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Edited by Brett Steele and Francisco González de Canales 1960–1979 first works by: Robert Venturi, Michael Webb, Cedric Price, Alvaro Siza, Aldo Rossi, Norman Foster & Richard Rogers, Paul Virilio & Claude Parent, Rafael Moneo, Andrea Branzi, Renzo Piano, Peter Eisenman, Coop Himmelb(l)au, Toyo Ito, Rem Koolhaas & Elia Zenghelis, Morphosis, Bernard Tschumi, Steven Holl, Daniel Libeskind, Zaha Hadid, Herzog & de Meuron 2009 commentaries by: Marina Lathouri, Kenneth Frampton, Samantha Hardingham, Manuel Aires Mateus, Pier Vittorio Aureli, Theodore Spyropoulos, François Roche, Luis M Mansilla & Emilio Tuñón, Kazys Varnelis, Stefano Boeri, Robert E Somol, Beatriz Colomina, Terunobu Fujimori, Alejandro Zaera-Polo with Francisco González de Canales & Nuria Alvarez Lombardero, Sylvia Lavin, Enrique Walker, David Leatherbarrow, Jesse Reiser, Patrik Schumacher, Oliver Domeisen ARCHITECTUR AL ASSOCIATION LONDON

Front cover images

Rem Koolhaas & Elia Zenghelis with Madelon Vriesendorp & Zoe Zenghelis

Andrea Branzi (Archizoom)

Wolf Prix (Coop Himmelb(l)au) Zaha Hadid

Team 4: Norman Foster & Richard Rogers with Wendy Cheesman & Su Rogers


Peter Eisenman Rafael Moneo Michael Webb

Toyo Ito Herzog & de Meuron


Edited by Brett Steele and Francisco Gonzรกlez de Canales


CONTENTS 6 20 30 42 54

Last Laughs, and Plenty to Say: The Communicative Imperative of an Architect’s First Work Introduction by Brett Steele Portrait of the Architect as a Young Man Essay by Francisco González de Canales Robert Venturi North Penn Visiting Nurses’ Association Headquarters Commentary by Marina Lathouri Michael Webb Sin Centre Commentary by Kenneth Frampton Cedric Price London Zoo Aviary Commentary by Samantha Hardingham


Alvaro Siza Leça Swimming Pools Commentary by Manuel Aires Mateus


Aldo Rossi Locomotiva 2 Commentary by Pier Vittorio Aureli


Team 4 The Retreat Commentary by Theodore Spyropoulos

102 114 126 134 146

Paul Virilio & Claude Parent Church of Sainte-Bernadette du Banlay Commentary by François Roche Rafael Moneo Diestre Transformer Factory Commentary by Luis M Mansilla & Emilio Tuñón Andrea Branzi Structure for Leisure in Prato Commentary by Kazys Varnelis Renzo Piano Shell Structural System for the 14th Milan Triennale Commentary by Stefano Boeri Peter Eisenman House I Commentary by Robert E Somol

208 Bernard Tschumi Fireworks Commentary by Enrique Walker 220

Steven Holl Housing in Daga Dagatan Commentary by David Leatherbarrow


Daniel Libeskind Micromegas Commentary by Jesse Reiser


Zaha Hadid Taoiseach’s Residence Commentary by Patrik Schumacher


Herzog & de Meuron Blue House Commentary by Oliver Domeisen

269 Bibliographies 160

Coop Himmelb(l)au Villa Rosa Prototype Commentary by Beatriz Colomina


Contributors’ Biographies

280 Image Credits 172

Toyo Ito Aluminium House Commentary by Terunobu Fujimori


Rem Koolhaas Exodus or the Voluntary Prisoners of Architecture Commentary by Alejandro Zaera-Polo


Morphosis Sequoyah Educational Research Center Commentary by Sylvia Lavin

Last Laughs, and Plenty to Say: The Communicative Imperative of an Architect’s First Work Brett Steele

First Observations (Notes on building; architectural careers, not objects)

‘Beginning is easy – continuing, hard.’ Japanese proverb ‘There are two kinds of people, those who finish what they start, and everybody else.’ Robert Byrne (Paraphrased by the author)

