Constructing Narratives

Teaching team

Masha Hupalo, Nacho Ruiz Allén


Unit 2/3A + Unit 2/3B. 2017-2018. Aarhus School of Architecture


Library. Aarhus School of Architecture, Denmark




Cities provide the stage for diverse and rich narratives. Usually, these narratives are deeply rooted in the mythology or history of a place and belong to the collective memory. However, in some cases, a particular or subjective point of view begets a narrative that sharply sections through the urban environment and displays its features in a concentrated, unique and provocative form. Independently from the chosen medium of representation – text, video, photo or audio –these other narratives enhance and articulate specific qualities of the contemporary city. Amplified by their inhabitants and visitors, the alternative stories produce seductive cultural geographies and descriptions, not always based on a strictly realistic account. They simultaneously reveal and construct the city as the site of multiple representations, and are subjected to become, eventually, part of the collective memory.

Contemporary architectural discourse has been occasionally fostered by urban narratives. Seminal manifestos like Learning from Las Vegas or Delirious New York show how certain local narratives triggered by universal concerns are conceived to be exported, manipulated, tested, and implemented in many different contexts. Inspired by Jeffrey Kipnis’ assertion that the architectural narrative only makes sense if it generates a productive fiction, the course aims to examine how certain narratives elaborated during the postmodern period transformed the perception and consequently the understanding of the city. Furthermore, the proposed approach suggests that what we usually consider ‘reality’ is, in the end, another constructed fiction.

To achieve that goal, a twofold methodology is applied. First, the students are introduced to selected representations of the city produced by different textual and visual narrations. Second, they are asked to reinterpret a familiar urban setting according to the main attributes of the analysed narratives. The outcome of the process is presented in a postcard format with a photo of the chosen site, manipulated, on one side, and an axonometric drawing and a descriptive text of its fictional counterpart on the other side. The collection of fictional urban scenarios is displayed on postcard stands.