...Some nurseries offer a new advantage to parents, cameras strategically placed in their facilities so that parents can observe the behaviour of their children online. The idea seems somewhat perverse because, although it does encourage transparence and information by allowing parents to see if their baby eats or takes a nap, it is also a way of monitoring the educator. What is offered as an advantage could be the beginning of a divide; in this case it confirms that distrust among parents and educators is part of the educational area.
The nursery under surveillance is a sign of the current times. It begins this article because it demonstrates the apparent innocence of the media, its false neutrality, its irrefutable advantages and its cunning development. Real life, or what we called real until now, has become an ambiguous landscape that is becoming more and more a representation of itself. We still talk about the city as if we knew what we were talking about, but the media’s ability to conquer territory generates a silent and continuous explosion around us, and cities mutate at a very high speed.
With no further regrets, we no longer recognise ourselves in our former images or in those places we frequented. We have acquired new habits and our demands have multiplied. Physical space is only a part of our surroundings, worth almost nothing compared to virtual space.
How does this mutation affect what we, until now, have understood as civic facilities?
These unique buildings, whose mission is to balance urban life by offering services and pleasure to citizens, greatly suffer the explosive effect of media and their survival depends on their mutation abilities, on their programmatic expansion. The heart of the city is in need of reviving.
Furthermore, as nexuses of social life, civic facilities face on a daily basis the instability of relationship patterns, the vanishing of common reference points and the effects of an increasingly volatile economy. For some years, the London district of Tower Hamlets has seen that the use of its libraries is decreasing. In Spain, civic centres, created to encourage community participation, are turning from activism to recreation. In the South of Los Angeles, youth are krumping2 in the middle of the street since new sports find no place in conventional sports facilities and schools, in any given place on the planet, lack of tools to educate the children of apathetic parents.
This discord between typologies of the 20th century and the needs of the 21st coexists with the paradox that, in this ambiguous landscape that we continue to call “city”, residential programmes are less focused on urban artifacts and more on land conquering, which causes civic facilities to stand out as beacons, as hallmarks of civilisation. Their very presence, meant to produce the effect of a dialogue with their surroundings, to generate experiences, should act as a magnet in the face of domestic dispersion and as an essential heterotopic escape from our most intimate space, nowadays none other than cyberspace and virtual communities. However, in order to act as true urban milestones, they may have to share prominence with commercial uses, as the majority of our actions are likely to entail an incitement to commerce, and commerce generates activity.
In this first issue of the Civilities series, we wish to show several examples of mutating typologies and of other emerging ones, which highlight the following trends:
Regeneration of environment
The responsibility of regenerating the environment is an increasingly important aspect and is attributed to any new civic facility, as yet another part of its programme, regardless of its scale. The presence of these services provides urban quality, something harder and harder to come by. In less fortunate areas or areas that have suffered a process of neglect, these services not only offer activities but also positive expectations. In new settlements, it is the root of the development of community relations.
Bringing together an increasingly scattered population reduces the need to travel and identifies political decentralisation with social participation. Consequently, its size adapts to the population density it is placed in.
The presence of civic facilities extends even into virtual space by means of net games like Second Life, where cultural centres like Madrid’s La Casa Encendida have opened their headquarters so that followers/residents can visit exhibitions, participate in activities and have a social life in an environment made up of images and resemblance of what is real.
This is a way to improve the management of resources and to create synergy. Currently, educational and health facilities tend to share accommodation at the basic levels of assistance (see case of the Sure Start centres, pp. 10-15). However the combining of activities creates a symbiosis that benefits all users. What could be called parasitic combinations also arise, like the use of community facilities to make a skating rink on the deck.
This happens with typologies like a library, because of the close competition they have with on-line libraries. In the last few years, after a first look into media libraries (especially in France), libraries with shops, homework clubs, art galleries, parks or meeting places have been flourishing.
The offer of programmes and buildings specifically designed for youth has increased in spite of an inverted population pyramid that is the norm in developed countries. This tendency could possibly be an antidotal response to the failure of the educational system. The exclusion of other age groups entails a risk of autosegregation, allowed and promoted by the rest of society, as a strategy to maintain a precarious balance among generations.
Escapism vs. engagement
The activities of community associations, which gave meaning to the first civic centres, are being replaced by cultural programmes, as visual or performing art centres, or entertainment programmes, with no social goals. In architectural terms, this change in tendency implies a change of dimensions and a greater sophistication in installations.
Consuming vs participating
The community attends many more numerous and crowded activities as an audience than as active participants. Attendance as a spectator at any event does not entail any kind of link with others, besides sharing an experience. Nevertheless, the ability that these activities have to generate wealth and dynamics in the area justify their presence in urban areas and their growing success is encouraging in opposition to the suction exerted by shopping centres.
Participation at a private level is growing in the ownership, financing and management of civic facilities in joint projects with public institutions. The reason for this participation is not only because of the difficulties that public budgets have to attend to all of the demands of the population but also because of the progressive sophistication and diversification of these demands and the growing leisure time the community has at its disposal.
In both private and public centres, the introduction of commercial aspects not only helps to finance the activity, but also to satisfy a demand for consumption that is inherent in almost every social relationship. The installation of vending machines, booking offices, bars, shops and even hair dressers in community centres is a progressive colonisation of this space, which until a few years ago, was free of commercial activities and the demands that commerce entails.
This is achieved by means of a selection of light and translucent materials and a project intervention that goes beyond construction and that considers public space to be a substantial part of the civic facility. The conversion of outdoor space into indoor space by means of light, enclosing structures is also observed and allows for more use in adverse climates.
