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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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(Im)mobile Montage

(Im)mobile Montage

‘An  architectural ensemble . . . is a montage from the point of view of a moving spectator . . . Cinematographic montage is, too, a means to ‘link’ in one point – the screen- various elements (fragments) of a phenomenon filmed in diverse dimensions, from diverse point of view and sides.’ 

Sergei M. Eisentein, ‘Montage and Architecture’

[(Figure 1)  Three spheres are represented with an embedded video in them.  Each sphere forms part of storyboard where a lonely wanderer roams from one space(sphere) to the other.]

As we enter into the world of film and its links to the architectural ensemble – and vice versa-, I would like to start by defining, within the context of this study, what is the common ground inscribed on both fields: the observer: a physical entity, a moving spectator, a body making journeys in space.  This defined layout comes as a consequence of a research panorama where the director/architect shall contemplate beforehand the path given to the reader for he or she is a spectator which moves across an imaginary/perceptual path, traversing multiple sites and times(Eisenstein. Montage and Architecture).  Therefore, we shall see the observer as one that is not a static, fixed, disembodied eye, but one that embodies an oeuvre as he or she walks within the constructed montage.

From within the fields of cinema [kinema(κίνημα) connoting both motion and emotion](Bruno, Giuliana.Atlas of Emotions) and the architectural promenade, the study reflects on the constitution of meaning made by the observer in relation to his or her movements; as well as the perceptual interplay between immobility and mobility.  From this angle what is proposed as a design research is that the montage can be assembled, embodied, during the act of walking, by the point of view of the observer in a virtual-imaginary path with the use of a Virtual Reality Headset that tracks the position of the user and the angle of  the viewpoint.

Such proposal is developed by fabricating a short film where the spectator stands using a manufactured VR Headset and the beholder’s movements in space sets in motion a film which is part documentary and part cinematic art.  The spectators movements then creates the links of the frames, scenes, and its compositional montage giving him or her the opportunity to edit and compose the film(Vertov. KINO-EYE. We: Variant a Manifesto). With this said, by multi-taking a shot with a 360° Video Camera, as one moves around a space, different angles from the scenes are displayed, and the distance between the observer and the observed determines how the film is projected.  For example, in one case, as the viewer walks in a scene set in a tunnel he trespasses the illusory texture of the limit in the scene and it converges into a different texture of the next scene. Hence, what is conditioned within the screen for the viewer is the parallax -the study and elaboration of depth in perception and a distortion of imagery(Bruno. Atlas of Emotions), as well as the frames per seconds in relation to the bodies speed when walking in space.

Synopsis Layout

[(Figure 2) Three Axonometric are represented with a lay-out and path set for the spectator. Each volume is the area transversed by the observer and each scene conforms its own characteristics. From left to right, the first image is a straight forward path, as the observer moves forward or backward the film goes in Fast Forward or in Rewind mode until he reaches one of both ends. The second image, the one in the middle, consists of moving from one volume to other making the observer go around a center and his or her vision are propelled inwards. The third consists of the observer being in the middle of a scenario an looking outwards to the surroundings as something is happening outside of his proximity]

A first prototype consists of shooting three different scenes considering three different floor plan layouts of how the interaction comes in (fig.2).  The second step might as well be the cohesion between all three scenes as they are worked from a narrative structure based on Christopher Booker’s ‘The Seven Basic Plots, Why We Tell Stories’.   By grabbing one of the seven fundamental narrative structures that form the mental patterns we call stories, Voyage and Return’ the synopsis is the following: the protagonists falls into another world and upon his return something has changed. The protagonist descends upon a staircase which leads to a darkened underground room and later slips into a foreign and inhospitable place.  As the protagonist roams across a combination of tunnels, buildings and inhospitable landscapes the protagonist then finds what appears to be an exit, but it turns out to be just another inhospitable space. The loop continues until he or she fall into a dream-like setting where unrecognizable figures emerge.  After overcoming the threat the protagonist returns to the top of the staircase where it all began, and yet he or she is not the same anymore.

As part of this endeavorer into cinema, the art of inventing movement of things in space in response to the demands of science(Vertov. KINO-EYE. We: Variant a Manifesto), I’ve found that the alliance of film and architecture create a series of instances that lead in a perceptual path to an observer that hangs from a thread with the words and images created by director/creator whose passion is to share a poetic image.


Bruno, Giuliana. “Atlas of Emotions”. (2002). Verso. London.

Booker, Christopher.  “The Seven Basic Plots, Why We Tell Stories”.  Bloomsbury Publishin PLC.  London.

Eisenstein, Sergei M. “Montage and Architecture”. (1989). Journal Assemblage no. 10, 1989 with an introduction by Yve-Alain Bois, The text was originally to have been inserted in a book-length work.  MIT Press. MA.

Eisenstein, Sergei M. “El Greco y el Cine” (1937-41), in Cinematisme: Peinture et cinéma. ed Fracois Albera, Brussels: Editions complexe, 1980

Vertov, Dziga. “KINO-EYE. We: Variant a Manifesto” (1984). The University of California Press. CA.

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