Urban Cinematics

8 December 2009 - 9 December 2009

CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane, Cambridge

Registration for this event is now closed.

If you wish to register on the day, please ensure that you contact Sam Mather in advance to indicate this intention.


François Penz (Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge)
Andong Lu (Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge)

Download Urban Cinematics poster.

Conference summary

Urban Cinematics will explore the use of cinema & the moving image as a way to investigate the phenomena, experience and narrative of cities by exploring the following themes:

Montaged Urban Cinematic Landscapes
Montage-based films -without human leads - are usually referred to as city symphonies, a genre that flourished in the 1920s but which is still very present in contemporary moving image works. With the city as its subject, city symphonies not only represent the city as such, they also invent the city, enables its imagination and creation, and bring out the hidden, silent and invisible features of the city to public consciousness.

Cinematic Urban Archaeology
A cinematic archaeology of a city makes visible the becoming of the modern city and its subsequent transformations since 1895.  Such retrospectively longitudinal cinematic studies of cities are now possible through increasing availability of archive material. Such exploration of the filmic spaces of the past may enable historians, architects and urbanists to better anticipate the city of the future.

Geographies of the Urban Cinematic Landscape
Cinema may use cities in creative ways to reorganize city spaces into narrative geographies where urban fragments are collaged into spatial episodes. The alternative to creative geographies is cinematic topographical coherence. Both approaches -used in montage as well as in continuity editing traditions -may give different readings of the city and have a different impact on our spatial perception. 

Cinematic Mapping
Bird’s eye views of cities are common in cartography and planning representation while, in contrast to airborne geographical mapping, cinema is essentially concerned with the tactility of the on-the-ground experience, and formulates the city from the inside. There are numerous examples of films demonstrating cinema’s capacity to reconcile the optic - the bird’s eye view - with the haptic and the lived experience - a key component of the perceptual panoply in grasping and communicating the modern metropolis.

Cinema as a form of spatial and social practice
Films can reveal social practices where social relations are spatially organised: cinema makes explicit the relationship between the geography of an area within the social order and practice of the time. As characters move through the city, the urban topographies forms a spatially organised social system.  In doing so cinema renders a tangible vision of a reality through situations and provides a passage between an aesthetics of representation with an aesthetic of perception - thus enhancing our largely fragmentary knowledge of cities.

Delegate notice

Conference delegates can find information about accommodation in Cambridge at the following URLs:
NB. CRASSH is not able to help with the booking of delegate accommodation.

Conference sponsors

The Narrascape research project, from which the conference evolved, is sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Urban Cinematics is administrated and part funded by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities. The organisers are also very grateful for the support of The International Office at the University of Cambridge and the L'Institut Francais.


Administrative help:
Samuel Mather (Conference Programme Manager, CRASSH)


Tuesday, 8 December


09:00 - 09:30
Registration and refreshments

09:30 - 09:45
Welcome and Introduction: Francois Penz and Andong Lu (University of Cambridge)

09:45 - 13:00 Session I: Montaged Urban Cinematic Landscapes

Chair: Francois Penz

09:45 - 11:00 Keynote address and World Premiere Film Screening
Thom Andersen (California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles, USA)
Get Out of the Car

11:00 - 11:30
Coffee break

11:30 - 11:50
Alan Marcus (University of Aberdeen)
The Ghetto as City Symphony

11:50 - 12:10
Patrik Sjöberg (Karlstad University, Sweden)
I Am Here, or, The Art of Getting Lost: Patrick Keiller, and the ”New” City Symphony

12:10 - 12:40 Keynote address
Helmut Weihsmann
(Vienna, Austria)
Ciné-City Strolls - ­ Imagery, Form, Language and Meaning of the City Film

12:40 - 13:00

13:00 - 14:00


Screening Session: Joanna Zawieja

14:00 - 16:15
Session II: Cinematic Urban Archaeology

Chair: Richard Koeck (Liverpool University)

14:00 - 14:15
Introduction from Richard Koeck

14:15 - 14:45 Keynote address
Nicholas Bullock
(University of Cambridge)
Aids to Objectivity? Photography, Film and the new Science of Urbanism