This is the most outstanding construction attribute, which, in this kind of public project, finds the opportunity to test energy saving systems and resource management. It also favours the incorporation of recycled and vegetable-based products in the catalogue of building materials...
1 According to the CIAM 8 concept, the heart of the city is the physical heart of the community, or the place where the sense of community finds physical expresion. J. Tyrwhitt, J. L. Sert, E. N. Rogers. CIAM 8. The Heart of the City: Towards the Humanisation of Urban Life. Londres y Pellegrini and Cudahy, Nueva York, 1952.
2 Krumping is a form of dancing that originated in the African-American community of South Central Los Angeles, California and is a relatively new form of the “Urban” Black dance movement. It is free, expressive and highly energetic, with a strong ethnic component and social engaging goal.
3 From the French term jeunisme. The term describes the cult of youth and its preponderance over other age segments.
4 From retail.
...During the 1960’s a number of revolutionary groups –among them Archizoom, Superstudio and the Situationist International– critical of changes in modern society, came about in an attempt to resist capitalism, resurrect the individual and redefine modern life. The modern city which usurped community and the institution through the continued growth of consumerism has continued to disengage and hyper individualise society to this point. Commodification and consumption define life, space and the cities which we inhabit; the entire world or at least the developed world, it could be said, is governed by shopping. Today however, it is not just the production of real products which drives economic powers, but services, entertainment and information. Much like the young revolutionaries of fifty years earlier, contemporary practitioners are faced with a rapidly changing world –a world which often changes before actions are realized. Ideas of re-engaging society with real experiences and direct relationships are an equally relevant concern today as they were then, however, while the alternative visions proposed by those groups were utopian and revolutionary, today’s practice, having realised the now hybrid condition of culture and commerce and the total fusing together of virtual and real, tends towards subtlety and subversion –on one hand serving functional needs and commercial necessity, but at the same time finding strategies to maximise potentials for unplanned interaction, encounter and real experience.
The practice of architecture and especially that associated with public space and civic institutions, has ridden –or perhaps more appropriately fumbled over– each wave of change, searching for ways of making fixed realities in a rapid and turbulent environment. The spectacle for architecture is the incessant desire for icons and monuments, in large part driven by competition for tourism. There are very few briefs for architectural competitions which do not call for the creation of an iconic structure or space. Helping this often problematic concern along are the new abilities to represent and sculpt anything we can imagine with the aid of software –often in a void. In thinking about civic or public space, it is necessary to survey further the sorts of places where people encounter real differences, exchange concepts of value and generally form their notions of what it is to be one person among many, and to be in one place as distinct to any other. Contemporary practitioners search for ingenuity in how to tackle the many spaces that make up a city and shape them not only to serve, but also to enhance, the life outside our everyday living and working environments. Purpose-built, deliberately shaped public spaces remain essential elements of an urban infrastructure, central to the construction of a city’s identity. Yet the qualities of the full fabric of spaces that are built within and around both public and private institutions structure the underlying discourse of a city. Streets, alleys, lobbies, informal spaces, and even carparks and lifts figure more regularly in the peoples’ lives and form the nature of their exchanges. Such ‘loose spaces’1, as they could be called, have provided a ground for many architects to create an un-programmed space for encounter. Program, once simply a tool for assigning an objective function to a space has been critiqued and manipulated to allow for new synthetic opportunities and greater openness for the unplanned event.2 By utilising the interstitial, other less defined meetings and activities can exist alongside those more discreet and defined.
The changing nature of civic institutions in response to the shifting climate has allowed other opportunities to re-define and juxtapose traditionally discreet programs. Up until only a few decades ago, civic institutions represented a uniquely commerce free zone, today they are an amalgamation of commercial and civic space. Traditional typologies reflected the aura of cultural institution as a ‘temple storehouse for quiet contemplation’, in opposition to the growing notion of a ‘container as a hub for exchange’3. These developments have been driven partly out of diminishing funding that these institutions gain directly from the state, which has required them to search for new ways of generating revenue through retail and leasing. In order to remain relevant and encourage engagement, civic institutions have had to provide a service, not simply scholarly elitism, and begin to treat the public more like clients in the information and entertainment business4. The classical perception that institutions can exist purely for what they hold, say the collection of a museum, is no longer viable as the cultural institution is positioned to compete against other activities in entertainment and leisure markets. Added to this, culture now exists everywhere with the ubiquity of the internet. There is a great deal of competition and diversity surrounding ‘cultural attractions’, with catch words such as entertainment and choice resonating key demands –the result being greater emphasis on experience as well as education, and a trend towards cultural containers bringing multiple institutions and functions together and becoming destinations in their own right5. For an architectural response to this, the Pompidou Centre defined a new typology, which can be seen in not only other museums but also libraries, schools and town halls. Such pressure cookers of society allow opportunity to create a sense of density of people and activity and to enable overlap and blurring –they become magnets for the community, locally and globally.
In their time the Situationist International, aware that function was inevitable, argued that being a prisoner to it should not be. At the time architects and planners considered people as statistics and ignored the psychological role of the environment, spatial sensation and experience has a purpose which is not based on practical use6. Traditional urbanism in its method of segregating the city into separate parts; places of production, residence, and leisure all removed from each other allowing greater control over the population as a single entity. Unitary Urbanism, proposed by the SI as an alternative revolution, aimed to free people of this feeling of homogeneity, by de-territorializing the city and allowing people to be more involved in the immediate sensory experience of their environments7.