Fig 1: Le Corbusier’s Dom-ino system, 1915

As beginnings go, the opening sentence from a book from 1975 titled Beginnings provides a template with which to admit at the outset the secretive (slightly monstrous) ambition guiding the following compilation. First Works brings together, for the first time ever in a monograph and exhibition, a full cross-section of a remarkable generation of critical architectural practices, indicating their arrival in the form of their first-ever architectural works, all undertaken during the 1960s and 70s. The sentence I am referring to was written by Edward Said in the mid-70s as the opening to his own, extraordinary analysis of beginnings, which examines how the concept of a ‘first work’ within an oeuvre retains the ability to reconnect two increasingly remote forms of human knowledge – practice and theory. This potential, according to Said, is a result of the straightforward (perhaps even ordinary) qualities contained in the first undertaking of just about anything. Simply put, Said reminds us that a first attempt by anyone, at anything, is always thought through as a balance of the most prosaic as well as more abstract (that is, openly ambitious) kind. It is always undertaken by someone operating in the here and now, but with one eye firmly directed towards the future, for the simple reason that at this unique stage of a career (then and only then) there’s simply no looking back. Here’s Said himself, writing at the outset of his own career (whose beginnings as a critic and theorist, in another neat twist, coincides with a generation of the architects brought together here):

Fig 2: Construction photograph of Le Corbusier’s Villa Schwob, La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland, c. 1916



‘The problem of beginnings is one of those problems that, if allowed to, will confront one with an equal intensity on both a practical and theoretical level.’ It’s the ‘and’ bit of Said’s observation, and the fact that he lays bare the fact of how questions associated with beginnings are inevitably – simultaneously – problems of a practical and theoretical nature that I am keen to emphasise here, at the beginning of my own introduction to this collection of 20 iconic architectural projects undertaken in an era when hair was longer, tempers shorter and disciplinary knowledge – and not only a generational confidence to change the world – ran fiercer. I say this because it’s here that the most secretive bit of the curatorial imperative driving First Works lies (and by design, or is it theory?) – the imperative to reconnect questions of a practical and theoretical impulse with their ability to be delivered via singular, individuated architectural projects. Our interest as the editors of this collection has been driven by anything but the kind of everyday nostalgia for the 60s that seems flourishing all around (during this anniversary year of Woodstock’s glory). Our interest instead is to re-examine the growing gap, in the past 30 to 40 years, between those activities associated with the production of buildings, the making of architecture, and the invention of its theories within architectural culture (which seem to me to have sprouted up all around like weeds). How this division is distinct from (or perhaps even complicit with) the remarkable projects making up First Works , seems a useful topic for critical consideration, as architecture and its cultures continue to accelerate a transition away from assumptions associated with the twentieth century, instead of those realities comprising today. That this division between matters practical and theoretical has taken root in architecture despite the apparent glimpsing of this threat by so many of the bright lights included here, makes today’s nearly institutionalised division of practical and theoretical labour in architecture a situation more poignant (I would suggest) than it is ironic. I say this because the situation today is hardly paradoxical if we concede that it was the very disciplinary success of so many of the preliminary prototypes on display in First Works that gave architecture the confidence to surrender to an institutionalised separation. The distinctive, contemporary mode of this division has been defined in no small way by graduate schools worldwide who cater to professionalised, specialised classes of ‘writers’, ‘theorists’, ‘researchers’ or ‘historians’, as opposed to ‘architects’,


