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.

Friday 28 December 2012

Anatole Kopp: Town and Revolution: Soviet Architecture and City Planning 1917-1935

Reviewed by Chen Xi
Anatole Kopp (1915-1990) was born in Petrograd (St. Petersburg)in 1915, but studied in France and America before returning to Europe. He was Professor at the University of Paris VIII,and became involved in the movement of Marxist planners from 1960-1970. This book has been described as 'the clearest and most convincing account yet of the relationship between the Russian Revolution and the modern architectural movement from 1917 up to the full deployment of aesthetic Stalinism around 1937.' Anatole Kopp shows in this book, through texts and quotes new ideologies in the projects selected, in significant events such as the competition for the Palace of Soviets, through the great achievements of the period (such as the university and metro in Moscow), and also through interviews with leading figures. Stalinist architecture is revealed to be deeply marked by social realism, and the "fear of the new." ' Introduction: Why the Twenties? Kopp begins by describing the rise of the Soviet modern period after the October Revolution and with that the new Bolshevik regime. He is primarily concerned with how the change in ideology effected the architecture of the former empire, and how its architects were able to creatively deal with this change. Kopp continues that these changes produced an artistic revolution as well as a political one. The artistic conventions of the West were free to be broken, and with the abolition of land ownership it was seen that architects could be unrestricted in their scope to create a new architecture in a new urban environment, all as a part of the new republic's ideology. This can be summarised as a "new way of life" - In which social and collective activities will take precedence over individual activities and "new architecture" - The rise of new technology, the rise of industry, and the new requirements of an industrial society. Architecture in Prerevolutionary Russia In the second half of the nineteenth century there appeared in Europe and the United States the first examples of a new architecture that rejected the traditions of the past. With the development of capitalism and an industrial society new needs arose. At that time, factories, stations, warehouses, stores and workers' housing were equally in demand. In writing of this period, Soviet architectural historians epitomize it in one word: eclecticism. It was simply to apply a given " style" to a structure engineered by others. 1920-1925: The Pursuit of Formal Expression In this chapter, Kopp introduced four examples. They are "Tatlin's Tower", the Palace of Labour, the All-Union Agricultural Exposition and the Exposition of Decorative Arts. "Tatlin's Tower": Today the Monument to the Third International is known as "Tatlin's Tower", and it is a grand monumental building envisioned by the Russian artist and architect Vladimir Tatlin, but never built. It was planned to be erected in St. Petersburg after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, as the headquarters and monument of the Comintern (the Third International). Tatlin's constructivist tower was to be built from industrial materials: iron, glass and steel. In materials, shape, and function, it was envisaged as a towering symbol of modernity. It would have dwarfed the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The tower's main form was a twin helix which spiraled up to 400 m in height, around which visitors would be transported with the aid of various mechanical devices.
The Palace of Labour was designed for the center of Moscow. It is composed of a series of intercommunicating squares. There used to be a little island of buildings of various kinds and a whole network of narrow streets. This was the site chosen for the Palace of Labor. It was designed by the Vesnin brothers, and opened the way for modern architecture in the Soviet Union. In this building there were offices, one 8000-seat auditorium, museum, library, a restaurant and so on. The All-Union Agricultural Exposition: The object of the All-Union Agricultural Exposition was to display the first economic successes of the Soviet Union; there was also a large foreign section intended to restore trading relations that events had thrown into disarray. The Soviet Pavilion at the Paris Exposition of Decorative Arts was designed by Konstantin Melnikov, who had completed his studies in 1917. He was a young man with little experience. He designed Soviet pavilion, of which the conception was new. In this pavilion one could observe the interpenetration of interior and exterior space, which was to become the hallmark of modern architecture. 1925-1932: An Architecture for the New Times In 1925, in most of western Europe, modern architecture as a form of expression was still a minority movement. It was to hasten the realization of these latent possibilities that Le Corbusier demanded: " Let big industry take over building." In western Europe the basis for such a development already existed. In the United States, long before the twenties, not only were modern techniques being used by the building industry but entirely new types of buildings. For many architects it was no longer so much a question of inventing a demonstration, of creating a material structure that would both reflect and enrich the new socialist way of life. Between 1925 and 1932 the Association of Contemporary Architects appeared to be the strongest, the most ideologically united, and the O.S.A. described themselves as "Constructivists". These new buildings possessed an added social dimension; in particular, they were marked by a constant effort to give architectural expression to the new society under construction. Town and Revolution In this chapter, Kopp talked about the city planning and revolution. It introduced several different aspects such as: To Build New Cities, Urbanists and Deubanists, The Socialist Reconstruction of Moscow, and the New City: Magnitogorsk. Soviet city planning, though often primitive in its forms, was distinguished by a creative dynamism not to be found elsewhere in the world. The years 1929 and 1930 were marked by a keen debate which was to raise all the problems that are now implied by the terms " land use" and " regional planning". There can be no denying that the proposals of both " urbanists" and " deurbanists" were unrealistic, and that the total reconstruction of the country along the lines suggested by either group was clearly impossible. CONCLUSION In conclusion, Kopp evaluates the influence of the Soviet Union, and he argued that the modern period of architecture in the USSR between 1917-1935 had an equal effect on the European architectural style as the Bauhaus School Movement in Germany. Kopp talked about the sense of architecture's ability, especially through the toughest social and economic periods.

