Bridging Urban and Media Studies: Jaqueline Tyrwhitt and the Explorations Group 1951-1957

Authors

  • Michael Darroch York University

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.22230/cjc.2008v33n2a2026

Keywords:

Canadian Media Theory, Architecture, Town Planning

Abstract

Abstract: This article examines the collaborations between Marshall McLuhan, the architectural historian Sigfried Giedion, and the modernist town planner Jaqueline Tyrwhitt in the 1950s. Giedion’s studies of everyday material culture and his concern with the human scale of cities became central to McLuhan’s proposal for studying media. Through a historical analysis of Tyrwhitt’s papers and correspondence, the paper documents her role in mediating a dialogue between McLuhan and Giedion and in co-founding, with McLuhan and others, the Explorations Group at the University of Toronto. Drawing upon Giedion’s concern with the humanization of urban life, Tyrwhitt helped formulate a methodology that used the urban environment and architecture as the framework to analyze the effects of media. The paper argues that Tyrwhitt’s own contributions to the Explorations journal took up both Giedion and McLuhan’s focus on media and material culture and their commitment to interdisciplinarity in examining the mediated experience of urban life.

Résumé : Cet article examine les collaborations pendant les années 50 entre Marshall McLuhan, l’historien de l’architecture Sigfried Giedion et l’urbaniste moderniste Jaqueline Tyrwhitt. Les études de la culture matérielle de tous les jours effectuées par Giedion et son souci d’assurer une dimension humaine aux villes sont devenus des éléments centraux dans l’approche aux médias proposée par McLuhan. Cet article, au moyen d’une analyse historique des archives et de la correspondance de Tyrwhitt, recense le rôle que celle-ci a joué pour encourager un dialogue entre McLuhan et Giedion et pour établir, avec McLuhan et d’autres, le groupe Explorations à l’Université de Toronto. Tyrwhitt, s’inspirant de la volonté de Giedion d’humaniser la vie urbaine, a contribué à l’élaboration d’une méthodologie qui se rapporte à l’environnement urbain et à l’architecture pour analyser les effets des médias. Cet article soutient que les contributions de Tyrwhitt à la revue Explorations ont tenu compte à la fois de l’accent mis par engagement interdisciplinaire afin d’étudier les expériences médiatisées de la vie urbaine.

Author Biography

Michael Darroch, York University

Michael Darroch is FQRSC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Graduate Programme of Communication & Culture and the Faculty of Fine Arts, York University. He is a Research Collaborator on the Visual City Project + Archive. He completed his PhD in the Department of Art History & Communication Studies at McGill University. His research interests include German and Canadian theories of media and materialities, translation and circulation, art and architectural theory, and theatre. Current research projects explore the influence of architectural theory on media studies and the relation between theatricality and mediality in city life. He holds an MA in German Studies from Université de Montréal and the Centre canadien d’études allemandes et européennes, and has also completed studies in media theory, theatre, literature, and linguistics at Universität Konstanz and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. From 2000 to 2006, he was a researcher on the international research project The Culture of Cities, focused on Toronto, Montréal, Dublin and Berlin. He has also translated for several production companies and playwrights.

Published

2008-06-01