Events
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    Archive for the 'Built Environment' Category

    Flickering, lost, forgotten: London’s silent picture palaces

    By Sophie E Pleterski, on 10 June 2014

    Hale's_Tours_of_the_WorldWill you come with me to a talkie to-day?

    During my second film event of the UCL Festival of the Arts in two days, I was transported back to the origins of cinema in London’s ‘filmland’.  From the bright lights of Leicester Square to the back alleys of Soho, our group of fifteen retraced the steps of early twentieth-century film-goers through Bloomsbury and the West End.

    There were a few familiar faces from the previous night’s event Memories of 60s Cinema-Going, all equally curious to discover the hidden stories behind these hitherto innocuous buildings dotted around London.

    Led by Dr Chris O’Rourke (UCL Centre for Humanities Interdisciplinary Research Projects) who is researching the social experience of cinema-going in the period of silent film, we began in front of the brutish façade of the Odeon on Tottenham Court Road.

    The birth of cinema in London, we were told, was Newman Street, 1894, where private demonstrations of peepshow kinetoscope machines showing a mixture of everyday and spectacular theatrical subjects were captivating 19th century audiences.

    From these flickering beginnings, 500 cinemas opened in the London area. Tottenham Court Road alone was home to six including The Majestic Picturedrome, Carlton Cinema and The Court (not the pub) where  The Dominion now stands. Somehow they were all commercially successful, just as today’s Starbucks and Costa manage inexplicably to sell enough Americanos to reside next to each other.

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    UCL symposium on cycling and culture: are your tyres fully inflated?

    By Guest Blogger, on 9 May 2014

    pencil-icon By Thomas Cohen

    Or so read the tweet announcing the imminent start of this event on 1 May, which took place under the auspices of the UCL Transport Institute, in connection with its transport and culture theme.

    Chairing was Professor Iain Borden of the Bartlett School of Architecture.  He set the wheels in motion with a challenge to the audience: how do we talk about aspects of cycling culture? Are they ineffable? “The feeling of the body as it spins its legs and cycles its bicycle and spins through the streets of London…it’s actually not very easy to put that into words.” Nine speakers then attempted to do just that.

    Flickr - http://bit.ly/1g3D3aA

    Flickr – http://bit.ly/1g3D3aA

    There was a diverse audience at the event, from representatives of London Cycling Campaign to local authority officers, transport consultants, plus a healthy sprinkling of UCL folk. Everyone got stuck into the subject matter and the debate was typically robust, as you might expect at a cycling event.

    Michael Hebbert (UCL Bartlett School of Planning) wowed us with a vision of the boulevard as purpose-built for urban living, with the bicycle centre-stage.  “There is a lot to be said about the erotics of cycling down a street canyon, feeling the built environment form caressing you on either side of your face as you cycle,” intoned the professor.

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    Elegy for a password

    By Kira McPherson, on 31 March 2014

    We were gathered there on 25 March to commemorate “the end of an era in research” – the death of the password.

    Professor M. Angela Sasse ably led the service (disguised as a Lunch Hour Lecture), the tone of which was sombre if not exactly mournful. Everybody seemed to agree that it was the password’s time to go.

    For me, her lecture was an interesting lesson on the intersections between technology and human fallibility, and in particular, how the development of the former can outpace the latter.

    This is particularly true of computer authentication systems, which most of us use in the form of passwords; the jumble of letters, numbers and symbols of a designated length needed before you can check emails.

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    Buddhas of Suburbia: faith, migration and suburban change in London

    By Yohann K Koshy, on 11 March 2014

    If there’s one thing to take home from American film culture, from The Virgin Suicides to American Beauty, it’s that the suburbs are a place to be avoided at all costs. Replete with murderous instincts and repressed sexual desires, they are to be treated with scorn by urbanites and the few suburban refugees who manage to escape.

    Hindu goddess in gold at the Shri Kanaga Thurkkai Amman Hindu Temple

    Hindu goddess

    Perhaps this unfair reputation stems from the suburban aesthetic: when the soul is furnished by identikit architecture that presumably houses conservative cultural habits, it is unsurprising that we see the suburban subject as living a boring life, unworthy of academic reflection or investigation.

    In her Lunch Hour Lecture, Dr. Claire Dwyer (UCL Geography) rescued suburbia from this prejudicial inertia, demonstrating through an architectural, geographical and cultural comparative analysis of faith loci in Greater London that the suburbs can be a place of dynamic modernity where space is contested, deconstructed and re-mapped.

    The first half of Dr. Dwyer’s lecture focused on newly developed or proposed institutions such as the Jain Temple in Potter’s Bar, Hertfordshire and the Salaam Centre in Harrow, which show how the suburbs are on the forefront of cultural innovation. (more…)