Friday 21 December 2012

MA A+U Christmas Dinner

MA A+U social secretary Justina Job organised a Christmas Dinner at sandbar (our perennial haunt)
There was 'Secret Santa' and then ...

Monday 17 December 2012

Kevin Lynch: The Image of the City (1960)

Discussed by Zhouzhi Yu Kevin Lynch, who was an American urban planner, graduated from Yale University and MIT. As one of scholars who introduced the field of psychology into city research, he wrote the book The Image of the City in 1960. It is the most influential book of the research. The image of three cities - Boston, Jersey City and Los Angeles- are descried with two methods which are the sketch map and descriptions. After the investigation and analysis, Lynch put forward some ideas about the concept of public image, and discussed some questions such as the image of the city, its elements and urban morphology. In the first chapter, the book develops some of the basic ideas and then introduces the visual quality of the American city by studying the mental image of a city as held by its citizens. The author intended to assert that legibility is vital in the urban setting, to analyse it in some detail and show how the concept might be used in rebuilding cities in that period of the 1960s. Not only that, Lynch also concluded that the image of a given reality may vary significantly between different observers. Although each individual creates and feels his own image, there seems to be considerable agreement among members of the same group. Hence the results of various observers could be used to analyse the city. Considering that method, since the emphasis was on the physical environment as the independent variable, this study looked for physical qualities which related to the attributes of identity and structure in the mental image, because an urban environment's image may be analysed into three components: identity, structure and meaning. Lynch made an example to show that the city of Venice might be such a highly imageable environment. The following chapters consider the analyses of the three cities of Boston, Jersey City and Los Angeles for urban design, on the basis of which Lynch gave five elements of urban image. There are paths, edges, districts, nodes and landmarks respectively. Paths are the streets, sidewalks, trails and other channels in which people travel. In Lynch’s view, these parts of the city are the routes along which the observer customarily, occasionally, or potentially moves. People usually observe the city while moving through it, and along these paths the other environmental elements are arranged and related. Observers could witness paths easily in the city but usually ignore another element, edges, which are not used or considered as paths by the observer. Lynch concluded that edges should be perceived boundaries such as walls, buildings, and shorelines; they are lateral references rather than coordinate axes. Such edges may be barriers, more or less penetrable, which close one region off from another; or they may be seams, lines along which two regions are related and joined together. These edge elements, although probably not as dominant as paths, are for many people important organizing features, particularly in the role of holding together generalized areas, as in the outline of a city by water or a wall. Actually, edges are often paths as well. Where this was so and where the ordinary observer was not shut off from moving on the path, then circulation seemed to be the dominant image. The element was usually pictured as a path, reinforced by boundary characteristics. Edges may also, like paths, have directional qualities. Furthermore, both paths and edges are shape districts, the third element. Districts are relatively large sections of the city distinguished by some identity or character. Observers mentally enter the medium-to-large sections in the city and conceive of the space as a two-dimensional extent. Therefore concepts of size may depend in part on how well a structure can be grasped. It seems to depend not only upon the individual but also upon the given city.
