Gordon Cullen's Serial Visions: A Cinematic Urban Theory

Focusing on the analysis of archival material, this research investigates Gordon Cullen’s drawings and notes about the serial visions, a unique cinematic method that Cullen implemented to express the complexity of urban spaces.

Gordon Cullen's Serial Visions: A Cinematic Urban Theory


During his long and various career as draftsman, architect, urban planner, consultant, and editor of the Architectural Review, Gordon Cullen (1914–1994) produced a huge amount of drawings and notes, developing innovative and original urban theories. His body of work, some of which collected in his famous book Townscape (later published in the UK as The Concise Townscape) made him one of the most versatile figures in British architectural panorama of the 20th century.


Despite Cullen’s evident relevant role in the development of the British architectural theory of the 20th century, not many studies have been conducted on him, his projects, or ideas. This research tries to address this lacuna, offering, in particular, a thorough investigation of his serial visions through an original data collection at the Gordon Cullen archive, holds at the University of Westminster.

The Challenge

The main challenge of this research is to reconsider the vital importance of historical, and more precisely archival, research for better informing the intellectual agenda of architectural contemporary practice.

We are finding a tool with which human imagination can begin to mould the city into a coherent drama. The process of manipulation has begun to turn the blind facts into a taut emotional situation.

Gordon Cullen The Concise Townscape (in the Introduction to 1961 edition)

The Approach

The theoretical sets and contextual relationships of this research are aligned to the research cluster Scene, Sequence and Mediated Commons of the Leeds School of Architecture.

The Impact

The main aim of this research is to re-evaluate Cullen’s contribution about the seminal British urban researches of the 50s, 60s, and 70s, finally stating his crucial role in influencing the contemporary development of new urban theories.

More specifically, the objectives of this research proposal are to:

  • Develop the listing and description of materials held at the Gordon Cullen archive
  • Select and publish some original, never-published-before notes and sketches of Gordon Cullen
  • Analyse and define Gordon Cullen’s serial visions method

  • Dr Carla Molinari has been awarded a Paul Mellon Research Support Grant for this research.
  • Dr Carla Molinari and Dr Marco Spada have presented a preliminary extract of their research at the virtual conference The City and Complexity–Life, Design and Commerce in the Built Environment organised by the University of London and AMPS (June 2020).

Paul Mellon Centre Research Support Grants winners’ list

Dr Carla Molinari and Dr Marco Spada presentation for the virtual conference The City and Complexity–Life, Design and Commerce in the Built Environment


Dr Carla Molinari

Carla Molinari is an Architect and Senior Lecturer in Architecture. She leads the BA Year One and lectures in architectural history and theory.

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