Urban Intermedia: City, Archive, Narrative

Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative Traveling Exhibition

Saturday January 27 2018

Aedes Architecture Forum
, Berlin

27 January – 21 February 2018

SALT Galata, Istanbul

7 March – 1 April 2018

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), Mumbai

15 April – 9 May 2018



The exhibition presents innovative methods of interdisciplinary urban study developed in the context of the Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative. A four-year investigation funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Initiative brings together scholars and designers to develop new approaches to the study of urban environments, societies, and cultures. Four city-based research projects in Berlin, Boston, Istanbul, and Mumbai form the core of the project and exhibition.

“Urban Intermedia” argues that the complexity of contemporary urban societies and environments makes communication and collaboration across professional boundaries and academic disciplines essential. Each discipline produces its own forms of knowledge, but also has “blind spots” that can only be approached through other disciplinary frameworks. Those blind spots are the focus of the research and exhibition.

We use new media-rich methods to bring those blind spots into focus and to explore sites and topics that are outside the conventional narratives and dominant conceptual frameworks of urban research. In particular, we use a range of technologies to bring physical and digital media—archival documents, digital data sets, photography, cartography, architectural drawings, graphics, text, animation, and film and video—into dialogue and registration with each other.

Through these methods, the distinct languages of different media interact at the deepest structural levels. They hybridize, exchange properties and techniques, and, in the process, generate new “intermedia” languages, and with them new ways of acquiring and producing knowledge about cities. These methods allow us to examine complex and dynamic urban phenomena through multiple critical lenses, and to visualize them in densely layered visual narratives.


“Urban Intermedia” is a research project, an experiment in methodology, and an interface that brings into association the three components of the work: city, archive, and narrative. The four research projects in Berlin, Boston, Istanbul, and Mumbai serve as “portals” into three key themes that structure the research: the interdependence of the planned + the unplanned and of formal and informal practices; the urban imprint of migration + mobility and the modalities of inclusion and exclusion; and the interrelation of nature + technology and of urban ecology and infrastructure. We explore these themes through site-based intermedia narratives—composed of digitized archival and contemporary photographs, drawings, maps, animations, documents, texts, and video and film footage—that unfold in place and time.

Each city is represented in a relief map cast in silicone. Its form and materiality are abstracted into a textured, active surface onto which the dynamic and media-rich narratives are projected. Each narrative explores contemporary issues historically, spatially, and through dense intermedial matrices that challenge our understanding of urban environments and processes. The stories they tell are radically open to interpretation, elaboration, and the interactive construction of meaning by viewers of the exhibition.

In the archive, each piece of media used in the narratives is identified and documented along with its source, so that each document, photograph, map, and film or video clip gathered through fieldwork and archival research retains its historical and material integrity as an object. Synchronized with the narratives, the archival register is projected onto the screen, where it constitutes a rolling repository from which—the exhibition suggests—a multitude of different narratives and arguments could be constructed.

Berlin: Experimental Ground

Boston: Race and Space

Istanbul: Metropolitan Flux

Mumbai: Claims on the City


Exhibition Curators

Eve Blau

Robert Gerard Pietrusko

Installation Design

Eric Höweler

David Hamm

Caleb Hawkins

Exhibition Coordinator

Gül Neşe Doğusan Alexander

Art Director

Robert Gerard Pietrusko


Scott Smith

Web Design and Development

Nil Tuzcu

Namik Mačkić

Rob Meyerson

Brochure Design

Claudia Tomateo

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