Archive for March 2010

Architecture and Cinema

March 26, 2010

photo: Roger Moody (

“It is unthinkable that the cinema could have developed without the city…(and) the city has been unmistakably shaped by cinematic form” (David B. Clarke, The Cinematic City)

The Communication, Culture and Media research group recently ran a one-day symposium on the theme of ‘Architecture and Cinema’. This was part of CCM’s contribution to the city of Bradford’s launch of the ‘UNESCO City of Film’ award. The aim of the symposium was to recognise the importance of architecture design in the formation of cityscapes and note how film helps us to reflect on the impact of design on the urban environment.

A range of speakers delivered a diverse range of papers on the theme of architecture and cinema. They were invited to reflect the range of interests in architecture and cinema including: studies of how film has incorporated architecture into its form; how film has been used to illustrate and record architectural design; curating architecture and film; the history of cinema buildings themselves.

The first speaker was David B. Clarke, a professor of human geography at Swansea University. David is known as the author of The Cinematic City, a pioneering work on architecture and film. David spoke about the concept of ‘utopia’ and how important this was for the imagining of landscape, design and cinema. After defining utopia philosophically, he went on to outline the nostalgic and imaginary conceptions of utopia. The paradoxical notions of the utopian vision are embodied in ‘Lichtenberg’s knife’ and expressed best, as usual, by the poetic sensibility:

‘Dreams rise in the darkness and catch fire from the mirage of moving light. What happens on the screen isn’t quite real; it leaves open a vague cloudy space for the poor, for dreams and the dead’ (Céline, 1932).

Murray Grigor is a filmmaker and writer who has made many important works on the art of architecture. He made the first film on Charles Rennie Mackintosh long before the explosion of “Mockintosh”, and showed clips from his work on Carlo Scarpa, Sir John Soane and John Lautner. Grigor has made a remarkable film about a ruined Catholic seminary, St.Peter’s, Cadross which will be shown later in the year at Bradford Cathedral as an installation.

Mark Tewdwr-Jones, a professor of spatial planning at UCL discussed the cultural politics of the films made by John Betjeman with Edward Mirzoeff for the BBC in the late 1960s. Mark showed how Betjeman used architecture to express propagandist views on the growth of modernism in the UK, often juxtaposing ‘traditional’ buildings with the tower blocks of East London. Betjeman used the poetry of language and of visual art to critique urban planning. It is hard to imagine the slow, reflective and thoughtful style of Betjeman’s BBC films existing in the current focus-group obsessed media world.

The penultimate session dealt with the problems of curating ‘architecture and cinema’. Justin Jaeckle from The Architecture Foundation explained how his organisation programmed a season at The Barbican that aimed to be radical, challenging and unpredictable, avoiding the clichéd view of what architecture and cinema mean when brought together.

Richard Gray is chair of casework at the Cinema Theatre Association, a group monitoring, collecting and disseminating information about cinema theatrical buildings themselves. His illustrative talk included a mesmerising collection of rare photographs, plans and documents ‘from the magic lantern to the multiplex’. The talk highlighted cinema history in Bradford and revealed some hitherto unknown buildings which delegates were encouraged to track down and report back on.

The papers given at the symposium were as follows:

David B. Clarke (Swansea U) – ‘Betaville – or, whatever happened to utopia?’

Murray Grigor (filmmaker) – ‘Space in Time: Filming Architecture’

Mark Tewdwr-Jones (UCL) – ‘John Betjeman and the use of Film as Architectural Propaganda’

Justin Jaeckle (Architecture Foundation) – ‘Architecture on Film’

Richard Gray (Cinema Theatre Association) – ‘Magic Lantern to Multiplex’

Screening: Bird’s Eye View : The Englishman’s Home (Broadcast: BBC 2 1969)

Mark Tewdwr-Jones (photo: Roger Moody:


Bradford City of Film:

The Architecture Foundation:

Cinema Theatre Association:

Murray Grigor’s Space and Light project:

For more information on the TIMECODE series contact: Mark Goodall ( Tel +44 (0)1274 236071

Architecture and Cinema

March 2, 2010

Space and Light Revisited ©Seamus McGarvey

Saturday 20th March 2010, 10am-6pm

‘On Location’, National Media Museum, Bradford

Speakers include:

Murray Grigor (filmmaker)

David B. Clarke (author The Cinematic City)

Mark Tewdwr-Jones (UCL)

Richard Gray (Cinema Theatre Association)

Justin Jaeckle (Architecture Foundation)


Lunch, Refreshments and Screenings provided

To reserve a place or to get more information on the TIMECODE series contact: Mark Goodall ( Tel +44 (0)1274 236071