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Urban Image Research Workshop

The Urban Image research workshop aims at assessing, contextualizing, and theorizing relations between the urban condition and imagery of the city – still, moving, digitally mediated, situated and other emergent relations since the modern period. Such relations are subject to postdisciplinary practices of study that engage multiple fields from the humanities and beyond.

Our aim is to improve our own work practices by presenting original research to peers and graduate students in a forum geared towards feedback and debate, initiated through reading discussions with UB internal and external guests. The research workshop ’s city‐specific focus aims to capitalize on the University at Buffalo’s diverse faculty strengths and focus areas at the cusp of this emergent field.



Globalized Urban Imaginaries

Group Meeting

Thursday, September 20, 12 -1pm, 830 Clemens Hall (North Campus)

Group Meeting to plan works-in-progress meetings ahead

Special Lecture and casual workshop with speaker:

Wednesday, October 10, 12-2p.m., 830 Clemens Hall (North Campus)

Meeting with Andreas Huyssen and discussion of his writings on cities


Wednesday, October 10,  5:30 p.m., 301 Crosby Hall (South Campus)

Andreas Huyssen Villard Professor of German and Comparative Literature at Columbia University

“The Metropolitan Miniature as a Medium of Modernism”

The lecture will deal with a little studied literary form central to European modernism: the feuilleton miniature from Baudelaire via Rilke and Kafka to Kracauer, Benjamin, and Musil. It focuses on how these writers tested new metropolitan perceptions and experiences in the context of the breakdown of boundaries between the visual and verbal arts and the rise of new technological image media, which threatened the realm of the literary.Co-sponsored by the School of Architecture and Planning


3 Film Screenings 

All Screenings at 6:30 p.m., Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, 341 Delaware Avenue

Co-programmed by Carl Lee, UB Media Study & Carolyn Tenant, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center

November 16 Screening and Artist Discussion:

Sabine Gruffat

“I have always been a dreamer” 2011 (78 min)

I Have Always Been A Dreamer is a documentary travelogue and film portrait of two cities in contrasting states of development: Dubai, UAE and Detroit, U.S.A. Within the context of a boom and bust economy, the film questions the collective ideologies that shape the physical landscape and impact local communities.  Though these cities represent two different economic eras (Fordist and Post-Fordist), both cities vividly illustrate the effects of economic monocultures and the arbitrary consequences of geopolitical advantage. The film serves as a visual documentation of these two cities as indexes of political, cultural and economic change while tracing the ways each city’s development is tied to technologies of communication, production, labor, and consumption.

November 30 Screening and Artist Discussion:

Manfred Kirchheimer

Stations of the Elevated” 1980 (45 min)

“CLAW” 1968 (30 min)

Stations of the Elevated is an impressionistic documentary and a study in motion of the graffiti tattooing New York subway trains, set to the jazz of the legendary Charles Mingus. The program approaches graffiti not as vandalism, but as art, taking viewers along the routes of the subway and elevated tracks. CLAW, a fable in the guise of a documentary, argues that styles of contemporary urban development subordinate human values to economic ones. Claw was chosen to launch the Museum of Modern Art’s 1968 landmark exhibit, “The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age.”


December 7 Screening:

Gary Hustvit

“Urbanized” 2011 (85 min)

Urbanized is a feature-length documentary about the design of cities, which looks at the issues and strategies behind urban design and features some of the world’s foremost architects, planners, policymakers, builders, and thinkers. Over half the world’s population now lives in an urban area, and 75% will call a city home by 2050. But while some cities are experiencing explosive growth, others are shrinking. The challenges of balancing housing, mobility, public space, civic engagement, economic development, and environmental policy are fast becoming universal concerns. Yet much of the dialogue on these issues is disconnected from the public domain. Who is allowed to shape our cities, and how do they do it? Unlike many other fields of design, cities aren’t created by any one specialist or expert. There are many contributors to urban change, including ordinary citizens who can have a great impact improving the cities in which they live. By exploring a diverse range of urban design projects around the world, Urbanized frames a global discussion on the future of cities. Urbanized is the third part of Gary Hustwit’s design film trilogy, joining Helvetica and Objectified. Urbanized is currently screening at film festivals and cinemas worldwide, with television broadcasts, and release on DVD and digital formats in early 2012. Join our mailing list or follow Gary on Twitter to stay informed of new announcements.

The scheduling for the spring is still in progress, but we are planning to continue the screenings with two films, and hope to bring their authors as well: Kimi Takesue, “Where are you taking me?” 2010, and Alan Sekula,“The Forgotten Space” 2010.


