What is the relationship between narrative and architecture or urban planning? ‘Enactments’ aims to study how city-makers find inspiration in the tools and methods of narrative storytelling—films, novels, documentaries, non-fiction writing— to approach their own practice in a different way.
A story isn’t just actions of characters, causes and consequences. In a novel for instance, there is an intricate maze of layers of time, narrative points of view with their circles of consciousness and shifts, a psychic distance between a narrator and their characters, the internal and the external. When seamlessly pulled together, all of these techniques become invisible and a story comes to the fore. In a similar way to a city or building, we enter a world constructed for us without questioning the height of a ceiling in a foyer or the width of an underpass. We inhabit the space created; we accept the construct that makes us move in a certain way, see a particular vista, become alert, relaxed or uncomfortable.
Architects and urban planners enjoy finding inspiration in fictional works. In reading, watching, hearing fiction, ‘city-makers’ have found distraction and enjoyment, hopes and utopia, but also apparent repulsion via dystopian depictions of the city. At times, the relationship between fictional imagery, architectural renderings and their subsequent realisations is so confusing that it becomes difficult to realise who influenced who. Who can say if the streets of Osaka influenced Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) or if the reverse is true? Or maybe both. It is said Los Angeles’ planners built their vision on science fiction and found in this alternative reality the confidence to raze parts of the city down, and design it anew. And what to make of this new debate on architectural renderings, visual fictions now so realistic that they’re accused of distorting the reality of what an architect can actually achieve.
‘Enactments’ want to study how city-makers find inspiration in the tools and methods of fictional work to approach their own practice in a different way. How does a screenwriter apprehend times and fictional seasons, and what can the urban planner learn from them? What can a stage designer share with an architect of the way they organise space for drama? As urban policy is faced with a conundrum— how to share knowledge and narratives across space and culture without hollowing it out— what can a discussion between policy and fiction writer bring to the common reflection?
In 2019, Theatrum Mundi is exploring these questions as part of a pilot project titled ‘Enactments’. There are several events confirmed in Paris and Prague, others in the making in London and Oslo—some open to the public and others as invite-only workshops.