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The Eisenstein And Architectural Montage Film Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 4834 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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“From a lump of clay a vessel is made, what makes it useful is space within the vessel, for a room, we make doors and a window, but what makes a room habitable is the empty space, so while there’s advantages in the tangible, it is in the intangible that there’s use.” [1] 

Lao Tzu, ‘Tao Te Ching’, c.550 BC

Tzu describes a space which is not empty but which is a gap, a gap which is waiting to be transformed by experience. These spatial gaps are inherent in fragmentation. In his book “Actions of Architecture”, Jonathan Hill focusses on these spatial gaps and discusses the Chora L. Works by Jacques Derrida and Peter Eisenman.

The book is split into three sections. It doesn’t start at the beginning nor does it end at the end. The first and last sections are penetrated by nine holes whilst the middle section has only conceptual holes. Hill states the intention of this was to convey that the absence of a section doesn’t mean the absence of meaning. In the book, Eisenmann and Derrida declare that solid and voids are architectural representations of presence and absence. Voids have as much of a presence as solids in the book, as users can fill in missing words with their own meaning.

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In “Actions of Architecture”, Jonathan Hill discusses the use of montage in architecture. He uses Alvar Aalto’s Sanatorium and Le Corbusier’s 1931 rooftop apartments for Charles de Beistegui as examples of buildings where montage was used as a strategy for architectural composition. In Aalto’s Sanatorium, montage is used as a strategy to join two dissimilar aspects of the building which have no connection expect for being adjacent to each other. Aalto achieved this by utilizing two distinct fragments. [2] 

In Le Corbusier’s rooftop apartments, the architect departs from his traditionally rational design approach. Various surfaces of the apartment are juxtaposed with elements of the surrounding city. Important fragments of the city are isolated from the rest of the urban context below with the use of high walls surrounding the perimeter of the terrace. By doing this, Le Corbusier twinned the fireplace with the Arc de Triomphe in the far distance. The architect revealed selected views of the city with sliding walls. A periscope in the centre was the only means by which the entire city could be seen as a spectacle. [3] 

Space Between:

Hill explains montage as a spatial exercise where fragments are brought from other sites to a new location while maintaining to some extent the essence of the older location. He uses film to explain this. In film, we perceive fragments through the arrangement of components. In Baldessari’s artwork, the artist claims the process is as important as the final result. He juxtaposes unrelated components as he opposes the predictability and linearity of film. [4] 

Jose Quetglas suggests that Mies is concerned with the creation of visual perspective that acts as a guide to movement. [5] A Miesian plan is primarily concerned with compositional aspects of perspective painting than that of the anti-perspective intentions of the De Stijl. Jonathan Jones, a researcher at the Applied Visual Research Unity in Derby University found that according to his research, it is impossible to comprehend a painting in its entirety at once. A single glance is not sufficient to take in everything. Visual perception is fragmentary in nature. Our visual field is quite small so to focus on objects results in the background becoming blurred. Similarly in a film by a montage director, the world is viewed through a series of glances. [6] 

While designing the Barcelona Pavilion, Mies drew an axial line over and over from which he measured asymmetries against. [7] Mies orientated the Pavilion along an East West axis. Through termination of axis and spaces, movement was diverted. Mies used this technique to formulate movement sequences.

Zimmerman states movement flows on the outer of planes in contrast to the delimiting floor and ceiling planes. [8] Mies contrasts symmetry and asymmetry and slices space with elements of the building which is characteristic of postmodernism. [9] 

In his book “Neoclassicism & Architecture” Rowe analyses the work of Mies. He states the centre is diminished by the international style and emphasis is placed on dispersion along the axis in which Mies creates a composition of balanced symmetry. [10] The Pavilion is an example of decomposition of a volume which is deconstructed into individual planes. Through Mies’ Pavilion we see a focus on multiple viewing positions as opposed to a single perspective of the classic.

The positions of internal walls are determined by the use of triangulated lines. Mies aligns corners and end points of planes using this technique. [11] His attention was divided between the fragmentation of the space and the integration of visual perception through this method.

The image was fragmented by The Cubist Art Movement which created multiple points of view. As discussed, in Mies’ Pavilion we see a shift from centrality, abstractions of geometries and facades with frontal relations. [12] Buildings such as this cannot be experienced or understood from a static position.


Montage is composition and the assembly of movement images. This comprises an image of time. [13] These parts succeed each other creating a “parallel alternate montage”. Eisenstein criticises Griffith for what he see as the juxtaposition of parts and not a unity of production. A “cell”, which makes its own part by division and differentiation. Eisenstein agrees with Griffith’s idea of an organic composition as an assembly of movement images to the transformed situation through the transcendence of opposition. [14] 

Deleuze investigates cinema in terms of movement, the philosophical and the technical. Movement informs our understanding of the formation of worlds in terms of the types of information it selects and generates as new forms.

