Page 1

history ofcities urban design a tale of three

course syllabus outline antonio di campli

We usually think about Urban Design as a specific design practice that defines itself in large part as a result of transformation processes of disused industrial spaces or of other kinds of derelict urban spaces that, starting from the 60s, took place in several Western cities. Although it is possible to say that it is from this period that the practice of Urban Design gains relevance we can also affirm that forms of project, whose scale is halfway between that of the city and that of architecture, have been largely experimented before. So, when we talk about the history of Urban Design we can outline at least two different fields.


A narrow field in which Urban Design is seen as a form of project that defines itself mostly within Postmodern discourses on the city and on society, as a reaction to failures of Modern urbanism;


A more enlarged, and maybe blurred, field where Urban Design is seen as a broader set of practices within architectural design and urban discourses.

If the construction of the first field allows us to be more precise in defining Urban Design, highlighting the relationship between contemporary economies, societies and cities, the definition of the second field can be more fertile from the point of view of the construction of a critical discourse on Urban Design strategies and logics.

Urban Design, A Question of Discipline

The idea of Urban Design is based on precise, discrete and limited actions located in strategic places which have the role to change image and function of entire parts of a city. It is a dimension of design yet explored by architects during the Renaissance. Examples are the sixteenth century Renovatio urbis policies pursued by Julius II in Rome or by Andrea Gritti in Venice. These “urban regeneration” policies are often dominated by the figure of spatial continuity, by the desire of disrupting middle ages spatial logics in order “to capture the infinite”, by the search for a regular, isotropic and universal urban space. This blurred field which is something that is hard to consider as a well-defined subject area, is the interface between different disciplines. It is precisely its inaccurate disciplinary nature that characterizes it as the place where, along with collaborations, we capture the conflicts between different disciplinary knowledges. Urban Design, a discipline without a recognizable statute, is colonized, invaded and occupied by urban planners, architects, engineers, landscape architects, lawyers, bankers and public administrators. For these reasons, to conceive a course of history of Urban Design means picking up a skein of experiences, researches, projects, experiments, rearranging an archive of facts where some objects are illuminated, while others end up in shade. My archive has its center in Europe, but experiences from Americas and Asia are not missing.

There are different ways of ordering an archive, the result is the production of a moltitudine of narratives, different stories. I’ll try to reorder this archive through the definition of three narratives, three tales, which do not correspond to precise geographies or to a linear temporal logic. The three tales can be superimposed and are arranged along the time axis in different ways, often intertwining themselves.

Each tale can be described by a particular image or figure: separation / equilibrium / layering

from gray to green growth and dissolution of the city (separation)



the machine in the garden the construction of the disciplined city (equilibrium)

sous le pavĂŠ la plage the definition of new relationships between urban societies, individuals, and urban spaces (layering)

three tales


1 From Grey to Green A Tale of Growth and Dissolution

In the first tale some experiences of Urban Design are defined within the issue of growth and dissolution of the city. In the Western collective imaginary, the twentieth century is dominated by a number of fears that lie between two extremes: the distressing wait for an indefinite and immeasurable growth of cities and, at the same time, the fear of its demise, dissolution or transformation into forms of settlements devoid of a precise character and sense. Growth and dissolution seem antithetical terms but these two phenomena are nested into one another.

The narrative of growth is the prevailing tale until the 60s. In this narrative the prevailing figure is that of concentration (new towns / garden cities / ruralist policies); after the events of World War II we are at the end of a period of strong growth and modernization. The fear of the dissolution of the city manifests itself during the last decades of the twentieth century when higher levels of well-being and new collective behaviours contribute to mitigate the movement towards urban centers and to facilitate processes of urban sprawl. From the 80s onwards, the fear of dilution prevails.

Walter Benjamin, Georg Simmel, Siegfried Kracauer

The Metropolis and Mental Life

City / Metropolis / Megalopolis

Ludwig Hilberseimer, Die Großstädte / Vertical City. 1924

Manfredo Tafuri, The Architecture of Red Wien

Karl Ehn, Karl-Marx Hof, 1927-30

The Invention of the Neighbourhood Unit (Clarence Perry) Raymond Unwin, Letchworth, 1904 / Welwyn Garden City


Projects of Dispersion: Sovies Disurbanists Osa Group / Ivan Leonidov, Magnitogorsk, 1930 Moisej Ginzburg / Nikolaj Milijutin, Linear City Wright, Broadacre City., 1934-35 Hilberseimer’s Decentralized City / Fan Shaped Community / Lafayette Park Detroit Projects of Dispersion

NL Architects, Flat City, Leidsche Rjin, 1999 Andrea Branzi, No-Stop City / Agronica,1994 / Eindhoven, 2000 Stefano Boeri, Filament City, Hoeksche Waard, Rotterdam 1999


2 The Machine in the Garden The Construction of the Disciplined City

The construction of the disciplined city or the construction of the city as part of a broader project of social construction that pursues the moralization of the existing city. This narrative is dominated by the figure of equilibrium, of the city as a living organism, or machine. The technique of zoning. The twentieth century is dominated by the idea that the construction of the city can be part of a larger project to build a new society, if not a new man. This idea has its roots in the utopias which have always accompanied the Western culture. This story is dominated by the search for conditions of dwelling intended in functionalist way.