When observers put themselves into the districts and grasp the structure, the nodes would be the first attraction. The reason is that nodes are focal points and intersections. In Lynch’s view, on one hand, they may be simply concentrations, which gain their importance from being the condensation of some use or physical character, as a street-corner hangout or an enclosed square. On the other hand, some of these concentration nodes are also the focus and epitome of a district, over which their influence radiates and of which they stand as a symbol. They may be called cores. Many nodes, of course, are engaged in the nature of both junctions and concentrations. Nodes are the strategic foci into which the observer can enter, typically either junctions of paths, or concentrations of some characteristic. Indeed, when conceiving the environment at a national or international level, then the whole city itself may become a node. For example, the subway stations, strung along their invisible path system, are strategic junction nodes. And major railroad stations are almost always important city nodes, although their importance may be declining. Nodes may be both junctions and concentrations, as is Jersey City’s Journal Square, which was an important bus and automobile transfer and was also a concentration of shopping. A strong physical form is not absolutely essential to the recognition of a node. The last one of the elements is landmarks. Landmarks are another type of point reference, but in this case the observers do not enter within them, they are external. The point references are simple physical elements which may vary widely in scale, such as building, sign, store or mountain. They may be within the city or at such a distance that for all practical purposes they symbolize a constant direction. Some landmarks are distant ones, typically seen from many angles and distance ones, over the tops of smaller elements, and used as radial references. Other landmarks are primarily local, being visible only in restricted localities and from certain approaches. Furthermore, spatial prominence can establish elements as landmarks in either of two ways: by making the element visible from many locations, or by setting up a local contrast with nearby elements. Location at a junction involving path decisions strengthens a landmark. They are frequently used clues of identity and even of structure, and seem to be increasingly relied upon as a journey becomes more and more familiar. All five elements introduce how the image of the city expressed itself, then Lynch continued to develop his theory and researched city form. He took Florence as a single further example. It is obvious that the elements isolated above - the paths, edges, landmarks, nodes and regions - are the building blocks in the process of making firm, differentiated structures at the urban scale. In conclusion, the sight of the cities may be commonplace but still give a special pleasure in terms of the five elements. On the basis of these in-depth analyses, Lynch summarises that there is a new scale. The form of a city or a metropolis will not exhibit some gigantic and stratified order. Moving elements in a city, and in particular the people and their activities, are as important as the stationary physical parts. The image is the result of a two-way process between observers and observed, in which the external physical shape upon which a designer can operate plays a major role. That is the reason that the methods of field reconnaissance and sample interviews for imageability were developed.

Wednesday 12 December 2012


The first group of MA A+U 2012 graduates received their degrees today at a ceremony at the Whitworth Hall, University of Manchester. Ochuko Edewor, Ahlam Sharif, Eamonn Canniffe, Wanxin Wu, Professor Tom Jefferies and Yussur Al-Chokhdar are pictured after the ceremony.
Professor Jefferies and Mr. Canniffe were accompanied on the podium by their colleagues Amy Hanley and Dr. Leandro Minuchin

Sunday 9 December 2012

Simon Sadler: The Situationist City (1998)