‘designers’ or ‘makers’. Each of these specialised architectural subjects now occupies identifiable epistemological/educational/ market segment with its own specialised degrees, curricula and career paths as well as individual work habits, journals and even working tools. Much as mainstream news or media worlds are no longer dominated by one or two network giants, so too architectural worlds have morphed into increasingly smaller channels, each with its own audiences, outposts and participants, producing its own kinds of ‘architectural knowledge’ in forms so diverse that at times it seems as if the very rubric of an oldfashioned, modernist oppositional structure of ‘theory vs practice’ is stretched to the point of structural failure. An even more specialised kind of publication or exhibition like this one, dedicated as it is to an imagined bridging between the audiences of these realms, says plenty, I suppose, about the editors’ conviction regarding the forms of resemblance books may yet retain regarding their content (we readily admit that many of the authors of the following projects imagined just such a possibility, way back when). But it speaks as well of our own enduring editorial and curatorial optimism regarding architecture’s capacity to build new kinds of audiences within, and not only ideas for, the discipline of architecture. (Saying thank you for getting this far in the explanation of such an ambition is one way to briefly note at least partial success in this mission – thanks for sticking with us this far.) For we shouldn’t kid ourselves at the outset of this Introduction to this Collection (in the sort of book that wants to use capital letters for words like Architecture). The ambition of this monograph is as difficult to comprehend, we hope, as it is obvious to deny: a re-examination (with considerable urgency) of the crucial question about how a new generation’s efforts, whether understood in the form of individual architectural careers or at the larger scale of architectural culture, might begin, as they always have, anew. Indeed, I would argue that a re-examination of how to begin a critical architectural practice (one that is as dedicated to overturning the everyday assumptions and expectations of other architects as much as it is one’s own) is even more urgent in 2009 than it may have been four decades ago, when the protoprofessional takeover of the field was still only part-way conceived, and yet prompted so many counter-projects and furious experimentation at the time. As editors we seek with this collection to reveal relationships between practical and theoretical forms of architectural


Portrait of the Architect as a Young Man Francisco Gonzalez de Canales

The coming-of-age novel, or Bildungsroman, was a favoured genre for young men contemplating their first steps into an artistic discipline. Though diverse in scope, these narratives – ranging from Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship to James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – all tended to depict the rites of intellectual initiation as a painful untying of existing natural or human bonds. According to these texts, the only way to forge a genuine intellectual or artistic personality able to confront the rigours of the absolute (of ‘High Art’), was to take the path of solitude and ‘self-estrangement from the world’.1 Promising young architects pursued their own paradigmatic version of these lonely explorations, in the form of the Grand Tour around the classical world that followed their academic studies and preceded their professional career. To the eyes of the novice architect these travels revealed the reality of what had previously existed only in prints and etchings: contemplative solitude then allowed the disciplinary knowledge contained in those drawings to be connected with the physicality of the built work. This kind of initiation would still hold for Robert Venturi, who opens the selection of architects in this volume. It was Venturi’s residency at the American Academy in Rome that provided him with the inquisitive eyes with which to read the flesh of architecture. 2 Rafael Moneo, Aldo Rossi and Peter Eisenman were likewise profoundly affected by their travels revisiting classical architectures. 3 But by the 1960s and 1970s architects were diverging from this established itinerary: a quite different experience underpins most of the ‘first works’ presented here. Right from the beginnings

Top left: Robert Venturi photographed while visiting the Acropolis in Greece, c.1955 Top right: Archigram at work: Peter Cook, Warren Clark, Ron Herron and Dennis Crompton constructing the Living City exhibition, 1963. Above: Morphosis’ first office c.1974


1. This picks up Peter Sloterdijk’s argument in Weltfremdheit, in which he proposes that the history of culture – or more precisely of initiation into its highest spheres – should be read as a history of abstinence, of voluntary self-estrangement from the known world through physical abstinence, drugs, drunkenness and/or rituals. Commenting on the tradition of modern intellectual formation, he notes that initiated individuals were the only ones who had the right – and responsibility – to confront the sphere of the absolute face to face. See Im selben Boot. Versuch über die Hyperpolitik (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1993), chapter 2, and Regeln für den Menschenpark (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1999), 12ff.