Deleuze discusses cinema in terms of framing the movement image. In a relatively closed system; framing, type of shot and cut are the vital aspects for the films quality creating what he calls a set of values. [15] The speed and rhythm of the shots affects the image.

Cinema Montage:

Dleuze looks at four schools of montage. American, French, German and Soviet. Deleuze situates montage in the relation the movement of time. In the Deleuzian system, montage is the determination of the whole of the image, achieved through the techniques of cutting and creating continuities. Montaged images creates sets of images. Montage creates movement which in turn produces specific modes of time that are not fixed but events that are contextually reproduced over the passage of chronometric time. He regards montage as the coming together of images to create a whole whose final form is in movement.

He refers to the work of Bob Dylan as an example of the long preparation for creating work. To him things are made after an encounter with other things, people but also with after encounters with movement, other ideas, events, entities.

Cinema is comprised of a number of different kinds of images, Deleuze calls this image- assemblage montage. Through connections as of yet un-thought, un-named, but intuited through things already manifested in forms and the performance of those intuited spaces. Montage makes possibilities take new forms.

Eisenstein: Architectural Montage.

For Eisenstein, a relentless vertigo is determined from the architectural forms interacting with each other. Eisenstein intention was for architectural representations of space to explode into successive stages of montage from decomposition to recomposition as though it were an array of “shots”. From this, Eisenstein claimed the principles of montage are embodied by architecture.

In “Montage and Architecture” by Eisenstein, he sets out this theory. Two paths of spatial perspectives are contrasted, where the viewer follows an imaginary line created among a series of objects. “Varying positions moving in front of a spectator” and the architectural, “where, the viewer moves through an array of carefully positioned elements which he has viewed in order with a visual sense.

Eisenstein claims that the perspective path of the Acropolis constructed by Auguste Choisy depicts composition of the site. [16] He asks the reader to view it with the eye of a film maker.

Eisenstein claims there are carefully sequenced perspectives here. He suggests that there is a relationship between the viewer’s pace of movement and the rhythm of the buildings. To him, Choisy has set up a combination of a film shot effect, producing new impressions from each new emerging shot. This creates according to Eisenstein a montage effect, where effect is gained from sequential juxtaposition of these shots.

In the movie “street” Eisenstein shows his interest of cause and effect as a notion of movement. Shots are decomposed and recomposed. Architectural composition is compared to cinematic montage by Eisenstein in an essay on two Piranesi engravings for the early and late states of the Carceri series.

“The flux of form which contains the potential to explode into a series of successive states”

Eisenstein’s theory of space constructions depicted new ideas of architecture as frozen music. Eisenstein compared the basis of architectural composition, massing and the establishment of rhythmic elements to that of music, painting and cinematic montages.

Montage: As Frozen Music

In “The Culture of Fragments” Gianmarco Vergani puts forward a proposition for the unification of interdisciplinary arts to create an original art form. This is an area which offers a depth of experimentation.

According to the author, the merging of architecture and music can be achieved through two principles, “synchronic” and “diachronic” expression. [17] He terms music as a diachronic art form as it is derived from change and continuous transformations in time. Architecture on the other hand, is synchronic, it a fixed medium consisting of structure and volumetric elements.

This leads to two methodologies by which to create architecture through music. First, music must be reduced to its architectonic dimensions outside of time. Music is then seen as a synchronic structure in which it can be applied to architecture.

In the diachronic approach, architecture unfolds through time. Space is read sequentially in time increments and is experienced through the observers’ movement. [18] This is a reversal of positions as the observer is required to move in order to experience the architectural composition unlike the listening of music where the observer remains static whilst enveloped in music.

Relationships are formed between the two elements. The author proposes that in music; tone timbre, pitch, dynamics and duration can be extracted while in architecture; texture, material, light, colour, scale. These can be transposed into architectural spaces.

In music the pitch is transposed into colour, tones and timbres are transposed into textures and materials. The dynamics of a piece of music can be read as contradiction and increasing scale. [19] 

However, he does claim some limitations in this methodology. He states the art form is not truly fluid or dynamic as it can only become such through the participation of the observer. Architecture is static; representing time in this medium cannot be fully executed. The author proposes that a truly diachronic visualization of music is needed.


In “Folding in Architecture” Greg Lynn declares the importance of defining compositional complexity in architecture. Gregg seeks a progression from the collage aesthetics of Robert Venturi’s “Complexity & Contradiction in Architecture” and the spatial collage of Deconstructivist Architecture.

