Martin, the architect played by Bill Pullman in Edward Albee’s new Broadway play, has made it in life. How can we be so sure? He’s just won the Pritzker Prize. And on top of that, he’s only 50, an age which the play uses as a major milestone, but which, for an architect, is still an absurdly young age to have established so monumental a career as Martin’s. Here he is, winning the Pritzker and being commissioned to create a "City of the Future" on the plains of the Midwest, and poor Rem was already 56 when he won his Pritzker, and his latest big project is an interior renovation of a store in New York. Martin’s City of the Future smells strongly of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre City, and that acknowledged master of American architecture never won a commission for Broadacre City. It was just his dream.
In the world that Albee has created, architecture is in a pretty good state. Fairly young architects are winning huge commissions and lifetime achievement prizes. Is it a sign that the continually seesawing reputation of the profession is at a high? Albee, after all, does use the profession and Martin’s accomplishment within it to establish his character’s public respectability. And take a look at the movie In the Bedroom, where a central character, played by Nick Stahl, is a student home for the summer before heading off to architecture school. He is supposed to be a likable guy so that we as the audience feel an appropriate amount of horror when his girlfriend’s husband shoots him in the head. His bedroom walls are papered with his architectural sketches, and in an early scene, just before this same husband administers a savage beating, he is playing with blocks, showing his girlfriend (Marisa Tomei) his plan for a revolutionary new house, where everything centers on the living area. It’s a good idea, kid, but that same Frank Lloyd Wright fellow came up with something pretty similar a few years ago. One hundred, give or take. I don’t mean to be cynical about that. His naivete makes it worse to see him go, and for In the Bedroom, that’s the key, pure and simple. It may be a morally ambiguous movie, but its points are made pretty clearly, and even though the architecture is incidental, it does add to the sense that his death is the waste of a promising future.