architectural Reflection series
.docs # 01, 2011
fragments of an ideal city essays inspired by henri lefebvre, Alison Smithson and Peter Zumthor 1
fragments of an ideal city
Chair of 3
content editorial 6-7
part A introduction by Nelson Mota
DOC #01 by Kimberley Beimin and Stefan de Vos
a new home, a new life? DOC #02 by Lizzy van der Berg and Dirk Huibers
Rotterdam, schizophrenic city DOC #03 by Alix Marchioni and Rick Zwerver
Rationalism and Monotony DOC #04 by Jurgen Beliën and Bas Looman
Chassé Park: A masterplan misunderstood? DOC #05 by Peter Smisek and Marcel van Bockhoven
A modern traditionalist(?): A.J. Kropholler
part b introduction by Oliver Ebben
DOC #01 by George Klamer and Charlotte Nieveen van Dijkum
the meaning of details DOC #02 by René Brakels and Kakeru Inuiya
the pretentiousness of peter zumthor DOC #03 by Maarten Thewissen and Wieland Boers
hollow identity DOC #04 by Rik Holierhoek and Mark Ivangh
let the public create the realm
part c introduction by Pierijn van der Putt
DOC #01 by Viojeta Petrak and Jan Diederik van Heemstraauw
the limits have shifted DOC #02 by Bas Albers and Johannes Dijkman
Designing the ideal neighbourhood: From Living Machine to Living City
DOC #03 by Anthony Dann
CONTAINING CHANCE AND CHANGE DOC #04 by Elwin van Heyningen and Peter van der Gaauw
contextual opportunities DOC #05 by Thomas de Bos and Roderik Trompert
building the past today DOC #05 by Jaap de Jong and Nathalie Rabouille
The perfect dwelling and the devastating violent consumer
editorial DOCS #1: Fragments of an Ideal City Pierijn van der Putt Nelson Mota Oliver Ebben
.docs To many, there is a decisive gap between architectural theory and architectural practice – a gap, so to say, between the fleeting world of thought and the concrete world of buildings. But if architecture is to be seen as the dialectic between idea and form, it seems only reasonable that this gap, if existent at all, is bridged. Once the reciprocal dependence of ideas and forms is acknowledged, delving into the world of architectural theory can enlighten our understanding of a given architectural object which, in turn, can provide new perspectives on a theoretical position. DOCS sets out to (re)establish this reciprocal dependence. Asked to write an essay in which to combine a source text with a built architectural project, students of the Architectural Reflections course of the Chair of Architecture and Dwelling were supposed to contribute an article to a fictional scientific architecture magazine called DOCS. The magazine and its (equally fictitious) editorial staff provided the framework for the research. Firstly, the contributors were given three source texts, one of which was to serve as the starting point of their research. The three texts were: “Everyday and Everydayness” by Henri Lefebvre “A Way of Looking at Things” by Peter Zumthor “The Violent Consumer, or Waiting for the Goodies” by Alison Smithson The text of choice was then to be considered in relation to an architectural project that had been assigned earlier. This project was either a large scale inner city housing scheme or smaller scale student housing development. Continuously going back and forth between theory and building an essay was to be written that somehow related to the theme of DOCS #1: Fragments of an Ideal City. As the results will show, even with one particular text and one particular building as a starting point along with a specific theme given, a myriad of different essays may emerge. In some cases the source text is an incentive to do a close reading of the case study, in other instances they are both mere stepping stones onto something else. Either way, they begin to show in what ways theory and built object may be intertwined. As to prove the point that between theory and practice there need not to be an imponderable abyss, the fictitious magazine has suddenly come into a state of material reality. DOCS #1 is in your hands and under your gaze right now. We hope you enjoy the read as much as we did providing it. Delft, june 2011
part A the extraordinary in the ordinary by Nelson Mota In 1972, the French philosopher Henri Lefebvre published his contribution to the Encyclopaedia Universalis with the title “Quotidien et Quotidienneté”.i In this text Lefebvre presents a synthesis of his long-term engagement and concern with the concepts of everyday and everydayness. Since the 1930s, Lefébvre had been committed to show the extraordinary in the ordinary. In key moments such as the aftermath of World War II and at the end of the 1960s, he himself and his writings have been influential denouncing authoritarian approaches and resisting the globalization prompted by the capitalist economical system. Lefebvre looked back, nostalgically, to the diversity of the premodern era, with its variegated customs, which were mainly defined “according to region and country, levels and classes of the population, available natural resources, season, climate, profession, age and sex. […] Today,” he argues, “we see a worldwide tendency to uniformity.” In his text, Lefebvre claims that “the everyday is a product, the most general of products in an era where production engenders consumption, and where consumption is manipulated by producers.” Lefebvre presents a critique of rationalization, universalism and functionalism. He claims that the everyday is defined by repetitive gestures imposed by modernity, and that even change and obsolescence are programmed. “Production anticipates reproduction” he argues. And he goes further declaring that “production produces change in such a way as to superimpose the impression of speed onto that of monotony.”
