8 Dec 2009 - 9 Dec 2009 All day 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)


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk