“Constructing Film. Swiss Architecture in the Moving Image” at S AM Basel

The exhibition invites visitors on a fascinating search for traces of moving images of Swiss architecture. In continuation of a series of exhibitions initiated in 2012 to examine the various media through which architecture is conveyed, the focus is now on film.


"Constructing Film. Swiss Architecture in the Moving Image" S AM © Tom Bisig

“Constructing Film. Swiss Architecture in the Moving Image” S AM © Tom Bisig


Here, ‘film’ is understood to mean a broad spectrum of moving visual documents. A very wide range of different technologies and film genres that depict Swiss architecture in a documentary manner are taken into account – from traditional architecture documentaries to films made with mobile phone cameras, through to real-estate advertising films. A broad definition of the term ‘architecture’ is also applied: cinematic approaches to realised buildings, planned buildings, infrastructure constructions and urban landscapes are all included.


Practical information

“Constructing Film. Swiss Architecture in the Moving Image”
October 31, 2015 – February 28, 2016.
S AM Swiss Architecture Museum
Steinenberg 7
CH-4051 Basel


The manifold relationships between film and architecture are most commonly discussed in reference to the built space that serves as a non-verbal narrative layer in feature films. This exhibition goes down a completely new path, away from the fictional film, focusing on filmed images that are used in an analytical and documentary manner to reproduce Swiss architecture.


Bouygues Construction vous fait visiter le Rolex Learning Center de l’EPFL, CH 2010 © Losinger Marazzi

Bouygues Construction vous fait visiter le Rolex Learning Center de l’EPFL, CH 2010 © Losinger Marazzi

Der Leuchtturm, CH 2009, Regie Beatrice Stebler © 1962–2014 SRF Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen

Der Leuchtturm, CH 2009, Regie Beatrice Stebler © 1962–2014 SRF Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen

Beton-Fluss, CH 1974, Regie Hans-Ulrich Schlumpf © 1962–2014 SRF Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen

Beton-Fluss, CH 1974, Regie Hans-Ulrich Schlumpf © 1962–2014 SRF Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen


The topic was transposed to film so that the potential of the moving image as an analytical tool, a representation medium and a form of notation for architecture could be demonstrated in one consistent form. The various films are not presented on individual monitors, but on a single screen: the centrepiece of this show is a compilation film, which was developed in cooperation with the artist Florine Leoni using extracts from more than 100 films. It demonstrates the medium’s rich repertoire of forms, while simultaneously analysing the conventions of representation that are employed when real space is translated into cinematic space.


BAGGERN (Tons Of Passion), CH 2011, Regie Corina Schwingruber Ilić, Rolf Hellat © Minerva Film

BAGGERN (Tons Of Passion), CH 2011, Regie Corina Schwingruber Ilić, Rolf Hellat © Minerva Film

Abriss der Bahnhofpost, CH 1975, Regie Richard Bucher © Richard Bucher

Abriss der Bahnhofpost, CH 1975, Regie Richard Bucher © Richard Bucher

Le Pavillon, D/CH 2004, Regie Wolf Schmelter © Wolf Schmelter

Le Pavillon, D/CH 2004, Regie Wolf Schmelter © Wolf Schmelter


Placed next to each other, these moving images generate a condensed new spatial fabric – an actual film construct emerges, which exploits film’s potential for interlinking different moving images in a manner that creates spaces via editing. The result is a film collage in the form of an essay, corresponding to the postmodern way that we use media today: due to increasingly accessible recording techniques and distribution platforms, for instance, producing media ourselves is now just as easy as consuming it. At the same time, this essayistic compilation film reflects the contemporary handling of the uncontrollably large volume of film documents circulating freely on the Internet: by connecting images in new ways and adding spoken commentary as a voiceover, it makes reference to today’s culture of the remix, of copy/paste and of daily channel surfing. Moreover, much of the compilation film consists of found moving images from digital sources.


Le geometrie della luce – la palestra polivalente di Livio Vacchini, CH 2002,Regie Adriano Kestenholz © Aleph Film di Adriano Kestenholz

Le geometrie della luce – la palestra polivalente di Livio Vacchini, CH 2002,Regie Adriano Kestenholz © Aleph Film di Adriano Kestenholz

Zyklop, CH 1997, Regie Manuela Mosele, Sibil Sträubli © ETH Zürich, gta Archiv

Zyklop, CH 1997, Regie Manuela Mosele, Sibil Sträubli © ETH Zürich, gta Archiv

Traumhäuser – Tessiner Architekten, CH 1993, Regie Jean-Pierre Garnier, Jacques Bernard © 1962–2014 SRF Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen

Traumhäuser – Tessiner Architekten, CH 1993, Regie Jean-Pierre Garnier, Jacques Bernard © 1962–2014 SRF Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen


In order to let the viewer immerse themselves completely in the cinematic spaces, the central exhibition room is transformed into an architecture of viewing, with a grandstand element, geared towards a static position on the part of the observer. On the one hand, the spatial design is based on the traditional collective reception of film and, on the other hand, it emphasises the contrast between how cinematic space and real space are perceived: while film is received in a static position, movement causes architecture to reveal itself.


Opération Béton, CH 1955, Regie Jean-Luc Godard, Adrien Porchet © Actua Films

Opération Béton, CH 1955, Regie Jean-Luc Godard, Adrien Porchet © Actua Films

No II/69 Kunsthalle, CH 1969, Regie Werner von Mutzenbecher, Klaus Baumgärtner © Werner von Mutzenbecher

No II/69 Kunsthalle, CH 1969, Regie Werner von Mutzenbecher, Klaus Baumgärtner © Werner von Mutzenbecher


Furthermore, the cinema set-up creates a spatial arrangement that differs from the usual stationary presentations in a museum context: the visitor is not supposed to adopt the role of a flaneur, who perceives content rather serendipitously, but to instead plunge into the filmed architecture immersively, in a darkened cinema room that encourages concentration.


"Constructing Film. Swiss Architecture in the Moving Image" S AM © Tom Bisig

“Constructing Film. Swiss Architecture in the Moving Image” S AM © Tom Bisig

"Constructing Film. Swiss Architecture in the Moving Image" S AM © Tom Bisig

“Constructing Film. Swiss Architecture in the Moving Image” S AM © Tom Bisig


A comprehensive film programme booklet with descriptions of the individual films provides orientation. In the last exhibition room, which is set up as an editing suite, these films can also be accessed in full length. Contrary to established practice in film production, this gives the public the opportunity to view the exhibited film’s raw material themselves and to take a look behind the scenes. Ten extensive interviews with Swiss protagonists who operate in the interdisciplinary realm between architecture and film complete the exhibition.


"Constructing Film. Swiss Architecture in the Moving Image" S AM © Tom Bisig

“Constructing Film. Swiss Architecture in the Moving Image” S AM © Tom Bisig

"Constructing Film. Swiss Architecture in the Moving Image" S AM © Tom Bisig

“Constructing Film. Swiss Architecture in the Moving Image” S AM © Tom Bisig

"Constructing Film. Swiss Architecture in the Moving Image" S AM © Tom Bisig

“Constructing Film. Swiss Architecture in the Moving Image” S AM © Tom Bisig




News source: S AM Basel
Subscribe here to get weekly updates about architecture events and exhibitions.