The MA Architecture + Urbanism course is the Manchester School of Architecture's taught postgraduate course which conducts research into how global cultural and economic forces influence contemporary cities. The design, functioning and future of urban situations is explored in written, drawn and modelled work which builds on the legacy of twentieth century urban theory and is directed towards the development of sustainable cities.

Thursday 31 March 2011

Eric Mumford: The CIAM Discourse on Urbanism 1928-1960 (2002)

Discussed by Matthew Pilling

It has already been shown that much of the CIAM approach to urbanism was derived from earlier planning concepts, Eric Mumford’s intent was to instead trace the development of CIAMs urbanistic discourse.

The main focus of the CIAM was to create an Avante-Garde within the newly emerging anti-traditionalist architecture of the early twentieth century. Instead of simply accepting or rejecting CIAMs polemics, Eric Mumford reveals how CIAM defined new and perhaps overly ambitious socially transformative roles for architects and architecture, by combining certain design strategies with a passionately held conviction that architecture should serve the many and not the few.

CIAM 1, 1928 - 1930 (Chateau of La Sarraz, Switzerland)

The first CIAM Congress was the result of efforts from several directions, most significantly including the international campaign in favor of Le Corbusier’s League of Nations design, and the Weissenhof meetings, involving members of the Berlin Ring and the Swiss Werkbund in 1927. From its inception, CIAM was conceived as an instrument of propaganda to advance the cause of the new architecture that was developing in Europe in the 1920’s.

Giedion the CIAM secretary wrote that the goals of CIAM were:

a) to formulate the contemporary program of architecture

b) to advocate the idea of modern architecture

c) to forcefully introduce this idea into technical, economic and social circles

d) to see to the resolution of architectural problems

The congress concluded that the future, whether as capitalist or a communist technocracy, was to be organized from above along the lines thought to be best for the general welfare of industrial societies everywhere.

CIAM 2, 1929 (Frankfurt, “Die Wohnung fur das Existenzminimum”)

The intent throughout Frankfurt was to demonstrate the use of assembly-line methods for socialist (or at least social democratic) ends. In the midst of this, the proposed second CIAM Congress was given the theme “the Minimum Subsistence Dwelling" the focus being on design solutions to the problem of high rents for low wage earners.

The organs of CIAM were defined as the “Congress” itself, the “General Assembly” that would meet every year or two, as called together by the president; and the CIRPAC, which had been proposed by Le Corbusier and created at La Sarraz. The CIRPAC members were to be called “Delegates,” with at least one from each CIAM national group. The CIRPAC was to plan each Congress and to carry out the decisions of the congress, though the later proved to be difficult.

CIAM 3, 1930: (Brussels “Rationelle Bebauungsweisen”)

The real theme of CIAM 3 was a discussion of Gropius’ question, “Low-, Mid- or High-Rise Building?” an investigation which paralleled Le Corbusiers views. Following findings from Bohemia and Kaufman however, Gropius and Giedion shifted the debate over building heights away from the strictly economic justifications toward the collective social and spiritual advantages of each type. So Groipius’ lecture “Low-, Mid- or High-Rise Building?” which could be considered the keynote address of the congress, began with the argument that reasoning in city planning should not be strictly economic but also should take into account “Psychological and Social Demands.”

The Functional City 1931 - 1939 - This was the most significant theoretical approach of CIAM, and began to dominate its discourse immediately following the Brussels Congress. The underlying concept was a simple one, Cornelius van Easteren asserted that “districts for the masses, with their high population densities, suffer the consequences of incorrect development.” He declared that the “many disadvantages” of these districts based on the mediaeval “block form of street walls and lot lines, were unnecessary.” The CIAM “Die Wohung fur das Existenzminimum” had demonstrated the fundamental importance of favorable solar orientation in low - cost apartments with their “intensely used rooms.” Consequently arguing that the best position for sunlight for a particular housing type should ensure the “direction of the whole apartment series.” He concluded that what are needed are not axial city plans, but new national development methods that could be extended to the planning of entire cities.