To uncover the deep structures defined by modernity and everydayness, and the relentless rationalization of the contemporary city, Lefebvre claims for a critical analysis that can go beyond a simple “change life” attitude or a rejection of lived experience. Therefore, Lefebvre calls for the expression of the energy, humanity, and creativity embodied in the humble, prosaic details of daily existence in order to challenge the commodification of the everyday. The following essays present several points of view on this critical analysis to everydayness. Kimberley Beimin and Stefan de Vos contribute with a perspective of the post war everyday in England through the experience of a young couple living at the Barbican. They bring about the tensions and challenges that the postwar architectural debate on housing posited to both politicians and designers. The Barbican is depicted as an alternative solution to the regeneration of the “heart of the city”, where modern daily life can flourish without being stigmatized by everydayness. The Dutch city of Rotterdam is a seminal showcase of the tension between modernity and tradition. The reconstruction of its central part, bombed in World War II, is explored by Dirk Huibers and Lizzy van den Berg to reveal the extent to which the issue of identity emerged as a central topic in the postwar architectural debate. They present Piet Blom’s project for the Oude Haven as the outcome of an architectural approach to challenge the “homelessness” of modernity. In the aftermath of World War II, in Paris, there was also an intense debate on housing policies, with architects divided about the balance between the ever-present dialectic ethics versus aesthetics. Alix Marchioni and Rick Zwerver studied one of Fernand Pouillon’s Parisian housing districts – “Point du Jour” – and revealed the concept of “architectural urbanism” as a way to mingle rationalism and monotony in favor of a lively housing environment. The idea of the structure as the support for both housing and urban design is discussed by Jurgen Belien and Bas Looman analysing OMA’s “campus model” applied in the Chassé Park, in Breda. They bring about the relevance of a contextual approach in urban design and its consequence in structuring the materialization of the city. Furthermore, they challenge immediate perceptions of continuity thus arguing for a deeper evaluation of this project’s complex balance between structure and infill. Finally, Peter Smisek and Marcel Bockhooven, travel back to the 1920s to challenge the binary polarity modern versus traditional, using Kropholler’s Linnaeushof housing neighbourhood in Amsterdam as their case study. They argue that Kropholler transcends that polarity, developing an architectural approach that anticipates the notion of critical regionalism discussed by scholarship in the early 1980s. 9
a new home, a new life? Meet John and Kathy1, married in London just after the Second World War. After their marriage they continued to live with their parents, not because they preferred to, but due to the fact of a lack of housing. One needs to know that it was in the city of London where the full weight of the flying bomb and rocket attacks had fallen, where housing conditions were worst and the housing shortage was most acute.2 During the five years of the Second World War as much as 66 percent of the housing stock in London was damaged.3 Resulting in a period of rebuilding post-war London. Not only was there a need to repair the damaged housing, new development of housing was needed as well. The population of Britain grew significantly during the baby-boom period, resulting in a rising demand for housing. John and Kathy were lucky enough to attain a ‘home of their own’ at the Barbican centre. Peers, which they grew up with, were less fortunate in finding a home. In fact nearly half of the couples surveyed during the time, lived with their parents immediately after they were married. Therefore the fantasy of a ‘home of your own’ was held strongly by all married couples.4 A woman surveyed at the time described her situation as follows: ‘if only we could get our own house, our marriage would be a success. There was nothing wrong with our love.’5 John had a good job at an insurance company in the city centre of London. Before attaining a home at the Barbican he was commuting daily from the suburb to the city centre. Kathy would stay at home helping her mother in housekeeping. John, together with half a million commuters, worked in London whilst not living there6, when the Barbican centre was build it was an outcome for commuters to find a home near their work. For John and Kathy this home was located at block E, number 144. Their flat consisted of two layers with the living area and kitchen space on the ground floor. The two bedrooms were to be found upstairs; the balcony extending the living room was facing the public space to the inside. Having lived in the suburbs for their whole life they had developed a lifestyle bounded to a certain structure. The structure of everyday life, their life consisted of reoccurring events, a routine. They envisioned their new home at the Barbican capable of a major alteration of their regular everyday life, a break from the daily routine in which they had lived from the moment they got married. John and Kathy were not the only ones wanting to break with the daily routine. The French sociologist Henri Lefebvre states that; “the character of the everyday has always been repetitive and veiled by obsession and fear. The problem of repetition is one of the most difficult problems facing us.”7 Would their new home at the Barbican provide the structure to alter their everyday life forcing a break with the routine? This essay will explore the dream of John and Kathy starting a family at the Barbican centre in a ‘home of their own’ while simultaneously measuring to what extent the Barbican contributed to the alteration of the everyday life. In short: the Barbican greatly influenced the everyday life of the post-war people who inhabited it.
1. John and Kathy are fictional characters.They are personifications of the target group of the Barbican Estate in post-war London. 2. Nicholas Bullock, Building the postwar world, Modern architecture and reconstruction in Britain, Nicholas Bullock (London: Routledge, 2002), p. 201. 3. Nicholas Bullock, “Housing versus Architecture, London 1940-49”, p.199. and C.M. Kohan, “Works and buildings”, (London: HMSO, 1952), p. 222-238.
4. Claire Lamghamer, “The Meanings of Home in Postwar Britain,” Journal of Contemporary History Vol. 40(2) (2005), p350. 5. Ibid., p. 350.
6. Model for a short-lived future – the architectural review (august 1973) Vol. CLIV number 918, p. 67.
7. Henri Lefebvre, “The Everyday and Everydayness.”Yale French Studies, No.73, Everyday Life (1987), p. 7-11.
2. Designing the Barbican 2.1. The LCC’s guidelines for post-war London The development of the Barbican stood amidst the rebuilding of post-war London. After the Second World War, the London County Council (LCC) was the authority with the important task of rebuilding London. The LCC developed “the White Paper” which in general terms contained two main principles. The provision of a separate dwelling for every family, for which it was thought 10
by Kimberley Beimin and Stefan de Vos
8. Nicholas Bullock, “Housing versus Architecture, London 1940-49” p. 200. and Minister of Health, housing, cmnd No6609, (London: HMSO, 1945), p. 2. 9. Nicholas Bullock, “Housing versus Architecture, London 1940-49”, p. 202.
