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What is AFTDb?

As two of the most accessible and ubiquitous media artifacts of the past century, film and television productions not only reflect the world around us, but they actively shape our cultural norms and expectations. Unsurprisingly, this influence on audience preconceptions carries over into the realms of career expectations and professional identities. This database project, which I have titled the Architects in Film and Television Database (AFTDb), looks specifically at fictional films and television shows in which characters play the role of architects. It is an attempt to facilitate a comparison between the imaginary architect and its real-world, professional counterpart. The AFTDb hopes to help investigate how closely the fictional architects, submitted to the viewing public as entertainment, reflect the architecture profession as it exists in reality. This comparison helps not only to inform the general audiences about architects and their role in society, but it also provides practicing architects new insights into their own profession, calling on them to re-examine their own professional work environments and demographics.


Viewed as a digital scholarship/humanities project, the AFTDb can hopefully serve architects and architecture students by providing opportunities for them to observe how the outside world views their chosen profession. By engaging and interacting with projects like this, architects can simultaneously combat negative clichés regarding their profession while also confronting uncomfortable truths when architecture stereotypes, now magnified on the screen, align with the realities of the profession. Hopefully the AFTDb will lead to increased self-reflection among architects as well as inspire them to proactively transform architecture into a more equitable and relevant profession within the eyes of the general public.

Why does AFTDb appear to be incomplete, include inaccuracies, or is missing information?

As this is a longitudinal study, the AFTDb is continually undergoing revision, in both form and content, as new films and televisions shows are created or uncovered. Furthermore, due to the rarity and inaccessibility of much of the media included in AFTDb, it is hard to guarantee that no errors or oversights are present. Unless otherwise indicated the AFTDb only includes films and television shows that its editor has personally viewed or those that have accompanying text-based plot summaries indicating the presence of an architect. Despite these challenges and shortcomings, many interesting trends can reliably be drawn from the AFTDb, placing both the real and fictitious architects in a new light. As AFTDb grows in both size and detail, there is the strong possibility that continued analysis and mining may yield even more meaningful and nuanced insights.


(To report a mistake, correction, or make a suggestion, please email AFTDb)

Why is AFTDb missing this well-known documentary/docudrama about Frank Lloyd Wright (or Antoni Gaudi, Stanford White, Albert Speer, etc)?

As a research project, AFTDb does not include any media which depicts actual architects, whether those depictions come in the form of documentaries, docudramas, alternative histories, or other such fictionalized narratives. The reason for this is twofold. Besides the increased effort to capture all documentaries about all past or present practicing architects (which would be herculean in scope), these films and television shows do not really contribute to the larger aims of AFTDb as an attempt to view the profession of architecture from the outside-in. This methodology negates the inclusion of documentaries. But even fictionalized versions of real-world architects are too heavily biased by historic documents and/or depictions to merit inclusion. These materials can, and do, easily skew the casting and makeup decisions in an attempt to better match or recreate the actual portrayal of the historic architects. Thus, including these films and television shows negates the underlying research goal of generating data on the “imagined” conception or vision of the architect as an image.

If AFTDb is about architects, why are there contractors, developers, and structural engineers listed?

There are a handful of film and television shows listing contractors, developers, and structural engineers. Often these characters are mistaken or misremembered by audience members as being architects. Rather than remove these films and television shows, they remain in the AFTDb for two reason: first, even in their misremembering, these characters still inform the larger perception of the architecture profession; and second, if these film and television shows were removed, there would continue to be ongoing requests to add them.

How does AFTDb define gender?

Whenever possible AFTDb defines gender using the Human Rights Campaign's definition of gender identity, “one’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One's gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.” Because it is not always possible to discern the “innermost” conceptualizations of the architect characters from their scripted dialogue, AFTDb then falls back on the Human Rights Campaign's definition of gender expression, “the external appearance of one's gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, haircut or voice, and which may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being either masculine or feminine.” To this end AFTDb defines three broad categories of gender: Female, Male, Non-binary/Gender-fluid. Transgender individuals are categorized according to their preferred identification (i.e. a transgender individual who identifies as female in a film or television show will be categorized as a female). While this is an imperfect system, it is functionally workable for the purposes of AFTDb.


(To suggest alternative ways to defining gender, please email AFTDb)

How does AFTDb define race and ethnicity?

Wherever possible AFTDb determines the race/ethnicity of the architect characters according to their self-identification within the film or television show (i.e. if a character identifies as Black, but the actual actor who plays the character is Multiracial, the character is categorized as Black). Because it is not always possible to discern the race/ethnicity of the architect characters from their scripted dialogue, AFTDb then falls back on the race/ethnicity of the actor to determine categorization. To this end AFTDb defines eight broad categories of race/ethnicity: Black, White, Hispanic/Latino, Indigenous, Middle Eastern, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Multiracial. If there are mutiple architect characters from a variety of race/ethnicities, the file or television show is identified as Multiple Ethnicities. While this is an imperfect system, it is functionally workable for the purposes of AFTDb.


(To suggest alternative ways to defining race/ethnicity, please email AFTDb)

Are their any other products or publications related to AFTDb?

Poster presented at the 2019 Association of Architecture School Llibrarian (AASL) Annual Conference in Denver, Colorado.


(To get your AFTDb project (poster, paper, article, video, etc.) listed here, please email AFTDb)

What CMS (content management system) is AFTDb built on?

Made using VideoDB with modifications

How does AFTDb handle copyrighted materials?

This site may contain copyrighted material(s) the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. In accord with the educational mission of this database, this material is meant to help advance understanding of film and television casting as it relates to gender, racial, ethnic, and other biases that may exist within the entertainment industry when it comes to the portrayal of the architects and the architecture profession. This site believes this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For further information on fair use, go to: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode17/usc_sec_17_00000107----000-.html/. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you disagree with this fair use claim, a well-argued takedown request may be submitted through the following email address AFTDb for consideration.