Mapping Interstices

The authors were recently invited to present a special preview of material from their forthcoming book, ‘Urban Maps: instruments of narrative and interpretation in the city’ (Ashgate, 2011) at the inaugural Once Upon A Place: Haunted Houses & Imaginary Cities, 1st International Conference on Architecture and Fiction, in Lisbon, 12-14 October. The paper, ‘Mapping Interstices: understanding urban conditions through the lived experience of societal margins in contemporary film’, explores the friction between the city planned and the city as a living superorganism. Whilst contemporary cityscapes may often be presented from above, the spatial organization and fragments are actually consumed from below i.e. the lived experience of urban conditions. This contrast between the relatively static order of the system and the high degree of mobility and temporality of life on the streets reminds us of the duality of cities and their ability to shift between the objective and the subjective. It is here that we may identify the narrative nature of these conditions with particular reference to moving images that afford exploration and understanding of urban space and event as filmic mappings. In this context films are interpretative tools that are typically concerned with spatial sequence, editing and revelation within the city. They use allegory, narrative and structural patterns to unfold ideas and tell a story. Space can even be used as a character, acting independently within the narrative itself and as such films may map a version of the city that is manifest of networks, urban subtexts and occasional nodal collision. The contribution to our understanding of the physical and time-based characteristics of the urban landscape that films offer was discussed to further equip and enhance our strategies for responding to it.

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