Thomas Aquilina on social and environmental injustice at Trellick Film Week

Architect and academic Thomas Aquilina's short film Walking Against the Line will be screened as part of Trellick Film Week, opening up discussions about experiencing the city, its silences and noise, as well as its social and environmental injustices

Modernist building peaking through foliage in London
Film still from Walking Against the Line, directed by Thomas Aquilina
(Image credit: press)

For architect and academic Thomas Aquilina, ‘research is the process of making', and by showing what you are thinking, ‘you engage the audience in the process of making'. It's this process that the New Architecture Writers co-director and Afterparti member explores and invites us to experience his latest film and research project, Walking Against the Line. The 13-minute, 53-second short piece was created for the Design Museum's ‘Design Researchers in Residence: Restore’ show, and was displayed at the institution's west London base over summer 2022. It is now about to have its second life as part of the Trellick Film Week, seven days of outdoor cinema at the base of the famous modernist architecture tower. 

People sitting next to park railings

Film still from Walking Against the Line, directed by Thomas Aquilina

(Image credit: press)

The film, composed to elaborate on the social and environmental injustices revealed by both the loud and unheard parts of our urban environment, uses key sites in the north of Kensington and Chelsea borough to help its narrative unfold. The film is composed of fragments of recorded walking conversations between Aquilina and his invited companions: writer Ekow Eshun, politician Emma Dent Coad, architect Adrian Lahoud, and gardener Tayshan Hayden-Smith. The walks start at the Design Museum and travel through spots such as Grenfell Tower, the Westway, and Holland Park. 

While Aquilina draws on his own experiences and diverse heritage, the story opens up to the city and invites discussions arising from its context. The film, engaging and thought-provoking, like walking and chatting freely with a good friend about critical issues of our time, urges the audience to ‘listen more carefully to the silences in our urban spaces: the social and environmental injustices that go unheard beneath the louder voices of assertive buildings, elegant parks and organised streets'.

Construction and blue hoarding in Kensington

Film still from Walking Against the Line, directed by Thomas Aquilina

(Image credit: press)

As to why Kensington was the chosen subject? ‘I am interested in making work that is site-specific,' says Aquilina. ‘In this project, with my residency at the Design Museum, I wanted to explore the borough where the museum sits: the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. While the Design Museum (located within the former Commonwealth Institute) remained an anchor point for the project, I came to focus on the neighbourhood of North Kensington – with its mixedness, its history of Caribbean settlement from the Windrush generation, and recent attention to the area’s role in defining diaspora identity, it carries a current of nostalgia that influences my generation’s notion of Black Britishness.'

Aquilina hopes the audience will gain a deeper understanding of the borough through the viewing. He explains: ‘I use film as a medium to understand the relationship between space and time… As a non-static way of seeing the city. Hopefully, the audience will get a sense of the atmospheres of places walked in North Kensington. And as the film incorporates the voices of my walking partners, I wanted to make audible the notion of mobility.'

Urban area under a motorway

Film still from Walking Against the Line, directed by Thomas Aquilina

(Image credit: press)

The Trellick Film Week is free and open to all. Meanwhile, revisiting his findings and opening up the conversation further, Aquilina is also taking part in a special event marking the 50th anniversary of Trellick Tower on 22 November 2022 at the Design Museum. The evening will see a discussion around the London landmark's role and influence as an icon of contemporary living, with panellists also including architect James Dunnett, and Spatial Justice campaigner Eve Wedderburn, while the Design Museum's head of curatorial Priya Khanchandani is moderator. 

Graffiti about grenfell tower

Film still from Walking Against the Line, directed by Thomas Aquilina

(Image credit: press)

INFORMATION

thomasaquilina.com (opens in new tab)

trellicktower.com (opens in new tab)

designmuseum.org (opens in new tab)

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).