2. Venturi was awarded the Rome Prize Fellowship at the American Academy in Rome in 1954, and studied and toured Europe for two years. For more on this see Steirli, Martino: ‘In the Royal Academy’s Garden: Robert Venturi, the Grand Tour and the Revision of Modern Architecture’ in AA Files 56, 2007, 42–63. This unmediated exposure to the pure visual stimuli arising from built facts – experienced through travel – served as a basis for Venturi’s early career and his celebrated first theoretical work, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. 3. Rafael Moneo stayed at the Spanish Academy in Rome from 1963 to 1965, a period he considers fundamental to his career, meeting Zevi, Tafuri, Portoghesi and others (Márquez, Fernando and Levene, Richard, ‘Three Steps Interview’,

in El Croquis 20–64–98 (2004): 12–20). Eisenman travelled to Italy several times while working on his PhD at Cambridge. Visits to Palladian villas and other Italian architectures in the company of his mentor Colin Rowe were crucial to his formal reading of architecture; see the preface to Eisenman, Peter D. The Formal Basis of Modern Architecture (Baden: Lars Müller, 2006). Finally, one of the most lasting influences on Aldo Rossi’s intellectual work has come from his reassessment of neoclassical architecture, expressed particularly in The Architecture of the City. See his seminal text ‘Il concetto di tradizione nel neoclassicismo milanese’, Società 3 (1956), reprinted in Rossi, A. Scritti scelti sull’architettura e la città, 1956–1972 (Milan: Città Studi Edizioni, 1975), 1–24.


of their practice, groups such as Archigram, Team 4, Architecture Principe, Archizoom, Coop Himmelb(l)au, UrBot, Morphosis, OMA or Opus 411 4 displayed a strong interest in collective ways of working and communication, in contrast to the isolation and selfrestraint of traditional rituals of formation. Working as groups, they transformed the rite of initiation into a shared experience. Indeed, of all the elements that contributed to the renewal of the discipline of architecture during this period, the most significant was perhaps this ‘group work’, 5 which was discursive rather than material, collaborative rather than restricted to a single discipline. Diverse individuals brought different bouquets of subjectivities into the mix, eventually coalescing – through discussion and critical debate – into ideologically cohesive practices.6 These decades saw the toppling of a central element of reference that had been present from the very origins of architecture as a discipline: the myth of the isolated architect-genius, henceforth viewed with mistrust as a totalitarian figure. The implications of this attack on traditional hierarchies were vast and various. The most immediate outcome, however, was the recognition that architectural culture was not something hegemonic, protected by the ‘transcendence of the absolute’, but consisted instead of an irreducible plurality of diversely grouped agendas – a panel of symptoms or a portrait of reactions, as Peter Sloterdijk would put it. 7 The revolution in architecture did not bring about a new architectural universe so much as a disjointed cosmogony of facts approachable only via specific problematisations. Consequently, the work of these groups generates and defines its own singular problematic in the same way that Hans-Georg Gadamer suggests that each of Paul Celan’s poems generates a specific poematic – or the need for a new theory of poetry for each new poem. 8 In tracing the origins of some of the most influential practices emerging in the 1960s and 1970s, we are confronted not only with this almost monstrous complexity but also 4. Some of these groups lasted a decade or so, but others such as Urbot (with Toyo Ito) or Opus 411 (with Steven Holl) were quite ephemeral. 5. Interdisciplinary groups gained in popularity in the early 1950s; the Espace group, for example, was founded by André Bloc in 1952. Collaborative projects proved especially fruitful in Latin America, producing works such as the UNAM in Mexico City or the Universidad Central in Caracas. However, these groups tended to remain as aggregates of (brilliant) individuals who came together only to collaborate on specific projects. Precedents such as the Situationist International, which were much more ideologically cohesive, were more influential in the formation of the new architectural groups of the 1960s and 1970s.


