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Screencraft: Production Design and Art Direction

By Peter Ettedgui. Rotovision, 2000. 208pp. £27.50

As so many of the finest buildings languishing in our memories are from films rather than reality, it seems surprising that so little attention is paid to their designers, writes Edwin Heathcote. The production designer on a film has the kind of control over an environment which architects can only dream about, and their work has created the background to some of the most striking images in modern culture. Peter Ettedgui redresses a hole in our education with this richly illustrated and fascinating book.

Ken Adam has recently come in for a lot of attention through a wonderful exhibition at the Serpentine, which highlighted his designs that created the look for Dr Strangelove and the Bond films. He is joined here by names which deserve to be better known, including Dean Tavoularis, who created the magnificent sets for Coppola's Godfather series and Apocalypse Now; Wynn Thomas, who worked in the wildly contrasting filmic worlds of Spike Lee and Tim Burton; and Ben van Os whose designs contributed so much to Peter Greenaway's films, where the sets are among the most important characters.

There are also the sci-fi new worlds of Dan Weil's sets for The Fifth Element - his transformed Manhattan is pictured left - and John Beard's for Brazil. These are both visions and warnings, which can be constructed without the social consequences of the real thing.

This is an important book, in that it deals with architecture that is familiar to a truly wide audience, and so could encourage a far broader discussion of the subject. And the illustrations are irresistible: sketches and models of some of the last century's most interesting architecture.

Edwin Heathcote is an architect in London

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