Reviewed by Matteo Casaburi
  Simon Sadler, born in 1968 in Solihull, West Midlands, is a professor of Architectural and Urban History at the University of California. His publications study the architectural ideas of the Archigram group, the Situationists, and other experimental practices. He wrote “The Situationist City” in 1998, trying to search for the Situationist ideas among the detritus of tracks, manifestoes, and work of art that they left behind. His intention, as mentioned in the introduction, is to draw out the common ground among the avant-garde groups that contributed to Situationism, rather than their considerable differences.   The foundation of the Situationist International (SI), and of their journal “Internationale Situationiste”, can be located in July 1957, when eight delegates, “in a state of semi-drunkenness”, met in a remote bar in Italy. They represented two key groups with different features: on the one hand the Lettrist International (1952-57), dominated by Guy Debord, whose inclination was directed toward the minimal and conceptual rather than the visual. On the other hand, there was the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus (1954-57), whose founder Asger Jorn preferred an expressionist approach to the production of art. The former was specifically urban, grounded in Paris (a city considered at the moment the cultural centre of the world), the latter was removed from the metropolis being located in the Italian towns of Albisola and Alba. Yet both strands were highly politicized: the will to keep expressive social revolution at the core of the avant-garde had preoccupied also the COBRA group of artists and writer (1948-51), and in particular one of its leading light Constant Nieuwenhuys.     The structure of the book The book is organized in three parts: the first one, “The Naked City”, is a critique of the environment as it currently existed; the second one, “Formulary for a New Urbanism”, examines Situationist principles for the city and for city living; in the final part, called “New Babylon” are described the designs actually proposed for the Situationist city.   The poverty of modernism The Situationists though that Le Corbusier and his allies had instituted architecture of right angles and cadaverous rigidity. The machine for living in, rather than liberating the common man, was interring him as a component of functionalist society, leaving no space for poetry and dreams. Genuine social progress, as they argued, should not subsume the individual, but maximize his freedom and potential. On the contrary, the triumph of reason in the modernist’s city had left no space for imagination or expression. As Guy Debord stated, “unitary urbanism acknowledges no boundaries; it aims to form a unitary human milieu in which separations such as work/leisure or public/private will finally be dissolved”, providing spontaneous manifestations of social life. The Situationist city was at odds with the Corbusian vision of people at ease in an ideal landscape, a place where the struggle with nature, with the body, with space, and with class had inexplicably come to an end. The Ville Contemporaine was forever contemporary only by freezing time and ending history.
  The Naked City The Naked city was the second psychogeographic map, and was designed by Debord and Jorn in 1957. It expresses the incompatibility of Cartesian logic with the real experience of the city, characterized by the intimacy between environment and human emotion. Rather than float above the city as some sort of omnipotent all-possessing eye, the Situationist overview of the city was reconstructed in the imagination, piecing together an experience of space that was actually terrestrial, fragmented, subjective, temporal and cultural. The arrows implied a massive number of permutations for drift. The weight, shape and patterning of the arrows suggested the strength of the bonds between the so called unities of ambiance, those places with special qualities within the turmoil of the city.Its importance is recognizable as it mourned the loss of old Paris, prepared for the city of the future, explored the city’s structures and uses, criticized traditional mapping, and investigated the relationship between language, narrative and cognition.     