CIAM 4, 1933: (Athens: “The Functional City”)

Le Corbusier gave an address containing the most concise statement of his position on the idea of the Functional City. As he saw it, CIAM's task was to create forms, human truths and certainties, and to establish a prism to judge them. He insisted on the fundamental principle that urbanism was a three-dimensional science, and stressed that height was an important one of those dimensions. Through the bodily movement the three dimensions imply the notion of time, and our lives are regulated by the “solar regime” of twenty-four hours and the year, which “commands distances and heights.” The urbanist, he continued, must choose between two tendencies, to extend or to contract the city. If the latter was chosen, concrete and steel must be used to preserve the “essential joys” of the sky, trees and light. He emphasized that CIAMs judgements must be “Dwelling,” the first of a hierarchy of four functions; Dwelling, Work, Leisure and Circulation.

While the Garden City pattern satisfies the individual, he argued that it loses the advantages of collective organization. The Concentrated City, favored with modern techniques, assures the liberty of the individual within the housing fabric and organizes the collective life in relation to recreation.

After 1933 CIAM began to define itself as an international “building movement” with its own ideology of the Functional City. Rejected by both National and Socialism in Germany and Stalinism in the Soviet Union, the ideology was available to any modernizing “Authority” willing to risk its application.

CIAM 5, 1937: (Paris: “Logis et loisirs”)

Conditions for CIAM had changed dramatically for the worse since the first La Sarraz meeting eight years previously. National socialism had ended most of the new architectural directions in Germany, Le Corbusier had not been able to see his urbanistic ideas adapted in France, and the members who had gone to the Soviet Union in 1930 to apply CIAM methods there, were beginning to leave.

The program for CIAM 5 consisted of three talks, by Le Corbusier, on “Theoretical Solutions,” Sert, on “Application Case: Cities” and Szymon Syrkus, on “Application Case: Rural Areas.” The twenty other “Interventions and communications” at CIAM 5 were a mixture of reports by CIAM members and national groups, syndicalist friends of Le Corbusier, and other French political and intellectual figures.

CIAM 6, 1947: (Bridgewater, England: “Reunion Congress”)

MARs (Modern Architectural Research) after 1945 was a very different group than its prewar namesake. No longer a small Avante-Garde group, it had become a large club like institution with many prominent members well within the new mainstream of British Architecture and Town Planning. It was felt that MARs should not be primarily concerned with publicizing the principles of the ‘Athens Charter,‘ but should instead move on to examine “the impact of contemporary conditions upon architectural expression. This was proposed as a possible theme for the first congress to be held after the war.

At the Zurich CIRPAC meeting it was formerly declared that “the final aim of CIAM is to facilitate the practical application of its principles in each represented country,” to “give to communities a truly human aspect,” but added “we intend to enlarge the subject to include ideological and aesthetic problems.”

CIAM 7, 1949: (Bergamo, Italy)

In contrast to the ambitious hopes for CIAM expressed at Bridgewater, the Bargamo Congress revealed that CIAM was not going to regain its prewar elan as an avante-garde organization, owing to internal conflicts within.

Officially CIAM 7 issued a resolution, whose 7 points concerned:

1. The Dwelling, which should be orientated to the sun, quiet and efficiently organized

2. Laboratories for research in new construction techniques

3. Scale, which should always be indicated [on drawings]

4. Land-use Legislation

5. Unity of visual groups

6. Necessity of punctual Automobile and pedestrian circulation

7. Free disposition of the ground plane

CIAM 8, 1951: (Hoddesdon, England: “The Heart of the City”)

The MARs group established commissions to prepare for the congress which mirrored those of the CIAM itself:

I. Town Planning

II. Visual Art

III. New Building Techniques

IV. Social Background of the Core

Of the talks presented at CIAM 8, the most significant was Serts opening talk entitled “the Theme of the Congress: The Core.” He argued that in developing countries, the cores could be places where new technologies such as television screens would soon be available, and this could “put these people in immediate contact with the world.” People without access to radios could “listen to the old speaker on the public square,” and “could see the images on the television screen,” which would enhance the importance of these places.

