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Playtime: Tativille and Paris
Iain Borden, "Playtime: Tativille and Paris," Neil Leach (ed.), The Hieroglyphics of Space: Reading and Experiencing the Modern Metropolis, (London: Routledge, 2002), pp. 217-33. AIMS & QUESTIONS The films of the French director Jacques Tati are often considered to be a negative critique of architectural and urban modernity, showing modern cities as a place of bureaucracy and technocracy, and devoid of the richer aspects of everyday life. This essay refutes that interpretation as being over-simplistic, and shows how Tati, particularly in the 1960s film Playtime, found in architectural modernity a playground of humour, joyful social encounters and tentative love. The chapter has three research aims. (1) To explore the ways in which architectural and urban modernism may be experienced and re-coded by non-architects. (2) To explore the cinematic work of Tati in the context of architectural and urban history (3) To explore the role of humour and bodily senses in peoples’ experiences of architecture and urban space. METHODS The chapter is an interdisciplinary enquiry involving architectural history, film theory and cultural studies. It is based on the intersection of three main research methods. (1) An historical and theoretical enquiry into architectural modernism, focusing on architectural materiality, and particularly glass materiality. (2) An exploration of the work of Tati, using interviews and published sources, and also observation of the cinematic works themselves. (3) An investigation of the bodily and sensory experiences of space, using theoretical understandings of these experiences. CONTEXTS The chapter sits within a broad concern with the history of architectural and urban experience, i.e. with the history of architecture after it has been constructed, and investigating the various ways in which cities and their architecture are continually reproduced through different experiences, idea and codings. DISSEMINATION A shorter version of the chapter has been published as “Material Sounds: Jacques Tati and Modern Architecture,” Architecture and Film II, special profile n.143 of Architectural Design (AD), v.70 n.1, (January 2000), guest edited by Bob Fear, pp. 26-31. I have given introductions at screenings of Tati films at the Barbican Arts Centre and National Film Theatre in London, as well as 4 public lectures on cinema and architecture in the UK and USA.
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  • The Bartlett School of Architecture
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