The Athens Charter LC Chandigarh Lucio Costa, Brasilia / the Superquadra Berlin Siedlung (Martin Wagner / Bruno Taut), Berlin Britz Ernst May, Rรถmerstadt

Kikutake / Kurokawa The Dinosaurs of Modern Movement

Models and Prototypes. Relevant Experiences of Modern Urban Design

Ecological Urbanism

Stefano Boeri Leberecht Migge 1881-1935 Carl Theodor Sørensen 1893-1979

Ecological Urbanism

3 Sous le pavĂŠ la plage The Definition of New Relationships Between Urban Societies, Individuals, and Urban Spaces. The patient search for physical and concrete dimensions of individual and collective well-being. The end of the modern city correspond to the the invention of the context and the integration of uncertainty in the practice of the urban project: the design technique of layering. The urban dweller is the Homo Ludens. Here appears the figure of the layering , or the Deleuzian contraposition between smooth space and striated space. The third tale describes the progressive and democratic aestheticism of individual life. The city is intendend as an assembly of situations, of fragments; the myth of public space appears. This narrative is defined as a critique of the modern machine-city

The Counterculture French Situationists Isozaki, Tsukuba, Practices of Off-Modern Urban Design Yona Friedman, Ville Spatiale Aldo Van Eyck, Playgrounds

Ant Farm Drop-Out Communities

Counterculture. Issues of post-Modern Urban Design

Italian Radicals: The No-Stop City vs New Babylon

The Invention of the Layering Technique (la villette koolhaas / tschumi) OMA / Melun Senart

Pop + Junk / Italian Radicals

Context / Palimpest: The “Italian Theory” of Urban Design. The “Tendenza” or the desire to establish strong links between Architecture and Anthropology to criticize functionalism Rossi, Grassi, De Carlo but also Stirling, Ungers, Aldo Van Eyck Rossi. “A form that perpetrates reality.”

Type + Urban Form / The “Italian Theory of Urban design”

V. Gregotti. The Theory of Modification

Bernardo Secchi. “Project of The Soil”

Landscape Urbanism


Bourdieu, Mouffe, Lefebvre

Chantal Mouffe, “Agonistic Public Spaces, Democratic Politics, and the Dynamic of Passions,” in Thinking Worlds: The Moscow Conference on Philosophy Politics and Art, edited by Joseph Backstein, Daniel Birnbaum, and Sven-Olov Wallenstein (Berlin and Moscow: Sternberg Press and Interros Publishing, 2008). Henri Lefebvre, “The Right to the City,” Writings on Cities (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996). Eve Blau, “City as Open Work,” Project Zagreb: Transition as Condition, Strategy, Practice (Barcelona; New York: Actar D, 2007) Boris Groys, “Socialism as a Total Installation,” Domus 873, September 2004

Cities + Public

These 3 tales define three different semantic basins in which the future of the city is drawn from openness, imagination, by confrontation with everyday life, while the past is drawn by nostalgia, by a severe criticism or by the desire to conquer the past in a culturalist way. The problem of the relationships between individual and collective freedom is at the center of these 3 narratives.

1Intro. A Question of Discipline From Gray to Green. Growth and Dissolution of the City 2 City / Metropolis / Megalopolis. A reflection starting from: Walter Benjamin, Georg Simmel, Siegfried Kracauer 3 Growth. The Vertical City/ Red Wien/ The Neighbourhood Unit 4 Dissolution. Soviet Disurbanists / Hilberseimer’s Projects of Dispersion / 90s Sprawl Design 5Seminar of Discussion / Reading Assignment The Machine in the Garden or The Construction of the Disciplined City 6 Models and Prototypes. Relevant Experiences of Modern Urban Design 7 The Dinosaurs of Modern Movement 8 Ecological Urbanism 9 Seminar of Discussion / Reading Assignment Sous le pavé la plage The Definition of New Relationships Between Urban Societies, Individuals, and Urban Spaces. 10 Counterculture. Issues of Post-Modern Urban Design 11 Pop + Junk / Italian Radicals 12 Type + Urban Form / The “Italian Theory” of Urban Design 13 Landscape Urbanism 14 Density (15Cities + Public. Bourdieu, Mouffe, Lefebvre)

14/15 lessons

The course is designed as a lecture–seminar course. It does not follows a chronological order, rather it tries to invite students to develop a critical attitude toward urban design discourses, logics and strategies. Students will be given readings in order to extend their knowledge on the subject and to complete the coursework. Work for the class will include readings and researches, two brief papers, and the organization of a class session on selected topics. Learning Outcomes: The emphasis of the course is on an engagement with readings and with discussions. Students will be expected to submit a weekly response to the assigned readings. Students should be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of: Concepts and discourses related to different theories of urban design. The relationship between urban design theories and the political, cultural and social context in which they were defined.