Urban Image Research Workshop 2011-2012

Faculty Coordinator


About the Workshop

Aims and Background

The Urban Image research workshop aims at assessing, contextualizing, and theorizing relations between the urban condition and imagery of the city – still, moving, digitally mediated, situated and other emergent relations since the modern period. Such relations are subject to postdisciplinary practices of study that engage multiple fields from the humanities and beyond.

Our aim is to improve our own work practices by presenting original research to peers and graduate students in a forum geared towards feedback and debate, initiated through reading discussions with UB internal and external guests. The research workshop ’s city‐specific focus aims to capitalize on the University at Buffalo’s diverse faculty strengths and focus areas at the cusp of this emergent field.

The primary focus of the Urban Image research workshop is therefore inherently interdisciplinary. As such, it takes a concern for visual matter in order to explore its contextualization in the humanities generally. Its methodological approach is analytical and speculative, in dialog with cultural historical discourse. Rather than asking solely about different forms and styles of pictorial urban representations, the group seeks to explore the interdependence between urban space and culture, and its manifestations in diverse urban imagery.

The research workshop aims at a more intense and meaningful exchange within and among UB departments and programs as well as UB and the civic community it is part of. Encouraging planners and architects to participate, the research workshop aims at establishing communication between the humanities and those who are concerned with shaping and learning about the city at UB.


Outreach, Meeting Format and Frequency

The Workshop will be meeting monthly starting in the fall of 2011.


Upcoming Meeting

Thursday, February 16, 6PM

Location: 1004 Clemens Hall

Work in progress presentation Angélica Piedrahita (MFA Candidate Media Study);

Please read this text in preparation for the discussion of Angelica’s work.


Thursday, March 8, 6PM

Location: 1004 Clemens Hall

Work in progress presentation Alba Jaramillo (MFA Candidate Media Study).


Thursday, March 22, 5PM

Location: 235 CFA

Speaker: filmmaker Rachel Strickland (San Francisco, CA)

Film maker and architect Rachel Strickland (San Francisco) is guest of the Urban Image Workshop, and will conduct a show and tell session on Thursday, March 22 (5pm, 235 CFA); and the moviemaking workshop for a small group of invited graduate students on Saturday, March 24.

Rachel’s a prolific maker and teacher (see her bio below) who started her career with John Terry, a wonderful guest who Teri Rueb (Media Study) brought in last year.

Please visit and find what might be helpful at: 

Reading: for workshop participants as well as Urban Image group:
How to Walk Without Watching Your Step, 2003

for workshop participants who might like some preliminary assignment concepts to crunch:
5 Place Recording Exercises, 1993

Here is a detailed description of her presentation and of the “movie making escapade”:


SHOW & TELL – Alternarrative Cinema: Geographics and Site Specifics

Whoever discovered water was not a fish.  The environment is invisible.  A movie may be regarded as an intention to register something that is fleeting—elements of a process, for example, a response to prevailing conditions; or to reveal something that otherwise slips through the gaps of ordinary perception—the drifts of a wind, the patterns of behavior, the relationships that impart structure to a landscape.  If it employs a perspective that corresponds to our bodily experience of the physical world, the movie also manifests an ordinary development of awareness—such as the flights and fixations of its cinematographer’s attention, or someone’s mental construction of a sense of place.

Since she began making films in architecture school, Rachel Strickland has pursued an approach to cinematic construction that would be more like landscape than narrative.  Experimenting with film and video for capturing the sense of places more than telling stories, she was naturally drawn to the polylinear possibilities inherent in interactive digital media.  A place has no beginning nor middle nor end, or else not in that order.  The territory is seldom linear but goes in more directions all at once.  Yet it remains challenging for many habitants to visualize that the substance of architectural design is not walls and windows and doors, but rather space thereby collected and defined—which is the thing they neither see nor bump into. “But isn’t a place just a container for stories?” is the question someone invariably asks.  This meditation on polylinear cinema, winding streams, and the part of beholding, promises to raise more questions than it answers, replies Strickland.  The presentation will feature experiments in the cinematic construction of place, with regard to its dynamic and ephemeral dimensions. This is a matter of multiple perspectives, both simultaneous and accumulated over time through movement.  It is a mobile viewpoint, propelled by feet.




Spontaneous Cinema for Stalking the Genius Loci

A location recording sequence, experimenting with cinematic definitions of place.  Peripatetic perspective, frame boundaries, and the geometry of camera movement respond tangibly to organizing forces of a three dimensional field.  The wandering gaze inscribes itself in order to expose unseen trajectories of this field and to discern invisible patterns of behavior.  Like an architectural projection, the movie collapses space to a flat screen.  Sound makes the distance of the image possible.  How are environmental rhythms and sequences translated to the syntax of motion pictures?  How do you hear a place?  How are distance, direction, and orientation transposed to video space?  How does one avoid getting lost?