Constructing situations “We must try to construct situations, that is to say collective ambiances, ensembles of impressions determining the quality of a moment” (Debord). The constructed situation was conceived as a twenty-four hour tragedy played out for real. It would stimulate a new sort of behaviour, an improved future social life based upon human encounter and play. It is possible to relate this feature of the constructed situation with experimental theatre, both being founded upon the concept of active rather than passive participation.     Revolution No post-war avant-garde aspired to the mantle of revolutionary radicalism more fervently than the Situationists. They promised that their architecture would one day revolutionize everyday life and release the ordinary citizen into a world of experiment, anarchy and play.   Drifting as a revolution of everyday life Wandering around the city, drifting without destination, neither going to work nor properly consuming, was a waste of time in the temporal economy, in a society where “time is money.” Being an occupation that was unproductive of anything except encounters with other people and places, the drift became a transgression of the alienated world. A “détourned” city Détournement can be defined as a variation on a previous media work, in which the newly created one has a meaning that is antagonistic or antithetical to the original. A similar term more familiar to English speakers would be “turnabout” or “derailment”. “The architectural complex will make plastic and emotional use of all sorts of détourned objects”.(Debord) The Situationists’ disregard for any conventional sense of “high” and “low”, for architectural decorum or uniformity, and their advocacy of a free mixing of architectural sources, had extraordinary aesthetic implications.   Unitary Urbanism The Situationists conceived a city constructed of grand situations, between which the inhabitants would drift, endlessly. Urban dynamics would no longer be driven by capital and bureaucracy, but by participation. This idea rejected the idealistic quest of fixed forms and permanent solutions that had been the basis of traditional town planning, considering “the urban environment as the terrain of a game in which one participates”, the city as a giant playground and architecture as a medium of social contact.  
New Babylon's Structure The city is raised on pilotis above nature and old cities, thus providing an extension of the Earth’s surface, a clean sheet for three-dimensional urban planning and growth. It is precariously suspended over entire cities and countries, making literal Debord and Jorn’s invocation of a “floating city”. It is also comparable to Yona Friedman’s spatial urbanism. It was based upon a system of movable partitions within a fixed framework, so that spaces could be constantly mounted and dismounted.   New Babylon’s utopian fun The sovereignty of fun and leisure generated the plan of New Babylon. New Babylon’s space frame was ideally suited to the creation of transitory, amorphous architecture, fantastic vistas and fertile space, ready for homo ludens to let his imagination run wild. Fun would not be a break from work or social normalcy; it was not something to be treated as a sinful diversion from work, nor a commodity peddled in specialized leisure centres.   Disorientation   Every space is temporal, nothing is recognizable, everything is discovery, everything changes, nothing can serve as a landmark; “the changing of landscape from one hour to the next will result in complete disorientation”. New Babylon was one immeasurable labyrinth, a “dynamic labyrinth” rather than a “classic labyrinth”. The disadvantage of the latter is that the subject is distracted by the fact that there is a destination, the centre. Moreover, the dynamic labyrinth would be determined by the users since they could choose their trajectories at the macrolevel, while retaining the option to reshape the labyrinth at microlevel using the mobile elements.   Conclusion The movement, despite its lack of unity, had a great influence:  orthodox modernism came to be regarded as practically inhuman. Strict zoning lost favour to mixed use, and many city centres became dominated by leisure use, even if it was of course a commercial rather than anarchic leisure. On the other hand, Situationists were unable to arrange their revolutionary devices (psychogeography, drift, détournement, constructed situations and unitary urbanism) into a coherent program, and also the program that they set themselves was so ambitious and uncompromising that it condemned itself to failure. Probably even most Situationists realized the near-impossibility of constructing truly Situationist architecture.  

