The View from the Car: Autopia as a New Perceptual Regime


Exhibition at the Baubibliothek of ETH Zurich from 15 September to 15 October 2021

The exhibition aims to render explicit the impact of the car on the way we perceive architecture and the city. The view from the car changed architecture fundamentally. Despite the fact that the visions around the automobile have been fundamental to western culture, especially during the modernist and postmodernist era, nowadays, within the context of the debates around the sustainable future of cities, its role is questioned or at least transformed. This makes the questions addressed through the exhibition even more topical given that the current situation could be characterized as a turning point in regards how we perceive the “car”.

Through the visual juxtaposition of photographs taken throughout the twentieth century from the car while travelling or in relation to the car, it provides an overview of the role of car-based photography in the reinvention of architectural and urban design strategies. Through the display of photographs taken by architects such as Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi, Alison and Peter Smithson, Sigfried Giedion, Heinrich Helfenstein, Erling Mandelmann, and André Muelhaupt-Buehler among others, the exhibition presents how the perception of urban and non-urban landscapes from the car triggered new representational regimes. Apart from photographs, the exhibition also includes diagrams and drawings that aimed to address the role of automobile for our understanding of architectural and urban artefacts. Nowadays, we are situated within a context that corresponds to a shift regarding what we could call automobile vision. Within the current context, which is characterized by the questioning of the role of the car, the relationship between the automobile and architecture is topical.

The exhibition brings together materials from various archives such as the gta Archives, Fondation Le Corbusier, Kevin Lynch archives at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Institute Archives and Special Collections, Smithson Family Collection, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown Collection, Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania among other. The exhibition aims to establish a cross-cultural and transdisciplinary dialogue regarding the epistemological mutations related to the new perceptual and representational regimes that emerged thanks to the role of the automobile in our experience of urban and non-urban landscapes. Its objective is to convey visually the effect that automobile vision had on architectural and urban design methods.

All are welcome to join the opening event on 15 September at 5 pm at the Baubibliothek ETH Zürich, Stefano-Franscini-Platz 5, 8093 Zürich.

More information can be found on the exhibition website.

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