The situation, the focus of their proposal, was defined as a “spatio-temporal” event experienced away from the influence of the “spectacle” created by modern culture. Allowing the individual to once again indulge in their own reality and emotions rather than constructed sense of place or belonging8. Recent practice surrounding public space and public buildings has sought to engage in similar yet more subtle ways. Particularly prevalent, are techniques which de-territorialise program and subsume pure function by allowing blurred spaces, spaces of unplanned encounter or the generation of loose spaces which can act as mediators between often mismatched entities. The central idea being to allow for the unplanned and in-determinant. Many contemporary projects engage with experience and the possibility for enjoyment. Utility is served, but the predominant concern is to create a sense of a hub, or a dense node of society which allows for overlap and blurring of the homogenous programming of utilitarian planning...
1 See: Franck, K. & Stevens, Q. Loose Space. Routledge, USA, 2006.
2 James, V. and Yoos, J. “Tempering Program” in Praxis: Re:Programming, no. 8, 2006, p. 30-35.
3 Lotz, C., “Market Forces”, Museums Journal, August 2005, p.16.
4 Bailey, S., (ed), Commerce and Culture: from pre-industrial art to post-industrial value. London, Penshurst Press, 1989. p.7
5 Newhouse, V., Towards A New Museum. New York, The Monacelli Press, 1998. p.191.
6 Jorn, A. “On the current value of the functionalist idea”, in Andreotti, L. and Costa, X. (ed.) Theory of the Derive and Other Situationist Writings on the City. ACTAR- Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, 1996. p.33.
7 Kotanyi, A. and Vaneigem, R. “Elementary program ot the Bureau of Unitary Urbanism”, in Andreotti, L. and Costa, X. (ed.) Theory of the Derive and Other Situationist Writings on the City. ACTAR- Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, 1996. p.116.
8 Leach, N. The Anesthetics of Architecture. MIT Press, London, 1999. p.59.
...The history of urban planning has shown us that in any urban area, whether it be a developed or spontaneous area, three basic functions exist. These functions are residence, materialised as a group of dwellings that takes up the majority of the built-up area; activities, found in workplaces or in facility-containing places; and lastly, the flow, movement supported by the infrastructural network. This systematisation serves to introduce the following concepts to be taken into account in urban analysis:
This concept springs from the distinction between unique or permanent objects and housing that was traditionally made in the urban setting. This separation is a result of the ancestral discrimination of public versus private sphere. Regarding this separation, it is interesting to note how cities were once mapped in early guides for religious pilgrims and, later on, for tourists. On those maps, one could find not only the elements specific to a certain place or the place’s topography, but also monuments and, by extension, its facilities as recognisable milestones in its urban fabric1. This means that among the singular objects, one does not find just monuments, but the buildings that house community life and that, according to their function or area of influence (neighbourhood, city, province or state), they show their purpose in the community and stand out from the rest of their surrounding fabric.
The location of these singular objects in a city weaves the complexity and strengthens the quality of a public area; the urban framework is reinforced with the tension between singular objects, monuments or facilities, and the surrounding fabric2.
Even in early times, a placement method was established for facilities, based on orientation, wind or symbolic value. Vitrvius extensively studied the choice of location in Book V of his De architectura. There, he refers to the “ubicación de los edificios para uso común de toda la ciudad, como templos, foros y otros lugares de reunión de los ciudadanos”3. The locations of public buildings, theatres, the basilica, the jail, temples, or baths all appear to be justified in this outline.
The Industrial Revolution never questioned the Baroque urban model. So later on, the Modern Movement introduced, by means of zoning, the breaking up and complete separation of the singular object and the residential area. This distinction created a distance between functions that was evident in the urban planning of the time and that produced a clear imbalance between the “zones.” The result was that fragmented cities gained importance, with their residential, commercial, administrative and leisure areas all linked by transport networks.
These urban principles were called into question beginning at the 8 CIAM (1051), called The Core of the City, where returning civic values to the centres of our cities, institutional venues and catalysts of community life, was proposed.
The return of the individual to the centre of society was highlighted by José Luis Sert, who turned the medieval city into a paradigm for the future city. He did this by demonstrating the existence of one or more centres of the community, whether political, religious, cultural or leisure, at the core of the city.
The emphasis of these aesthetic and humanistic values caused him, along with Siegfried Giedion and Fernand Léger, to encourage the beginning of a new monumentality in their “Nine Points on Monumentality”4, which would represent the start of a third phase in the Modern Movement, since the preoccupation for housing units and zoning was no longer relevant.
Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the urban planning spectrum, the generation of spontaneous city fragments, as in the favelas, created saturated exclusively residential spaces, signs of an obvious urban and social divide. To integrate these areas into the rest of the urban fabric, some cities, including Rio de Janeiro, began the operation favela barrio. In this way, the purchase and subsequent demolition of some homes led to the advent of public spaces and the creation of certain facilities in the area: a plaza, a health centre, a civic centre, a school and a sports field. In the less accessible areas, the facilities have been materialised by means of temporary or mobile structures, like the buses chartered by governmental and non-governmental organisations, that can assure the citizens’ access to medical and social services.
Function follows a logic that is linked to the services that are provided, which ranges anywhere from local to regional or even national.
Whatever the radius of action of the facilities, one can find a similar selection of service sectors, health, education, sport, hygiene, political or religious institutions, leisure, transport, or economy.
Function must introduce the notion of use and typology, as well as their corresponding moments of invention or change. The Industrial Revolution is the most prolific period in regards to typological inventions. During that time, striving to lay down the foundations of the new bourgeois society, the set of parameters that rule the city experienced an important transformation.
All institutions, symbols of power and all public and private facilities such as schools, universities, museums, libraries, hospitals, bathhouses, theatres, courts, jails, cemeteries, city halls or stock exchanges, were reinvented or redefined during that time.
Since all of these institutions already existed, though perhaps in a different way, they were redefined and moved to the newly created urban setting. In their own way, the rail station, commercial galleries and department stores were typological inventions of the 19th century.
