The Arcades Project : A 3D Documentary, is a series of projects initiated by artist Jennie Savage which took place in Cardiff’s Victorian and Edwardian Arcades between October 2008 and October 2009. Cardiff is known as the city of Arcades because it has the highest concentration of Victorian and Edwardian Shopping arcades in the UK. Between 2008-2009 artist Jennie Savage led an exploration into these spaces, inspired by Walter Benjamin’s Arcades project and constructed in the light of the St David’s 2 Shopping Centre fbs headquarters.

Jennie Savage: has a research based practice, which draws on documentary techniques. She has a particular interest in exploring the place between public spaces, town planning, constructed landscapes and the human story: the lived lives and personal narratives connected to those sites.  Working through a process that uses archiving and intervention she seeks to map the other life of a place or community in order to reveal a complex situation, a micro- structure or simply an unheard voice. For more information about Jennie’s work visit,

This site documents the trajectory of the project which concluded with the publication of the book, “Depending On Time”. Information below. The book costs £9.99 and you can buy it on amazon or contact (or drop me a line via contact button)

Depending On Time is situated in a changing landscape during the period of time it takes to construct a new shopping centre. The book takes this period of change as its subject and draws out the narratives, the expectations, the aspirations and the criticism that local people have in the run up to its completion. Through transcribed conversations with small businesses, shoppers, local historians, architects, town planners and developers the book maps the anatomy of the development and traces a the trajectory of consumer culture from the city’s Victorian and Edwardian arcades through to the monolithic mall Crucially asking the question:

Who are cities for?

The book is based on transcriptions from ‘The Museum Of The Moment’, an audio

documentary and guided walk. It describes the state of the city of Cardiff at the moment of making the project, both within the context and the concept of its history. Its subject is specific to its locale, but also the generic idea of the global city on a trajectory of consumer culture. The transcripts from the audio walk are documented within the book alongside a response: using images, notes and excerpts from Dr. AndrewCochrane’s research. Part psycho geographic inquiry, part document, part drift the book does not offer an analysis of city centre regeneration more a topography of perspectives allowing the reader to eavesdrop in on the conversations had around a building site.

Depending on time is an artist book designed and made by Jennie Savage, featuring original artwork it includes a CD of the Museum Of The Moment’ audio documentary and a 20 minute film, “A Million Moments’.

Forward by Peter Finch, essays by Dr. Andrew Cochrane and Dr. Bas Spierings.

Jennie Savage is an artist whose practice explores the place between public spaces, town planning, constructed landscapes and the human story: the lived lives and personal narratives connected to those sites. Working through a process that uses archiving and intervention, she seeks to map the other life of a place or community in order to reveal a complex situation, a microstructure or simply an unheard voice.

Next Project: April 3rd 2009 - The Museum of the Moment. A walk for Wireless headphones A sound track to Cardiff’s Victorian Arcades which will make visible a collage of possibilities discovered through historical research/ recorded oral histories/ interviews/ constructed dialogue & found narratives. The soundtrack will invite the viewer to re- think place in relation to time through a series of interlocking sound pieces which will be transmitted wirelessly through the arcades. Researcher Dr. Andrew Cochrane, School of History and Archaeology, Cardiff University April 2/3 2009 – Nutopia : Exploring the Metropolitan Imagination Think Tank “Each epoch dreams the one to follow” Michelet, Avenir! Avenir! Drawing on speakers from a range of disciplines and backgrounds the symposium will seek to explore the imagination of the ‘Global City’ as a possible source of inspiration; A city of dreams. This ‘Think Tank’ will be an opportunity to talk about the nature of community, human stories, the new – utopia’s which we may find present amongst contemporary town planning and architecture. October 2009 - The Arcades Project : A 3D Documentary. Over the course of The Arcades Project : A 3D Documentary Savage will generate a new layer of research mapping Cardiff’s Victorian Arcades and The Hayes area of the City. She will respond to this research by creating an interactive DVD archive in collaboration with designer Garry Bartlett. This Archive will act as a document not only of this place but also of a moment in time when the city is in transformation. The subject being the point in time between the start and the end. 1of 4 Publication Series During the year Savage will release 4 publications that make visible her research beginning with. “1of 4 : Auto - portrait of a development ” that will launch during the Portable Cinema Project from 2 October 2008.   will be available at the launch event on October 2nd


