Marianna Charitonidou
former postdoc

Research Project

The Travelling Architect’s Eye: Photography and Automobile Vision

Marianna Charitonidou

Pages from from Alison Smithson, AS in DS: An Eye on the Road. Baden: Lars Muller Verlag, 2001. Original edition: AS in DS: An Eye on the Road. Delft: Delft University Press, 1983. © Smithson Family Collection in Stamford, UK.

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.

Contact: Dr. ir. Marianna Charitonidou

I am very thankful to Stavros Niarchos Foundation for supporting the aforementioned project.

Here you can read an article related to this project:
Marianna Charitonidou, "Autopia as new perceptual regime: mobilized gaze and architectural design", City, Territory and Architecture 8(5) (2021).

Here you can read the syllabus of a seminar related to the aforementioned project that I taught during the spring semester 2021.

The View from the Car: Autopia as a New Perceptual Regime

Marianna Charitonidou

This exhibition project entitled “The View from the Car: Autopia as a New Perceptual Regime” is based on the hypothesis that, through the visual juxtaposition of various photographs taken by several important architects of the 20th and 21st century from the car while travelling, the exhibition will make aware people about the impact of the car on the way we perceive the city. The exhibition will examine the status of the photographs that architects take during their travels by car and 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. The curatorship of the display of these photographs will offer the possibility to show visually the key hypotheses on which my research is based, and its key arguments and outcomes. Bringing together and juxtapose photographs and drawings from various archives conserved in several prestigious institutes and museums in both Europe and the United States, the exhibition aims to establish a transnational dialogue among scholars and architects regarding the epistemological mutations related to the new perceptual regimes that emerged thanks to the increasing role of the automobile in our quotidian experience of the cities. It will provide an overview of the role that photographing through the car played for the reinvention of the architectural and urban design strategies during the 20th and 21st century. This project aims to produce an exhibition and a catalogue that will focus on the architects' automobile vision, bringing the results of my project to a broader international public, which should be informed about this important epistemological shift vis-à-vis the urban landscape.

Through the display of clusters of photographs that share the same epistemological concerns and their juxtaposition with drawings of projects on which the architects were working during the same periods they took the photographs that will be displayed in the exhibition it will become possible to render explicit visually the influence that the automobile vision had on the understanding of architecture and urban design as practice. The main objective of the exhibition is to communicate in a tangible and concrete way how the epistemological shifts related to the car are apparent in the ways the architects and urban designers conceived their projects. The exhibition, instead of including exclusively photographs by John Lautner, Alison and Peter Smithson, and Aldo Rossi – which are the main material resources under study in my postdoctoral project – will also include photographs taken during travelling by car by architects such as Le Corbusier, and Alvar Aalto, educators such as Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and art historians such as Sigfried Giedion in the framework of their travels for the well- known CIAM (Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne), conserved at the gta archives at ETH Zürich, and also an ensemble of photographs taken during travelling by car by certain architects of the Team 10, such as Jaap Bakema and Aldo van Eyck, also conserved at the gta archives at ETH Zürich. The possibility to include in the exhibition photographs by other architects as well apart from the three cases on which my postdoctoral research project is focused will render explicit the epistemological shifts related to the intensified impact of the car on the perception of the city and on the ways one transverses the city.

For more information please visit the following website:

Research Project

Tracing the Virus: The Balcony

Tom Avermaete, Fatina, Abreek-Zubiedat, Marianna Charitonidou, Irina Davidovici, Nicole de Lalouvière, Janina Gosseye, Hamish Lonergan, Cathelijne Nuijsink, Hans Teerds, Maxime Zaugg

On 20 May 2020, Dr. Marianna Charitonidou delivered a lecture entitled “The Balcony as An Urban Element:Threshold, Common World and Rythmanalysis” in the framework of the SToA Stuttgart Talks on Architecture: Facing Covid-19 – (Politics of) Elements of Architecture
Link to the event

Stuttgart Talks on Architecture (SToA) is an event series organized by the IGmA Institute for Principles of Modern Architecture (Design and Theory), University of Stuttgart. Concept developed by Prof. Dr. Stephan Trüby & M.A. Philipp Krüpe (IGmA)

Contact: Dr. ir. Marianna Charitonidou