The Melancholy City: Horizon as Leitmotif, Emotional Geographies Conference

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference


The way designers and filmmakers draw attention to the horizon provides valuable insights into urban environments. The horizon in turn carries certain emotional entailments, not least the way it relates to the mood of melancholy, according to Walter Benjamin. I argue that melancholy is a more interesting emotional category than happiness. Melancholy is in the company of long distance travel, ambivalence about feelings, self reflection and irony. It’s been described as a meta-mood, and the mood against which others might be compared. In this paper I draw on film, video games, mobile communications, digital photography and emerging social media practices to reinforce the topological connection between melancholy, film and the city. In particular I reference Daniel Ciprì and Franco Maresco’s short experimental film A Memoria (1996), the film Melancholia by Lars von Trier and vertiginous (rooftopping) video games such as Assassin's Creed that bring the horizon into prominent relief. For urban designers, melancholy is evident in the broad sweep of the vistas they create, that include transportation hubs, concourses, tarmacs, and runways. As well as non-places, such places include the commendably large uncluttered car-less plazas that now occupy the centres of many European cities. Melancholy also features in the way designers manipulate eye levels to bring the horizon closer or send it further away. With such interventions urban designers are also manipulating the mood of melancholy.
Period10 Jun 2015
Event typeConference
LocationEdinburgh, United KingdomShow on map


  • melancholy, urbanism, mood