Rachel Strickland is a documentary filmmaker, architect, and time-based media designer, whose research and art practice has focused on cinematic dimensions of the sense of place, animate and ephemeral dimensions of architectural space, and new paradigms for narrative construction in digital media.  Strickland earned a Master of Architecture degree at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with a concentration in cinéma vérité filmmaking.  She has taught film and video production at MIT, University of California Santa Cruz, Southern California Institute of Architecture, and University of California Berkeley.  She has been employed as a research videographer by Atari, Apple Computer, and Sun Microsystems, and she directed experimental cinema projects at Interval Research Corporation.  As Adjunct Professor at California College of the Arts, Strickland teaches Spontaneous Cinema, a video production course that invites architecture and design students to engage in field observation and to experiment with the language of cinematic construction as a process of design research.


This is a link to Rachel Strickland’s Spontaneous Cinematography “rules of thumb” which served as orientation for her workshop “Niagara Escapade” on March 24, 2012.  

Participants of the “Niagara Escapade,” Adam Laskowitz, Daniel Barry, Nima Vakili, William Sedig (graduate students Architecture) and Angelica Piedrahita Delgado and Alba Jaramillo (graduate students Media Study), collaborated in producing and editing the following videos which can be viewed on vimeo:

Daniel Barry and William Sedig: “Poser”
Alba Jaramillo and Nima Vakili: “Stay Right There”
Angelica Piedrahita and Adam Laskowitz: “Threshold”



Thursday, April 5, 5PM

Location: 235 CFA

Guest speaker and screening: Filmmaker Caterina Borelli (New York City/Rome, Italy), Asmara Eritrea (2007)


Memory and place: the colonial city

How does a city developed under colonial rule, coexist with its colonial past? How do its citizens relate to the daily confrontation with their often painful history, represented in what surrounds them and is background to their lives? What does this urban environment reflects? Who does it belong to?

Caterina Borelli directed and produced this fascinating document about Asmara, which has a complex  colonial and post-colonial history. In 1992, Eritrea became an independent East African nation after Italian colonization and 30 years of war with Ethiopa. Asmara, the country’s beautiful capital city and architectural gem, rose to international attention. In this feature documentary, Asmarinos guide us through the streets of their city, and through their narrations, a chorus of experiences that embody the nation’s post-colonial diversity and history come to life.

In preparation for the discussion Caterina suggested reading this text of hers.



Italian born Italian-American film maker Caterina Borelli has worked in television and independent film since the 1980s. Her work includes a range of genres, from experimental video to documentaries and News coverage and most of her recent work is concerned with memory, architecture and the urban environment, a characteristic of her documentary movie “Asmara, Eritrea” which she finished in 2007. In addition to many international festivals and screenings, her work was shown at the Museum of Modern Art, Pacific Film Archives, American Museum of Natural History, the United Nations and the British Museum. It has also been used in universities’ curricula. She is a recipient of Fellowships from NYSCA (1999), the Graham Foundation (2002) and The American Institute for Yemeni Studies (1997, 1999, 2001-05). A former Senior Producer and U.S. Correspondent for the prime-time science series SuperQuark on RAI Channel 1 currently she is working in Rome at a prime-time News Talk Show on LA7 TV. In 1999 she founded her own production company, anonymous productions. Caterina is a graduate of the 1987/88 Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Studies Program – Artists’ Studio.


Thursday, April 12, 6PM

Location: 1004 Clemens Hall

Work in progress presentation Caitlin Boyle (Doctoral Candidate, Architecture Department, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)


Past Meetings

Thursday, January 26, 2012, 6PM

Location: 1004 Clemens Hall

The Urban Image Research Workshop will meet for a substantive meeting to discuss the form and content of our group’s future activities.

While we had different meeting formats last semester, there are many different ways how this group might operate in the future – as a reading/discussion group, as a forum for works in progress, or as host to scholars and artists from outside Buffalo.  Do we understand the group as place were a core group of people discusses and develops ideas transdisciplinarily, or does such a group serve everybody’s purpose better if it is simply an “event” organizing facility?

Wednesday, November 30, 5:30PM

Location: 830 Clemens Hall

Speakers: Kenny Cupers (UB Architecture) and Michael Frisch (UB History/American Studies)

Kenny Cupers, UB Architecture will discuss his research/photographic exploration of French banlieus.

Michael H. Frisch, UB History/American Studies will present his multi-medial work (music, photography, oral history) on urban life during the Great Depression.

Wednesday, October 26, 1:30-3PM

Location: 734 Clemens Hall, North Campus

Reading Discussion:
Other Cities, Other Worlds: Urban Imaginaries in a Globalizing Age. Edited by Andreas Huyssen. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2009