Architecture and the Moving Image: City, Culture and Identity
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Liverpool
Unit of AssessmentArchitecture, Built Environment and Planning
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration
Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Film, Television and Digital Media
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies
Summary of the impact
Interdisciplinary research by the Centre for Architecture and the Visual
Arts (CAVA), based in the School of Architecture, is on the role of the
moving image in the culture and identity of cities. By examining historic
film, current trends and future developments in city branding and digital
imaging, a new field of research has developed with three types of
beneficiary: (1) institutions (museums and galleries); (2) municipal
authorities (planning/urban development departments); (3) inhabitants
of and visitors to cities. Liverpool's European Capital of Culture
programme (2008) formed the basis of the research, which has spread
nationally (London/Battersea) and internationally (China).
Though an extensive archive of films about urban places exists, only with
the advent of digital technology has it become possible to make use of
this resource as a tool in the understanding and discussion of the design
of our cities. The research by CAVA showed how it was possible to
integrate this filmic resource with other existing resources (North West
Film Archive, English Heritage) and developing sources (British Film
Institute Screenonline) to strengthen both public and professional
understanding of how the physical form of the city has developed and how
it might change in future. In addition, Geographic Information Systems
(GIS) mapping, interactive locative media, and mobile digital devices are
being used to integrate film with the direct physical experience of the
city, combining the virtual with the real.
The projects City in Film (AHRC) and Mapping the City in Film
(AHRC) were amongst the first to use GIS in an arts and humanities context
and provided the UK's first comprehensive study of filmic heritage of a
city (Liverpool). The project has brought together and documented to date
over 1700 films about the city between 1897 and 1984. The research group
assembled a spatially organised film database, allowing practitioners and
the public to search and locate archive material by, for example, spatial
function or usage. Developing these methods, Cinematic Geographies of
Battersea (AHRC) created a mobile database of nearly 600 archive
films, allowing researchers and the public to discuss and actively engage
with issues around city and film heritage. The three projects generated
made accessible and contextualised data — using e.g. physical
screenings/installations, locative media applications and pioneering
techniques such as GIS, GPS geo-fencing, 3D, augmented reality — that
otherwise would not be available.
In developing these new resources, the research group collaborated with
public institutions, both in the UK (including North West Film Archive,
British Film Institute and English Heritage) and overseas (Nanning City
Planning Office, China), to establish approaches and applications, which
can be used worldwide and which have directly influenced subsequent work
on other cities. Examples of this influence are: the filmic mapping of
"Postwar Architecture and the City in Greece, 1950-2010" (Alifragkis,
University of Thessaly), "Cinematic Rotterdam" (Paalman, University of
Amsterdam), and "Film. Stadt. Wien: A transdisciplinary exploration of
Vienna as a Cinematic City" (Mattl, Ludwig Boltzmann-Institut für
Geschichte und Gesellschaft).
The European Capital of Culture, 2008, provided the main impetus to this
research direction. The public events and exhibitions formed a key focus
and this has continued, e.g. at the Shanghai Expo 2010, Maxxi (Rome) 2011
and National Museums of Liverpool 2012. The research group is now
collaborating with the Survey of London (English Heritage) on the project
Cinematic Geographies of Battersea, as part of the Survey of London's
study of Battersea (due for completion 2014), and advising the Education
and Cultural Executive Agency of the European Commission in Brussels
Academic Staff: Prof. Robert Kronenburg (1995-present), Prof. Richard
Research Staff: Dr Les Roberts (2006-10), Dr. Ryan Shand (2008-10), Dr M.
Collaborating Researchers: Dr. Julia Hallam (UofL, Communications and
Media, 2006-10), Prof.
Francois Penz (University of Cambridge, 2012-13)
References to the research
Peer reviewed publications (ordered by date):
 Koeck, R. (2012). Cine-Scapes: Cinematic Spaces in Architecture
and Cities, London/New York, Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-60079-8. Sole
 Roberts, L. (2012). Film. Mobility and Urban Space: a Cinematic
Geography of Liverpool. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. ISBN
978-1846317576. Sole authored book.
 Koeck, R. (2012) ‘Space, Cinema and Structure’ (空间的影像构造),
Architectural Journal (建筑学报 ), Vol. 9, pp. 80-85. ISSN 0529-1300. Journal
article. [leading academic architectural journal in China]
 Koeck, R. and Roberts, L. (eds.) (2010) The City and the Moving
Image: Urban Projections, London: Palgrave. ISBN 978-0-230-24338-5.