Later, the 20th century would retake the whole of that typological base and would add shopping centres, airports, sports facilities and amusement parks to it. Another fundamental novelty of the century were the new centres of popular culture and local facilities, integrated into the urban fabric and based on political and social action, on education and on culture. These local services became cohesive instruments of the urban puzzle, especially when the social uses began to separate and move away.
Health and social service centres, nurseries, neighbourhood centres, meeting places for associations, educational centres, civic centres, gyms or neighbourhood libraries are facilities designed to maintain a direct relationship with the immediate surroundings. They often tend to become integrated as residential programmes or to join to form more complex entities, a true core of community life.
Such was the case of the Centri Civici created in Italy in the 1960s, the Community Centres of the Anglo-Saxon world or the French Centres Culturels, conceived to democratise culture.
Programmes and facilities for the 21st century
Just as the Renaissance replaced the spatial hierarchy of the Middle Ages with an infinite and anthropocentric space, the 19th century lived its own revolution desecrating time. We now see yet another extreme mutation, the progressive dematerialisation of space, the disconnection between body and location, and, most importantly, the demystification of traditional space, the space that served as a reference to distinguish the public sphere from the private.
This questions the future role of architecture, the representative places of a city and its new monumentality.
This new situation at the time was promoted by Michel Foucalt, who foresaw virtual development and the development of the Internet. Foucault would have been interested in the appearance and the development of a new type of public space capable of taking the place of any given traditional public service, be it administrative or cultural.
These virtual places are a utopia, since they do not have a direct analogue relationship with the actual space of society, and they are, at the same time a heterotopia, as the mirror example demonstrates5.
Cities are therefore required to integrate new uses that arise out of the virtual revolution. This involves the creation of closer and more flexible facilities in both space and function, as well as the search for a more varied axis of community life, as well as the application of renovated heterotopia...
1 “The distinction between private and universal, between individual and collective, begins with the city and its construction, its architecture”
Aldo Rossi. La arquitectura de la ciudad. Editorial Gustavo Gili, Barcelona, 1976, p.50
2 “These singular objects of architecture play a fundamental role in the dynamics of the city, since what constitutes the specific quality of urban reality arises according to the way they are placed. This means their persistence in a place, their individuality and the exact function that they carry out. Architecture represents the time of that process and makes up the visible part of this complex structure”
3 Vitruve in Les 10 livres d’architecture p.147 éd. Balland, Paris, 1979
4 “Monumental architecture will be something more than strictly functional. It will have regained its lyrical value. In such monumental layouts, architecture and city planning could attain a new freedom and develop new creative possibilities, such as those that have begun to be felt in the last decades in the fields of painting, sculpture, music, and poetry”
José Luis Sert, Sigfried Giedion, Fernand Léger. “Nine points on monumentality”,1943. Published in Harvard Architecture Review, 1984
5 “We are in the epoch of simultaneity: we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed. We are at a moment. I believe, when our experience of the world is less that of a long life developing through time than that of a network that connects points and intersects with its own skein”
“The mirror is, after all, a utopia, since it is a placeless place. In the mirror, I see myself there where I am not, in an unreal, virtual space that opens up behind the surface; I am over there, there where I am not (...) But it is also a heterotopia in so far as the mirror does exist in reality, where it exerts a sort of counteraction on the position that I occupy”
Michel Foucault. Des espacies autres (1967), Hétérotopies in Architecture, Mouvement, Continuité, n°5, octobre 1984, pp. 46-49. Translated from the French by Jay Miskowiec for an exhibition in Berlin shortly before Michel Foucault’s death
...For those who are neither botanists nor avid admirers of horticulture, plants and flowers, the topic of the botanical garden in the context of our media-saturated twenty-first century might at first seem a little antiquated - more a specialist subject for eccentric gardeners and historians perhaps. Conjuring up a medley of exotic images - endless parterres with strange Latin names, shapely Colonial lawns with ubiquitous white structures, colorful summertime flower displays, tropical glasshouses and unusual specimens, each carefully labeled with imprinted metal tags or bronze plaques - botanical gardens are today mostly tourist curiosities and emblems of bygone empires. Whereas many contemporary botanical gardens around the world are today striving to find renewed vitality through conservation, education and scientific research programs, visitor-ship and revenue continues to decline in most cases. Is the botanical garden as a significant cultural place today obsolete, or at least outmoded in the face of modern science, technology, media and globalization? Or is there scope for reinvention of the botanical garden as a cultural type, a type somehow newly popular and relevant for the 21st Century imagination? ...
...Though customs are constantly evolving in accordance with fashions or social and economic transformations, the appearance of new uses has become the main agent for the invention of new spatial or architectural typologies. Thus, are stations, pedestrian passages, department stores, airports, and shopping centers an enlargement, a limit, a reduction, or a mere refuge of public space? Such ambiguity, and even interference, of the indicators of and limits between public and private space, magnified by the urbanistic heritage of the Modern Movement, gives the impression that public space belongs to everybody and nobody at the same time.
This is surely one of the reasons why these places are now being sequestered, privatized, and usurped. The voids, depending on their potential, have become like rooms of a large house that are for everyone’s use, receptacles or spatial translations of new social customs...
...The test site is located on the former site of the Berlin Wall, at only a few kilometres away from the Alexander-Platz. Abandoned military wasteland, the place is nowadays an empty urban space. Today, it has become a rupture within the traditional urban structure. At the time of the wall, the enclosure of the wall tore the town in two and was a physical void, the so-called “Corridor of Death”. The spot, formerly called “km
25-26”, according to the wall’s positioning system, is now called “Ost Strand”, East Beach.
