module specification

AR7004 - Cinema and the City (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Cinema and the City
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 20
School The Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design (The Cass)
Total study hours 200
164 hours Guided independent study
36 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 75% 50 4000 word Essay (Submission via Weblearn) *FC*
Coursework 25%   Seminar Report (Submission via Weblearn)
Attendance Requirement 0%   Attendance Requirement
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Spring semester City Tuesday Afternoon

Module summary

Film can often reveal a hidden, poetic truth that even though inherent in reality, is at times not apparent, except through the lens of a camera. Thus, the module aims to introduce film as an alternative form of study of the city and architecture.

Still an infant art, film has developed together with modernity and, arguably, its influence on modern perception has been more profound than any other art’s. Therefore, it remains an invaluable tool for studying and understanding modern life.

More often than not film relies heavily on story and characters. Through this perspective of the inhabitant, the module uses a wide variety of films and attempts to read between the ‘lines’ of architecture and urban planning and explore areas often neglected by those disciplines.

Prior learning requirements


Module aims

This module uses film as an alternate means to study the city and architecturein order to gain insight into the nature of modern life.  It discovers neglected lines of enquiry between film and urban planning through their interpretation in films that, in themselves, comprise a modern discipline that addresses modernity.


Using such films as Vertov’s “Man with a Movie Camera”, Lang’s “Metropolis”, Godards “Alphaville”, Wim Wenders’ “Wings of Desire,” Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” and Patrick Keiller’s “London”, the course explores the interrelated histories of these two disciplines, film and architecture. It treats film as variously documentary, critical, recreative and a parallel reality.

Vertov represents apparently unedited immediacy and chaotic variety as the hallmark of the modern, while Lang presents the city as monstrously structured, out of scale with its inhabitants, modernity as naturally inhuman and dehumanizing.

Godard’s is a more intellectualized version of form discovered in randomness, and of alienation as a principal stimulus.

Wenders returns to the incompatibility of overarching system with human wishes, so that even the most humane architecture works against man.

Finally Blade Runner and films like it use architecture to make dystopian visions overpoweringly present and hence real.

The seminars will address the question of why negative visions of the immediate future dominate many of the canonical works in the history of film.

Learning and teaching

The teaching and learning strategy is to employ theoretical understanding to help motivate a considered but imaginative response to the task of writing about architecture. The process comprises of a mixture of seminars that include introductory talks, close readings and discussion of set texts, and workshops that discuss a looser range of ideas and examples of writing including student writing.

Learning outcomes

On completing the module the student should be able to:

  1. articulate, verbally and in writing, what is important about filmic representations in the context of cities and modern life;
  2. think imaginatively about the variety of ways in which film can be useful as a tool in deciphering the modern city and critiquing the built environment;
  3. compare film to architecture and literature, with respect to content, language and style and identify in these allied disciplines possible voids that can be filled in by making or studying films.

Assessment strategy

Module assessment is based on a 4000 word essay on a topic agreed with tutor, together with a class report. Weighting: Essay 75%. Report 25%.The pass mark for the module is to be calculated as an aggregate of the components weighted accordingly, with the proviso that the candidate must pass Component 1 (the essay).


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Burgin, Victor. In/Different Spaces: Place and Memory in Visual Culture Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.
Cardinal, Roger. “Soluble City: The Surrealist Perception of Paris” in AD 2-3/1978
Clarke, David B.ed The Cinematic City, 1997
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