Greg terms “Intricacy” as a fusion of components into a continuity creating a “whole” in which the various elements form a larger composition. [20] 

According to the author, this intricacy is unlike compartmentalisation or hierarchy. Instead it is the variation of components. He aims for the term to move from an understanding of detail in architecture as an isolated component. What is proposed is an architectural system where there are no details in the traditional sense. Instead the detail is everywhere continuously variegated throughout the “whole”.

As mentioned in previous chapters, the loss of structure to Greg was in favour of an “infinitesimal” component and displacement of a fragmentary collage. [21] 

The “infinitesimal” is a fragmentary approach to form. It is based on the slipping between single frames and interconnections. From a distance the form possess similarity and in a coherence of detail between varying elements that compromise the structure. According to the author, the composition of the intricate is organic, in that every component interacts and communicates simultaneously. Every instance is affected by every other instance.

“The outside is not a fixed limit but a moving matter animated by peristaltic movements, folds and folding’s that together make up an inside: they are not something other than the outside, but precisely the inside of the outside.”

Deleuze – Foucault p.96-97

Le Pli, the concept of the fold, is Deleuze’s architectural philosophy. In which, the fold is seen as continuous multiplicity of differentiation

“Thus a continuous labyrinth is not a line dissolving into independent points, as flowing sand might dissolve into grains, but resembles a sheet of paper divided into infinite folds or separated into bending movements, each one determined by the consistent or conspiring surrounding… A fold is always folded within a fold, like a cavern in a cavern. The unit of matter, the smallest element of the labyrinth, is the fold, not the point which is never a part, but a simple extremity of the line.” [22] 

The fold is the integration of elements that are unrelated into a continuous form. Deleuze’s philosophy of the fold offers continuity and variation in the development of a form. To him the form is the conclusion and the process.

The “Inflection” as Delezue describes is the point at which a curve begin to form as either convex or concave. “Inflection is the ideal genetic element of the variable curve or fold.” The essence of a fold is the temporal nature in which it develops from the inflection to its subsequent position. A memory is maintained of its previous position. [23] 

“to unfold is to increase, to grow; whereas to fold is to diminish, to reduce, to withdraw into the recesses of a world.” [24] 

An example of this can be viewed in Origami. The folds of which shift from enfolding, unfolding to enveloping. After the first fold, the context begins to reduce in size. The form is unpredictable, after each fold the shapes from the previous fold cease to exist. According to the author, in this instance memory can be enacted through unfolding.

A variation of this is Kirigami. The continuity of the folds becomes obstructed by cuts in the fold. This demonstrates conflict and contradiction instead of smoothness and continuity. The folds in origami act as bounding agents between other folds, in Kirigami when a conflict arises, the folds deviate from their continuity and exhibit but not resolve the occurring confliction.

In this way, Origami is like folding architecture seeking to realize conflict and contradiction whereas Kirigami is similar to Deconstructivist architecture, it exhibits them. According to Deleuze, multiple is not many parts. It is something that has been folded in many ways. This becomes a unity that envelopes a multiplicity. [25] 

As a by-product of the fold, form and context become surfaces with no distinct interiority or exteriority. The continuous nature of the fold implies a dialogue between time and environment.

Case Studies:

Montage Strategies

Rem Koolhaas who had involvement in cinema as a scriptwriter conveys cinematographic image in some of his plans. In his proposal for the City Hall in The Hague, we see a transfer of the Manhattan skyline to the European City. The famous skyline which is seen so many times in film is utilized here as a movie set made into architecture. Koolhaas breaks down the overall volume into various slabs and uses a series of prisms of differing heights. From a distance, the effect appears like a series of skyscrapers compressed on a flattened image, as would be the view from the opposite side of the river in Manhattan.

Since the latter decades of the 20thCentury, fragmentation has been a central issue in architecture. The many different guises of architecture today from postmodern, Deconstructivist and to all subsequent trends are based on fragmentation.

A transcript of Rem Koolhaas and Sarah Whiling’s conversation is quite revealing in this aspect.

“as an entire object from the exterior of a building. That is what seems to unite the biggest project competitions from 1989 (Zeebrugge, ZKM and Bibliotheque). In some of the projects, the architectural language is quite unstable. The facades and the angles of Porto Case de Musica and Seattle are odd structures which no longer possess a unified identity. For the most parts these projects appear more decon now than they did as part of the 1988 Deconstructivist Exhibition.” [26] 

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For Koolhaas, the characteristic of Deconstructivism was not in the strange forms, but in the fragmentation. According to Koolhaas, each new building insisted on assembly and integration, the construction of a new whole, which may be unstable but which remains a single entity. [27] An example of this are the Seattle and Porto projects which have forms that cannot be recognized as regular geometric shapes but they have in their volume a unity of materials on the outside. In terms of metropolitan scale, Koolhaas has said,

“A city can obtain a coherence in its planned composition through a system of fragments.” [28] 

This is evident in his large scale urban projects where he strives to achieve coherence. According to Koolhaas when a building gets beyond a certain size, it becomes a big building. The volume can no longer be articulated by one architectural gesture nor a combination of gestures. It is this which initiates the autonomy of its elements. This is not fragmentation as the elements remain committed to the overall building.