Formerly, it separated the neighbourhoods of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, reunited since 2001. It is composed of both a sandbank, the reminder of a short-lived industrial activity after the fall of the wall, and wasteland now taken over by spontaneous vegetation. The site is located between the Spree river and one of the most important relics of the wall, The East Side Gallery. For the traditional city, this is just vacant space, without any special vocation, an abandoned no man’s land, a forgotten place...
...Shenzhen is the fruit of strict planning. The result is a manifestly artificial city. It was programmed with the aim of creating a production base close to Hong Kong, following practical criteria of connectivity, growth, deadlines, and economy. This meant a massive urbanization of the territory, with little regard for environmental or landscape-related criteria and a total absence of plans for public spaces...
...Public space and contemporary urban logic
Literature specializing in urban studies has for over a decade now been tackling a phenomenon that is radically altering the way we perceive and live in our cities: the crisis of public space.
The reasons used to explain this are many and complex, but three seem to be the foci of infection nourishing the cancer that is corroding one of the conceptual nodes of the traditional city. They are: the imperialism of mobility, the security obsession, and post-industrial economic logic. Since these inform the foundations over which the planet’s most dynamic cities are built, we might venture a first somber question: is public space incompatible with contemporary urban logic?
What better way to assess the dimensions of the crisis of public space in the late-capitalist universe, than by turning our attention to one of its epicenters: the thriving “sunbelt” of the United States, where some of the First World’s most competitive cities are located. Because they are so perfectly in tune with globalized economics and because their inhabitants are themselves so attuned to the concept of postmodern society, metropolises like Houston in Texas or Tucson and Phoenix in Arizona could be considered paradigms of the contemporary city. Curiously, in none of them is there a crisis of public space. For the simple reason that they are young cities where it was never relevant.
In the mid-eighties, the famous geographer and landscape architect J. B. Jackson claimed to have found “the prototype of American cities west of the Mississippi.”1
He was referring to Lubbock, a Texan town of little over 200,000 people situated in the South Plains, the last of the great North American prairies before the Gulf of Mexico. For our purposes here let it serve as a prototype of the sunbelt cities, cities that have no public space, no center, no citizens...
...For over two decades something has been stirring on Melbourne’s water’s edge. Ever since the setting out of Melbourne’s city grid in 1837, which was aligned to the Yarra River at the meeting point of the salt waters of Port Philip Bay and the freshwater of the river, the city has been denied direct access to the water. For decades state governments and planners have grappled with ways of turning this around and redeveloping the shores of the Yarra for residential, tourist and commercial purposes –and public space...
...An investigation regarding public and open spaces is intimately tied to an understanding of landscape. Historically, architecture has held the aspiration of standing out, as a demonstration of the presence of culture or society facing nature, with a certain respect. Although forms have changed over time, the idea of architecture as something finished, solid and symbolic persists. Within this mindset, architecture represents a bastion of reason set against a wild and unpredictable nature. Buildings are seen as the primary building block of a city set against an implicitly innocent and natural landscape. The opposition of organic and rational which defines the history of architecture and landscape has also described relationships between the different disciplines. It is in unhinging this opposition, which for many architects and landscape architects has opened up a potential for emerging landscapes, urban structures and architecture, as well as their materiality – and in doing so new notions of public space. Operating in an “Expanded Field” takes note of the contribution of Rosalind Krauss, in situating sculpture within a contemporary cultural milieu. Krauss challenged notions of the autonomy of sculptural work, in her essay “Sculpture in the Expanded Field”. In turn, by investigating a contemporary concept of landscape, this article identifies a challenge to architecture’s own autonomy and investigates how practices are attempting to position and materialise it within an expanded field...
...According to Mies, only if materials are used in their true essence can architecture be saved from the idolatry of the object. Just as Cicero’s writings led St. Augustine to study philosophy, St. Augustine’s guided Mies in his quest for truth.
In the Students’ Center of the IIT, Rem Koolhaas has hacked off the rosy cheeks of Mies, soiling the candor of Augustinian truth with abject materials. In an interview he states that here he doesn’t use a wide range of materials. In the end, he says, he uses a limited palette, just like Mies...
...The new Student Center at the Illinois Institute of Technology marks the transition from the era of “God is in the detail” to that of “No money, no details”
It is, in fact, all about movement and information, and thus by its very necessity not about construction, materials and place. Koolhaas is preparing a new kind of architecture for a world in which the substantial and the historic no longer guarantees authenticity or meaning...
...I do not respect Mies, I love Mies.
I have studied Mies, excavated Mies, reassembled Mies. I have even cleaned Mies.
Because I do not revere Mies, I’m at odds with his admirers...
Extract from the article by Javier Mozas published in this issue:
Public space was for Hannah Arendt, 1906-1975, a place for Action. Arendt believed that democracy needed to be exercised in the public realm, that it was useless to enact it in the private space of the household.
Action has two very different resources: one peaceful, the other violent. One using Words and the other Battle; that is, Discourse and War. The Indignez-vous movement is a protest movement whose core activity is a never-ending conversation. The tent camps, rallies, demonstrations, get-togethers, and sit-ins of the recent citizen movements in European cities have found a voice and a way of acting which are finding their place in the public spaces in democratic countries. These methods are based on language. The movements to occupy streets and squares which were inspired by the 15M Movement and which are fully aware of the influence they gain from the social visibility of their protests, are a type of peaceful struggle which, from public space, advocates greater political control over the absolute power of the financial markets. However, the uprisings in North Africa moved on from being mere protests to direct action, even the instigation of wars, as a means to an end confronted with the inefficiency of words...
