framing architectural exploration

The teaching of the architectural humanities at manchester school of architecture is characterised by a balance of traditional and innovative teaching and assessment methods developed from the research expertise of the staff. Since 2006 the medium of film has been used to broadcast undergraduate students’ experience and interpretation of the architectural and urban environment through the use of buildings as case studies. 


Following seminars on the history of recent architectural debates and their representation in different media, critical responses to architecture are developed in the time and space of a 5-minute film. These student contributions are Youtube films of buildings visited on study trips principally in major European cities. The 200 plus films so far submitted in this project are discussed at seminars within the cohort. Beyond this teaching function, though, the films continue to attract international interest so far having achieved well over a quarter of a million hits. These new methods of visualizing and presenting the connections of architecture and urbanism introduce the students to the exploratory culture of the post-graduate degree, a basis which is expanded upon in future research.

The limitations of the brevity of the film format are countered by the combination of media which can be composed in the film. Avoiding the seduction of complex editing for its own sake, combinations of film and still images, computer generated models, text, narration, the architect’s testimony or that of the end user and the careful choice of music together provide an augmented architectural experience. The opportunities presented by this mediated exploration include the foregrounding of the experience of architecture over the traditional hegemony of the scholarly text, the placing of the subject building in its context and, therefore, the overcoming of the isolation of the architectural object. 

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Venice Architecture Biennale 2008


The vast exhibition of contemporary architecture which is the Venice Biennale (curated by Aaron Betsky) opened last weekend in a stormy atmosphere which made the exhibitions oases of rather damp calm, despite the unsettling luxurious aspirations of some of the exhibitors. How nature, not to mention the current economic storms, intrudes on the best laid plans! The utopian visions of the digital future and interactive environments with new fluid forms are presented in a stunning display at the Arsenale. Marked by a particularly stimulating entrance area ( Rockwell Group with Jones / Kroloff) that sets a high standard which the subsequent sequence of displays extend in a series of varied rooms. Much of this material is not new (either in ideas or forms), but is presented here as a spatial experience which tantalises the visitor with possible worlds. The indulgence of the creators in focusing on their own concerns betrays the sel-referential interest of much of this work. The MVRDV / Philippe Rahm section for example, with its futuristic urban animation, relaxing naked people and musician improvising on a saw suggests nothing more than the continuing polarity between attention seeking techno-geekiness and a late revival of hippiedom, ideas first synthesised forty years ago by Superstudio.

The displays have a strongly historicist feel, with some of the original characters, represented especially by Coop Himmelblau expanding on their ideas for interactive autonomous environments. The Roma Interrotta exhibition of 1978 is revived as an antechamber to a display of contemporary ideas for Rome, Uneternal City, which takes the earlier urban speculation forward. The other developments of that era are acknowledged in the Italian Pavilion at the Giardini with exhibitions of Madelon Vriesendorp's provocative images for OMA, Zaha Hadid's early models and paintings and various works from the office archive of Frank Gehry. The form-laden nature of this work sits somewhat uncomfortably with a series of displays which deal with the social and ecological aspects that are of contemporary concern, but then in totality the exhibition seems to tip the hat quite frequently to once-were-deconstructivists, as if in memory of Betsky's own involvement in defining that movement.

The British Pavilion presents a series of housing projects, solid buildings ill-served by the the witlessness of the display. dRMM's work in particular suffers from the miserable position their models occupy. Contrast this unappealing tightness wit the engaging generosity of the French Pavilion, with pivoting models encouraging engagement from the exhibition visitors, and the German Pavilion's reassuringly 'chaotic' ecological display.The real surprises within the many varied displays are perhaps best summarised by the Mexican contribution at the Arsenale which provides some welcome social content in distinction to the overwhelmingly form driven displays there. At the Giardini the USA Pavilion provides a cooler response to similar issues, a development which can only be welcomed.

As always the Nordic Pavilion hovers elegantly at the centre of the Giardini. This year it presents a monographic exhibition on the work of the pavilion's architect Sverre Fehn which in its tranquil confidence provides reassurance that all novelties in architecture eventually pass away...

Friday, 25 April 2008

Glenn Howells: Savill Building, Windsor

U.S. comment "another lovely piece from MSA... this building appears to be very heavily influenced by eero saarinen, with it's serpentine undulations and sculptural qualities... love it!!!"