10. Ibid., p. 208.
11. Ibid.,p. 207. For Haywards defence of LCC policy see Architectural Journal. 31.3.1949, p. 657.
12. Nicholas Bullock, “Housing versus Architecture, London 1940-49”, p. 206.
13. Ibid., p. 202. 14. Ibid.
15. Ibid., p. 204.
16. Claire Lamghamer, “The Meanings of Home in Postwar Britain,”, p. 343. 17. Ibid. 18. Mass-Observation was a social research organization from 1937 to the early 1950s. Mass-Observation recorded the everyday life in
750,000 houses were needed and an improvement of the housing standards.8 These 750,000 houses were to be built and rebuilt at a high pace because of the immediate need for housing. The authorities were confronted with the despair and anger of people desperate for housing, of wives and husbands battling for their children or fighting to save a failing marriage. 9 Not only did the LCC plan a huge quantity of new houses they also steered on an improvement of the design of pre-war housing types. It became apparent that these two goals were conflicting and therefore hard to realise. To replace the limited range of pre-war plans, four new type plans were introduced, offering designers the opportunity to develop layouts with staircase access flats, four storey maisonettes and flats, and an improved version of the gallery-access flats.10 These new housing types ought to be tools for the architect designing houses for postwar London, contradictory however statements were made implying the need for rapid results. For instance Isaac Hayward, leader of the LCC, made it clear that the number of houses counted more than architectural quality.11 2.2. Designing post-war London The architects during the rebuilding of London were faced with these problems, on the one hand delivering rapid results whilst on the other hand redesigning and reinventing the conventional housing types. Those who were in charge needed to square the circle: to achieve both quantity and quality. The challenge to architects was to show how this could be achieved.12 The call to build at higher densities, recommended in the county of London plan, inhibited designers from falling back on the standard cottage or terrace house-type of the pre-wars. Instead they had the all more novel task of designing flats that were an improvement of the widely criticized pre-war tenements.13 These discussions encouraged a clear expectation from the people that the hopes could be translated into action. 14 The city of London had an Architect’s department responsible for the guidance and development of plans for housing, they had to find a way in which they could design according to the standards set out by the LCC. The officers at the architects department agreed that there should be a great measure of standardization of design. Despite criticism of monotony of the pre-war estates, the number of house types was to be reduced to an absolute minimum, a decision justified by the architects department on the grounds that the council may have either speed or variety but not both.15 2.3. Living in post-war London We must not forget that these plans developed by authorities and architects were aimed at the improvement and providing of housing for the Londoners. With all these problems occurring on the zoomed-out scale it is relevant to see what people demanded on the zoomed in scale. How did the post-war Londoner envisioned his or her post-war house and did it even matter how it was designed? During the post-war period many surveys had been held to investigate how people saw their home and how they would define it. Although there was still a significant part of the British population, excluded from home-centred society16, they would have a welldeveloped opinion about the concept of home. According to Langhamer the experience of the war might even signify the importance of home.17 Mass-observation held an enquiry into peoples ideal home, it concluded that 49% of those surveyed would ideally have liked to live in a small house with a garden; 10% wanted to live in a bungalow and flats were by far the most unpopular of housing types.18 The LCC took a similar approach, consulting the people on the form of housing they favoured.
The public had been unusually outspoken in it’s condemnation of the old-style galleryaccess tenements which were pre-war norm in most cities. The experts, housing reformers, planners and architects agreed. The search for a new approach to the design of the flat was important and not necessarily at odds with giving the production of housing the priority it deserved. The access gallery, more than any other feature, seemed to exemplify the failure of the pre-war tenement type.19 2.4. The Barbican Centre With these actors and in this context the Barbican was designed, the architects responsible for the Barbican Centre, also known as London’s most ugly building20 are Chamberlin, Powell and Bon who were at the time young and quite inexperienced. Before becoming practicing architects they taught at the Kingston School of Art, which all changed because of a competition won by Powell for the Golden Lane to the north of the Barbican. They decided to team up if one of them should win the competition and so they did. After designing the Golden Lane they were commissioned to make the design for the Barbican centre. These young architects were given the important task to design these two large projects to help rebuild post-war London. The Barbican is built on the largest bombed site in the City of London, which consists of buildings with penthouses, tower apartments, maisonettes all linked by pedestrian roads. The Barbican Centre is not build overnight, it was planned seven times between 1953 and 1968.21 During the design process the target group changed quite a bit, in the end the architects were recommended by consulting agents to diversify the target groups. This led to a diversification in dwelling types.22 Now that the Barbican is described in general, showing the actors and context in which it is designed, the homes at the Barbican will be questioned on a more specific level.
3. The everyday life of John and Kathy Back to John and Kathy, after a period of patiently waiting, for the construction of the Barbican centre to finish, were able to move into their new house. It was in the year of 1968 when the Barbican was finished23 and the new residents could start living there. The patience of John and Kathy was rewarded, for when they moved into their new home it was full of novelties, which they had not been familiar with and which were very modern and luxurious. Just a few years earlier when asked, in a survey of housing, whether a house should be modern or not, John and Kathy, together with the larger part of post-war society, answered that for them it remained a matter of indifference and that the supreme importance was about homeness and owness.24 There they were in their new modern home which contained all sorts of novelties. Including a bathroom, a kitchen, 2 bedrooms, a spacious living room that extended into the balcony and a patio on the upper floor. Most of these novelties can be found in one of the dwelling types of the Barbican (see figure 1). For John and Kathy, who had lived with their parents for the first years of their marriage, it was a major change in their everyday life. Some of the features found in their new home were quite special to them. For instance Mass-Observation noted that, whether or not a house possessed a bathroom was a major social dividing line.25 Kathy and John were by no means culturally educated during their childhood but the fact that there was a theatre in the estate only a few minutes away turned them into regular visitors. The architects called this “mental” leisure.26 The patio or roof garden on the second floor allowed John to spend his leisure-time gardening.
19. Ibid., p. 346. Mass-observation, “an enuiry into peoples homes” (London: 1943), p. 5. 20. Nicholas Bullock, “Housing versus Architecture, London 1940-49”,p.. 211-212. “Abolish the balcony access,” Architectural Journal,
21. “Barbican tops ugly buildings poll,” last modified September 22, 2003, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/ england/london/3126946.stm. 22 . David Heathcote, Barbican Penthouse over the City (Great Britain: Wiley-Academy, 2004).
23. David Heathcote, Barbican Penthouse over the City, p. 139.
24. Ibid., p. 132.
25. Nicholas Bullock, “Housing versus Architecture, London 1940-49”, p. 215. 26. Claire Lamghamer, “The Meanings of Home in Postwar Britain,”, p. 350.
