In their textbook, Cinemetrics: Architectural Drawing Today, Brian McGrath and Jean Gardner situate architecture on a continuum with users and the natural and built environments, using three classic films—Ozu’s Early Spring, Godard’s Contempt, and Cassavetes’ Faces—as exercises. McGrath’s digital drawings, which bridge the gap between 2D and 3D, “erase traditional distinctions between the body, a building, a road, the river, and the country. Everything’s ‘flowing matter flux’; it’s all connected and not fixed in time.” The authors aimed to shift design paradigms and to harness the power of technology to create designs. “Our work involves research in media studies, biology, ecology, and philosophy,” McGrath says.
“The complexity of today’s problems is huge,” says Gardner. “We’ve been throwing solutions at them for a couple of hundred years, and problems have only intensified. We’ve shifted the emphasis from the idea of design as object, separate and imposed on the landscape, to process and the total environment. So how do you design for a world that is dynamic and organic, not static and inert? Cinemetrics, a fieldwork method combining video, drawing, mapping, and modeling, helps practitioners think about architectural and urban space as a dynamic environment using digital technology. Cinemetrics has given us the tools to begin to truly imagine such a world.”
McGrath has taken the idea of Cinemetrics beyond Parsons to workshops in Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. “It’s been so popular we’ve founded a Club Cinemetrics on Facebook, and students use YouTube to upload their projects. The technology brings us into the 21st century, where we can study the wicked problems of the world, such as sustainability and ways more and more people can live richer and fuller lives on fewer and fewer resources.”