skip to content

Department of Architecture



I direct a research group entitled DIGIS (Digital Studio for Research in Design, Visualisation and Communication), which over the course of the last two decades has been investigating the intersection of Architecture, Cinema, and Digitality, developing novel modes of investigation, in the belief that the moving image provides us with new perceptual equipment to grasp the complexity of architectural and urban phenomena.   DIGIS focuses on new techniques, methodologies and potentialities of digital media in design-related disciplines and has over the years, developed into a unique international centre for practice-led creative experiment, with a thriving PhD and advanced research programme.


  • Year 2:  the culture of images (1) – The static image (photography) & architecture and the moving image [8 lectures]
  • Year 3:  the culture of images (2) – the city and the moving image [4 lectures]



  • Master in Architecture and Urban Studies [MAUS] and the Master in Architecture and Urban Design  [MAUD]:  I offer a seminar on Urban Cinematics  [4 x 2 hour seminars] – there are around 20 + MAUD students and 10 to 15 MAUS students [NB this seminar will be replaced by Prof. Patrick Keiller's seminars for 2017-2018].

I supervise on average two MAUD students that I follow for the duration of their 2 years of study – that is two essays and a dissertation. I usually also supervise one or two MAUS students for their essays and dissertation. 

I am also one of the co-founder of the multi-disciplinary MPhil in Screen Media & Cultures – since 2016 rebranded as the MPhil in Film and Screen Studies (FSS).

 The MPhil in Film and Screen Studies teaching consists of:

  • One two-hour seminar (Space) as a core teacher in the Michaelmas term
  • Four two-hour seminars for my Urban Cinematics module option in the Lent term [Lent seminars will not be running for 2017-2018]

Note that this is a shared module with MAUS and MAUD and takes place in the Department of Architecture.


I currently supervise five PhD students – including two part-timers


There are currently three main axis to my research:

  • The urban cinematics  -  best example of this strand is  Cinematic Geographies of Battersea – a large AHRC funded project (£200’000) for which I was the PI in collaboration with the Survey of London (English Heritage) and the University of Liverpool (2011 – 2013).   Using the location of Battersea in South London as a case study, the project examined how the area has been portrayed in films over the 20th century with a view  to track down its evolution and transformation.  The approach enabled us to excavate the successive cinematic strata accumulated over the urban fabric, making visible the emergence of the modern city and its subsequent transformations since the year 1895.  
  • Cinematic  aided  design - an everyday life approach to architecture:  I have been working for two years now on this theme – it has been the subject of my lectures and seminars and the aim is to provide architects, planners, designer practitioners but also politicians and decision makers with a new awareness of the practice of everyday life through the medium of film. Film constitutes the most comprehensive lived in building data in existence – a largely ignored and untapped resource.  Fiction films in particular  are ‘equipment for living’ and can be construed as a form of practice of everyday life.  I have now compiled the first cinematic encyclopedia of architectural spaces and building elements (doors, windows, stairs etc) to be published as a monograph in 2017.  
  • The museum of the future:  over the years I have been researching how new technologies, at the intersections of material and digital culture, open the way for new forms of museum spectatorship, making our cultural heritage more interesting and engaging as well as reaching new audiences.  The idea of the museum and my work on cinema, architecture and the city have some fundamental overlaps as we can assign a museographic function to film that has unwittingly preserved and archived the world around us.   A key recent project in this strand is the Virtual San Pier Maggiore project  - The digital repatriation of Florence’s Renaissance past and the  future of 3D visualization for cultural heritage – with Dr Donal Cooper from the History of Art Department in Cambridge. Our digital reconstruction was on display at the National Gallery part of the exhibition “Visions of Paradise: Botticini’s Palmieri Altarpiece” that opened November 2015 and lasted until March 2016.

research grants

Current research grant

  • 2017: Principal Investigator for an AHRC grant [value £460’000] CineMuseSpace: A Cinematic Musée Imaginaire of Spatial Cultural Differences [2017-2020]:

Recent research grants:

  • 2015:  Cambridge Humanities Research Grants Scheme Research & National Gallery [with Dr Donal Cooper] Virtual San Pier Maggiore: The digital repatriation of Florence’s Renaissance past and the future of 3D visualisation for cultural heritage
  • 2011 - 2013  Cinematic Geographies of Battersea: Urban Interface & Site-Specific Spatial Knowledge - an AHRC grant - in collaboration with English Heritage, University of Liverpool and Edinburgh (PI:  Prof François Penz  Value:  £200’000)


Key publications: 

Recent books:

Penz, F. (2017) Cinematic Aided Design: An Everyday Life Approach to Architecture. Routledge.

 Penz, F. & Koeck, R. (eds.) (2017) Cinematic Urban Geographies. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Recent book chapters

  • Penz, F. (2017) ‘The Cinema in the Map - The Case of Braun and Hogenberg’s Civitates Orbis Terrarum’, in François Penz & Richard Koeck (eds.) Cinematic Urban Geographies. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.  pp. 23-46
  • Penz, F. et al. (2017) ‘Cinematic Urban Archaeology: the Battersea case’, in François Penz & Richard Koeck (eds.) Cinematic Urban Geographies. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.  pp. 191-221
  • Penz, F. (2017) ‘Absorbing cinematic modernism: from the Villa Savoye to the Villa Arpel’, in Graham Cairns (ed.) Visioning technologies: the architectures of sight. Abingdon, Oxon ; New York: Routledge. pp. 121–135.


Professor of Architecture and the Moving Image
Former Head of the Department of Architecture [2017-2019]
Fellow of Darwin College
On research leave for 2019-2020
NB. I am no longer accepting new graduate students
Professor François  Penz

Contact Details

Not available for consultancy