27. David Heathcote, Barbican Penthouse over the City, p. 88.
28. Claire Lamghamer, “The Meanings of Home in Postwar Britain”, p. 354.
29. David Heathcote, Barbican Penthouse over the City, p. 139.
30. Ibid, p. 136. 31. Ibid, p. 16.
32. Ibid, p. 139.
33. Ibid, p. 139.
34. Claire Lamghamer, “The Meanings of Home in Postwar Britain,”, p. 353.
35. David Heathcote, Barbican Penthouse over the City, p. 142 .
36. Ibid, p. 145 .
37. Ibid, p. 206.
According to Claire Langhamer John was not the only post-war man who is domesticating, she states; “Certainly, new types of housing encouraged owners and tenants to engage in homeimprovement and gardening in their so-called ‘leisure’ time. ‘Home-making’ in its most literal form became a significant pastime for some, though not all, men.”27 Luxury could not only be found in their functions, but also in space. A key concept of the architects’ vision of gracious living was the dramatization of space, the transformation of space into a performance area, or put it more simply, the design of spaces that fostered social interaction and made people look good.28 Of course there was more luxury, before they lived at the Barbican John had to commute in his car, with all the traffic jams of the city. Living at the Barbican changed that for there was a subway under the Barbican Centre. John would walk out of his home and take the elevator to descend underground to arrive at the subway. This luxury of living and travelling by modern means was, for the standard of the time, seen by most as a completely new experience.29 The house in which John and Kathy arrived was designed in a certain manner; the architects were of the opinion that the houses should act as a frame rather than a stylistic straigthjacket.30 Therefore it was delivered undecorated. As recognized by the architects John and Kathy would wish to decorate their house themselves.31 This is an interesting element because it marks the Barbican for not being social housing, for it was the norm in subsidized flats to deliver them fully decorated. The committees at the time expected this for the Barbican as well, which led the architects to make a statement to the contrary.32 This made sure that for John and Kathy it was almost a necessity to decorate their own house and turn it into their home. Coincidently ever-increasing attention was paid to home aesthetics in women’s magazines and wide ranged advice on home design was offered to the readers.33 Kathy, being a frequent reader of women’s magazines, was more and more drawn into the decoration of their home. The architects did not decide the whole house to be adapted to the wishes of the John and Kathy. According to David Heathcote the architects fully expected the occupiers to own objects and adopt a decorative scheme for their flats to express their individual personality but this does not extend to an interest in the kitchen and bathroom, which still had the connotation of service areas. The architects treated the kitchen in a modernist way, as a functional area that needed maximal technical efficiency and minimal space.34 David Heathcote goes further into this topic explaining that the architects had the assumption that, although the tenants could use the kitchen to feed a family, it was more likely to be used occasionally.35 The fact that their home at the Barbican consisted of two bedrooms was a conscious choice for John and Kathy. For this allowed them to start a family at the Barbican. It was only a year after they moved in when their first child was born. Their new home within the city seemed an ideal place for their child to grow up in. The public space, which the architects designed as a luxurious Italian garden36, provided a sheltered space from the city outside of the barbican. The addition of the London School for Girls to the programme of the barbican contributed to the social nature of the Barbican. Another reason for John and Kathy to start a family was the possibility for the growth of a social community at the Barbican. Acquaintances of John and Kathy who lived at a similar estate in London said; ‘You could always depend on, if you wanted any help there was always a neighbour would help out with something. And it was a very close community.’37
Figure 1: Simmons Aerofilms Ltd, Birdseye view of the bombed site, London, estimated 1940-1945
Figure 2: Graeme Robbertson, Birds-eye view of the Barbican Centre, London, 2007
Figure 3: Kimberley Beimin and Stefan de Vos, Axonometric view of the Barbican, Delft, 2011
Figure 4: Kimberley Beimin and Stefan de Vos, Axonometric view of four dwellings at the Barbican, Delft, 2011
4. The Barbican as a medium for post-war life The Barbican provided housing to almost 3000 couples, in a period of time where great social demographic changes took place. The Barbican has functioned as a stage to accommodate the modern families and their modern lives. Compared to the pre-war generation their lives were totally different, now it was socially accepted for a woman to work as it was for a man to help in the housekeeping. The sizes of the families shrunk significantly to the ideal of the two-children family. New means of transportation were developed, contributing to the way people commuted, forms of “mental” leisure, like theatres and concert halls were actually developed providing space for people to escape their everyday life. The architects of the Barbican designed their building according to these new standards of modern life. By incorporating all sorts of luxurious novelties on the scale of the dwelling as well as the scale of the estate they provided the precondition for modern everyday life to flourish. However Henri Lefebvre blames modernity for the everydayness; he states that the everyday is covered by the surface of modernity. Images, the cinema and television divert the everyday by at times offering up to its own spectacle, or sometimes the spectacle of the distinctly non-everyday of those, who we are to believe defy everydayness.38 He states clearly that a break with the everyday cannot endure.39 However the Barbican provided the preconditions to change the everyday life by means of modern novelties, on the scale of the dwelling, the leisure and modes of transportation, the Barbican is not capable of a permanent break with the daily routine. Families alike John and Kathy’s could experience a drastic break with their previous routine instantly after moving in. This break would be of a temporary nature for a new routine would emerge, distinctively different from their previous one but nonetheless an everyday life in a structure of routine and repetition.
38. Henri Lefebvre, “The Everyday and Everydayness.”, p. 10. 39. Ibid., p. 11.
Bibliography Claire Lamghamer, “The Meanings of Home in Postwar Britain,” Journal of Contemporary History Vol. 40(2) (2005): p 341-362. David Heathcote, “Barbican Penthouse over the City” (Great Britain: Wiley-Academy, 2004). Georges Perec, “Species of Spaces and Other Pieces” (London: Penguin Books, 1997), p 26-59 Harwood, “The Barbican City of London.” DASH Henri Lefebvre, “The Everyday and Everydayness.” Yale French Studies, No.73, Everyday Life (1987), p 7-11. Nicholas Bullock, “Housing versus Architecture, London 1940-49” in Building the postwar world, ed. Nicholas Bullock et al. (London: Routledge, 2002). Russel A. Berman, “The Routinization of Charismatic Modernism and the Problem of Post-Modernity” Cultural Critique, No. 5 Modernity and Modernism, Postmodernity and Postmodernism (Winter, 1986-1987), p 49-68. “Barbican tops ugly buildings poll,” last modified September 22, 2003, http://news.bbc. co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/3126946.stm. “Model for a short-lived future” the Architectural Review (august, 1973) Vol. CLIV number 918. p 67.