Such civic centers would consolidate [democratic] governments; for the lack of them and the dependence of the people on controlled means of information makes them more easily governable by the rule of the few. The creation of these centers is a government job (Federal, State or Municipal). These elements cannot be established on a business basis. They are necessary for the city as a whole and even for the nation, and they should be publicly financed.”

CIAM 9, 1953: (Aix-en-Provence, France: “The Charter of Habitat”)

The work program for CIAM 9 stated that “CIAM 9 will not resume the study of.... [the] four functions but will concentrate upon Living and everything that man plans and constructs for living.”

CIAM 10, 1953: (Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia: “The Charter of Habitat”)

The group comprising of Howells, Smithsons and John Voelcker concluded that the lack of a definite conclusion from Aix was the fault of the administration of CIAM, and that “the accepted definitions and methods of work within CIAM are not adequate for dealing with the problems with which we are faced today.”

They acknowledged that the Athens Charter was of great historical importance, but also stated, “it is clear that the contents of charter are no longer instruments for creative development.” Nor did they find the titles of the permanent commissions “relevant to the problem with which we are concerned.” rather than these “analytic” categories, the group proposed new “synthetic” categories, based on the terminology of Patrick Geddes’s Valley Section.

The CIAM 10 Program, Commission Structure, and Schedule were finally set at a last minute meeting in Padua. The group in attendance agreed that CIAM 10 had three tasks:

I. To prepare the Charter of Habitat

II. To Extract New Material on Relationships from the New Grids for the Charter

III. To determine the Future of CIAM

Sert opened the Congress proceedings by reading a “message of Le Corbusier” to CIAM 10, It posed the question of “crisis or evolution?” for CIAM and contrasted the “generation of 1928” which had formulated the Athens Charter, with the “generation of 1956” which will now “take command.” this generation should now enter into “practical action” taking account of “urgent world-wide needs... To design, express and even predict” the future. He concluded, “Act so that the CIAM continue in their creative passion, in disinterest, reject the opportunists or hot head. Good luck, long live the SECOND - CIAM! Your friend LE CORBUSIER”

The final CIAM meeting was held in September of 1959 in Otterlo where it was announced the name CIAM would longer be used. No further meetings where ever held or publications ever issued, however due to the lack of clarity concerning CIAM's fate it is quite difficult to say precisely where CIAM ends and Team 10 (officially formed in 1945) begins.

The conclusion of CIAM:

By researching and reviewing not just the congress meetings themselves, but also the preparatory meetings, Eric Mumford affords us a greater understanding of the groups complexities.

The CIAM delegates were often working in ever changing political environments and came from vastly contrasting cultural backgrounds. Despite a large number of highly successful collaborations between delegates from varying national groups, it often proved difficult focusing their collective efforts towards a single goal. This was further hindered, on numerous occasions, by individual members attempting to steer the CIAM to suit their own agenda.

Although highly influential, the majority of CIAM's proposals remain unrealised or incomplete and a number of publications based on their collaborative works failed to even materialise. Whilst highly successful in its formative and early years, the CIAM seemingly lost its focus in later years and became impeded by bureaucracy, culminating in the disintegration of CIAM.

Monday 28 March 2011

Reclaiming Delhi

MA A+U student Supriya Pundlik is seeking thoughts about Connaught Place in New Delhi via her new blog

Supriya says 'If you have any data,images or any information please share it!'

The following film from 1938 shows a vanished world of self-assured imperialism. Connaught Place features at about 6.40

Friday 25 March 2011

Rob Krier: Urban Space (1979)

Reviewed by Meliz Kusadali


The author of the Urban Space, Robert Krier was born in 1938 in Luxemburg. He ranks as one of the most influential urban planners and architects of post modernism. As it is also clear in his book ‘Urban Space’, he has always taken the historic repertoire seriously. For him, continuity and aestheticism are ways of reviving what he regards as the art of architecture that lost its way in modernism. The aim of the book ‘Urban Space’ is to search how the traditional understanding of urban space has been lost within the modern cities. By explaining the terms of urban space and its structure, he has examined whether the concept of urban space retains some validity in contemporary town planning and on what grounds.