...In our view the first essays that appeared in the late 70’s on postmodernism are overlooked among architects; disregarded because of the poor building results that ‘postmodern‘ architecture produced, the buildings appearing as simple one-liners, lacking nuance and subtlety. Yet those texts contain many references to ‘presence‘, ‘character‘, ‘identity‘, and ‘memory‘ etcetera. Words and ideas that architects today are interested in. These currently popular themes are not new, but themes that have been written about previously, themes that have been discussed extensively.
It would be unconceivable, if not just simplistic to write an essay about memory without referring to and acknowledging, those previous works...
Poring over all sorts of reviews to prepare and document my article, I
suddenly became aware of the manner in which my attention was caught by
one project or another. As I look at pictures, examine documents and
leaf through magazines, the flow of my reading is arrested now and then
by a detail. I backtrack and my eyes re-examine another fragment.
Unconsciously, it is cut out, isolated, scanned and detached from what
precedes or follows it.
The image belongs to me now, it is set on a shelf somewhere in my memory, ready to be used or already forgotten, but there to re-emerge in my subconscious. There are things that we see and others that we do not see, and as we look at things we sift, separate and memorize them.
For reasons inherent to their background, in the course of their projects the Diener & Diener team have acquired the intellectual tools for tapping this essential memory of architecture. Working from the theoretical premises of Rossi and Venturi, they have learnt how to forge scholarly links between a given object and the temporal strata of a territory. And they do this without syrupy discourse and good intentions, simply by giving things their undivided and full-hearted attention. They have learnt to work in their own medium, amidst objects and in synchronous mode, without ever abandoning their concrete presence in the real world. Working over the surface of things they come to explore their depth, which leads them to design landscape-objects of great beauty: the building in Hochstrasse, the Gmurzynska gallery, the building on Picassoplatz, and the one on Kohlenberg... In spite of their differences, these singular objects seem to bear the same fabrication mark, as if they proceeded from some hidden theory, interpreted openly and consistently. Reaching as it does into the domain of history, the Swiss embassy in Berlin completes this precious set.
...Savory and plump, and melting in the tea, la petite madeleine has become, even for those who have not read Proust, the object-symbol that summarizes remembrance, the survival of images and the sudden re-emergence of the past within the present. Spontaneously we recognize those things once familiar to us and which, from somewhere deeply buried in our recollection are suddenly revived through the madeleine’s mysterious savor...
...The deregulation process which is to be introduced by the European Union will lead to the lowering of Architects’ fees which, in turn, will have a catalysing effect on the process of change which the architectural profession is to undergo over the next ten years.
Europe seems to have similar intentions to those of the United States when anti-trust legislation was passed in the seventies, by which the American Institute of Architects lost the right to maintain a fixed scale of fees.
Cuts in public investment introduced in order to comply with the unification of criteria regarding a reduction in public debt on the one hand, and a surplus of architecture-related services, in direct competition with engineers, and interior designers on the other, is giving rise to profound changes to the world of construction.
Three attitudes toward cost reduction
Kennedy & Violich Architecture
Gigon & Guyer
...In Central Europe, the term neue Einfachheit seems to be coming into its own in order to group current architectures that point towards a new simplicity.1 New reviews of rationalism have appeared in countries with a deep-rooted gothic tradition, such as Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and even Great Britain. Some recent reviews relate this fact to the 20th century avant-gardes. Nevertheless, in my opinion, these architectures are more closely related to certain architecture which arose around the 1950’s than to the avant-gardes. The consolidation from the postwar period onwards of the so-called second nature, this one man-made, directly affects current architecture: i.e., the reconsideration of industrialization, of economy, and environment. Nowadays, this fact allows architectural positions pointing towards austerity, tinged with morality in the avant-gardes, to range from pragmatism to ecological consciousness...
...In the work of Florian Beigel and the Architecture Research Unit, (the experimental design office he directs at the University of North London) there is a strong desire to find ways of elevating architectural practice away from an over insistence and reliance on shape, form, and emphasis on the building as a singular commodity isolated from the conditions of change and exchange of a site. His projects are prototypical examples for the making of an openness in architecture, of bringing the outdoors into the indoors, of bringing a piece of city or landscape into a building, of finding means by which a sense of exteriority can be built. He has demonstrated this at the scale of the interior, at the scale of an urban buildings and at the scale of urban and landscape strategic planning...
...Architecture has always maintained a love-hate relationship with technology. On occasions it has come close to the more advanced techniques used in industrial production but on others, in reaction, it has returned to the origins of the primitive hut. Architecture has always moved up and down the wide spectrum of technology, depending on the architect\'s knowledge or the degree of technological development of the country in question at the time. However, today the choice of degree of technology in architecture is closer to a philosophical attitude than an approach conditioned by the available information on the building materials or systems available to the agents producing it...
...In Central Europe, the term neue Einfachheit seems to be coming into its own in order to group current architectures that point towards a new simplicity.
New reviews of rationalism have appeared in countries with a deep-rooted gothic tradition, such as Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and even Great Britain. Some recent reviews relate this fact to the 20th century avant-gardes. Nevertheless, in my opinion, these architectures are more closely related to certain architecture which arose around the 1950’s than to the avant-gardes. The consolidation from the postwar period onwards of the so-called second nature, this one man-made, directly affects current architecture: i.e., the reconsideration of industrialization, of economy, and environment. Nowadays, this fact allows architectural positions pointing towards austerity, tinged with morality in the avant-gardes, to range from pragmatism to ecological consciousness...