Rotterdam, schizophrenic city Modernity: many essays struggle with its definition. The word modern is one that remarkably and constantly changes meaning, confirms Hilde Heynen in one of her essays on this theme.1 However, it seems that everybody can agree with the fact that modernity is related with a strong orientation towards the future. Karl Marx, for example, tries to catch the awareness of modernity with the following sentence: “to be modern is to find ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world, and, at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are…” 2 Modernity therefore breaks with the past and is something that goes further than the individual to a global way of thinking and change. Henri Lefebvre writes in his essay on everydayness that we see a worldwide tendency to uniformity. Within the desire to be modern the society produces standard models to superimpose the impression of speed. This leads to monotonous buildings.3 In addition the philosopher Martin Heidegger even claims that we have lost our control on living. Buildings should be an expression of the way we live. Mass production excludes the individual thought and therefore people aren’t conscious about their way of living anymore, they’re just following the mass. Heidegger states that as the old German word bauen means dwelling, we can built whatever we want, but the buildings don’t have any meaning until we learn the real essence of living again.4 Therefore modernity ends up in a state of “homelessness”.5 This essay will try to unravel this complex primal feeling of human being. To better understand this we will refer to the city of Rotterdam, with a deeper focus on Piet Blom’s “Oude Haven”, as a focus point. In May 1940, the Rotterdam city centre has been demolished due to German bombardments in the Second World War. In total, some 260ha of land were destroyed and as a result 24700 homes were lost.6 Still in wartime, the plans for reconstructing the central spine of the town started immediately and municipal developer Witteveen retreated to the library to form the first plans for reconstruction.7 This first plan, designed by Witteveen, consisted very much on recon straining the historical values of Rotterdam.8 Because of the war there was an enormous pressure on building materials, this pressure resulted in a shortage which was the fundamental reason Witteveen’s plans were considered unbuildable in a very early stage.9 Witteveen’s plan was already replaced by an alternative proposal before they started with the official reconstruction. The new Basisplan [figure 1], designed by Van Traa, was formed with the modern principles of the CIAM (Congrès International d’Archicture Moderne) in mind and showed a plan based on the economic future of Rotterdam.10 Because of the enormous growth in population after the Second World War most of western society was given the challenge of creating massive housing complexes. According to McCarthy, the CIAM principles consisted mostly out of clear structuralized monotonous buildings. 11 The debate in Rotterdam around the Basisplan was done publicly. The main forum for this debate was the newspaper De Rotterdammer that was read by all social levels of Rotterdam. This open debate suggested that the process would be “bottom up” because of the public nature of it; this was unfortunately not the case. The several groups, with mostly an architectural background, who participated in the discussion around the forming of the new city centre, were mainly in favour of a functionally designed central business district (CBD). This functionality was to be gained by a modernist idea of separating the programmatic elements of living, leisure, working and circulation. Pleasant living neighbourhoods would be placed just outside the CBD and would provide proper housing facilities. It has to be noted that not everybody shared that idea of the separation of functions. Especially Rotterdam’s civil society as well as architectural subgroups gave criticism in the forum of the Rotterdammer. 12 The Basisplan did, despite criticism, separate the different functions of living, leisure, working and circulation. The city centre should accommodate a shopping district, a cultural area and several offices, while housing will be moved to new neighbourhoods
1. Hilde Heynen, “Architecture Between Modernity and Dwelling: Reflections on Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory”, Assemblage 17 (1992): 80
2. Quoted in Ibid.
3. Henri Lefebvre, “The Everyday and Everydayness”,Yale French Studies 73 (1987): 10
4. Martin Heidegger, “Bouwen Wonen Denken”, in “Dat is Architectuur”: sleutelteksten uit de twintigste eeuw, ed. Hilde Heynen, André Loeckx, Lieven de Cauter and Karina van Herck (Rotterdam: Uitgeverij 010 2004), 291 5. Hilde Heynen, “Architecture Between Modernity and Dwelling” (1992): 81 6. John McCarthy, “The redevelopment of Rotterdam since 1945”, Planning Perspectives 14 (1999): 294 7. Ids Haagsma and Hilde de Haan, Stadsbeeld Rotterdam 1965-1982 (Utrecht: Uitgeversmaatschappij B.V. 1982): 76 8. Cordula Rooijendijk, “Urban ideal images in post-war Rotterdam”, Planning Perspectives 20 (April 2005): 182 9. John McCarthy, “The redevelopment of Rotterdam since 1945” (1999): 295 10. Ibid. 11. Ibid.
