Walls Have Feelings: Architecture, Film, and the City

Walls Have Feelings: Architecture, Film, and the City

Walls Have Feelings: Architecture, Film, and the City

Walls Have Feelings: Architecture, Film, and the City


Walls Have Feelings uses films to reassess post-war architecture and urbanism in London, Paris and New York. It takes a close and provocative look at classic films from the forties, fifties and sixties, including Alfie, Mary Poppins and Rosemary's Baby.


This book can be read in any order, from back to front, middle to end, as separate sections and as single chapters.

The proviso is that, like a film, it needs the reader to ‘run with’ its narrative for the duration. To begin to get into its insights you need to suspend some disbelief.

The aim of the book is to get at a number of questions about architecture, construction and the city through using film. And the point is to bring knowledge from fiction and film to challenge professional assumptions about the way architecture and the city invariably ‘work’. Walls Have Feelings is divided into three parts, which, if you read them consecutively, move from the particular to the general. The first is The Detail, the middle section, The Interior, and the final section is The City.

Readers with different interests can go straight for the parts that are important to them. If you are interested in film first, and architecture second, read Chapter 1, especially the second part which looks at parallels between the contrasting film aesthetics of an Ealing comedy, Passport to Pimlico, an example of the British New Wave, It Happened Here, and Beat Girl, a 1960s’ camp B-feature with a concrete interior. Read also Chapter 3, on Polanski’s Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby; Chapter 4, concerning two films about offices in Manhattan, The Apartment, and Sabrina Fair, and two great films of 1960s’ London: Alfie and Darling; Chapter 5, about Jean-Luc Godard’s Two or Three Things I Know About Her, and Chapter 6, on L.A. Story, and three more London films: Mary Poppins, The Chain, about moving house, and Four in the Morning, about the River Thames.

If you are interested in themes of gender, go to Chapter 3, an essay on two films which use the metaphor of the interior of the female body and the interior of an apartment; go to Chapter 4, which deals with the interrelationship of decorative femininity, the interior and the office in the 1960s; and Chapter 5, which is about the way the city of Paris, its interiors and the figure of a prostitute are metaphorically intertwined.

If you are interested in London, then you should go to Chapter 4, for issues emerging from the city’s rebuilding in the 1960s, and Chapter 6, for discussion of alternative imagery from fiction for envisioning London as a whole. For issues surrounding London’s post-war construction, go to Chapter 1 which deals with Brutalism, and Chapter 2, which is about building failure.

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