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Editorial: Does it come in black? A short study on Batman’s Glass House from Batman v Superman

“[…] in this house with its four walls of glass I feel like a prowling animal, always on the alert. I am always restless. Even in the evening. I feel like a sentinel on guard day and night. […]” [1]


This sentence could well have been said by a certain caped crusader. It was not. This is Edith Farnsworth, the original owner of the Farnsworth House, describing how she would feel when inside it. A Modernist icon, this house was designed by the German architect Mies van der Rohe. It sits in the middle of a clearing by the Fox River in Plano, Illinois. Every so often the river will flood and the house will stand as a lone sentinel in the middle of the water, as seen in the picture.



Looks familiar? Well, let us try and make it black.



This second image shows Bruce Wayne’s Glass House in Batman vs Superman. It is basically a carbon copy of the Farnsworth, the difference being the garage at the entrance and the added space provided by the addition of one row of columns. Patrick Tatopoulos himself, the production designer, has even declared that “You are designing a house that would have been designed by van der Rohe, how ballsy is that?” [2].


In acknowledging the Miesian direct inspiration, Tatopoulos allows us to wonder if the ballsiness is all there was to this choice. Sets and locations in films are there to make sure the intended message of the plot is conveyed correctly. To dive into the possible meanings of it is to better understand a film. Bruce Wayne’s Glass House was not lightly chosen. It is one of the elements that build the impression on the audience that the balance between his two personas is tipping towards the Bat.


To begin with, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was no small fish. He was one of the biggest architects of his time, the third to occupy the director’s chair of Bauhaus. He fled to America after the school got shut down by the Nazi government, where he would design most of his iconic buildings. His architecture was praised for being based on reason and geometry, his buildings abstractions of shapes and forms built with steel and glass. His detail drawings are a thing of beauty, him being one to pay attention to every small piece and junction of the design. He was also accused by his critics of leading a “cult of austerity”, of producing oversimplified spaces, stripped down to their bare minimum. This is the guy who presented us with the saying “Less is more”. Not everyone would feel comfortable living in a Miesian house, and such is the case of Edith Farnsworth.


What we have then is Bruce Wayne, billionaire playboy, living in a glass house that was supposedly designed by one of the greatest architects of all times. Absolutely consistent if it weren’t for the fact that, well, he is Batman. While Wayne Manor was bricks, stone, and hugeness, the Glass House is glass, steel, and compact spaces, not exactly the best scenario for secret keeping.


In the film, we are shown a ruined Wayne Manor. In comics, one of the most known destructions of it happened in the story arc Cataclysm. After an earthquake, half of the building collapses and the other half is compromised. Bruce then has it rebuilt faithfully to how it was. Take this to the real world and it would make no sense. This would be a slow rebuild, what with all the ornaments and the outdated construction techniques and style. However, the house is his connection to his family, the reminder that he is a Wayne, the house where he raised the Robins, and he would go to any lengths to have it back the way it is supposed to be.



In Batman v Superman, we have a Bruce who is being taken over by Batman, Alfred being the voice who reinforces this to the audience. Right after the Bat-monster dream sequence, which is symbolic to how Bruce’s psyche is losing the fight with the Bat, we have a scene in which Alfred expresses his worries, saying: “I’m hoping the next generation of Waynes weren’t to inherit an empty wine cellar, not that it is likely that there will be a next generation”. This sentence leads to the conclusion that there are no Robins currently in this Batman’s life since they would have been considered family by Alfred. The dead Robin has been confirmed as Jason Todd by a guide in Warner Bros Studio Tours, so the safe bet is that this is a Bruce who either hasn’t had Dick Grayson in his life or has had such an enormous fallout with him that they are not on speaking terms (which I hope is the case so that we can have Nightwing in the future). As Tim Drake would say, Batman needs a Robin to keep him grounded. Without Robin and without the Manor all that is left is the Bat, and the Bat is practical. Even in comics, whenever in an extreme situation, Bruce will be taken over by the Bat, and the Bat would go for the small, fast to build, pavilion-like Glass House instead of rebuilding the Manor.


This answers one question but another one still remains: why live in a giant display window when you have so much to hide? To understand this we have to refer to comics once again. In Cataclysm, when the Manor collapses the cave is in danger of being compromised. This is not the only time Wayne Manor gets destroyed though. By the end of The Dark Knight Returns, one of the biggest source material for the film, both Alfred and the Manor come to a concomitant end, him having being made responsible to blow it all up and dying of a stroke while watching it go up in flames. The whole scene takes less than one page and goes almost unnoticed in the middle of all the major events happening, but the intentions are clear: killing the secrets together with its keepers.



The fact is, whenever the Manor is damaged, the secret gets compromised – or it has already been, as it happens in Kingdom Come, an out of continuity story by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, or the invasion in Night of Owls, by Scott Snyder.


In the DCEU, the secret could not possibly have been compromised, but this does not rule out the possibility that it might have been endangered during the event that led to the destruction of Wayne Manor. That being the case, Bruce might well have followed something similar to Alfred’s plan in Cataclysm while making sure everyone saw he had nothing to hide.



The difference in the film is that Wayne Manor is not being rebuilt. This Batman would not put his mission on hold, therefore the level of dereliction of the ruins: it has been long since that house has seen better days. And so all of the Bat-Paraphernalia gets moved to a bunker and The Glass House is quickly built, its transparent walls a big billboard stating “nothing to see here, move on”.


All of those conclusions are reachable without the analysis of the Glass House, but the fact that the house itself was not used as a location but was rebuilt and turned to a black counterpart instead is telling on its own. A person’s house is the physical expression of their personal taste and personality, and this is no exception. To leave his parent’s house to ruin is the greatest sign that Bruce Wayne is being left behind and the Batman is taking the lead.


[1] Nora Wendl. “Sex and Real Estate, Reconsidered: What Was the True Story Behind Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House?” 03 Jul 2015. ArchDaily. Accessed 10 Dec 2016. <http://www.archdaily.com/769632/sex-and-real-estate-reconsidered-what-was-the-true-story-behind-mies-van-der-rohes-farnsworth-house/>


[2] Max Evry. “Batman v Superman: New Details on the DC Extended Universe” July 29, 2015. Written by Max Evry. ComingSoon.net. Acessed 10 Dec 2016. <http://www.comingsoon.net/movies/news/466507-batman-v-superman-details-dc#adTWuOy6H7QQ48RO.99>

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  • Donovan Morgan Grant

    Great write up! In the Chuck Dixon interview we did from earlier this year, he lamented the “six month time skip” DC pulled off to explain how Wayne Manor fixed everything. Because at the time, as you demonstrate with the pics of Nightwing and Alfred, the big tension was the earthquake having completely exposed Wayne Manor as the haven for the Batcave.

    IDK how far the makers of the movie thought through the demolition of Wayne Manor. It honestly was too little explained for my taste. But it’s a good observation that Batffleck didn’t bother rebuilding it like the comics Wayne or Bale’s Wayne both did.

    • Jessica Alves

      Hey Donovan! Thank you! Yes, I do agree that the aftermath of the destruction was neglected in the comics. And, quite honestly, it would take much longer than 6 months to rebuild that behemoth of a house.
      I guess we will only know if it was really thought through when we get the Batman film. Until then all we can do is speculate.