Narrative Space Day Three - Post Seven

'The Thick Present: Architecture, Narration and Film' Samantha Martin McAuliffe

How can architectures distant in place and time be made to seem close to us? Film might be one such tool.

What can film tell us about architecture? This is a very difficult question. Theoretically, the chronicle of film can provide a whole, objective vision of proof. But this is not, perhaps, the case. Films can fictionalise space, can be made with a particular vision belonging to the filmmaker. Can we ask film to convey more than the concrete, the ineffable and intangible elements of architecture, which are beyond the visual? Architectures are not just visual. But film, in many ways, restricts us to this. Buildings smell. They sound. They can be touched, and maybe even tasted. Buildings also become memorable and affective/effective when they encourage emotional and sensory experiences. This is the thickening of the present, in which we revist sites over and over again.

These buildings can loose their meanings as they degrade and are demolished. Dara McGrade questions what happens when architecture comes to the end of its life. What would happen if we designed an architectural exhibition was desgined around these more intangible memories, rather than about the diagrammatic study of the building? TAKA Architects did this at the Venice Viannale in 2008, which was called The Lives of Spaces The architects used films to address the here and now, but as influenced by the past and pointing towards the future. The central principle was that architecture needs to get beyond the formal, to the lived experience of place, if we are to understand how to build buildings which can truely affect people.

Space is central, but slippery. It can be felt but is intangible. Often, this is forgotten in architectural exhibitions. Lives of Spaces wanted to examine the ordinariness of architecture as compared to the idealisation of conventional surveys. This might permit architectural exhibitions to connect with the public.

Conventionally, it is thought that the only true experience of architecture can come through being in the place itself. But this can be tested - is there a non-located validity of place? Lyric Theatre took over Lives of Spaces to respond both to the spaces, but in the other installations, which overlayed a new level of narrative.

What stories can be told by architecture from people, places and history? Using the Lives of Spaces exhibition, we can ask question about methods of architectural exhibition, and how these might be developed. They excavated the Thick Present of places, and film was one of the tools which they used to do so. A focus on particularity of place, its qualities and its time can be both very specific, and speak to more universal themes. Films, like architecture, develop, and work, within an intertext. They become parts of other parts, boxes inside boxes, unfossilised Russian Dolls.


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