6. These groups would gradually disappear from the mid-1970s on. It is significant that the younger architects in this selection who started their careers in the late 1970s – for example Libeskind, Hadid or Herzog & de Meuron – were seen from the beginning as individuals rather than part of a group. 7. Although this notion of portrait of symptoms is present in Sphären III, it is more explicitly developed in Sloterdijk, Peter, Selbstversuch, Ein Gespräch mit Carlos Oliveira (Munich/Vienna: Hanser, 1996), 32–6. 8. See Gadamer, Hans-Georg, Gadamer on Celan: ‘Who Am I and Who Are You?’ and Other Essays (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1997), 12–13 &109. Translated and edited by Richard

Heinemann and Bruce Krajewski of Wer bin ich und wer bist du? ein Kommentar zu Paul Celans ‘Gedichtfolge Atemkristall’ (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1973).

with another quite paradoxical revelation – that the admission to the canon of today’s more acclaimed individuals apparently runs counter to the collective spirit accompanying their early years. This book enters this complex history to track the ‘first works’ of some of the most influential practices of the last four decades – not in the reductive sense of the actual first production of the architect, but more in terms of the first projects where the leitmotifs of the architect’s mature work become apparent. This ‘Eureka!’ moment sometimes occurs repeatedly, or only at a later stage, in which case initiation in architecture could be compared to learning to ride a bicycle: you start off wobbly, unsuccessful for a while, till suddenly you take off. 9 But, more significantly, we can see in these first works two different ways of understanding the discipline – the two opposite poles between which the discipline would swing during the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s. At one extreme, architectural practice is understood purely as a profession or métier – the approach of Siza or Herzog & de Meuron – at the other, the work of the architect is interpreted solely as an intellectual activity, as with Eisenman, Tschumi or Libeskind. This latter approach underwent a strong development during these years. However, it is in the territory of possibilities lying between these poles – in the complex tension between discursive anxieties and everyday practice – that most of these practices are positioned. The internal nature of the discipline in the 1960s and 1970s adds a further dimension to these beginnings. The traditional cohesion of the discipline had begun to disappear with the dissolution of the CIAM, just before these practices came into being. The general climate of discomfort was summed up with Aldo Van Eyck’s bitter declaration, after the final CIAM meeting in 1959: ‘Seldom were the possibilities so great, seldom has the profession failed to such a degree’.10 The apparent failure of the architecture of the 1950s to meet the promise held out by the modern masters led to a proliferation of attacks on the discipline. These took various forms – utopian prospects for the city, vindications of the homo ludens or commentaries on actual everyday practices in the building industry. There were more political enquiries concerned with dismantling architecture’s repressive character or exposing the power relations of capitalism and democratising the use of public space, as well as calls for the recovery of the tradition of the 9. This is also discussed in a conversation with Alejandro Zaera-Polo on Rem Koolhaas’s Exodus in this same volume. 10. Lefaivre, Liane and Tzonis, Alexander, Aldo van Eyck, Humanist Rebel. Inbetweening in a Post-War World (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 1999), 5.


Cedric Price with Lord Snowdon & Frank Newby

London Zoo Aviary London, UK


1961—65 Frank Newby, Lord Snowdon, Cedric Price and black crowned cranes at the London Aviary opening in 1965


Commentary by Samantha Hardingham

methods are still being investigated to eliminate or minimise the collection of snow on the mesh, which is of 10 gauge, 6 inch by 1 ⅛ inch inch black anodised aluminium. To date, a simple laying of surface heating cables on the mesh appears to be most feasible. If this method is followed, the structure will be designed to carry ice loading of approximately 1 lb per sq ft and no snow loading. The wind loading on the mesh is being investigated by wind-tunnel tests. A model of the whole structure with mesh covering is also being wind-tunnel tested for wind stability. The welded aluminium mesh, as well as the chain link entrance curtain already referred to, is being tested at the zoo for bird penetration. A plantroom under the waterfall contains the recirculating pump for all the water, together with plant for the four hydrants located one under each end frame. Cedric Price, 1961

* * * * A secondary, but most important, function of buildings at the zoo is to intrigue and interest the public. Birds are difficult to see at a distance so their container becomes their advert. The maximum free-flight volume required is combined with perching conditions at each end. Cedric Price, 1984

with a new technology was exciting and challenging. The elevated prestressed concrete walkway is a double cantilever and its depth was minimal for acceptable vibrations. Frank Newby, 1984

* * * * zoos and what animals think about regimented viewers

The humans’ attitudes change faster than animals’. Lubetkin’s Gorilla House and Penguin Pool at London Zoo have both gone through a public re-think whereas the Snowdon/Price/ Newby aviary can no longer be filled with the birds for whom it was designed. CORRECTION! The real users for whom it was designed have changed their viewing appetites. Caging birds for scientific, educational and entertainment reasons goes out of fashion: what would you do with this lot, on and out of the site? NOTE: a visit may be worthwhile.