Chapter 1 analyzes the typological and morphological elements of the urban space. The term ‘urban space’ can be simply described as external space in town. It is seen as open, unobstructed space for movement in the open air, with public, semi public and private zones. Furthermore, the ‘concept of urban space’ is to designate all types of space between buildings in towns and other localities as urban space. If we take the aesthetic criteria into consideration, every urban space has been organized according to its socio-political and cultural attitudes.

Urban space has been structured in similar laws to interior space. For example, in the category of interior space, we would be talking about the corridor and the room. Similarly, square and the street are the basic elements of the urban space. The only difference is the dimensions of walls which bound them and by the patterns of function and circulation which characterise them. In brief descriptions, square is produced by the grouping of houses around an open space and the street is a product of the spread of a settlement once houses have been built along the available space.
The Arrangement of Krier’s Typology for Urban Space
The spatial forms of urban space derive from the three basic geometric shapes: (square, circle and triangle). These three shapes are affected by modulating factors which are angling, segmentation, addition, merging, overlapping and distortion. These factors can produce regular and irregular results on all three spatial types. In addition, the large number of building sections influences the quality of the space at all these stages of modulation. Moreover, space that is completely surrounded by buildings produces ‘closed’ space and the partially surrounded produces ‘open’ space. Finally, the differentiation of scale plays an enormous role in all spatial forms, such as the effect of various architectural styles on urban space.

Morphological Series of Urban Space

The author gives various examples for a morphology of urban space within this chapter, there being an almost inexhaustible range of possible forms exists that are mostly from our historic town.

For example Hanover Square in London from the18th Century is an example for orthogonal regular ground plan with four central intersections. Piazza Navona in Rome is an example for a geometrically complex form. It is a combination of several spatial forms and many streets enter the square. Place Dauphine in Paris is a regular triangular square that is extremely rare in the history of town planning. These are usually formed by two roads forking. Although these forms are clearly obvious in town planning history, in our modern cities they are criminally neglected in the author's view.

Chapter 2 examines the erosion of urban space in the 20th century. The erosion of urban space is an ongoing process which has been with us for the last fifty years in the guise of technological progress. This era has started with the invention of new military technology. New weaponry neutralized the defensive systems of cities. Consequently, city walls were demolished and allowed armies to simply walk through the city. The need of protection had imposed a new discipline on every town: its construction, rebuilding and expansion. However, the colossal pressure for expansion of cities led planners over rapid decision making on town planning which has resulted with unstructured developments. Architecture was a low priority. Functional, constructional and capital concerns were being the most important issues of the day. Additionally, the influence of industrial building on the urban planning is another catastrophe. It leads to numerous misconceived developments which caused the impoverishment of present-day architecture. For example: The movements towards a purely functional or constructional orientation. The developing proposals of planners for new ideal cities during the 20th Century and 19th Century industrial building has taken away the control of the concept of urban space and architecture. Krier finalized this chapter by showing his illustrations to support his thesis that modern town planning dominates over the concept of urban space which has largely fallen into disuse.

From a distant view, the spatial continuum of a cohesive traditional urban structure can be compared to the barriers which channel pedestrian movement. If there is a gap in the barrier, it should cope with the shortcomings in the system of orientation. The spatial arrangement of the modern city is composed of forlorn and isolated sections of barrier, battered on all sides by every conceivable stream of activity and with no margin left for meaningful activity or orientation.

The aim of Chapter 3 is to understand the author’s viewpoint for redeveloping a city. Krier has suggested possible approaches to reconstruction for various parts of Stuttgart. The former coherent urban structure of Stuttgart was destroyed to a catastrophic extent during the Second World War. The heart of the city was broken up into a large number of small islands battered by waves of heavy traffic. In Rob Krier’s schemes for Stuttgart, he tried to win back downtown of the city for pedestrians, without excluding the car in the process. In practical terms, this means using redevelopment to weld together seamlessly the isolated areas at those critical points, whose significance for the pedestrian’s spatial awareness was eroded during the post war years because of costly civil engineering programmes. Particular attention is paid in these studies to restoring the continuity of spatial experience within an urban context. Additionally, he designed streets and squares for pedestrians, harmonised as closely as possible with the existing structure and showing the utmost consideration for the legacy of the past.