 Hallam, J. and Roberts, L. (2011) `Mapping, memory and the city:
archives, databases and film historiography', European Journal of
Cultural Studies, Sage, Vol 14:3, 355-372. ISSN 1367-5494. Journal
 Koeck, R. (2009), `Liverpool in Film: J. A. L. Promio's Cinematic
Urban Space' in Early Popular Visual Culture, London: Taylor &
Francis Publication, Vol 7 (1): 63-81. ISSN 1746-0654. Journal article.
Key research grants:
||2013 2 x AHRC Creative Exchange KE grant: Open
Planning (£7,500) (Koeck CI with Royal College of Art) + Rhythmanalysis (£15,500) (Koeck CI with University
||AHRC Cultural Engagement Fund, Beyond the Constructivist Museum,
£10,000 (Koeck PI, partner Tate Liverpool).
||AHRC (£196,395) Cinematic Geographies of Battersea: Urban
Interface & Site-Specific Spatial Knowledge (Koeck PI)
||National Science Foundation of China (£50,000) Quantitative Study
of the Narrative System in Historic Urban Environments (Koeck CI, with Central South
University/China and University of Cambridge)
||North West Vision & Media (£20,290) Lumière and the Liverpool
Overhead Railway (Koeck PI).
||AHRC (£377,188) Mapping the City in Film (Hallam PI, Kronenburg
CI); RAs: Roberts, Shand. (AHRC reviewer of final project report: this project achieved
‘substantial impact in the city and other community areas’, promoted ‘extensive
networking and collaboration’, ‘very efficient use of resource’.
||AHRC (£195,460) City in Film: Liverpool’s urban landscape and the
moving-image’ (Hallam PI, Kronenburg CI). RAs Koeck, Roberts.
Details of the impact
Working in partnership with national and international film archives,
museums and stakeholders in `visual arts' and `urban heritage', CAVA's
research activities have made key contributions to the enhancement of the
understanding and shaping of public attitudes towards archival film
culture. Evidence of this can be found in published material where the
work is cited (e.g., Bate 2010: 95; Velez-Serna 2011: 544-46); TV/Radio,
press and media coverage (e.g., BBC, ITV, GMTV); and impact reports (e.g.
Impact 08; AHRC reviews) linked to Liverpool's nomination as European
Capital of Culture 2008. Our three consecutive AHRC projects, on film and
cities, contributed to the national `Screen Heritage UK' programme.
Liverpool received special mention as `a very successful programme' in the
British Film Institute's report to the House of Lords Select Committee on
Communications, in its inquiry into the British film and television
industries, 2009. The BFI relied on this work when preparing its
subsequent `Portrait of Britain' national project.
The reach and significance of our research into cinematic geography,
archaeology and place is in three specific areas:
1. Enhancements to heritage preservation, conservation and presentation:
a) Film Databases, 2008, 2014: The creation of two city film
databases (City in Film and Cinematic Geographies of Battersea) has transformed the way researchers,
practitioners and the public can interrogate film archives. Web statistics
show that several thousand visitors used the resource.
b) BFI Screenonline 2008-9: Collaboration with the BFI on the Liverpool Screenonline project, the UK's first film archive of a city
(45,000 users by March 2013), was developed and made available to schools,
universities and public libraries. Organisation of nine
screening/discussion events with local filmmakers, artists, community
activists, which were attended by between 30 and 800 participants.
c) Mitchell and Kenyon, St George's Hall, 2008: With Prof.
Toulmin (Sheffield University) and the BFI, as part of Liverpool's 2008
European Capital of Culture programme, re-enacted the screening of
material from one of the UK's most important film archives — Mitchell and Kenyon's Liverpool Films (1901/2). The first venue in
Liverpool had an audience of over 1,000. The screening had impact in terms
of engaging the public with the history of the city using archive film and
on people's memory of the city (Liverpool Echo, 30.04.08; Daily
Post, 06.05.08), TV (ITV) and radio (BBC Merseyside).
2. Production of cultural artefacts to enhance cultural understanding
of place and people:
a) Members of the research group were consultants to Hurricane Films for
Terrence Davis' film Of Time and the City, 2008, and used archive footage sourced
through their research. The contribution is acknowledged in the film
credits. The digital database by Koeck and Roberts, including the
retrieval and study of films at the North West Film Archive, enabled
filmmakers to create the first Liverpool feature-length film composed
entirely from archive footage. The film was screened and received special
mention at Cannes
Film Festival 2008; nominations for a BAFTA
and British Independent Film Award (Best British Documentary, 2008) and a
New York Film Critics Circle Award (2009), and positive newspaper reviews
e.g. in The Guardian.
b) Two installations at the National Museums of Liverpool (NML), 2011-12:
and the Overhead Railway and Mapping the City in Film
provided opportunities for two permanent exhibitions, utilising animation,
historical maps and interactive displays at the
Museum. The work provided previously unknown spatial context of the
earliest Liverpool films. It was the most visited museum outside London in
2011-12. Lectures were attended by more than 1000 people and were reported
on the History
Network in the USA.
