Symposium: Scene and Sequence – On Cinematic Urbanism. Leeds, 13 February 2019

Leeds School of Architecture, Broadcasting Place, Back Block, Studio Level 5
Organized by Doreen Bernath

‘Exposé’

In themselves, the pictures, the phases, the elements of the whole are innocent and indecipherable. The blow is struck only when the elements are juxtaposed into a sequential image… Only the film camera has solved the problem of doing this on a flat surface, but its undoubted ancestor in this capability is architecture.

Sergei M. Eisenstein, ‘Montage and Architecture’ (1938)

One day, I went to the school’s director and said that we needed to study theatre, visual arts, film and everything else and combine that with architecture. He threw me out.

[Cinematic architecture] is a way of thinking that includes processes, change and time. If you start on a drawing board, you’re starting from an object-based way of thinking about architecture. Using film and cinema is a way of breaking free from that.

Pascal Schöning, Manifesto for a Cinematic Architecture (2006)

 

For centuries, we see cities through the projective eyes of architecture. We see cities as composed through abstracted lines, outlined forms, constructible parts, countable units and scalable operatives. Beautifully gutted and examined from ideal angles, cities acquired objectivity, as object of study and as objectives of action. The design of cities, systematised through the so-called ‘urbanism’, thus expanded on the arrangements of these objects and operatives; and only thereafter, as René Descartes would have preferred, we fill up these empty urban forms with, or more precisely as, automatons of prescribed operations. Hubert Damisch considered this poignantly as the moment when cities, and us dwellers and hapers of cities, lost their ability to dream.

As a force of subversion, the intrusion of filmic observations and interventions on cities began to provoke and make visible what were deliberately omitted in earlier modes of urbanism. For over a century, possibilities of time-based or durational relations, narrative-driven investigations, immersive and subjective points of view of cities have opened up new, and complicated past, urban knowledge. From ‘City Symphonies’ of 1920s and 30s, post-war visions of ‘Townscapes’, ‘Megacities’ of 1980s and 90s to euphoric and dystopic speculations of post-humans in post-cities beyond the C21st, these are distinct landmarks in the confluence between cinematic constructs of cities and urbanism in discourse and in practice.

From the revolutionary root of ‘cinema’, i.e. the kineto-scope as the movement image, to avant-garde experiments in scene- and sequence-based architecture, cinematic urbanisms speculate the redundancy of the projective system, an argument to be debated in the symposium. We have invited speakers to unravel the interrogative and inventive detour the filmic has led in new design processes for cities. Drawing on a diverse range of opinions, ‘cinematic urbanism’ can be regarded as a way to restore cities as sites of productive dreaming where ‘distractions’ are turned into ‘an immense and unexpected field of action,’ as Walter Benjamin prophesied.

The full programme of the symposium, talk and speakers information are available here.

Keynote speakers: François Penz (University of Cambridge) and Nic Clear (University of Huddersfield)

Morning session, Grafted Scenes: Ayah Hatahet (MArch, Leeds School of Architecture), Lingge Yang (Diploma School/MArch, AA London), Tatjana Crossley (PhD, AA London), Henrietta Williams (UCL Bartlett School of Architecture), Mark Carey (Northern Film School).

Afternoon session, Sequential Captures: Carla Molinari (Leeds School of Architecture), Mohamad Hafeda (Leeds School of Architecture, Founding Partner of Febrik), Aude-Line Duliére (AA London, Harvard GSD and Rotor Belgium),  Brendon Carlin and Maria Paez Gonzalez (AAVS Tropicality, AA London and RCA).

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