12. Cordula Rooijendijk, “Urban ideal images in post-war Rotterdam” (2005): 197-198
by Lizzy van der Berg and Dirk Huibers
13. “Basisplan voor de wederopbouw van Rotterdam” accessed May 9, 2011, http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basisplan_ voor_de_Wederopbouw_van_Rotterdam
14. Ben Highmore, “Between modernity and the Everyday:Team 10”,Team10online (2003): 41, accessed May 31, 2011, http://www.team10online.org
15. Ids Haagsma and Hilde de Haan, Stadsbeeld Rotterdam 1965-1982 (1982): 29
16. Jaap Hengeveld, Piet Blom (Amersfoort: Hengeveld Publicaties 2008): 7
17. Ids Haagsma and Hilde de Haan, Stadsbeeld Rotterdam 1965-1982 (1982): 82 18. Ibid.: 58 19 Ibid.: 94
20. Ibid.: 88
21. Henri Lefebvre, “The Everyday and Everydayness” (1987): 10
outside the city ring. To connect these functions a rationally planned network of streets will connect the CBD with the suburbs.13 In a broader perspective the Basisplan can be seen as a fine example of what Lefebvre mentions as the “everyday” which results in a product manipulated by producers in a top-down manner, in this case Van Traa and his team of urban architects. A first reaction against the monotonous building of the CIAM era came by a group of architects called Team 10 who wanted to rethink urban design strategies. One of the core elements of Team 10 urban design was the reintegration of the programmatic functions originally separated by CIAM. They wanted to create recognizable cities with character, which related a more human scale that the family man could identify with.14 In Rotterdam at the end of the 1950’s first criticism on the Basisplan started to emerge. Arguments often consisted of a lack of homely feeling in the after war city planning. Aldo van Eyck, one of the core members of the Team 10, plays an important role in this dispute. He pleads for the fact that within the large scale, the small scale should always stay visible and vice versa. He drew attention to the complexities of human behaviour that should be reflected in the built environment.15 In this time Aldo van Eyck’s ideas were brought about in the projects of Piet Blom who was his student. Piet Blom’s first urban design –a study project- was published in Forum. This design consisted of a cluster of dwellings, which carried the remarkable name: City’s will be inhabited the way villages are lived, dated 1959. Aldo van Eyck used this design to strengthen his campaign against the Basisplan and modernistic after war housing complexes. He even showed Blom’s design at the CIAM-congress and called it a habitat: “that would look more like an arranged kashba then you would believe nowadays.” 16 Criticism against the Basisplan continued throughout the sixties and would reach its highest point when general population started riots against the plans of Van Traa. Up until this time main focus has been on the building of new offices and stores within the CBD together with a substantial amount of new roads, public transportation and parking facilities.17 Habitants described the CBD as “gaping of coldness”, “with many places where the wind blows constantly”. This negative public opinion was due to the open spaces that Van Traa has implemented in his Basisplan, so that the city could be easily intensified in the future.18 Aldermen Mentink agrees with the Rotterdam public: “It is our intention to finish the city around 1990; you can’t permit to leave big peaces of the city empty”.19 Rotterdam architects also started to oppose to the massive post-war office buildings that appear in the centre. Hoogstad claims: “I designed two of the buildings myself, both near the Blaak, but around 1970 I noticed that to much of these buildings would make the city more and more anonymous.”20 This was Rotterdam’s main problem; people lost their connection to the city. They could no longer indentify with the principles the city was originally rooted on and therefore felt lost at home. Henry Lefevbre describes this phenomenon as: “Everyday life has always existed, even if in ways vastly different from our own. The character of the everyday has always been repetitive and veiled by obsession and fear. In the study of the everyday we discover the great problem of repetition one of the most difficult problems facing us. The everyday is situated at the inter section of two modes of repetition: the cyclical, which dominates in nature, and the linear, which dominates in processes known as “rational”. The everyday implies on the one hand cycles, nights and days, seasons and harvests, activity and rest, hunger and satisfaction, desire and its fulfilment, life and death, and it implies on the other hand the repetitive gestures of work and consumption. In modern life, the repetitive gestures tend to mask and to crush the cycles. The everyday imposes its monotony.” 21 This phenomenon has a direct connection to the Rotterdam city centre and could therefore also be seen as a monotonous city. After 25 years, the somewhat capitalistic module implemented on the central business
district of Rotterdam started to receive criticism. The general workmen didn’t feel connected to the renewed identity of the city anymore; people wanted a feeling of smallness and a more homely connection to the city. Biggest fear of Rotterdam city planners was that the city would become a soulless industrialized city, therefore the position of politics towards the public started to shift in ways that would provide more influence on city planning from the main public. This was of course not so much the case in the Basisplan, which was constructed very much “top down”. In the mid-1970s, a major shift in spatial planning arose from a pure functional business core of the Basisplan to a more diverse city centre with mixed uses. The opinion of the Rotterdam public was well represented in an event called Communication 1970 (C70). This event consisted mainly of stands with hand made goods in the middle of the wide sidewalks along the tall office buildings. With the filling of the empty paved spaces the event wanted to relate to a more humanistic scale.22 The “smallness” of this event represents the new vision on urban planning in Rotterdam very well: smaller and more diverse buildings should lead to a livelier streetscape.23 Urban neighbourhoods and culture became the main focus of urban planning and the habitants of Rotterdam are more closely involved in the new development.24 To come closer to this new vision of dwelling in the city centre, a plan was designed that includes the old inner docks (Oude Haven). Without widening and deepening of the shipping lanes, these docks became useless to the shipping industries. The goal was to use these released areas for extra dwellings.25 In 1976 Jan Willem Vader is appointed the position of head of urban planning for the inner city and the extra area of the Oude Haven. The Basisplan suggested that the Oude Haven could best be used as traffic intersects in favour of the Willemstunnel that is going to be built in the future. However Jan Willem Vader was very moved by pre-war photos of the city centre that caused him to rethink the entire area. The Oude Haven has to be a dynamic substance of the CBD with an urban fabric that holds numerous functions like living, working, transport, shipping and trade. A bridge over the river will connect the CBD with the southern part of Rotterdam. Simultaneously with these developments alderman Mentink calls and says: “I want architect Piet Blom to work for us in Rotterdam. I want you to think of a project that we can put him on.”26 Piet Blom was best known for his alternative vision on urban planning in which he was constantly searching for a cluster that can be expanded through a systematic repetition of dwelling. As a reference he often used the Jordaan where Piet Blom grew up: “The whole neighbourhood, everything you could imagine included, was actually your home. You did not even know in which house your friend actually lived. There was certainly no segregation of functions. Everything happened just mixed up.” In this sense he saw the building as a city on its own in which al elements of the everyday should be integrated. 