CCHU9034 Arts and Humanities
Architecture and Film

This course is under the thematic cluster(s) of:

  • Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth (SCCE)
  • Creative Arts (CA)


Course Description

This course examines how architecture and urbanism is represented in film and investigates how film influences and constructs the built environment – how it is experienced and perceived. Emerging as a twentieth-century phenomenon, the modern metropolis is the site of the most radical experiments of architects and planners, and an active subject in the imagination and actions of its diverse inhabitants. Film has a close relationship with the city and its architecture. How does architecture use its structure, form, enclosure, floor plans, materials and lighting to produce effects, evoke emotions and influence everyday lives? Likewise, how does film use space, architecture and landscape to situate its characters, create dramatic action and emotions?

Focusing on popular film genres of postwar modern industrialized Hong Kong and other Asian cities––the melodrama, noir thriller, monster movie, sci-fi dystopian fantasy, comedy and crime drama––the course offers a cross-cultural perspective on how films have envisioned urban transformation due to the flows of capital, people, ideologies and imageries. It attends to how movies produce and reproduce the image of the city, their effect on the built environment and how they impact everyday experiences and perceptions of the city they live in. Through in-class analyses and discussions of film clips, film sets, city maps, building plans and texts, the course aims to deepen students’ understanding of how architecture and film influence each other, how they reveal social relations and construct narratives of modernity. Class readings are drawn from film studies, urban studies, global and cultural studies, architectural and design history and theory.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Examine how film represents the city and its architecture to develop a deeper critical understanding of the relationships between modernization, industrialization and the people’s perceptions and experiences.
  2. Cultivate comparative cross-cultural perspectives on the development of urban visions and how they reveal social relations.
  3. Develop a critique of their urban environment, and appreciate the processes at work in a city so as to more fully participate as citizens in global, regional and local communities.
  4. Demonstrate creative, collaborative, and communication skills.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second semester (Wed)

Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures / Seminars / Workshops 24
Tutorials 10
Fieldwork / Visits 6
Reading / Self-study 30
Assessment: Journal 12
Assessment: Video production 52
Total: 134

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Class participation 30
Tutorial participation and reading responses 18
Fieldwork assignment 12
Final project and presentation 40

Required Reading

  • Abbas, M. A. (1997). Hong Kong: Culture and the politics of disappearance. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. [pp. 63-90] 
  • Abbott, C. (2016). Imagining Urban Futures: Cities in Science Fiction and What We Might Learn From Them. Middletown, CN: Wesleyan University Press. [“Migratory Cities” (pp. 72-92)]
  • AlSayyad, N. (2006). Cinematic urbanism: A history of the modern from reel to real. New York; London: Routledge. [pp. 147-168] 
  • Barthes, R. (1986). The Rustle of Language. New York: Hill and Wang. [“Leaving the Movie Theatre” (pp. 345-349)]
  • Benjamin, W., Jennings, M., Doherty, B., Levin, T., & Jephcott, E. (2008). The work of art in the age of its technological reproducibility, and other writings on media. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. [pp. 19-55]
  • Berger, J. (1972). Ways of Seeing. London: British Broadcasting Corporation: Penguin Books. [pp. 7-33]
  • De Certeau, M. (1984). The Practice of Everyday Life (translated by Steven Randall). Berkeley: University of California Press. [pp. 91-110, 115-130]
  • Koeck, R., & Roberts, L. (2010). The city and the moving image: Urban projections. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire; New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Tobe, R. (2017). Film, architecture and spatial imagination. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon; New York, NY: Routledge. [pp. 145-162]
  • Tsutsui, W. M. (2010). Oh No, There Goes Tokyo: Recreational Apocalypse and the City in postwar Japanese Popular Culture. In G. Prakash (Ed.), Noir urbanisms: Dystopic images of the modern city (pp. 104-126). Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr E.M.F. Seng
Department of Architecture, Faculty of Architecture
Tel: 3917 7685
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr E.M.F. Seng
Department of Architecture, Faculty of Architecture
Tel: 3917 7685