3. Stimulation of public debate:
a) Urban Planning Strategies: Koeck served as consultant to Nanning
(2010), Macau (2011) and Nanjing (2012) to develop with them film/visual
culture-based strategies for city branding and urban regeneration. The
Nanning Urban and Rural Planning Bureau subsequently revised its
development into a regeneration, which included the preservation of a
historical inner-city district. This change in policy, with greater
emphasis on "cultural industry" and "cultural heritage", was publically
announced by the government.
b) English Heritage was a partner on Cinematic
Geographies of Battersea (2012-13). This project led to new
understanding regarding the role of moving images/film for the UK's
cultural heritage as well as the use of digital and social media to
`stitch' cultural history back into urban space. It is the first time that
The Survey of London (founded 1894) has referenced this role of film in
the context of an investigation of urban/architectural heritage.
Sources to corroborate the impact
- The Senior Curator in the British Film Institute National Archive can
be contacted to corroborate that our AHRC research on Liverpool films
provided the context/opportunity for the BFI's Screenonline Liverpool:
A City in Film initiative; the first city-based archival project
of its kind, accessible to schools/museums/libraries all over the UK. He
can corroborate our roles, user numbers and impact on users.
- The Director of the Museum of Liverpool (National Museums Liverpool)
can be contacted to corroborate our collaboration with the Museum;
specifically on the LOR Lumiere installation. She can verify the
key role of staff and the underlying research on the inception,
planning, execution and proliferation (lecture
She can also corroborate: the evidence of visitor numbers and surveys;
the national importance of this installation; and its impact on local
- The Head and General Editor of the Survey of London/English Heritage
can be contacted to verify our collaboration with the Survey of London
as part of the AHRC Cinematic Geographies of Battersea. He can
corroborate links to the publication of a key volume on Battersea;
impact on the organisation; and the pioneering use of film in the
context of rigorous investigation of urban/architectural heritage.
- The Director/Producer of Hurricane Films Liverpool can be contacted to
corroborate that our AHRC research on Liverpool films made important
contributions — from inception to production — to the award winning film
`Of Time and the City' (Terence Davis, 2008). He can corroborate the
importance of our research, our role as consultants, and the impact the
film had worldwide.
- The Chair of the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at Nanjing
University can be contacted to: corroborate all our "film and city"
research/consultancy activities in China; verify the pioneering use of
film in the context of urban planning; corroborate that the Nanning
Urban/Rural Planning Bureau invited Koeck as advisor; and corroborate
its subsequent revision of its CBD-oriented development to include
cultural-led regeneration/preservation strategies.
- The Liverpool: City in Film database was announced
by the BBC, with a direct link to the database provided. The story
also featured on BBC Radio Merseyside and on local TV and press, for
example in the Liverpool
Daily Post. This corroborates our claim that this output from our
research has been opened to public engagement.
- BFI evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications
reports) refers to the influence and impact of our research and
how our collaboration with Screenonline has had an impact on the
BFI's Screen Heritage UK project. It states that "this latest innovative
online resource will give everyone in Britain a unique insight into
their social, cultural and political heritage as seen on film and
Report and Media
Impact Assessment report (e.g. p. 3, 40, 44) provide evidence that
exposing our research on `film and the city' to a large public audience
and media — in line with European Capital of Culture activities (e.g.
though film productions, screening, exhibition and public lectures as
well as collaboration with all key cultural instructions in the city) — contributed to a significant increase in cultural understanding and
shaping of public attitudes and values towards archival film culture as
well as, in terms of financial
revenue from film production, promoted Liverpool as second most
filmed city in the UK.
- Bate, J. (ed.) (2010), The Public Value of the Humanities,
London: Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 94-6, provides evidence of the public
value and impact of the Liverpool Mitchell & Kenyon screening
(2008). He refers to the importance of archive films when shown to local
audiences and cities e.g. the Liverpool Mitchell & Kenyon screening
in St. Georges Hall in 2008.
- An article in the journal Screen describes how our research
impacted on the national debate on cities and film: "In the British
context, one of the most successful and well-disseminated of these
projects was `A city in film: Liverpool's urban landscape and the moving
image', based at the University of Liverpool from 2006 to 2010."
Velez-Serna M. (2011), `The City and the Moving Image: Urban Projections
[book review], Screen 52:4, Oxford University Press, p. 544-46.