Constructing Visual Narratives of Place

This seminar explores the representation of identity and memory in the city and its territory. The case study is Boston, in its large surrounding area, the so-called Greater Boston, whose memory and identity are directly connected to the perception of its inhabitants and visitors. Such memory and the history that has characterized it since 1960, the year in which The Image of the City by Kevin Lynch was published, has influenced and conditioned the way we look at cities all over the world, the way we perceive those cities’ expansion, and how we acknowledge their new horizons. The course aims to use this memory and identity to make visible not only the city of Boston but also the larger scale of the Greater Boston metropolitan area. The complexity of this territory and its imageability is still something that requires deep research and interpretation. The observation of this area is based on two principles. The first is to define the field of survey, starting from the geographic systems and the big environmental areas. The other is to have a more rich and complex picture of the inhabitants of this bigger territory and to focus more on their collective memory and identity. The final goal of this research and work is dual. Firstly, we’ll visually define the public image of the city on its larger scale. Secondly, we’ll explore possible future scenarios for the Greater Boston, starting from the observation of the present conditions. The course intends to provide tools of observation, reading and interpretation of the territory and it has the will to communicate in a more narrative way stories about different visions of this metropolitan area. Students will work in groups and use a variety of media: mapping, drawings, making of collages, shooting and storyboarding. The work will be divided into three sections:
1. The Big Map: Postcards by the Greater Boston
2. Short movies: The life of the Greater Boston
3. Storyboards: A new narrative for possible future scenarios in the Greater Boston area

The observation of the geographical and the big environmental system – river, lakes, hills, etc – becomes the foundation for the observation of the landscape of Greater Boston. The Big Map will be realized as a collective project, a collage that will represent different scales on a cartographic base, with several levels of interpretation and different focuses. It will be divided in a grid of elements the size of a postcard, in order to show that each part of the territory has its own identity and imageability. The image of the city will then be associated with that of its territory.The second analytic tool is filmmaking. The students, once the reference system has been defined, will film it. The aim is to observe and to catalogue a series of sequences within which this territory is lived and crossed: a collection of spaces and situations. The Greater Boston area is considered in its extensive character as a succession of different lands, natural or mineral, parks or built-up spaces. The different video sequences will thus become tableaux vivants in which it will be possible to read the way these landscapes are lived in the contingent time, giving a projection of what the future of the city could be. The observation and exploration of the city and the territory at different scales will allow students to imagine and propose visions on its future. Storyboards will be realized to narrate possible scenarios for the metropolitan area. They thus become an instrument to tell a story through space/time categories: land, city, nature and inhabitants/users live within a singular story, a singular sequence of images. The themes of the journey and of displacement will become a way to describe this territory transversally. Its borders, real or imaginary, can render a picture of the new identities that it continues to take on, and of how they can be observed.