27 This was in clear contrast to the original Basisplan where a segregation of the everyday elements was implemented. During Piet Blom’s college years he got inspired by the many stories that Van Eyck told his students about his trips to Africa. In response to this, Blom focussed his individual studies on the North African Kasbah, which are by means of fortress in a natural way a city within a city. In the early stages of his career Piet Blom gets the chance to realize an experimental dwelling complex with the Kasbah concept in Hengelo. By lifting up the dwellings Piet Blom creates a space underneath that can be used for traffic and other urban activities like shopping, parking, green area’s, playgrounds and meeting places. Within the design of four types of dwelling he creates a differentiated urban enclave. Piet Blom describes the “Kasbah-method” as a system of three-dimensional spatial design wherein the space is given back to the public and the city. 28 Eventually in 1977 Piet Blom was asked to design a mix of housing and recreation uses along the Oude Haven in Rotterdam. Where he needs to connect the Oude Haven with a market square crossing a big traffic road. His original reaction to this assignment
22. Albert van Hattum, “Het Basisplan, 1946: Het plan voor de herbouw van de Rotterdamse binnenstad”, in Stedenbouw in Rotterdam plannen en opstellen 1940-1981, ed. Umberto Barbieri and Roy Bijhouwer (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij en boekhandel Van Gennep 1981): 117 23. “Verlevendiging van de binnenstad”, accessed May 9, 2011, http://www. top010.nl/html/kubuswoningen.htm 24. John McCarthy, “The redevelopment of Rotterdam since 1945” (1999): 305 25. Ids Haagsma and Hilde de Haan, Stadsbeeld Rotterdam 1965-1982 (1982): 94
26. Jan Willem Vader, “Do Not Bomb”, in Het Rotterdam van Piet Blom: Nieuw leven aan de Oude haven, ed. Jaap Hengeveld (Amersfoort: Hengeveld Publicaties 2010): 80
27. Jaap Hengeveld, Piet Blom (2008): 31
28. Ibid.: 68
29. Jan Willem Vader, “Do Not Bomb” (2010): 82
30. Ibid.: 87
31. Aaron Betsky, “Door de bomen zie je stad niet meer: De kubuswoningen van Piet Blom”, Bouw 02 (2006): 11-12 32. Jan Willem Vader, “Do Not Bomb” (2010): 87
33. Hilde Heynen, “Architecture Between Modernity and Dwelling” (1992): 83
was: “You should not stack houses there.You should create a town and a town involves a multitude of exciting adventures! Such an important spot in the city should not be determined by the unique language of just one architect.”29 In that sense it would’ve been logical for the urban planning department of Rotterdam to change the character of the assignment and distribute it to multiple architects. However the city was so confident in Piet Blom’s ability to create a differentiated urban plan with multiple typologies that they accepted the contradiction of the assignment. Piet Blom was forced to make a high-density housing project on a small area, therefore making the desired human scale and open spaces even more difficult to realize. In essence he used an urban roof of houses just like he did earlier in his career at Hengelo. This time he creates a bridge out of cube houses that stretch over the underlying road. On top of this bridge a new city is created using a promenade with small shops on both sides providing working places for the dwellings that are situated above. At the end of the promenade there is a ramp by the waterside that connects the promenade to the quay. This quay, orientated to the west, is a perfect spot for leisure activities because of its orientation to the west, which floods the terraces of afternoon sun. All of these areas in the urban plan were given a different typology in the way that they were organized as well as they were aesthetically designed. Ultimately the programmatic functions separated by van Traa’s Basisplan were reunited again to form a spatial configuration of the new urban plans derived from a bottom up approach. [figure 2] Jan Willem Vader speaks in his essay “Do Not Bomb” of a beautiful urban ensemble that in a refined way plays with the historical situation and combines this with social housing in the highest density of the Netherlands and creates in a short time one of the most desired clubbing area’s of the Netherlands, the integration of the shipping docks, an open air shipping museum, a recognizable place in the eastern inner city and a main tourist attraction for Rotterdam. 30 Aaron Betsky is less complimentary in an article on the cube houses: although the dwellings are filled for twenty years now, the shops in the promenade never reached that liveliness that was expected. He states that the bridge of six meter high is out of scale and therefore the cube houses are an outright disaster on the urban scale.31 Jan Willem Vader confirms that of course not everything succeeded. The bridge functions more like a monument of interest itself, then as the said promenade between the Hoogstraat and the Oude Haven, although that’s more due to the urban development around the library next to Blom’s project.32 In addition to Lefebvre and Heidegger, Adorno states that modernity evokes a “crisis of experience” because it increasingly destroys living conditions that are favourable to real, intense experiences and profound interpersonal contacts. Most important in the succeeding of an art object is mimesis; a moment of cognition.33 Essentially it is this recognition that makes Piet Blom’s project so successful. Rotterdam as a whole starts to reinsert people back into its own being and with this fact doesn’t build to dwell anymore but instead buildings are an expression of the way of living again. The homelessness of Rotterdam civilization was mainly caused due to the early topdown industrialized inhuman dwelling machines made by the modernistic movement, which were placed outside of the city centre. This can be seen as a primary reason why people lost the connection to the city and felt they were lost at home. Eventually these resulted in a push and pull of top down vs. bottom up which can be seen in a wider perspective as a dialog between the modernistic movement and post-modernism, and can be linked to inhuman vs. human, or maybe even homeless vs. home. Ultimately in Rotterdam this conversation can still be seen in the city centre, and it is exactly in this fact that enhances to the richness of the city. The city became a city of “many”, many different urban planning opinions, many different cultures, many different architectural styles and many faces that make Rotterdam the schizophrenic city it is today.