The book is very useful to understand the town planning achievements of the present and the past. It is also a well-structured book which gives an historical summary of town planning and how it has been a miserable failure in the contemporary town planning.

The following conclusion can be drawn from the review; the rush of rebuilding and the priority which is given to the traffic and to the other technologies rather than the people’s need resulted with scattered buildings with no proper spatial planning. This has proved the thesis of author that the traditional concept of urban space and its structure has been lost within modern cities.

Friday 18 March 2011

Peter Katz: The New Urbanism - Towards an Architecture of Community

A review of the 1994 book by Angela Heaney.

The author, Peter Katz, is a design and marketing consultant based in California, San Francisco and Seattle, Washington.
He studied architecture and graphic design at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York and now lectures frequently on urban issues to universities and citizen’s groups.

The aim of the book, and the New Urbanism movement, is to address many of the critical issues of our time: the decline of America’s cities, the rebuilding of its disintegrated infrastructure, housing affordability, and crime and traffic congestion, while trying to return to a “cherished American icon: that of a compact, close-knit community.”

For the majority of human history, people have gathered together for mutual security and to be close to critical resources, however, Katz believes that with the introduction of the automobile and a host of other factors, it provided an opportunity for people to disperse and in the post war era, suburbia became the lifestyle choice for most Americans.

He believes this new way of living fragmented America’s society – separating friends and relatives and “breaking down the bonds of community,” of which the devastating consequences were disregarded for some time.

This book is structured by essays and 24 case- study projects, put forward by the leading figures of the New Urbanism movement that emerged in the United States in the late 1970’s. The intention of the New Urbanism is to suggest alternatives to the present sprawl and isolation that they view as a consequence of decades of poorly planned suburban growth.

The designs of the New Urbanism integrate workplaces, shops, housing, parks and civic facilities into close-knit communities that are both “charming and functional.” The ability to walk is most important, however, cars aren’t excluded. Public places are the central core for these designs which can be made up of sites for parks, schools, churches, meeting halls and other civic uses. Affordability is a significant consideration in the design process-a wide range of housing types are intended to meet the needs of all levels of society. Most of these neighbourhood communities are planned to comprise an efficient connection with the larger metropolitan region, through the use of transit, both bus and rail.

The New Urbanism is concerned with both the pieces and the whole, and according to Peter Calthorpe, one of the founding members of this movement, there are two principles of urban design to the region. Firstly, urbanism should be applied regardless of location- in suburbs, new growth areas and the city. The second principle acknowledges that the entire region should be treated as a whole- socially, economically and ecologically.
With regards to a growing region, Calthorpe rejects any attempt to limit overall growth or allow it to expand uncontrollably, maintaining that both actions would result in either further sprawl or disagreeable traffic, congestion and a loss of identity. As an alternative, he suggests that growth at the region should be accommodated first in infill and redevelopment, to utilize existing infrastructure and preserve open space, and then in new growth areas and satellite towns that are within transit proximity to the city centre.
Peter Calthorpe’s work is centred on TOD- Transit Oriented Development, “an attempt to regroup the suburb into a density which makes public transit feasible.”

Each of these strategies is central to the thesis of a New Urbanism:

“…that a regional system of open space and transit complemented with pedestrian friendly development patterns can help revitalise an urban centre at the same time it helps to order suburban growth.”

An additional focus of the New Urbanism movement is TND – Traditional Neighbourhood Development; proposing a model of urbanism that is limited in area and structured around a defined centre. This composition was first implemented by Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, directors of the architecture and town planning practice DPZ, in Miami, Florida.
They state that the fundamental organizing elements of the New Urbanism are the neighbourhood, the district and the corridor. Neighbourhoods are urbanized areas with a balanced mix of human activity- such as dwelling, shopping, working, schooling, worshipping and recreating, structured on a fine network of interconnecting streets that give priority to public space. Districts are similar to neighbourhoods, however are dominated by a single activity. Districts rely on a connection to transit and interconnected circulation that supports the pedestrian and creates a ‘sense of place.’ The corridor is the connector and separator of neighbourhoods and districts and it is characterized by its visual continuity. Its location and type are determined by its technological intensity and nearby densities.

