Exhibition Project

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

Exhibition at the gta Exhibitions space at the Department of Architecture of ETH Zürich curated by Dr. ir. Marianna Charitonidou

Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown in Las Vegas, 1966 © Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates.

The exhibition “The View from the Car: Autopia as a New Perceptual Regime”, through the visual juxtaposition of various photographs taken by several important architects of the 20th and 21st centuries from the car while travelling, aims to render explicit 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 photographs and drawings from various archives conserved in several institutes and museums, the exhibition aims to establish a transnational dialogue among scholars and architects regarding the epistemological mutations related to the new perceptual and representational regimes that emerged thanks to the increasing role of the automobile in our experience of urban and non-urban landscapes. 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.

Contact: Dr. ir. Marianna Charitonidou