ArchiModels | The Fountainhead

The Fountainhead (1949) | King Vidor

Previously in this series, we’ve looked at how architecture models are used as a comedic device or in the planning of a crime. In this edition of ArchiModels we’ll look at how objects such as models are utilized in film to act as an extension of a character. The most common example I can think of is when models of ships or oil rigs are used to represent the legacy of a character who is either not present in the scene, or has passed away in the story. When it comes to architecture, the best example of this is probably that of Howard Roark (Gary Cooper), the stubborn, uncompromising lead in the film adaptation of Ayn Rand’s classic The Fountainhead.The Fountainhead_04

No. If you want my work, you take it as it is, or not at all.

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Roark’s life and legacy is his work. The models represent this legacy. Until his designs come to fruition, the models (and drawings) are his legacy. The designs come from his mind, therefore the products represent a part of him.

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In this classic scene he refuses a commission after the clients propose he add on a bit of “classical dignity” to satisfy the whim of the public. Unfortunately for them, the copying and superficial application of popular style goes against everything he stands for and believes in, and rubs him the wrong way.

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A building has integrity, just like a man, And just as seldom… It must be true to its own idea, have its own form and serve its own purpose.

Roark is recognised by his designs and work. Dominique Francon (Patricia Neal), for example, is impressed by the model and design of his building before learning that it was produced by the same man (and mind) she was drawn to at the quarry. The model stands in for Roark in this scene – at least until he arrives at the party.

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As the creator, Roark claims ownership and the rights to do with his designs as he pleases. He is represented as a man with a god-complex, who often towers over his models and it is ultimately this refusal to lower his standards and betray his principles that gets him into trouble, and later earns him respect and recognition.

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ArchiModels is a monthly series by Suné Horn; showcasing short explorations into how architectural models have been utilised as supporting (and sometimes extensions of) characters in film.