Cedric Price


This will be one of the first structures to be erected as part of the general replanning and reconstruction of the Royal Zoological Society’s gardens in Regent’s Park, the plans of which have been prepared by Sir Hugh Casson in association with F A Stenglehofen, the Society’s architect. The aviary is in the North Garden, between the canal and Prince Albert Road, in the area of which Mr Peter Shepheard is designing the landscape and several canal-side buildings. The aviary, which measures 150 ft by 63 ft at ground level and has a maximum height of 90 ft, is to contain birds from temperate and subtropical regions. These will include sacred ibises, demoiselle cranes, blue pies, small gulls, large terns, guillemots, choughs, lesser flamingos, jay thrushes, wading birds, perching ducks and herons. It will be the first open-air aviary at the London Zoo to which visitors have access. The following points were considered essential when the design was being made: to obtain the maximum volume of usable enclosed space that the site would allow; to cater for all the activities of the birds exhibited in the aviary – nesting, breeding, perching, washing, feeding, etc.; to provide sufficient sheltered areas for the birds while allowing the public to observe them from both inside and outside the aviary (this is made possible by two chain-link entrance curtains, through which visitors can pass but which birds will not penetrate, and the walkway); to provide a structure and groundworks requiring minimum maintenance; to give the aviary a recognisable form when seen (both inside and outside the Zoo) from a distance at which the birds themselves are not visible. The choice of aluminium was influenced by the zoo’s request for a maintenance-free structure. The space-frame ties distribute the loads from the suspension cables to the end buttresses and to the ground. The cables will be prestressed where necessary to provide anti-flutter stiffness. The main applied loads which the structure has been designed to carry are those of ice, snow and wind, snow being included because in those areas of mesh which are almost horizontal it is possible for the wires, when iced, to collect snow. The possibility of de-icing the mesh to eliminate ice and snow loading was investigated but was found uneconomic. As snow loading is, however, much higher than ice loading, various

Cedric Price, 1994

* * * * A three-dimensional structure can have innumerable shapes: development of the final shape comes from experience and is the art of engineering. The form of structure for the aviary was influenced by Fuller’s work on tensegrity, but calculation indicated that certain cables had to be pretensioned to carry compression forces effectively by a reduction in their tensions. Aluminium castings, stainless steel forging, welded aluminium mesh and long-life anchorages were high technology in 1962. Working Cedric Price’s preliminary sketches



Aldo Rossi with Luca Meda & Gianugo Polesello

Locomotiva 2: Competition Entry for a Directional Centre Turin, Italy


1962 Aldo Rossi in his office at Via Maddalena, Milan


Commentary by Pier Vittorio Aureli

Translated by Luka Skansi


Aldo Rossi


The planners call for the construction of a single, great centro direzionale – an architectural project on a metropolitan scale, conceived as a radically urbanised architecture. The proposed centro direzionale defines the characteristics of urban growth, simultaneously embodying the modern concept of centralised facilities and vertical transportation, permitting a concentration of structure and services and representing an advanced technical solution. Vehicular circulation is organised according to the following principles: a) the directional centre is to be reached from both the surrounding territory and the city without the need to reduce speed; b) the cylindrical towers provide parking in the centre; c) public transport can enter directly into the complex and stop on various levels. Since the car has to enter the heart of the centro direzionale the system of looping roads is arranged over different levels. The roads deliver the motorist either to cylindrical parking towers or to ground-level parking (the former is mechanical, the latter free). Similarly the pedestrian, on leaving public transport, finds himself in the same location as the motorist who leaves the parking. The centro direzionale is enclosed within an immense, 20-metre quadrangle. Circular pillars containing vertical transport and services form the structure. These pillars are freestanding for the first 30 metres, above which the building begins. In the centre of the centro direzion ale stands a great piazza, circumscribed by two elevated roads. The unit is enclosed on two sides by large green embankments with stone pavements. A series of shops, located in a pedestrian piazza, face one side of the square. On the other side is a multilevel piazza. Here spaces become progressively smaller as one is led through the congress hall, theatres and cinemas. The great steel cupola of the congress hall, emerging from the embankments like a hull from water, dominates this zone. Above, the service floors intersect the floors of the centro direzionale ; some of which have enclosed galleries and loggias. Clubs and places for leisure are situated on the top of the building. Aldo Rossi, Luca Meda and Gianugo Polesello, 1962