...Carlo Baumschlager and Dietmar Eberle do not care for theories. They make no attempt to answer the question: What is architecture? To the contrary, their efforts are channelled toward designing and constructing buildings. To do so, they have organised their office along the lines of a business, applying production techniques. They have analysed the real costs for each constructive solution, and this provides them with immediate knowledge (by applying the modules they have designed and established for this purpose) of the budget per square metre for their buildings. In this sense, they have no reservations in recognising the aid offered by CAD systems in simplifying repetitive tasks and as a means of unifying solutions. Each constructive detail should not be newly invented. Instead, why not make use of the usual methods which have been studied and approved on previous occasions? “Everyone (architects) is in the belief that they are obliged to design a new banister, or new windows, but this is utter nonsense”...
...The term ‘low tech‘ brings to mind a nonchalant attitude of towards technology although not necessarily uninvolved with the cultural aspects it entails. A ‘low-tech‘ approach to architecture may be simply a working style firmly rooted in the present and the way one relates to things which are common today, as well as a practical and active use of modern means. We do not think technology in itself should necessarily interest architects, but rather the way in which this is understood and dealt with by users, or in other words, the way in which it is converted into common heritage, and consequently culture. It is a question of establishing the identity of the architect and the user, and sharing their distance and their enthusiasm equally...
...The series of sections shown here1, demonstrates that a causal relationship between the respective constructional methods chosen –windscreen timber construction, nonbearing frame construction, timber-clad solid concrete construction– and architectural expression does not exist; rather, it is possible to recognize a kind of ‘tectonic potential’2. This potential is couched in terms specific to each design, as the historical commentary attempts to demonstrate.
The following thoughts are consciously restricted to constructional and conceptual questions and serve as a sort of technical commentary on the comparative sections...
...Fretton’s is a singular voice in both Britain and Europe, hard to place: his work, a compelling mix of bravura and understatement, discipline and detachment, didacticism and empathy. However his command of what he calls ‘the affecting power of forms’ is powerful precisely because it is allied to his spatial understanding, of the routines and habits which demarcate our individual and common lives, and of how these are embodied in places made specific by idiosyncrasies and histories...
...The opposition to the ‘formal way’, proclaimed in the work of Tony Fretton is a totally conscious statement and can be seen as a personal, critical standpoint of everything that is excessively rigid, formal, solemn; of etiquette and conventions. A criticism made with irony and witty references, that keeps him sailing close to the wind, in an attitude which is more involuntary than desired, more spirited than meditated –the consequence of his interest in things...
...You clearly have a strong interest in how architecture is rooted in its surroundings, in a particular environment which is not architectural in the way most people understand it. In the early 1990’s, I and several other people were puzzled by the photographs which you took of London. How were these photographs taken, and for what purpose?
They came about because a group of people at the AA including Matthias Sauerbruck organized an exhibition for which the site was Earl’s Court in West London. I just walked around and did some psychogeography. I looked at what interested me and photographed it. I chose the few images which interested me and re-took some of them. By doing so, I found a purpose in looking...
... A large number of current projects–particularly speculative ones– require multiple functions to be housed together. The concentration of various activities into one structure, as Steven
Holl has written, places pressures on the architecture and has a capacity to ‘…distend and warp a pure building type’ (1).
The current boom in high density buildings has in part been fed by exploding economies, astronomical rises in land value and the rise of emerging economic zones, in particular China, over the last twenty years. The increasing tendency among designers in dealing with this problem has seen the re-emergence of the hybrid building, in preference to a ‘sum of all parts’ mixed use solution, a level of concentration and hybridisation is increasingly understood as a way of activating the building, its individual uses and the surrounding urban fabric...
... Modern architects thought of the skyscraper as associated with the organization of work, with the office. In fact, the prototypic skyscraper of modernity is the expression of such organization; a optimized arrangement for archiving and connecting workers that archive and connect data. This reification of bureaucracy, without and pejorative connotation, was symbolically interpreted in steel and glass rectilinear prisms, artificially climatized, ordered in rings around nodes of communication. Buildings as the Seagram Building in New York gave the definitive and everlasting shape to this conception. That was Modernity with capital M: the triumph of organization, the beauty of organization. Today the skyscrapers under construction are manly located in Asia. They are residential buildings with concrete structures and natural ventilation...
Extract from the article written by Javier Mozas: `Mixed uses. A historial overview', included in a+t 32. Hybrids II. Low-rise Mixed-used Buildings.
Richard Sennett wrote that a cosmopolitan is someone who moves comfortably in diversity, who is at home in situations which are not connected or parallel to what is familiar to him. Just like hybrid buildings. They are cosmopolitan buildings, placed in fragmented forms that do not correspond, in volumes based on remnants of previous mixed typologies, where its body fits with more or less fortune. They produce a new being with a unifying personality. The following paragraphs define the characteristics and personality of hybrids. They are, consciously, absolute maxims, grouped by themes that point out the categorical and defining, so that their personality traits are as noticeable as possible...
Extract from the article published by David Franco and Pablo Martínez Capdevila in a+t 32. Hybrids II. Low-rise Mixed-use Buildings
We wish to propose an extended notion of the concept of urban hybridization, an idea that would go beyond the mere mixing of different uses and emerge as a theoretical and proactive answer to the growth problems that European and, more specifically Spanish cities, are facing. The Triptic project, developed by the Wunderkammer group, which we are part of, within the Alter Polis exhibition at the Matadero of Madrid, explores the possibilities of two types of apparently contradictory operations designed for the centre of Madrid.
Unlike urban growth models used over the last few decades, based on the extensive occupation of city limits, colonising vacant, natural or agricultural land, the recent paradigm of sustainability once again moves the focus of interest towards existing urban fabrics. The recycling and transformation of areas already consolidated has been revealed to be the most efficient expansion method in relation to consumption of resources. It thus seems convenient to rethink methods of action inside urban cores, especially in the areas that accumulate more potential attraction to residents as the historic centres.
