Making Metropolis

Author, Author: Reporter, Development, Projects, Sketchbook, Visual Research

Creating a New Southampton

After experimenting with mark making, I felt as though my work had two completely different potential avenues. Nature or Architecture. I decided to revisit the texts and my notes to help me find my focus, especially because I need to remember to  and decided that based on the two texts (Spike Island by Philip Hoare and New Ruins by Owen Hatherly) I would like to explore abstract Southampton.


Screenshot from Metropolis by Fritz Lang

Going Back to the Texts

Revisiting the Southampton texts was really important at this moment in developing my project as I knew I’d find the guidance I need by finding new things to build on in combination with what I already had. I was specifically searching through my two texts looking either for things I could research or anything related to Southampton’s architecture. Owen Hatherly’s text proved most helpful because of all the industrial references that planted the idea of cityscapes in my head in the first place. Also, I found that his rather dystopian and abstract references to Southampton  stood out to me especially and got me thinking about how I could reinvent Southampton because it’s not a place I find at all interesting from the general Google searches and reading I’ve done thus far.


Re-deciphering both of my texts by physically pulling apart the texts with a scalpel


Watching Metropolis

Metropolis was suggested to me because of of Fritz Lang’s depiction of the city. I really enjoyed it because of the representation of the city’s grandeur. All of which was conveyed through light and dark, experimentation with shadows, shape and perspective. I saw this as a way of personifying the city and bringing it to life. Fritz Lang’s presentation of the people in this film also echoed the city as they were presented as machines. But the  city itself on several occasions aappears to consume man, showing the power of the city.


Light and Shadows

After watching Metropolis I felt motivated and inspired to delve straight into making my new Southampton cityscape. Although I felt the most proactive approach was to try and work directly in 3D rather than drawing on paper and trying to work from that. Putting together some rather random shapes (which would be more informed upon development), for the purposes of testing, I experimented with paper sculpting a cityscape. Despite being a little fiddly, I was pleased with how successful my photographs of the cityscape were because of the way I experimented with light and shadows. It was interesting to see the secondary layer created when light was directed on the forefront of the paper sculpture.

After doing this, I was curious as to whether I could isolate the shadows on their own. I imagined that these would look quite sinister as they suggest something we can’t actually see. This reminded me of the eeriness present in Spike Island and the Gothic references. But also, shadows are often a strange and elongated version of an object and this made me think of the distorted descriptions of Southampton by Owen Hatherly. Having decided to do this after my initial photographs of the paper sculpture however, I disliked how complex this looked. I like the complexity of both the sculpture and the shadows together.

Adding Colour

I consciously decided not to work in colour because I was being influenced by Metropolis but thinking back to the previous collage workshop, I remembered the colour block task, whereby one colour is applied. I changed my understanding of this in order to add colour to my cityscape and applied a pink coloured filter over my light source. I felt as though my cityscape became more theatrical which I liked. It reminded me of how the set for a stage play is designed and how the colours and lighting are considered.

In order to develop this further, I need to ensure a direct link to Southampton and create my city based on my interpretation of that. It might help me to build up further references and pictures to inform my development. Also, It would be interesting to work bigger (or create multiple sculptures to work from) than this and rather than project light onto the sculptures, could I maybe play with text and project that onto the three dimensional shapes perhaps.

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Note: All screenshots of Metropolis were taken from here.


12 thoughts on “Making Metropolis

  1. A really nice read. Have a look at two object/paper Artists that may help if you continue to take this project in this direction. 1. Peter Callesen and 2. Kumi Yamashita – In terms of the photography study check out the the use of colour via Miles Aldridge and the lighting techniques of Film Noire. Good luck


  2. Lovely to see research informing your practice. Would you mind showing your blog tomorrow to the class please?




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