Intermedial Media Architecture

The Media Architecture Biennale 2023 (MAB23) takes place June 14-15 (online) and June 21-23 (in-person) in Toronto, Canada. The event, which features keynotes, roundtables, and awards, aims to offer a platform for communities of research and practice concerned with media and the built environment. MAB23 will bring together students, academics, and professionals from architecture, art, design, urban planning, media and communication, urban informatics, and public policy to share new ideas and shape this evolving field.

The Media Architecture Biennale 2023 is an exploration of new proximities made available through urban screens, media façades, public projection, augmented reality, and interactive multimedia installations. While media architecture’s physical, social, political, and technical systems continue to expand, this year’s themes—Equity & Access, Civic/Creative/Commercial, (Dis)engagement, and Intermedial Media Architecture—remind us of the important historical contexts of infrastructural change. Responsive designs are, in part, responses to abiding questions about colonialization and its afterlife; the shifting definition of public space; and the analog technologies that precede the sensors, screens, and tactile interfaces integrated into our contemporary built environment.

Thus, in anticipation of the MAB’s newest award category, “Transmedial Media Architecture,” which is dedicated to projects that address the remediation of spatial relations, the upcoming biennale is an opportunity to look forward, to the future of media architecture, while reflecting on the fundamental mechanics and politics of forward motion. This award category focuses on image circulation and shifting visualities like those highlighted by the 2019 Future Trends and Prototypes award winner, “Uptown Underground,” a project that was prompted by a decidedly low-tech question, “What can a subway learn from a glass-bottom boat?” Designed by Ian Callender, “Uptown Underground” is a “geographically accurate view of the cityscape above a moving subway train, projected onto its ceiling, as it moves under New York City.” Fundamentally, “Uptown Underground” is the expression of our desire to render bodies in motion. Thus, while the projected images rely on a sophisticated apparatus (four projectors connected to Raspberry Pi’s, synchronized with offsets over a P2P WiFi network and informed by geolocation and acceleration data from a cellphone, all on battery power), “Uptown Underground” echoes a much older visual impulse.

“Uptown Underground” recalls early cinema’s fascination with train travel, which was cemented in film history in actualités and fiction films like Arrivée d'un train (à la Ciotat) (Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat) (Lumière, 1895), The Great Train Robbery (Porter, 1903), What Happened in the Tunnel (Porter, 1903), and The General (Keaton and Bruckman, 1926). An archive of industrialization, these films preserve both a shared history and an unlikely aesthetic exchange between transportation and cinema. In these films it is possible to see how, in a sense, trains taught cinema how to be dynamic. In other words, false accounts of terrified audiences fleeing the image of an arriving train in the Lumière film are nevertheless true to the deep connection between projected image and locomotive power that is seamlessly rendered in “Uptown Underground.” Intermedial media architecture is a new MAB theme, but an ongoing spatial exchange. As such, Callender’s contemporary exploration of mobile perspectives—whether they’re from the vantage point of a glass-bottom boat or the 6 train—is a notable “future trend” because it reveals the already scenic route of the subway. The installation appears to progress uptown and upward because, like media architecture more broadly, it is a project about contextualization and connection. 

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Uptown Underground 2019, USA, New York. © Ian Callender. Image Courtesy of MAB23

To learn more about the Media Architecture Biennale, and to see the nominees for this year’s awards, visit

About this author
Cite: Lauren McLeod Cramer. "Intermedial Media Architecture" 31 May 2023. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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