than just selling or letting square footage, the clichéd ABC (Always Be Closing) salesman has been a fixture in fiction and therefore in the public consciousness. 

Consider the pitiable lives of the real estate agents in Glengarry Glen Ross(1992) or the uncaring property developers turned vandalisers of architectural heritage played by Hugh Grant and David Haig in Two Weeks’ Notice(2002). In TheDevil’s Advocate (1997), a New-York-based real estate tycoon-developer is actually in league with Satan himself.

Does it actually matter how movie makers see those in the property industry? I would say so

The Professor

About David Shiers

David Shiers

David was formerly Reader in Sustainable Property and is now an Affiliate of the School of the Built Environment at Oxford Brookes University. He is co-author (with BRE) of the Green Guide to Specification - an environmental profiling system for construction materials and part of the BREEAM and the Code for Sustainable Homes programmes; helping designers and specifiers to reduce the environmental impacts of their buildings. Globally, there are more than 558,200 BREEAM certified developments and almost 2,260,300 buildings registered for assessment. Green Guide has been the recommended materials specification standard for the UK Government, many Local Authorities and private sector organisations such as the Westfield retail group and was used in the building of the London 2012 Olympics. David was a judge on the Construction News panel for the national UK Building Quality Awards between 2010-2013. David’s research paper, Socially Responsible Property Investment (SRPI) in the Journal of Property Investment & Finance (2007), written with Miles Keeping, Dan Rapson and Claire Roberts, was cited as a key text in United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Finance Initiative report Building Responsible Property Portfolios.

Articles by David Shiers

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