Symbolic City: Urban Screen and Blade Runner

Sci-fi movie is always an inspiration for architects, urban planners and scientists. Blade Runner released in 1982 is the first movie taking account of the city occupied with screen media. By inputting the urban screens in a city, Los Angeles, in the year 2019, Blade Runner has got a great attention in many academic discourses related to postmodernism[1] and media city.[2] The film doesn’t take place in a spaceship or space station, but in a city. The city of Blade Runner is not the ultramodern, but the postmodern city (Bruno 1987: 63). Blade Runner has been convinced  its stage design as a realistic solution with today’s technology and could be treated as an early blue print for phenomenon of symbolic city. By taking an example of opening scene in Blade Runner, this paper try to address how screen media in both form and content can function as a way for symbolic expression in the urban city.

In the opening scene, there is a flight vehicle flying slowly across the cityscape. Through the continuous camera moving, what catching our eyes is a pyramid look megastructure covered with thousands of windows twinkles with the lights in the dark. It is the first impression of the city in the film. According to stage designer, Syd Mead’s design concept, the randomly light source is a reflection from instant TV channels changing where people are sitting behind the window and watching different channels at the same time.[3] Each window represents a single block of pixel based on the same system (TV) but operates individually without any interruptions from others (blocks). When the building carries the bulk of pixel blocks, it shows a dynamic and fluid pattern whereas the accumulation of pixels becomes an iconic image. The concept of this megastructure has proved a visible working reference for Paul Virilio’s “Electronic Gothic”.[4] Virilio notices that the development of hi-res building covering with screen serves as the similar function with the narrative of Gothic church windows. In Blade Runner, a pyramid look megastructure becomes a modern church where a reflection of TV channels is telling the story for the metropolis.

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Panorama Video Reference

Interactive Panorama Video

1. yellow bird

2. video streetview

3. immersive media

4. 360 reality

5. city-views

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Characteristic of Panoramic Photography

  1. The observer (photographer) must stand in the center of the scene rather than standing a position outside of the spot.
  2. The observer creates an inner relation between the surrounding and himself/ herself based on the subjective choice of spot.
  3. The way to picture the panoramic space is from inside to outside in which the outline of space is constituted by the inner structure with different perspectives.
  4. The form of panoramic image is processed by the logic of geometry.
  5. The production of panoramic photography is from a part to the whole, whereas the presentation of panoramic image is from the whole to a part.
  6. The panoramic photography doesn’t provide a proper way to read the images; therefore people can construct / re-construct or arrange / re-arrange the sequence of images based on their sensation to the space.
  7. The panoramic image includes two parts: The representational part are landscape, architecture and people; The abstract part are geometry, symbol and composition
  8. The 360 x 180 panoramic picture is generated through vertical axis and horizontal axis to present an overall perspective.
  9. The panorama is defined as array of information collected and constantly change by the viewers.
  10. The panoramic photography transfers the sphere of space into multi-dimensional flat surfaces.
  11. The approach to panoramic photography is a process of folding and unfolding.
  12. The equirectangular projection is the output of unfolding panoramic picture like a world map. It could be regarded as an iconic symbol for the space, but also a scenography in geographic perspective.
  13. In an equirectangular panoramic image all verticals remain vertical, and the horizon becomes a straight line across the middle of the image.

The Dundee Train (test video)

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Solar Equation by Lozano-Hemmer

Toward the new screen

Over the past decade, we have witnessed the massive changes on our society, economies, culture, art and architecture. The growth of digital technologies plays a crucial role among them and has been particularly influential in changing our everyday life. The current phenomenon of urban space creates a series of virtual exchanges where signs and information are ubiquitous in our surroundings. The city has become the spectacle of information exchange. Under this background, urban screen is a pioneering area, which has gathered great attention in the past ten years. By transforming architecture into the form of digital media, urban screen reveals the function of symbolic exchange in postmodernism and recalls the key themes of urbanism: communication, networks and information. Urban screen can not only be seen as a tendency to digital city, but also a reflection to information society. A major assumption of urban screen as an appearance of urban landscape and a medium to the public sphere – a double-coded language in both technological and semiotic aspects – has become a representation of urban space.  The questions are: when a screen is erected in the public space, how does urban screen affect urban environment and function its symbolic meaning over the space? What is the relation between symbol, images, perceptions and space? What are the properties of urban screen and how do these properties define or redefine the properties of urban space? This research attempts to criticize and analyze the context of urban screen from a more cultural and theoretical perspective to emphasize its impacts and influence in different layers of urban environment.

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Urban Screen Precedents (2000-2010)