The triptic Project first, it explores the increase in density by means of a radical tridimensionalisation process and, secondly, an increase in porosity, in the quantity of public space in direct contact with the built-up environment. What we refer to is thus a commitment to porous density, to a culture of urban congestion which, unlike that which the market produces spontaneously, takes seriously the issue of space instead of trivializing it.
... In the search for models capable of economising resources, Hybrid Buildings, especially those with residential uses, are chance samples that include the gene of mixed-use development in its code. This gene is necessary in order to adapt to the signs of the times. Nevertheless, this mixed condition makes them mistakenly similar to another avant-garde model, a model that at first sight seems to be its predecessor when in fact it is the complete opposite. We are referring to the Social Condenser...
... This article covers two chapters of the Rehabitar project which refer to the street, to ground floor premises and to all that which makes it possible to consider them together. Domesticating the street aims to return the condition of public space to urban space, encouraging social relations through a reflection on the nature of the street itself, on the uses to which it can be put – recovering others which have been abandoned or banned- and on the ability of ground floor premises to give energy to the street.
As a rule, in our streets, there prevails a language belonging to an infrastructure: asphalt, streetlights, cars... Domesticating the street means taking it away from the setting of infrastructure and bringing it closer, through elements and activities, to its condition as a place, assuming all the complexity that this concept contains. If domesticate comes from domus in Latin, we could say that a “domesticated street” is one where one feels “at home”.
Modern architecture has often tried to mix the street and the house. But this has been done as a one-way trip, that of bringing the street closer to the house. What would happen now if we were to do this the other way around, bringing the house closer to the street, as suggested in the Paolo Veronese painting The Feast in the House of Levi which despite the title, describes an equivocally urban setting which nevertheless suggests domesticity through the activity and the attitude of its occupants?
We have realized that many of the uses which bring the house closer to the street are temporary. Does it make sense to limit our streets to a few uses when we can make many other uses compatible by using different schedules?
Everything fits into the street. Scenes of cities, in the streets of which vehicles, passers-by and diners co-exist, are a clear expression of this complexity which arises from the way of using public space pertaining to Southern Europe. With Rehabitar la calle (Re-inhabit the street) we propose this complex-free acceptance of an apparent disorder which is no more than the expression of our co-existence.
We want the design to be less specialized, less visible and more generic, suitable both for circulating and for playing, for street trading and for relaxing. We defend testing things before carrying them through, hence avoiding the expensive annoying works which constantly bother us. To test these new experiences all that is needed is a critical eye, will and maybe a couple of cones to stop the traffic...
... “A surplus of space provides new possibilities. A dearth of long-term options for repurposing is replaced by the ephemeral activities of interested parties who have little capital to spare. They experiment with new uses and forms of cooperation, create social interactions, and give new cultural meaning to what was found there. Not every space will find interested parties, and [some of] the fleeting actions are of limited duration. Still, sometimes they represent seeds for longer-term developments”.
-Phillipp Oswalt, Shrinking Cities: Volume 2(1)
One rarely associates struggling post-industrial Detroit, Cleveland, Manchester, Liverpool, Halle, or Leipzig with the cosmopolitan global metropolis of Madrid. Yet, as of the autumn of 2008 Madrid, and much of Spain for that matter, has been facing a widespread condition of massive over-urbanization and vacancy brought on by nearly two decades of untamed real estate speculation and highly lubricated credit that suddenly went dry with the global financial collapse of that year2. The result is vast and numerous territories of incomplete and unoccupied real estate development at the periphery of established cities like Madrid, as well as entirely new dormitory towns well outside of these conurbations without a commensurate population and revenue stream to occupy and support them. In many cases, building foundations, train platforms, public parks and vehicular roadways have been left incomplete or abandoned, producing the vaguely familiar markings of attempts at urbanization, like giant Druid crop-circles on the Iberian landscape...
Extract from the article by Javier Mozas published in this issue:
"... In the West the bulk of architectural works currently focuses on intervening on the existing built environment. Several European and American cities have been forced to shrink, to fill in the empty gaps and to renovate the obsolete fabrics of their peripheral areas. The ex novo planned urban expansions are less and less frequent and it is unusual to find an architect who is not, as part of his or her everyday work, confronted with situations which require urban fabrics, infrastructures, constructions and found materials to be put to use..."
Extract from the article by David Goodman published in this issue:
"... The current series, in which this issue is the first, will deal primarily with leftovers, remnants, and waste. In many cases, however, the underlying techniques and arguments are quite similar to those described above: we remain in the realm of the tactical, of working on the margins, and of direct engagement. But in several instances, these techniques and arguments have been deployed entirely without architects; the work has been conceived and implemented by the interested parties themselves. We are thus confronted with what is perhaps the most extreme result of this sort of work, the utter erasure of the figure of the architect, and the suppression of the disciplinary architectural project in favor of direct action..."
Extract from the article by María González and Juanjo López de la Cruz in this issue:
"In 1968, American artist JOHN BALDESSARI was establishing Terms most useful in describing creative works of art, capturing with acrylic paint on canvas the best fit words that, according to him, explained such a practice in the 20th century. He himself, however, did not come up with them nor did he paint them: he was actually bounded to look through art books which actions were the most frequently employed. Afterwards, he dictated those actions to a poster artist who then affixed those verbs to the canvas like an alternative version of art history. Action was perhaps the only certainty that art had brought forth throughout the unfolding of that century.
Architecture could be explained by similar means, through the actions that appeal beyond intent and rhetoric. An architectural project can be presented as a catalogue of actions. Having been established in a specific place, a set of actions triggers another set of actions, in part due to the nature of the inhabitants. Like a form of Newton’s law in motion, the actions set off by architecture evoke citizen feedback..."