To establish links between independent elements, Koolhaas relies on the programmatic hybridizations, frictions, overlaps, proximities and the superimpositions that are possible in a building of large scale. Montage itself was founded to organize relationships between independent elements. As Maholy-Nagy stated in 1929.

“The technique of montage is present as efficient in many fields of design. It can be found in methodology, in text, writings and in painting through collage.” [29] 

In Soviet avant-garde cinema, Lev Kuleshov’s idea of montage can be viewed as an analysis, a dissecting into parts, with the aim of reintegration or as he stated,

“Montage is a two way operation”

Montage is the basis of cinema. It enables us to fragment and to reconstruct and finally to remake the material. [30] 


Koolhaas utilizes these methods of montage in the urban planning and architectural projects his office undertake. A dualism is present in his use of montage. A decomposition and a reintegration. For example, in Lille Congrexpo, there are three independent sections. The zenith, the conference and the expo which are all juxtaposed without any articulation as though the three sections had been cut from one complete form.

The CCTV HQ project in Beijing can be viewed as a single skyscraper which has been divided up into six parts which contain functionally different divisions. In these examples the concept was to concentrate all the activity and program into a single system.

The Hyper Building in Bangkok is an assemblage of a series of pieces that maintain their independence in the final building. This is both sculptural and architectural. The building was designed by Koolhaas as a veritable city that groups a vast array of programs together giving the essence of a hybrid building on an urban scale. According to Koolhaas, several buildings fuse together into a larger singular whole which brings together the coexistence of real space and cyberspace, of electronics and real facilities. To him the montage consists of material bodies and immaterial flows.

Montage as a collision: Urban Complexity

Koolhaas compares the work of an architect with the cinematic montage. “I’m certain the work of a screenwriter and the processes of an architect are methods based on editing, in creating programmatic, cinematographic or spatial sequence” [31] 

The complexity of urban life such as infrastructural congestion is the central themes to many of Koolhaas’ projects. He highlights these elements through the collision of contrasting elements. As with Eisenstein [32] , this collision sometimes occurs at several scales in Koolhaas’ projects, from the urban scale down to the encounter between materials.

The Kunsthal in Rotterdam is an example of this issue. The concept was a square with two routes crossing it. The collision between these routes gives rise to the project. These two infrastructures also cross over other collisions, crossing between ramps and staggered planes, and between these and the horizontal planes.

A similar instance can be found in The Euraille project. A tower was placed over the TGV station, this solution was the symbol of infrastructural and programmatic congestion that characterized the architectural operation. Similarly with Eisenstein’s films, through collisions, the visual and mental conflict involved in this montage is what expresses the concept.

In The Hague, a service tunnel comprising of a subway with a station at either end and two car parks with pedestrian entrances, was not designed by Koolhaas to resemble a tree like system. Instead it is a hybrid project, building and infrastructure. The different program elements interpenetrate spatially and form an assemblage in which the flow and the visuals are participants an altering but not segregated perception. The strategy utilized here is that of the montage in which collisions between constituent environments and elements give rise to a richer and clearer spatial experience.

The Villa Savoye marked a high point in Le Corbusier’s “promenade architecturale” As a critic explains “The movement, in one sense, is more virtual than real, to progress through the building you must engage your imagination” [33] and “if entertainment is associated with the displacement of the viewer, then the house becomes the source of that entertainment. It does this by choreography; there is no fixed image but a series of overlapping images. This architectural effect is clearly associated with cinema” [34] 


There are three relations in an architectural sequence. The first deals with the working method. Secondly, external relations where spaces are juxtaposed and thirdly the program.

The mode by which architects traditionally draw implies a transformational sequence. Layers of transparent paper are placed on top of each other. Each has a variation around a theme.

An open system of sequencing sees transformation through the addition of new elements which are juxtaposed according to criteria such as narrative or programmatic.

However, not all architectural sequences are linear and comprised of spatial additions. Fragmented montages produce structure where meaning is found through order of experience rather than the order of the composition. Mies’ Pavilion as discussed in previous chapters is an example of this fragmentation of space. It’s sequence is organised around a thematic structure and variations.


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