See How These TV Shows And Films Use Public Spaces To Their Design Advantage

Photo courtesy of Emmanuel Guimier/Netflix.

While the viewer often doesn’t think about such time-consuming details, filming any scene outdoors and in public places requires nail-biting negotiations. And once acquiring necessary permits, there is a limited time a film crew can stop traffic as well as pedestrian crossings to film the wanted scene.

However, the ready-made architectural details of buildings’ exteriors, as well as landmarks people easily recognize, are essential for rooting the narrative of many shows and films.

It is really a skill to film these scenes. Not only is it a challenge to light properly, but set decorators oversee details from outdoor trash cans to flowers on apartment building entrances.

Take a look at the nominees for “Best Use of Public Space” in our “Best Dressed Rooms in TV and Films Awards,” and be sure to vote for your favorite.

Photo courtesy of Glen Wilson/Warner Bros. Pictures.

Judas and the Black Messiah

Our judges voted on a variety of choices. Famed set designer Derek McLane liked Judas and the Black Messiah since a lot of the outside shots reminded him of his Chicago hometown. The irony of course is that the film was actually shot in Cleveland, Ohio because it was a cheaper location. But that also shows you the skill of filmmakers to recreate iconic landmarks.


Photo courtesy of Stephanie Branchu/Netflix.

Emily In Paris

Set decorator Lydia Marks gave her vote to Emily in Paris. “Paris and its architectural beauty was treated as a character in the show much the same way New York City was seen in Sex and the City, always as the 5th character,” she says. “The audience falls in love with Paris because they are allowed to discover it again freshly through the eyes of a long and perhaps culturally naive foreigner. It sparkles.”

Producer Gianna Palminteri also liked Emily in Paris as a love letter to France. Perhaps in wanting to see Paris again, we want these reminders and memories.


Photo courtesy of Emmanuel Guimier/Netflix.


Lupin was a crowd favorite with the judges. Many focused on one memorable scene set at the Louvre.

“The Louvre glass pyramid in Paris was fantastic for its use of this otherwise lobby,” says architect Alexander Gorlin. “The main entrance of the Louvre was now repurposed as the intense focus of the auction/crime scene of the necklace of Marie Antoinette.”

Adds interior decorator and author Kit Kemp, “the use of the Louvre in Paris for the opening scenes of Lupin showcased I.M. Pei’s pyramid in such a dramatic way.”

Were the other scenes as memorable? Did France come alive with this series? That indeed will be the question the judges and you will have to decide for the April 22nd deadline.


Photo courtesy of David Giesbrecht/HBO.

The Undoing

In HBO’s sleek murder mystery, “The Frick Museum’s main gallery was the setting for a crucial scene between Nicole Kidman and her father, Donald Sutherland,” notes architect Alexander Gorlin.

Adds art critic Alexandra Peers, “He lounges in its Garden Court and discusses ‘whodunnit’ with family members in front of the Veronese, an Italian artist known for his opulence and theatricality. The way the actor settles into the museum’s tufted bench tells the audience everything it needs to know about his character, billionaire aristocrat Franklin Reinhardt.”

Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s International Realty.

The Frasers multilevel townhouse where Grace and Jonathan Fraser – played by Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant – lived, created the mood of a charming neighborhood. It was at 8 East 63rd Street and subsequently went on sale for over $29 million dollars. This was a contrast to the doorman building where Grace’s father lived.

Photo courtesy of HBO.

The Undoing, adds Alexandra Peers, nailed the Upper East Side, by filming so much outdoors – including New York City’s walkability, its surprising small neighborhood feel and its luxurious townhouses, apartment buildings and activities.


Photo courtesy of Netflix.

The Crown

Set decorator Melinda Ritz gave a vote for The Crown since one sees not only the castles of British Royal life but also the beautiful pastoral homes in the countryside. Floral designer Jenny Tobin also raved about The Crown’s use of public spaces and marvels at all the times the crew were given the go-ahead to shoot these scenes.

Although Wilton House in Salisbury was where interiors were shot, there are the memorable scenes of Buckingham Palace where Prime Minister Thatcher was visiting the Queen, as well as Balmoral Castle in Scotland, the site for outings between Princess Diana and Prince Charles during their courtship.

Photo courtesy of Netflix.

And of course, through the series, the viewer sees Sandringham and Althorp – Princess Diana’s ancestral home – as well as Windsor Castle, which is the world’s oldest working castle.

As Ritz says, these landmarks offer authenticity to the show’s narrative.

What were your favorites? Let us know here and you will be part of the April 22nd tally.

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