Conceptual sketches for the project showing the 'mole Antonelliana' and the chessboard grid of Turin's Roman city

Top left and right: Plan and perspective sketches for the Directional Centre in Turin Above: Conceptual plan indicating the 100-metre span between columns


In 1962 Aldo Rossi, together with Luca Meda and Gianugo Polesello, took part in an open competition for the design of Turin’s new centro direzionale (Central Business District). The idea of the centro direzionale – a concentrated office district complementing the industrial logistics of major cities – became very popular in Italy in the late 1950s and early 1960s in response to the increasing importance of service industries in the booming postwar capitalist economy. The competition brief asked for a project that would operate at both the architectural and the urban scale. Rossi and his team-mates proposed a radically straightforward solution: a simple, unitary form that literally extruded the square metres prospected by the brief. The project was intended to be a polemical and critical architectural response to the political and ideological underpinnings of the idea of the centro direzionale and the most likely way of resolving the brief: the megastructure. Rossi’s project consists of two main architectural parts. The first is made of four slabs 300 metres long, 20 metres deep and 127 metres high (the same height as Gio Ponti’s Pirelli skyscraper in Milan), forming a square held 30 metres above the ground. The second part is a plinth containing public facilities and traffic arteries. Both the structure and the vertical circulation of the slabs are organised by eight gigantic cylindrical columns with a span of 100 metres. The organising principle of the circulation within the plinth was taken from Kenzo Tange’s Tokyo Bay project. This reference was intentionally polemical since, unlike Tange’s megastructure, Rossi’s project gave the proposed programme a limited, closed and thus non-expandable form: any further expansion of the programme would have to be accommodated in another centre. The chosen title of the project, ‘Locomotiva 2’ (Engine 2), refers to the fact that the monumentality of the project would be dialectically counterposed to Alessandro Antonelli’s Mole, a colossal synagogue in the centre of Turin dating from the second half of the nineteenth century. Although both structures presented themselves as monumental exceptions within the city, the square form of Antonelli’s Mole and the court building of Rossi, Meda and Polesello were actually nothing but extrusions of the chessboard grid that constitutes the Roman plan of Turin. But while Antonelli’s Mole relates directly to this grid, the Rossi project, located (by the competition) on a site on the periphery of the city, was an analogous reconstruction of the grid – in other words, the grid reinterpreted as a typological theme. It was thus not a rehabilitation of a norm but


an analogical use of the norm as a form of exception. In contrast to the other competition entries, nearly all of which were inspired by the technological novelties of Turin’s modernising infrastructure, it staged a critical and dialectical confrontation with the existing city. Refusing to be an infrastructural scheme, it projected instead a precisely defined locus which, by virtue of its form and location, contrasted sharply with the other parts of the city. The city’s development was thus represented not as a totalising image but as a clear form that both constituted and limited the advancing urban development. It was for this reason that the project was immediately rejected by the jury as ‘reactionary architecture’ and labelled ‘a Stalinist court for mass execution’. Its hard-core character, which proposed to offer a civic reference exposing the new geography of Turin’s labour force, was condemned by those who represented the dominant class interests and preferred to conceal their power behind the rhetoric of a centro direzionale that purported to be an efficient, futuristic Eden of labour.

Aldo Rossi


Pier Vittorio Aureli


First Works: Emerging Architectural Experimentation of the 1960s & 1970s  

During a tumultuous period in the 1960s and 70s, a new generation of architects began their careers amidst a period of profound social chang...