(Im)possible Cities: Architecture and A.I. in Science Fiction


Instructor: Nada Serhan

A one-week intensive course!

Cities in film usually resemble the ones we know from real life. The familiarity is intentional, helping us relate and invest in the stories that films want to tell. Science Fiction, however, is different. It introduces us to new worlds, and even if these recall our own, they are usually leap years ahead in technology, purpose, and design. In films like Metropolis (1927), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Gattaca (1997), Blade Runner (1982), and The Matrix (1999), we travel to cities with flying vehicles, vertical cities rising ever further towards the sky, horizontal cities in dystopian wastelands, and even completely simulated cities. And although—or perhaps because?—these cities discard many associations with our world, we watch them in fascination, taking them in awe.

In this course, we will approach selected Science Fiction films with a critical focus on their architecture and design. We will analyze the relationship of architecture and design to the narrative and, more specifically, to the inhabitants of these worlds—not only human inhabitants, but also hybrids and artificial intelligence (A.I.). We will enrich our analysis with readings on semiotics, film philosophy, mise-en-scène, psychology, and sociology. What is it about these (im)possible cities that speaks to us on an emotional level? What are the symbols and signifiers they employ? And how does the inclusion of A.I. de- and recontextualize these habitats? In pursuit of these questions, we will make a journey from Science Fiction to architecture to our basic human fascination with the possible and the impossible.

Maximum enrollment: 10


Monday – Saturday, 19:00-22:00 (weekdays), 14:00-17:00 (Saturday)
30 October-4 November 2023
1 week (18 hours)


75016, Paris

All PICT courses are held in person. Participants will be contacted by the course instructor with the relevant details (readings if any, exact address, etc.) via email during the week leading up to the course.

All PICT courses are exclusive for PICT Members. Become a member from 3 euros/month.

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