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Albert Pope: Ladders - Architecture at Rice 34 (1996)

Reviewed by Rebecca King
The Primacy of Space In this text, the contemporary city, the city of today, is viewed as under construction and invisible to the naked eye. Pope does not mean this literally of course, but refers to the notion that one cannot see the urban conceptions that the city operates under. The city has dropped in status to something that is simply passed through as people go about their own individual lives. Not forgotten or neglected, just unseen. He also introduces the contemporary city as a parasite; an urban/sub-urban failing in which new developments are not outgrowing the urban host, but becoming a new urban organism. Pope suggests that to better understand the city, we must separate the new parasitic city from its original urban host. It is not the built form which impacts the city most, but the spaces in between such as spaces of urban decay, public parks, high speed roads or car parks. These areas have slipped past designers and we must focus back on these to fix the state of the contemporary urban environment, recreating a dialogue between built form and urban space. Pope proposes that the urban grid is undergoing an autonomous process of transformation, that it is ultimately a grid based on internal logic. This transformation of urban organisation will, henceforth, be referred to as the “ladder”. The Open City There is a powerful link between the urban grid and the urban identity of a city. The grid can be read as an icon of order, a bureaucratic matrix. But beyond this, it is a tool for infinite complexities. It can not only be definitive, but ambiguous at the same time, a problem which caused 20th Century urban reformers to promote its disappearance. Rosalind Krauss’s reading of the centrifugal and centripetal grid is useful in this instance. She sets up the centrifugal reading of the grid as an open system, a fragment of an unlimited field which will never be known in its entirety. The centripetal grid is then the conflicting feature. It is closed and limited system, symbolic of form and order. Due to industrial and demographic explosion in the 19th Century, an autonomous, limitless urban grid was born, such as was seen in Manhattan. It became itself, a process, not an urban plan but an urban metabolism. This would be a centrifugal grid. Cities were rarely created as pure centripetal form. Although they would have a degree of closure, they would still be considered as open systems. The open city allows for a free society, it is society’s urban imagination where anything can happen. Yet it would appear that this view is out of step with the city of contemporary construction. The transition between the two, the emergence of an unknown form from the centripetal grid is the ladder, the skeleton of a unique type of contemporary urban space.
Urban Implosion An alternative theory is that the city is not opening up, but closing down. The erosion of the grid, in turn, causes the erosion of the city. This point, where the city ceases to be, is the point of implosion. It is here that the grid transforms into a ladder. Urban form survives in the ladder, but spatially, it opposes an open, centrifugal urban form. It generates a closed system of operation. If ten points were to be visited in an open grid, the sequence of visitation could be endless. The grid generates multiple routes and interconnections. The ladder, however, eliminates options and allows for only one itinerary, thus suppressing the cross purpose of an urban grid. The ladder could be said to have evolved from the concept of a ‘Linear City’. Many variations of the linear city were proposed, falling into two categories. The first is the “band type” developed by Russian theorist N.A. Milutin. The plan was a series of six parallel zones layered astride a frame for transportation. Each band had its own function and would be capable of infinite extension. The second is organised around a central, hierarchical spine where everything is placed in relation to the path of transportation. A single dominant route dictates the urban circulation and allows for secondary development and a break from the monotony that the bands present. The ladder, therefore, is the linear association in contemporary urban development. Ludwig Hilberseimer can be named as the prime theorist of the ladder. His ‘Settlement Unit’ was proposed as an alternative to the ever-present urban grid. It sustained the flexibility of the grid whilst offering increased adaptability, a coherent form, large urban open spaces and a degree of autonomy. Inundation of Space The ladder is understood as the agent of grid reorganisation and dramatic spatial inversion. It is the agent of imploded urban space, the overlay and underlay of forms such as bridges, freeways and tunnels which Pope explains then creates an ellipsis. These ellipses cannot be part of the hierarchical urban development but are separate entities which can be quantified in the production as a new centripetal labyrinth. The two remain interrelated even though the ellipsis is, by definition, outside of the system that produced it. Here the theories of Fredrick Jameson’s postmodern hyperspace are used to identify this phenomenon.
The Centripetal City Pope now addresses the way that closed urban systems have been allowed to develop in the absence of a strong metropolitan centre, thus causing exclusion and division. As the metropolitan order declines into chaos and disorganisation, these closed urban systems grow and become more extreme, consequentially contributing further to the demise of the metropolis. What emerges from this is a radically dispersed polynuclear order. It never interlocks with metropolitan space, but creates some unity of urban form. Polynuclear expansion has a hierarchical urban core, around which autonomous nuclei gather. Pope states that this is what sustains the present state of metropolitan form. An urban sprawl for which it would appear, society cannot find an alternative. This urban sprawl is kept at a standstill due to old models of the city ineffectively persisting, and new, sustainable models failing to emerge. Therefore, the functions of the urban form must be eliminated before they can be created, to avoid the entropy which has emerged from the closed systems. However, the counter sites of contemporary urban space will continue to evolve regardless. The space in between, the void, is already full of economical, political and cultural meaning. Mass Absence Using the well-known photograph of a mass demonstration in front of Giuseppe Terragni’s Casa del Fascio, Pope addresses the paradox of architectural spaces and forms having the ability to reference both autonomous form and reference a powerful historical moment in the same instance. The connections persist at every turn, such as they do between built form and urban landscape in the case of the ellipsis. They have not disappeared, but are simply obscured in their form and meaning. It may be neglected by its users, but contemporary urban space persists, and continues to effect the quality and characteristics of its own internal environment. “It is better to suffer the void of abstraction than gratuitous representation, better to be lost than to languish in the ‘objective world’ of closed urban development.”
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