Teaching and Learning Strategies

Leonardo Benevolo, Origins of Modern Town Planning , The MIT press, 1971 Benevolo, Leonardo. The City in History. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1981. Cullen, Gordon. The Concise Townscape. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1961. David Grahame Shane, Recombinant Urbanism: Conceptual Modeling in Architecture, Urban Design and City Theory, London, Academy Press, 2005. Sitte, Camillo. City Planning According to Artistic Principles. New York: Random House, 1965) Unwin, Raymond. Town Planning in Practice . London: Fisher Unwin, 1909. Lieven De Cauter, The Capsular Civilization, On the City in the Age of Fear. Rotterdam, Nai publishers, 2004 Lewis Mumford, The Culture of Cities, New York, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970 Marshall Berman, All That is Solid Melts into Air, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982. Alain Bourdin, L’urbanism d’après crise, L’aube, La Tour d’Aigues, 2010. Mike Davis, Daniel Bertrand Monk (eds), Evil Paradises. Dreamworlds of Neoliberalism, The New Press, New York, 2007. Keller Easterling, Enduring Innocence - Global Architecture and Its Political Masquerades, The MIT Press Cambrige (MA), 2005. Philippe Genestier, Que vaut la notion de projet urbain? In: Architecture d’Aujourd’hui, n. 288, 1993. Bruno Latour, Peter Weibel (eds), Making Things Public. Atmospheres of Democracy, The MIT Press, Cambridge (MA), 2005. Thomas Sieverts: Zwischenstadt. Zwischen Ort und Welt, Raum und Zeit, Stadt und Land. Vieweg, Braunschweig, 1997 Barbara Bender, Margot Winer (eds), Contested Landscapes. Movement, Exile and Place, Berg Publishers, Oxford and New York 2001.


Andrea Branzi , La crisi della qualità, Edizioni della Battaglia, Palermo 1997. Manuel Castells, The Rise of the Network Society, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Vol. I., Blackwell Cambridge (MA), 1996. James Corner, Recovering Landscape, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 1999. Richard Florida, Cities and the Creative Class, Routledge, New York, 2004. David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity. An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change, Blackwell, Cambridge (MA), 1990. Trad. it., La crisi della modernità, Il Saggiatore, Milano, 1992. Charles W. Moore, You Have to Pay for Public Life, The Mit Press, Cambridge (MA), 2001. Bernardo Secchi, Prima lezione di urbanistica, Laterza, Bari 2000. Michael Sorkin (ed), Variations on a Theme Park The New American City and the End of Public Space, Hill and Wang, New York, 1992 Mirko Zardini, Paesaggi ibridi. Un viaggio nella città contemporanea, Skira, Milano. Reyner Banham, The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment, Architectural Press, London 1969. AA.VV., Mutations, Actar, Barcelona, 2001. Carlo Aymonino, Lo studio dei fenomeni urbani, Officina, Roma, 1977. Vittorio Gregotti, Il territorio dell’architettura, Feltrinelli, Milano, 1966. Saverio Muratori, Studi per un’operante storia urbana di Venezia, Istituto Poligrafico dello stato, Roma, 1960. Philippe Panerai, Jean Castex, Jean-Charles Depaule, Formes urbaines: de l’ilot à la barre, Paris, Dunod, 1977. Aldo Rossi, L’architettura della città, Marsilio, Venezia, 1966. AA.VV., Landscape Urbanism. A Manual for the Machinic Landscape, AA, London, 2003.

Georgia Daskalakis, Charles Waldheim, Jason Young, (eds), Stalking Detroit, Actar, Barcellona, 2001. Charles Waldheim, Landscape urbanism: a genealogy, in “Praxis”, n.4, 2002. Charles Waldheim, (ed), The Landscape Urbanism Reader, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2006. Zygmunt Bauman, Modernity and Ambivalence, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, (NY), 1991. Walter Benjamin, Das Passagen-Werk, Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 1983. Sven Lütticken, “Parklife”, in Oase, n.6/2004, Nai Publishers, Rotterdam 2004. Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America, Oxford University Press, New York, 1964. Andrea Branzi, La Rivoluzione Viscerale, in Domus 897. Mike Davis, Daniel Bertrand Monk (eds), Evil Paradises. Dreamworlds of Neoliberalism, The New Press, New York, 2007. Tag Gronberg, Vienna: City of Modernity, 1890-1914, Peter Lang Publishing, Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2007.

History of Urban Design  

Course of History of Urban Design. Syllabus Outline

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you