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Photography and the representation of modernist architectural space: from the melancholy fragment to the colour of utopia

Green, Nigel (2007) Photography and the representation of modernist architectural space: from the melancholy fragment to the colour of utopia. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86398) (KAR id:86398)


The questions that this project poses are centred on an examination of photography's relationship to modernist architectural space. Polarising the melancholic and the utopian, the definition of photography is extended to include its manifestation across a number of diverse sites and processes. What is the connection between the processes and technology of photography and its representation of modernist space? How can these relationships inform and articulate a photographic practice? This thesis comprises five key areas of investigation, with each theoretical chapter being followed by a complementary sequence of photographic images. The first section considers the process of `fragmentation' in relation to a body of photographs which I have termed `fragments'. These images reveal the aspirational or utopian content of modernist architecture as a condition of loss or melancholy. The second section develops the notion of the `fragment' in relation to `allegory', which I argue, opens photography to metaphoric interpretation thus taking on the duality of meaning. The third section uses W. G. Sebald's novel Austerlitz and Kracauer's work on history, to locate this duality within Husserl's Lebenswelt. The fourth section shifts the emphasis of inquiry towards an examination of how the utopian emerges within specific aspects of the photo-reprographic process, such as the error of misregistration in colour printing. This forms the basis for a development of the practice into the field of the photographic representation of colour. The fifth section looks at how colour has been added to the monochromatic image in a series of postcards of modernist architecture from the 1930's thus suggesting a site of utopian investment With reference to Kristeva and Benjamin I develop the notion of colour as an excess of meaning indicative of utopian aspiration. The conclusion of the project is firmly located in the practice outcome and a body of work, which I have termed `constructed images'. Representing a convergence of the five themes, these reveal the ability of photography to uniquely articulate the utopian-melancholy polarity, a transformative process, intervening into architectural space to indicate new ways of thinking about it.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86398
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: TR Photography ; architecture ; photography
Subjects: N Visual Arts
T Technology > TR Photography
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Arts
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:56 UTC
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2021 11:48 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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