Prof. Dr. Kris Scheerlinck

(movie still from “Billy Elliot”, BBC films, director Stephen Daldry, 2000)


Exciting news! A couple of weeks ago, we initiated a new innovative research project on the importance of streetscapes in the unfolding of cinematic narratives: which roles do streetscapes play in movies?

In many movies, from cheesy blockbusters to celebrated cult classics, the streetscape is an important ingredient to unfold a narrative: from Woody Allen’s “Manhattan Murder Mystery” plotting conversations between protagonists strolling through Manhattan, to Sofia Coppola’s introduction to an Asian metropolis waking up in “Lost in Translation”, from Stephen Daldry’s “Billy Elliot” dancing in the streets of a North East English industrial city to celebrate the unconventional choices of a young kid, to William Wyler’s “Roman Holiday” taking us on vespa motorbike tours through the streetscapes of Rome, streets are more than decors in movies.

The very questions we ask ourselves are: are these movies based on the reality of urban environments or is it possible we behave differently because of the cinematic references that are part of our individual or collective memory? Can we as architects or urban designers learn from movie directors? By mapping and studying these movies, can we extract intervention strategies that we perhaps would not be able to find in the real world? Are the qualities of streetscapes in movies more present than in the real word and if so, how can we make sure streetscapes become as important in the urban projects we make?

The research, initiated through an elective course at Faculty of Architecture, KU Leuven, is set up as a contribution to parallel ongoing comparative research on urban projects at the intermediate scale within the Streetscape Territories research practice. The objectives are to make a digital data base of movies, according to different categories, and to study and compare all fragments to produce insights on the making of streetscapes. This data base will later lead to a movie format essay on streetscapes and their structural role in society.

We structured the movies into ten different types of dealing with the streetscapes:

1 Streetscapes as Introduction to Cities.
2 Sequences from Domestic Realm to Urban Realm.
3 Happy and Energizing Streetscapes
4 Large Infrastructure as Protagonist
5 Shortcuts, Crossing Interiors.
6 Walkscapes/Runscapes
7 Ordinary streetscapes Lobbies Vestibules and the Street
8 Criminal Streetscapes
9 Chasing Scenes in Streetscapes
10 Ideal Perfect Streetscapes

The project becomes interactive as from this moment on, we ask the public for suggestions of movies within these categories. Thanks for your ideas!
To be continued!

Elective “Urban Projects, Collective Spaces & Local Identities”, cluster Streetscape Territories: Aleksandra Wieslawa Bem, Paulina Castellanos Alcaraz, Quentin Van Houtte, Sankeerth Nakka, Madeleine Debaere and Kris Scheerlinck