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Architecture & Cinema: Interpretation of cinematic spatial montage for space-tectonics in architecture

Kushal Modi, 2304

Guide: Sanjiv Shah

“Architecture exists, like cinema, in the dimension of time and movement. One conceives and reads a building in terms of sequences. To erect a building is to predict and seek effects of contrast and linkage through which one passes . . . In the continuous shot/sequence that a building is, the architect works with cuts and edits, framings and openings . . . “ - Jean Nouvel (1945 - )

Architecture and Cinema share the most difficult yet privileged relationship with each other.

• Arguably, one of the nuances of this relationship is the way a space is thought to be perceived by the spectator. • To enunciate on this exploration, it is a study of the role of montage in cinema and its logical interpretation for application for space-tectonics in architecture. • Montage: The term montage, by definition, comes from the French meaning to mount, ascend or assemble. The notion of montage, as an apparatus, has been incorporated in many mediums to communicate one’s ideologies throughout the history of arts – from late 18th century Piranesian works to the avant-garde modern arts.

Montage in Film

‘Cinematic Spatial Montage’: Montage concerned with the perception of space in cinema.

• For cinema, montage is a quasi-grammatical tool that constructs a ‘spatial path’ for the viewer’s eye. • Montage in film is the editing method in which a series of short shots are edited into a sequence to condense, collide or link time, space and information. • Between two shots or settings montage produces different aesthetic relations by means of graphical, rhythmical, temporal and spatial relation. • Essentially cinematic spatial montage generates relations between spaces in four ways: Continuity montage – seamless (and unobtrusive) linkage between different spaces Internal-sequential montage – perceptive linkage of different segments of a single space, Trans-sequential montage – perceptive linkage of multiple spaces Intellectual montage – phenomenal spatial linkage

Continuity Montage

The shots A, B, C, ... are shown without any gutter-space between them meaning they are linked through a seamless, unobtrusive transition. X and Y denote the change in scenes with little gutter space in between denoting a noticeable transition.

Internal-sequential Montage

Scene Y which belongs to a single space and time shows a cluster of shots A, B, C,... that carry bits of information pertaining to the space of the scene. Their sequential linkage (order can vary) would result into the perception of space in the scene.

Trans-sequential Montage

Scenes X, Y and Z belonging to different space and time get linked through codes of montage generating a complex spatial relationship between them. The large gutter-space between the scenes denote the degree of noticeability of the transition.

Intellectual Montage

Scene X represents a cluster of shots A, B, C,... that belong to the same space and time but addition of non-diegetic entities 1 & 2 which belong to a neutral space and time and not from the film’s narrative make the spatial linkage more complicated yet intriguing at the same time.

Montage in Architecture

“there is surprisingly little difference between one activity and the other…I think the art of the screenwriter is to conceive sequences of episodes which build suspense and a chain of events…The largest part of my work is montage…spatial montage.” - Rem Koolhaas (1944 - )

• There have been a number of theories and essays on analysis of which passively suggest a relationship between spatial montage and architecture. •

Eisenstein’s ‘Montage and Architecture’ Lev Kuleshov’s ‘Contextual Experimentation’ Gordon Cullen’s ‘Serial Vision’

Deductions •

The spectator builds up a causal relationship between any successive shots/spaces.

• The perception of one shot/space highly depends on the perception of its preceding and following shots/spaces. • A flâneur strolling through an architectural ensemble perceives spaces not in a continuous progression but in the form of single spatial segments. • A perception of a spatial sequence cannot occur if there is no movement through the space-fragments of which the sequence is made. • The movement (literal and virtual) of the flâneur within the ensemble depends on the carefully disposed elements around him.

Putting it into Perspective: The Mill Owners’ Association building

Interpreting ‘Serial Vision’ •

Comprehending space-construction which is akin to trans-sequential montage in cinema

Perspective: Visual and Spatial Arrangement



Path-directing Tools: • Interpreting ‘Hereness and Thereness’ in the form of Path-directing tools which is akin to visual transitions in cinema Circulation Elements

SEQUENCE 1 Subtle Transition

SEQUENCE 2 Hereness & Thereness

Interpreting ‘Contextual Experimentations’ • The flâneur establishes a causal relationship between every single space fragments in a spatial sequence. •

Continuous Spatial Sequence - the spatial segments are traversed in a continuum.

• Discontinuous Spatial Sequence - the spatial segments are not bound together by any prescribed path.

Continuous Spatial Sequence

SEQUENCE 3 Contrasting Juxtaposition

Discontinuous Spatial Sequence • Discontinuous spaces form a sequence when the ‘persistence of vision’ inscribes the perception of a space in the mind and the expiration capability allows that perception to resurface when another spatial segment triggers the memory usually by means of a ‘leitmotif’*, e.g. parallaxes. The mind, then, creates a ‘phenomenal’ linkage of all the previous spaces that are associated with the leitmotif resulting in the perception of a virtual movement. • Leitmotifs: Deep and flat spaces Reduction Use of Forms and Colors Parallax

SEQUENCE 4 Deep and Flat Spaces

SEQUENCE 5 Parallax


• ‘Space’ has been assumed to be the smallest unit of any architectural ensemble that can be perceived in isolation. • Using spatial montage as the apparatus, space-tectonics can be carried out by juxtaposition of ‘disparate space-fragments’ and a designed ‘path’ that binds them. • The study makes one rightfully aware about the differences that lie between the two fields by posting a number of shortcomings. • Film-maker has the advantage of having a greater element of control over his audience as opposed to the architect over his visitors. • In cinema, time and space as distinct elements can be manipulated with remarkable ease, whereas architecture has little control over the element of time but the perception of space is much greater than what is perceived on film. • The filmic experience has a high ‘retainer’ value, whereas the architectural experience may vary greatly from time to time. • One of the major deductions from the study suggests that there is a potent possibility to work with the mode of representation for architectural works that can be inherently cinematic in its nature.


Interpretation of cinematic spatial montage for space-tectonics in architecture