Mediated Cityscapes 02: Memory and the City

In 1978 Rem Koolhaas (wiki) published Delirious New York, a "retroactive manifesto" that wildly reframed Manhattan through a rigorous analysis of the street grid, the skyscraper and congestion while excavating the history of the "mythical island". A few years later Ridley Scott's film adaptation of Blade Runner (wiki) explored the limits of the human condition against a backdrop of decaying art deco, flickering neon and unchecked corporatism. Syd Mead's legendary production design for this film induced a sense of speculative nostalgia that simultaneously demonstrates bleak skepticism towards the promise of the future while pining for a romanticized vision of the Los Angeles of yesteryear.(1) Delirious New York and Blade Runner clearly illustrate how scholarly research and cinema can selectively engage broad historical trajectories and recompile new narratives from fragments and ephemera to fundamentally alter the mythos surrounding particular urban environments – it is rare that we get to enjoy meditations on 'the city' that are so capably crafted.

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