Research Project
The Travelling Architect’s Eye: Photography and Automobile Vision

Research Project
Marianna Charitonidou

This research project aims to investigate the status of the photographs that architects take during their travels by car. It is based on the hypothesis that the view from the car has established a new epistemology of the urban landscape and the territory at large. Focusing on the views from the car produced by the architects under study will help us to better understand how this epistemological shift influenced architectural thinking and practice. The automobile, since its invention, has reshaped our conceptions of space, revolutionizing the way architects perceive the city and contributing significantly to the transformation of the relationship between architecture and the city. One must not forget the importance of the car itself: indeed, no other factor changed the city so drastically during the twentieth century as the pervasive presence of the automobile, which had a very important impact not only on the ways one accesses the city, but also on the city's own relation to its territory. The project will focus on the close examination of photographs taken by architects John Lautner (1911 – 1994), Alison and Peter Smithson (1928 – 1993 & 1923 – 2003) and Aldo Rossi (1931 – 1997), which will contribute to a broader understanding of the process of viewing and photographing scenes from the car, and of its elaboration of a “snapshot aesthetics” to capture contemporary urban life in its ordinariness and banality. A point of convergence between these architects’ approach is the attention they paid to the role played by automobile transport in the reorientation of how we perceive urban landscapes and territories. This project is based upon the conviction that a development of taxonomies of the photographs of these architects, according to scenography and subject matter, for instance, would permit to discern patterns in their approach to urban design, as well as in their conceptions of urban fabric. In parallel, it would help us comprehend how they categorized the elements of the landscapes that captured their attention.


Dr. Ir. Marianna Charitonidou