The title “The Arcades Project : A 3d Documentary” refers to the arcades project by Walter Benjamin. Walter Benjamin began working on his Arcades project in Paris, 1927 and considered the arcades to be ‘the most important architectural form of the 19th century’. He linked the manifestation of the arcades in Paris to a number of major and minor phenomena of that century. These phenomena being the dawning of a new age of consumerism and the rise of a new middle class. He suggested that the building of the arcades signalled a dynamic shift, a change that was not only economic but also philosophical and technological but which also effected the way people thought about public life, interpersonal relations and social interactions. Benjamin wanted to grasp these changes and to record this dramatic shift, he was not however interested in representing the great events of history but instead focused on locating ‘history’ in the everyday; the shape of window, the placement of a mirror. Working as a collector he found his evidence in the line of a poem by Baudelaire, a piece of text or a novel by Victor Hugo. Benjamin’s intention for the project was to create a work that intersected on many levels revealing the vast interrelation and collision of multiplicities that occur at any given location. Any site therefore has multiple pluralities existing in an infinite number of positions. The arcades project took one site and exhaustively explored its meanings, functions and the social relations that occurred within it. Benjamin saw the arcades and their architecture from the perspective of the individual and the individuals place in the city and that, for me, raises the fundamental point that architecture is the stage set for the theatre of the city. It is used to form the individuals perception of the self, frame inter personal relations and also govern ones movements within through city. However Architecture and town planning are not benign, they frame the way that the individual behaves, the ways in which one perceives oneself in relation to the world. The subtleties of architecture could therefore be seen as a hinge that both reflects a contemporary society and frames it. The ‘3D Documentary’ will seek to create an experiential drift through the arcades whilst the ‘Museum of the Moment Archive’ will make visible the complexity of the 21c through an interactive, multi media archive both of which will draw on approaches to archiving/ documenting and representing place but seek to re- place them back in the location as an intervention. Dr. Andrew Cochrane (archaeologist) has begun the research process by spending 2 months producing a document in the arcades, looking at their general history and specific events


The nature of documentary, and in particular ideas representation have been a recurring theme in my work as have ideas of the truth and notions of reality. This project will seek to extend that research and create a document of the arcades which is at once about the present but also about the visibility and presence of history in both the new build Malls and the existing Victorian Arcades. It is an attempt to find new ways to represent our world or reflect a situation, offer a view or share information through a sense of multiplicity rather than singular voices or threads of knowledge. Is it, however, possible to create a document which is expansive, which represents a situation through multiple views or makes visible threads without a conclusion. In many ways, then, I am seeking a form of non- linear documentary which reflects a more rhizomatic approach to representation. The project will seek to make visible the web of links that exist here - the goods sold in the shops have as much of a story to tell as the networks of people who use the arcades. These stories will be revealed through a research process that may track, for example, the history of a window frame through time or the manufacture of a shirt and its journey across the planet. The project is really about extending the idea that the global is present in the local and that we are all part of a much greater series of transactions than those that are immediately apparent.

Arcade Community:

Working across all 6 Arcades and the Central Market the project invites networks and communities in the arcades to take part in events and workshops that draw on local knowledge. This process will ultimately give visitors to the arcades a valuable insight into the life of these spaces whilst also generating an important archive documenting a time and place. The process will engage with the existing communities of people who work in the arcades and the central market, and also the sub networks of customers and people who use those spaces. Those of us who go shopping, stop in café’s or just wonder through glancing in windows. The project is open to all to take part…. To find out how click on Take Part.

Process/ Response

This project is an artist, rather than an academic, response to Walter Benjamin’s Arcades project. Benjamin’s project is a starting point both in terms of subject matter and approach. However, it will not seek to produce either a systematic or analytical response to his work. Instead the project seeks to explore what has happened in the time between the building of the cities Victorian Arcades and the construction of SD2. Interrogating the big narratives present in both of these forms, the meta - narratives which this architecture is built to house. Additionally the project will also respond to the fact that although Cardiff’s Arcades were constructed as self conscious symbols of modernity, they are now preserved as historic monuments to the Victorian era. They have been ‘Victorianised’; preserved to look like Victorian Shopping arcades in a form that we recognise as Victorian. However, they are still working spaces and an essential part of Cardiff’s commercial economy. In fact it is the arcades that make Cardiff unique, one of the few city centre destinations in the Uk where you can still find a high concentration of independent shops. So, although the arcades have been preserved to look like the ‘them’ of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s they are very much living spaces, integral to the character of the city. However they are not the arcades of the late 1800’s and early 19th c. They have been modeled to look like Victorian Arcades and this raises potential questions about the living museum, restoration, the point at which a space becomes ‘preserved’, a surface, a simulacrum or a reference point to the chaotic life that would have teemed through them in the 1900’s. In relation to Benjamin’s Arcades Project the response is not to see the Cardiff arcades in the same light as the Paris Arcades, because these spaces tell a different story, but instead to make visible the narrative and meta narrative threads present in these spaces and explore them in the light of SD2. The SD2 building site, which the developers are calling “Cardiff’s Grand Arcade”, is symptomatic of the cities need to be a ‘global capital’ and to raise its game in a time when cities brand themselves as destinations. If Cardiff’s Victorian Arcades are inspired by an era of modernity and imperialism then perhaps this new space is a manifestation of our time, of global capitalism and corporatization.  However the commonality between all of these architectural manifestations is that they are shaped by economics and by fashion and, that they impact on human narratives and the lived life of the city, effecting its day to day rhythm, the routes used to navigate it, the maps drawn in from its stories.