14:45 - 15:05 McLain Clutter (University of Michigan, USA)
Imaginary Apparatus: Film Production and Urban Planning in New York City 1966-1975

15:05 - 15:25 Janet Harbord and Rachel Moore (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Film in our Midst: City as Cinematic Archive

15:25 - 15:45
Marco Iuliano (University of Naples “Federico II”, Italy)
Celluloid cities: the impact of Istituto LUCE on the urban imaginary

15:45 - 16:15 Discussion

16:15 - 16:30
Tea break

16:30 - 18:30 Session III: Geographies of the Urban Cinematic Landscape

Chair: Andong Lu

16:30 - 16:50
Alison Butler (University of Reading)
Sleepwalking from New York to Miami

16:50 - 17:10
Hing Tsang (University of Surrey)
Direct Cinema and the global Dutch city in the work of Van der Keuken

17:10 - 17:30 Discussion

17:30 - 18:30
Keynote address
Murray Grigor (Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge)
Sean Connery's Edinburgh

Conference dinner: Magdalene College
(Speakers only)

Wednesday, 9 December


09:30 - 13:00 IV. Cinematic Mapping

Chair: Helmut Weihsmann

09:30 - 10:00 Keynote address
Wowo Ding
(Nanjing University, Nanjing, P.R. China)
Mapping Urban Spaces: Montage as the Research method

10:00 - 10:20
Marc Boumeester (Delft University of Technology, Holland)
Cinematic mapping reviewed; transitioning to 'Collected Subjectivism' by transferring media typologies

10:20 - 10:40
Celia Dunne (University of Cambridge)
From Maps of Progress to Crime Maps (and Back Again?): The Plasticity of the Aerial Shot as Deployed in Mexican Urban Film

10.40 - 11:10

Coffee break

11:10 - 11:30 Andrew Otway (Lancaster University)
‘Night on Earth’, Urban Wayfinding and Everyday Life

11:30 - 11:50
Marie-Paule Macdonald (University of Waterloo, Canada)
Moving images as architectural and urban design tools

11:50 - 12:20

12:20 - 13:00
Keynote address
Mark Lewis (Artist & Central Saint Martins College of Art, London)
Film as re-imaging the modern space

13:00 - 14:00 Lunch

Screening Session: Thomas Duncan & Noel McCauley

14:00 - 16:30 Session V: Cinema as a Form of Spatial and Social Practice

Chair: Maureen Thomas (University of Cambridge)

14:00 - 14:40
Keynote address
Layla Curtis (London)
Traceurs - to trace, to draw, to go fast

14:40 - 15:00 Maria Hellström Reimer (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden)
URBAN ANAGRAM: a bio-political reflection on cinema and the city

15:00 - 15:20 John David Rhodes (University of Sussex)
Italy Turns Around: Urban Metonymy as Historical Method

15:20 - 15:40 Shuai-Ping Ku (Nanhua University, Taiwan)
A One and a Two – The Filming of Modern and Postmodern Cityscapes

15:40 - 16:10

16:10 - 17:10 Keynote address
Roger Odin (Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3 University, Paris, France)
Which role for the cinema in a working-class city: the case of Saint-Etienne

17:10 - 17:30 Tea break

17:30 - 18:30
Roundtable discussion

Drinks reception: CRASSH

Please note that the Thursday programme that follows is an optional workshop arranged by the convenors and held at The Department of Architecture, 4a Trumpington Street, Cambridge.

Thursday 10th December

09:30 - 11:00

Workshop (Part I): Cinematic-Aided Design

Thomas Forget

Stefano Rabolli Pansera

Thomas Duncan & Noel McCauley

11:00 - 11:30 Coffee break

11:30 - 13:00 Workshop (Part (II): Cinematic-Aided Design

Mariangela Piccione, Sarah Sharkey Pearce

Amir Soltani

Jiahao Wang, Shiyan Zhou

13:00 - 14:00

14:00 - 15:00
Workshop (Part III): Cinematic-Aided Design

Nan Zhang

Joanna Zawieja

Eric Schuldenfrei

15:00 - 16:00
Drinks reception at 4a Trumpington Street