“The New Urbanism offers an alternative future for the building and re-building of regions. Neighbourhoods that are compact, mixed-use and pedestrian friendly; districts of appropriate location and character; and corridors that are functional and beautiful can integrate natural environments and man-made communities into a sustainable whole.”

The form of the New Urbanism is realized by the deliberate assembly of streets, blocks and buildings. “Buildings, blocks and streets are interdependent. Each one contains to some degree the ingredients of all the others.” Elizabeth Moule and Stefanos Polyzoides apply this strategy to the New Urbanism; they believe the building of the public realm has been handled with little regard for those it actually serves and the quality of life it generates and so, they aim to focus on, “a shared space in society which brings people together, to relate to one another and/or to be separate.”
Streets are not to be the dividing lines within the city; they are to be the communal rooms and passages within a network of connectedness and continuity to encourage a mix of uses. A variety of streets will exist on a hierarchy based on their vehicular and pedestrian loads and their architectural character will be based on their arrangement on plan and section.
The block unfolds both the building fabric and the public realm of the city and allows a mutually beneficial relationship between people and vehicles. Ultimately, they should be designed and configured to prioritise the pedestrian.
The building follows three key principles; use, density and form. They are to be designed by reference to their type, not solely their function, to allow for multiple adaptations over time. Buildings should form the public realm, express the importance of public shared institutions and improve the daily working and home life of the citizenry.
Furthermore, each street, block and building shall be typically designed and presented in the form of a code to follow the “American tradition of safeguarding the public realm.”

“The judicious application of codes is to result in a diverse, beautiful and predictable fabric of buildings, open space and landscape that can structure villages, towns, cities and the metropolitan region.”

The New Urbanism advocates an ambitious agenda for the building and rebuilding of our neighbourhoods, towns and cities and it is a clear step in diminishing the present sprawl and isolation in many poorly planned suburban growth areas throughout America, yet, how influential will the New Urbanists be? It is evident that public sentiment is gathering behind them; local government and planning institutes are following New Urbanists ideas to reconsider land use patterns that generate excessive automobile use and countless firms and planning agencies are embracing the New Urbanist strategies in redevelopment plans, design review guidelines and zoning laws. However, many new developments are adopting these ideas only superficially, as motifs to enhance their marketing strategies and a number of critics argue that the New Urbanist projects emphasize visual style over planning substance.
The concept of the New Urbanism seeks to revive the public realm, which is being increasingly privatised, and revitalise cities and communities that have deteriorated over time, mainly due to the excessive use of the automobile and the consequences that it left. Nevertheless, the types of communities the New Urbanists envision are unlikely to emerge from design initiatives alone. Once a project is completed, layers of community organisation will develop.
Toward an Architecture of Community, the book’s subtitle, is what this book is primarily about. Yet, there are questions to consider; will the beautifully drawn neighbourhood open space truly be public or will it be controlled by a private home owner’s association? And will community facilities such as day care centres, churches and meeting rooms be available to all?
The New Urbanism is a noteworthy step forward; however it is only a step. At best, it has significantly refocused the public’s attention more strongly on how the design of our communities has a very real impact on our lives.

Friday 11 March 2011

Is Rome a Modern City?

Is Rome a Modern City? - MA Architecture and Urbanism 2011 from Kathryn Timmins on Vimeo.

The final film prepared as a contribution to the University of Warwick conference THE POSTMODERN PALIMPSEST: NARRATING CONTEMPORARY ROME. The film was made by MA A+U students Preeya Vadgama, Kathryn Timmins, Angela Heaney and Chen Xu.

Monday 7 March 2011

Dive // Contaminated Estimations

A further film prepared for the recent University of Warwick conference THE POSTMODERN PALIMPSEST: NARRATING CONTEMPORARY ROME. This film was made by Carrie Bayley, Luke Butcher and Rongxiao Han.
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