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Dominique Perrault: Olympic Velodrome and Pool, Berlin

Serbian comment "Cool, thnx for posting..."
Linked from the Spanish site

BBPR: Interventions in Castello Sforzesco, Milan

Italian comment "Well done! Bello davvero complimenti..tra l'altro non è facile fare un video così. Bravibravissimi."

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Will Alsop: Peckham Library, London

Spanish comment "Great Job!!!! Thank you for video!"
Venezuelan comment "Nice Video! Good done! I like the music, the editing. I like it ALL.(Todo esta muy bien pensado, es entretenido, los gráficos son interesantes y muy agradables) FELICITACIONES!"

HKPA / Haworth Tompkins: The Young Vic, London

Monday, 28 January 2008

Renzo Piano: Auditorium di Roma

Linked from the Italian site
Canadian comment "Wonderful video!! Very well done and a pleasure to watch!! :)"
Linked from the site

Massimiliano Fuksas: Nuovo Polo Fiera, Milano

French comment "Good work, thank you for video!"
Linked from the Italian site
Linked from the Polish site
Italian comment "Fuksas perdente"

Italian video response showing the construction of the 'vela'

David Chipperfield: Veles e Vents, Valencia

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Abalos and Herreros: Retiro Gymnasium, Madrid

Rafael Moneo: Museo del Prado, Madrid

Linked from the Dutch site

Richard Rogers: Barajas Airport, Madrid

Linked from the Dutch site ""

Ingimundur Sveinsson: Perlan, Reykjavik

Polish comment "delightful place i lived 15 min. by walk from perlan at adbrekka. there is no better think like drive a bike over the bike-paths under perlan specially at the night-***** amazing trip"
Linked from the French site
Linked from the Dutch site

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Petzinka Pink: NRW Landesvertretung, Berlin

Herzog & deMeuron: Laban Dance Centre, London

British comment "Do the Dance!"
Linked from the site
Swiss comment "Congratulations, this video is excellent! It does the project justice. This kind of presentation of architecture with motion pictures is very convincing."
British comment "Great!"
British comment "So using this video to tell me about the school I go to and where I live. XD"
Linked from the Spanish site

Jean Nouvel: Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid

Linked from the French site

Berger and Parkinnen etc.: Nordic Embassies, Berlin

Monday, 21 January 2008

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Mies van der Rohe: New National Gallery, Berlin

Linked from the U.S. site
British comment "awesome man, was there last week! structurally amazing, brilliantly elegant"
British comment "yes very well done. how many of you worked on this project? The animation, cuts, music are spot on. The best I have seen by msa."

Will Alsop: Peckham Library, London

U.S. comment "O dear type my surname in here and i get some one else with my last name now dare u -.- its are family name nabs"U
British comment "fantastique"

Piano & Rogers: Centre Pompidou, Paris

Linked from the U.S. site
British comment: "Very cool video. I'm studying the Pompidou Centre for my Art History study trip next month. It looks amazing, I'm all excited now after seeing this."
Linked from the Spanish site
Linked from the Brazilian site

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Francois Schuiten: Arts et Metiers Metro, Paris

Linked from the Spanish site

Enric Miralles: Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh

Linked from the Spanish site

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

de Blacam & Meagher: Ryan Academy, Dublin

British comment "absolutely awesome :D"

Egon Eiermann: Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, Berlin

German comment "It would have been better to reconstruct the destroyed building of Franz Schwechten after World War II, and not to build such an ugly thing that does not fit into Berlin."

Richard Meier: MACBA, Barcelona

Norman Foster: City Hall, London

Monday, 14 January 2008

Santiago Calatrava: Palau de les Arts, Valencia

Mancunian comment "Where's you being hugged by the tramp?"
U.S. comment "thank you for this exquisitely mesmerizing poem to a great designer..."
Further U.S. comment "hypnotic, sliding between minor and major keys, soothing arpeggiation, and profoundly emotional... i absolutely love this video...."

Erik Gunnar Asplund: Stockholm City Library

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Massimiliano Fuksas: Nuovo Polo Fiera di Milano

Mancunian comment "I'm studying at the msa as well, with regards to your milan video, how did you create that one animation piece where you had a bright blue sky and the sun...
was it done in sketchup ?"
Linked from the Dutch site

Giles Gilbert Scott / Herzog & de Meuron: Tate Modern, London

Jean Nouvel: Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris

Linked from the Dutch site
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