Marco Piscitelli

Document Type

Thesis, Senior

Publication Date

Spring 2014




Paris, Planning, Architectural Theory, Walter Benjamin, Charles Baudelaire






AT THE HEELS of heroic Modernist planning, fully institutionalized by the start of the Second World War, an investigation on the desires of Urban Subject emerges as a critical response to architects’ moralistic fixation on composition, function, and programmatic separation. Walter Benjamin’s exploration of the subject takes the form of an analysis of the nineteenth-century Parisian flâneur, as celebrated by poet-essayist Charles Baudelaire. Passagenwerk discusses architecture’s potency in both supporting social rituals and crafting a Subject itself. “Paris,” specifically the arcade, “created the Type of the flâneur.”(BEN, 416). Continuing in this vein of research, the Situationists develop a framework describing processes of urban alienation and the potential for escape through dérive, a voluntary invocation of the flâneur-subject to fragment and reconfigure the geography of the city through the creation of experiential narratives.

Today, Paris can no longer function as a stand-in for the City as an idea. In addition to transforming the physical urban landscape, the driver has replaced the pedestrian as prevailing participant in urban planning. Just as the passage created the subject and engendered the dérive, the automobile has shaped the manner in which we understand and experience space.

The elevated highway is the locus for this contemporary derive. Inherently divorced from the activities of the streetscape, itself a relic of the past, the highway is the architectural armature which supports rituals of movement across the City. Myths of the Near Future proposes to remap the postmodern City, a palimpsestic system of speeds and spaces of movement, according to the desires of this “New Urban Subject,” a driving, mechanized flâneur who utilizes the automobile as a mediator with which to experience space. As a methodology, the analysis, spatialization, and close misreading of a textual narrative, here a work of critical science fiction, will provide programming for an urban sequence that targets the highway as a site of potentiality. An investigation through dual modes of architectural representation, both isometric projection and filmic animations, will provide a means by which these narratival, architectural scenarios may be tested.

Additional Information

Thesis advisers: Jean Francois Bedard, Jonathan Massey

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