After trips to Berlin, Istanbul, and Mumbai, the Harvard-curated exhibition “Urban Intermedia: City, Archive, Narrative” arrived at the Graduate School of Design (GSD) this fall, promising visitors more questions than answers.
“This is both a homecoming and an opportunity to raise new issues,” said Eve Blau, adjunct professor of the history of urban form at GSD and one of the exhibition’s co-curators. “We see the exhibition as an experiment and the beginning of an ongoing discussion on new kinds of practices around the study of cities that bring together scholarship, design, and media. The open-ended aspect of the project is key to what it is all about.”
The exhibit caps the four-year Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative (HMUI), which Blau co-directed with Julie Buckler, Samuel Hazzard Cross Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures and of Comparative Literature at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS); she curated the exhibit itself with the GSD’s Robert Pietrusko, associate professor of landscape architecture. “Urban Intermedia” was designed by Höweler + Yoon Architecture, led by Eric Höweler, associate professor of architecture. It is on view at Druker Design Gallery through Oct. 14.
The exhibition synthesizes four years of scholarship on its subject cities — Berlin, Boston, Istanbul, and Mumbai — via animated digital narratives in a materials-driven installation. Four portals, each dedicated to one of the cities, invite visitors into miniature theaters in which the animated narratives are projected.
To tell the stories, the curators drew from a gamut of fieldwork and archival material, including photography, cartography, architectural drawings, digital data sets, film, and video. Viewers can watch each city unfold over time, but without written or verbal commentary, allowing freedom of interpretation.
During the exhibition’s Sept. 5 opening event, Jeffrey Schnapp, the Carl A. Pescosolido Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and of Comparative Literature at FAS, compared it to a city stroll: Visitors choose their own paths through the same setting, generating different takeaways from a common landscape.