Anthony La Paglia as Leo Waters
The Architect tells a tale of two families, one poor black family living in a southside Chicago project and the upper-middle class white family of the architect who designed the projects. It is great in that it deals with a many number of issues, cause and effect, HUD housing, and the ability of architecture and architects to create effective public housing, but not so great in the writing, acting, pacing and 'wtf' subplots.
Tonya Neely is the matriarch of the family living in the projects, where she is campaigning to get the buildings demolished. She shows up one day to confront that architect, Leo, who designed the building, an architecture professor at Northwestern University (false), and gets the runaround. Eventually, Leo takes it upon himself to make some architectural modifications to the buildings in hope that Tonya will quit her crusade to demolish his work.
Leo: I think you're going to be excited about what I've done here. OK, now this represents part of the problem. Each building is going to be resurfaced with the same glass facing. And then I'm going to open up the apartments, and use the glass atrium as a community porch. See, that way the residents have a place where they can interact and relax. Now, the sculpture in the middle unifies the whole design. Its a bekon, for the community. Aside from the external design, there are internal modifications and repairs than need to be taken care of...
Tonya: This doesn't solve anything, Mr Waters. There are systymic problems that go beyond repair.
Leo: Well, its not the design, it may be the excecution, but its not the design. Tanya, I was hired to build cheap homes. This was a state funded program. These are not luxury homes, Architecturally, this is a good design.
Tonya: People are lining up to leave. They are unhappy, they get sick.
Leo: Its mass housing. Mass housing does not cater to the individual needs of people. Look, you can redesign it, you can tear it down, but the problems are still going to be there. There will always be unemployment, there will always be drugs.
Tonya: Mr. Waters, they did not hire you to build houses, they hired you to house people. Can't you see this isn't about you, this is about so much more than you. We're not blaming you, clearly you put alot of work into this, but couldnt' you see from the state of the projects that they were beyond repair?
Leo: I redesigned this from my own original plans.
Leo's Wife: (butting in) You haven't seen them?
Leo's Wife: You didnt visit them? I mean, things must have changed since you designed it. Did you want to see?
Leo: I didnt think it was necessary. I didn't want to cloud my perspective.
Leo's Wife: (who previously was infavor of the redesign) I think you should knock them down.
At the end of the film, Leo does visit the project and changes his mind. He signs Tonya's petition, only to be told that the vote was already passed, the building is scheduled to die.
Two interesting notes on the movie:
1) This is the second movie that I've reviewed in which Isabella Rosalleni plays the emotionally distant wife of an architect, the first being Fearless with Jeff Bridges
2) While the movie takes place in Chicago, the situation reminds me of Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis, a housing project that was built in 1956 and demolished in 1972.