Learning From ... A series of lectures examining at the evolution of Rome, Mumbai, and Niagara Falls Print
Wednesday, 04 March 2009 01:59

Montreal's Canadian Center of Architecture's lecture series Learning From… features appearances by visiting experts who take a new look at the evolution of Rome, Mumbai, and Niagara Falls.

The series takes its title from Learning From Las Vegas (1972), Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour’s vastly influential publication, which analyzed the commercial strips and architectural symbolism of Las Vegas in order to understand urban sprawl. In this spirit, the series brings together experts to explore specific urban conditions and their relevance to the future development of cities.

This year’s CCA lecture series Learning From… will explore cities’ responses to evolving architectural and urban conditions related to the changing global economy. The lectures focus on the cities of Rome, Mumbai, and Niagara Falls, and will take place Thursday evenings at 7 pm at the Paul Desmarais Theatre. Admission is free.

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Armin Linke on Rome [March 5th]

The lecture by Milan filmmaker and photographer Armin Linke is devoted to Rome. An observer and analyst of globalization and societal changes, he surveys the transformations of the city, both natural and in its built environment, and evokes the cultural complexity and beauty of contemporary Rome.

Two short films and architectural photographs from the artist’s archives complement the presentation. The first film focuses on an incredible moment of natural choreography as some 100 000 starlings fly over the city of Rome. Captured on film against the backdrop of the city, the birds pay a kind of homage to the modernist architecture in the films of Michelangelo Antonioni.

Linke also presents a selection of images from his photographic archive on architecture, followed by a series of photographs on the architecture of Italian political institutions in Rome. He concludes his presentation with a three-dimensional film about abandoned nuclear power plants around Rome and throughout Italy.

Rahul Mehrotra on Mumbai [April 9th]

Rahul Mehrotra is principal of the firm RMA Architects of Mumbai, India and an Associate Professor at the school of architecture and planning at MIT in the United States.
In his lecture, he presents a reading of Mumbai’s urban form as a symbol of India’s emerging city culture, examining its grandiose allure and constant evolution and the changing roles of people and space in Indian society.

Mumbai, a megalopolis with more than 13 million inhabitants, is comprised of two components that occupy the same physical space. The first, the Static City, built of permanent materials like concrete, steel and brick, can be interpreted as a two-dimensional entity on conventional city maps, monumental in its presence. The second is the Kinetic City, which is incomprehensible as a two-dimensional entity. It is a city in motion – a three-dimensional construct of incremental development. The bazaar-like Kinetic City can be seen as a symbol of the emerging Indian urban condition.

Barbara Penner on Niagara Falls [April 23rd]

Niagara Falls has always been one of North America’s greatest tourist attractions. From the beginning, it drew tourists of a particular type: honeymooners. One nineteenth-century bride claimed that a Niagara Falls honeymoon was “as much a part of the important event as a ring, orange blossoms, etc”. Its starring role in America’s landscape of love was immortalized in the poster for the film Niagara, in which Marilyn Monroe’s curves were superimposed on those of the Falls.

By the 1960s and 1970s, this iconography of love had taken on architectural form. In countless strip motels, Niagara’s churning waters were internalized in heart-shaped whirlpool baths, perfect examples of the “heightened symbolism” that Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown saw as fundamental to pleasure-zone architecture.  But in recent years, the fate of Niagara Falls has diverged from those of other pleasure zones. Increasingly a byword for kitsch, even porno-kitsch, it was abandoned by newlyweds in favor of exotic sun-and-sand destinations.

The photographer Alec Soth, whose work is the starting point of this talk, compellingly portrays a ruined post-industrial landscape of love in his series Niagara. Completed in 2006, Soth’s series could not anticipate a more recent development: the rise of the same-sex marriage industry.

Niagara Falls may live to reinvent itself yet again. Barbara Penner is a Lecturer in Architectural History at the Bartlett School of Architecture,  UCL. She is the author of the forthcoming Newlyweds on Tour: Honeymooning in Nineteenth-Century America (UPNE, 2009).


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Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 March 2009 02:07