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Please visit my youtube page for the final films that i created as part of this research

This was my proposal dated 5th Feb 2008


Research Area

We conduct our lives today in a globalised culture which increasingly uses a language of images to facilitate communication. This has been constructed through technological and economic developments over the past century which resulted in the encroachment of corporate semi-private space on public space. In Rem Koolhaas’ essay ‘Junkspace’ he argues that “shopping is arguably the last remaining form of public activity” which “has infiltrated, colonized, and even replaced almost every aspect of urban life”. This activity proliferates due to the brand culture whose devices and secrets were first described in 1957 by Vance Packard and rely on the broadcast of images as the most powerful tool of persuasion. It is in this world then that we as designers are learning about culture and community and through the mediums set up by the corporate systems that we gain knowledge and disseminate our own opinions.

My focused interest is to do with how we as designers understand this space and how we design within it. It is my belief that this system will not loosen its dependence on the visual but rather develop it to new degrees of assimilation into our increasingly urban lives by using technologies of the internet and communication hardware. However, the awareness of this may in fact enable us to use these mediums to test new ideas in these powerful virtual scenarios for designs of physical space. It also provides an opportunity to readdress the role of urban space as we are moving away from the modernist idea functional social spaces because virtual environments can provide just as efficient products for the same activities. It could be argued that the physical space that we inhabit is now left as symbolic and meaningful because of the convenience of a virtual one.


So how can we design buildings with this knowledge in hand, what medium is most suited to the task of modelling ideas and concepts in the society of image and commerce? I intend to argue that the ideas outlined above can be seen best in the cinematic world, the relationship that Alsayyad describes as the ‘reel to real’. He uses a method of case studies to analyse the historic role of cinema in the development of modernist ideas and he chapters his ideas into various themes which are embodied by these studies. I hope to perhaps create a new chapter in his narrative about how we may progress with the emergence of new computerised imagery and how we can harness this idea to be utilised in architectural design. It is clear that the equipment to test ideas in cinematic space is the most simplistic and abundant than ever before and the ability to share and comment on the work of others is a vital complement to the medium. I will investigate whether it provides a practical structure for design experiments and the production of physical space.

As another thread of this investigation I aim to strengthen the stated case with the idea of symbolism and poetics of space, which I feel are best described and explored though cinematic means. To give a counterpoint to this idea I will look at how language has been used to create narratives of the city and specifically the Situationist idea of the Flaneur, and how writers like Perec took this and created studies such as ‘Lieux’ and also Bachelard’s study of experienced space. I expect to find that the works rely on an understanding of image to construct their descriptions and that the subsequent development of the personal camera and later technologies allowed for descendents of the theorists took up the new medium to more successfully explore the city.

I will site examples of work where film has been used to generate or facilitate ideas on space and design. In a discussion between Jacques Herzog and the photographer Jeff Wall there is mention of the use of film to imagine and model how a space will be used and the recording of its possibilities using characters to play the future client or public. There are examples of how the architectural duo used cinema when they were starting out as a method of design as it was an aesthetic that was unique to architecture at that time, but also much more effective than the standard drawings or images that you were expected to produce. Also, Patrick Keiller is an interesting case where an artist/architect has analysed urban space at a large scale in his works ‘London’ and ‘Robinson in Space’. Keiller uses filmed images accompanied by a narration which references texts of all origins and genres in a complex and sometimes enigmatic way. The film plot has been devised to explore an idea about contemporary British culture which aims to scrutinise the details of society. One of the first references in the printed book that was later published is a quote; “every story is a travel story- a spatial practice”. It seems that the construction of the film, with a narrative of fragmented thoughts and quotes which have no distinguishing differences, is intended to allow for multiple layers of understanding. He seems to explore an idea with the camera by framing views but in a narrative manner, similar to that of a novel, to the extent that he has created characters that inhabit his world.

In the book edited by Kester Rattenbury ‘This is not architecture’, there are essays that discuss the historic development of architectural representation and technological developments in image making which helps to provide opinions on the aesthetic of cinema and its contrast to the accepted tools of the designer.

“We can still see in the early history of architectural photography two basic principles; first, that modes of representation are not significantly altered when new techniques are discovered, but that they perpetuate pre-existing conventions; and second, that representation itself is not a reflection of some ‘reality’ in the world about us, but is a means of casting onto that world a concept- or unconscious sense- of what reality is.” (p35)

“The new virtual world of cinema was typically a world transformed…It differed from that offered by, say, the novel in that it was visible, and in that usually the spaces of the new world were made by photographing fragments of the old one.” (p37)

This idea that fragments of reality are captured to create film space enforces the idea that film can be seen as the ‘bridge between imagination and reality’ which Keiller refers to in ‘Robinson in Space’. Also, I would argue that the points presented in the first quote can be applied to contemporary representational techniques, in that they are not evolving along with the changing culture so they will never be relevant as design tools for us. I aim to investigate cinema as the technique that could provide a better understanding of our changing culture and whether it can act alone as a medium or, like the relationships between plan, section, elevation, does it need to exist in a developed system.


As partially stated above my intention is to analyse written texts on the subjects I have covered whilst looking for examples and ideas that I can use to develop my argument. The selected bibliography listed below has been starting point for me and further reading of these books and referenced material is needed. The study will cite examples of projects that have been critically written about and also some examples that I have produced for my student work where I have used film in a manner similar to how I describe in my text. By using my own work I hope to explain that the student of architecture is the individual who must pioneer this technique as it is in education that we can experiment more freely and define our methods for professional practice.

Initial Bibliography


Alsayyad, N. Cinematic Urbanism: A history of the modern from reel to real, New York, Routledge, 2006.

Bachelard, G. The poetics of Space, MA, Beacon Press, 1994

Chung C.J., & Inaba, J., & Koolhaas, R., & Leong, S.T. The Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping, London, Taschen, 2002.

Herzog, J., & Wall, J. Pictures of architecture, architecture of pictures: a conversation between Jacques Herzog and Jeff Wall, moderated by Philip Ursprung, New York, Springer Wien, 2004.

Keiller, P. Robinson in Space, London, Reaktion Books, 1999

Packard, V. The Hidden Persuaders, New York, IG Publishing, 2007

Perec, G. Species of Spaces and other pieces, London, Penguin, 1999.

Rattenbury, Kester. This is not architecture (London; Routledge, 2002)

Shapiro, M. Words, Script, and Pictures: Semiotics of Visual Language, George Braziller, 1996.

Vesely, D. Architecture in the Age of Divided Representation, MA, The MIT Press, 2004


Keiller, P. London, Illumination Films, 85mins Colour 35mm, 1994

Keiller, P. Robinson in Space, Illumination Films, 82mins Colour 35mm, 1997


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