Bella McMahon Urban Apertures

  • Kaiako / Lecturer
    Sue Gallagher
  • School
    AUT Art + Design

Urban Apertures explores the interrelationship between cinema and the city. An existing car park building, nestled between Fort Lane and Commerce Street, is transformed into a Centre for Moving Image. By addressing our urban realm as a body of both movement and sound, Urban Apertures awakens a sense of city-making in Fort Lane. 

This design, and its process, respond to an earlier occupation of Fort Lane. Two of Auckland’s first cinemas, Everybody’s and Roxy, played a key role in the transformation of Auckland from an early settlement to an urban centre. The site was investigated through a cinematic lens; its unique sounds and scenes were isolated, through a crafted site device, to form the narrative.
Urban Apertures is a porous structure, a perforated membrane, joining the city and cinema. Sweeping gold apertures puncture the existing steel and concrete skeleton of the car park building. This porosity exposes a blurred threshold between the immersive cinematic experience within and the bustling urban landscape beyond. The world beyond the walls leaks in and the world within the centre leaks out, capitalising on the duality of public and private space. Fort Lane and the car park building are therefore re-scripted through projection, and sound. 

The porous structure responds to the city’s voice and movement as the apertures become a vibrant beacon for all city dwellers. Shifting our gaze up from Fort Lane, the verticality of this site is realised as we stand engulfed in its shadow. The unwavering vertical lines of the fluted concrete facade play into the exaggerated perspective from the narrow site. Carved-out immersive apertures interrupt the directionality that overwhelms our urban landscape. 

Within the membrane, the spatial experience is distorted by moments of compression and dispersion. Organic curves and bulbous forms interrupt the rigid skeleton, hinting at the passages that twist through our body carrying life and sound. The journey begins with an intimate, inward experience, disconnecting one from the site’s familiarities. Embracing the inherent movement of the car park’s retained ramps, visitors ascend the winding path through the skeleton. Level five is the nexus of optical and aural distortions as Auckland City leaks in. Immersive apertures splice the city’s choral voice. Baritone, alto and soprano are heard in isolation: the deep rumble of traffic; up to the howl of the wind; the squawk of resident birds overhead. Upon descent, the audience retraces their steps, revealing visual, aural, and emotional qualities undiscovered on ascent.
As a city dweller, the performance is centred on individual contributions and observations of the unstable forces that overwhelm our inhabitation. Splicing the city’s movement and sound into isolated apertures invites us to understand our role, as individuals, in a vast urban landscape. Moving image submerses us in an unfamiliar world as we look on to the world beyond the walls. Disconnecting from the familiar white noise tunes us into the city’s inherent synchronicities and idiosyncrasies. Urban Apertures is a space to focus and hear the myriad of voices that comprise Auckland’s performance.