Figure 1: Basisplan 1946 (Source: city archive of Rotterdam, accessed May 31, 2011, http://www. gemeentearchief.rotterdam.nl/brandgrens/images/stories/Wederopbouw/ basisplan_wederopbouw.jpg)
Figure 2: final design Oude Haven (Source: NAI archive)
Bibliography Aaron Betsky, “Door de bomen zie je stad niet meer: De kubuswoningen van Piet Blom”, Bouw 02 (2006): 11-12 Albert van Hattum, “Het Basisplan, 1946: Het plan voor de herbouw van de Rotterdamse binnenstad”, in Stedenbouw in Rotterdam plannen en opstellen 1940-1981, ed. Umberto Barbieri and Roy Bijhouwer (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij en boekhandel Van Gennep 1981), 116-118 Cordula Rooijendijk, “Urban ideal images in post-war Rotterdam”, Planning Perspectives 20 (April 2005): 177-209 Henri Lefebvre, “The Everyday and Everydayness”,Yale French Studies 73 (1987): 7-11 Hilde Heynen, “Architecture Between Modernity and Dwelling: Reflections on Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory”, Assemblage 17 (April 1992): 78-91 Ids Haagsma and Hilde de Haan, Stadsbeeld Rotterdam 1965-1982 (Utrecht: Uitgeversmaatschappij B.V. 1982) Jaap Hengeveld, Piet Blom (Amersfoort: Hengeveld Publicaties 2008) Jan Willem Vader, “Do Not Bomb”, in Het Rotterdam van Piet Blom: Nieuw leven aan de Oude haven, ed. Jaap Hengeveld (Amersfoort: Hengeveld Publicaties 2010): 79-89 John McCarthy, “The redevelopment of Rotterdam since 1945”, Planning Perspectives 14 (1999): 291-309 Martin Heidegger, “Bouwen Wonen Denken”, in “Dat is Architectuur”: sleutelteksten uit de twintigste eeuw, ed. Hilde Heynen, André Loeckx, Lieven de Cauter and Karina van Herck (Rotterdam: Uitgeverij 010 2004), 287-291 “Basisplan voor de wederopbouw van Rotterdam” accessed May 9, 2011, http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basisplan_voor_de_Wederopbouw_van_Rotterdam Ben Highmore, “Between modernity and the Everyday: Team 10”, Team10online (2003): 35-45, accessed May 31, 2011, http://www.team10online.org “Verlevendiging van de binnenstad”, accessed May 9, 2011, http://www.top010.nl/html/ kubuswoningen.htm 23
Rationalism and Monotony by Alix Marchioni and Rick Zwerver
1. Introduction In this essay we will try to make a parallel between two authors, first: Fernand Pouillon, the architect of the “Boulogne- Billancourt” residence project and second: Henri Lefebvre, author of the essay “The Everyday and the Everydayness.” In this French context, we have tried to discover the connections and differences between their positions regarding modernity and the ongoing rationalization at that time. In order to propose an equal parallel, we narrowed our focus on two main themes: first the effect of mass housing on the space it encloses within an urban enclave, showing the potential of composing space on an urban scale. Second the duality of repetition and rhythm, which is able to produce an architectural monumentality due to rhythms and proportions but can also result in a rationalized monotonous feeling of space, causing alienation of a community. Using the architectural approach from Fernand Pouillon, and the thoughts of Henri Lefebvre we will try to unravel these themes by focusing on the residential housing complex: “Point du Jour” in Boulogne-Billancourt, Paris, designed by Pouillon. “Point du Jour” is part of a comparative design research. In this research existing urban compositions are analyzed to gain knowledge about the concept that underlies the architectonic composition of an urban enclave. The composition is analytically decomposed to show the separate parts that form the whole. The comparative design research focuses on different design layers like: building mass, open space, structure, program, boundaries, entrance, routing and ground plane. It aims to result in a critical reflection of the specific investigated urban enclave. The peculiar aspects of the specific project, in our case “Point du Jour” will serve as a starting point of a critical review. The hypothesis is that a rational configuration of building blocks, can contribute to lively enclosed spaces, by responding to its urban context, and generating pedestrian walkways connecting the urban voids.1 To understand the work of Fernand Pouillon (1912-1986) it is necessary to place him in the right context and time, the 1950’s, in the French reconstruction period, a high amount of dwellings needed to be built in a short amount of time, since the second World War had claimed a big amount of dwellings. Taking into account the urgencies of the building time and costs, Fernand Pouillon designs a remarkable amount of dwellings within different urban enclaves like: Marionette, Montrouge, Boulogne and Meudon, all before 1961 and located in the outskirts of Paris. These residential complexes are built in a speed which still seems exceptional for today’s standards. All projects share the same architectural and urban principles; a composition of horizontal blocks and tower blocks delicately responding to its urban context and creating ‘enclosed landscapes,’ vertical accents in the façades, using stone as a main expressive material, the clear sense of scale within the façade compositions give his projects a monumental touch. 2. Point du Jour Mid twentieth century, after the Second World War, there is a housing crisis in France. In this context, Fernand Pouillon was participating in the reconstruction of his country, mainly by designing social housing projects, keeping in mind that low cost and building speed were of the essence. The Point-du-jour – designed in 1957 by Fernand Pouillon, located in Boulogne-Billancourt, in the west of Paris, is a residential complex that counts 2260 dwellings. This large scale housing project was designed within an existing urban context; a residential suburb, where the old Salmson manufactories made place for a densification of the area. For the site that covered around 80.000 square meters, Fernand Pouillon proposed a new kind of city, “The Enlightened City” for ten thousands Parisians.2 Although it was a private project, The “Point du Jour” was also supported by the French government. The main architectural intentions for both parties were: air, sun and avoiding exclusion from its urban context. However it would not succeed if the plot would be
1. Saskia I. de Wit, “Hidden landscapes – The Enclosed Garden as a Prototype for New Urban Spaces,”
2. Pantin Montrouge, Boulogne-Billancourt, Meudon-la-Foret: Fernand Pouillon Architecte (2003): 105
Catalysts for lively enclosed spaces. Fernand Poullon’s ‘Point du Jour’ residence complex as an example
3. Javier Mozas, “Fernand Pouillon. Pantin. Paris”
4. Sam Davis,The architecture of affordable housing, 95
5, Ibid., 97
7. Javier Mozas, “Fernand Pouillon. Boulongne-Billancourt. Paris” (2010)
8. Catherine Sayen and Michel Fayolas, “Quand Fernand Pouillon invente Meudon-la-Forêt,” 37.
totally closed, a new conformism of open order was introduced. In this way Fernand Pouillon designed a plan not really open, not really closed but in between, resulting in an urban enclave, using contemporary urban shapes for collective housing. These urban shapes are organized around three rectangular voids, ‘Place Corneille’, ‘Cours de LongsPres’ and ‘Place Saint-Germain-des-longs-pres’ which are crossed through the whole plot by a linear grid of axis. The construction is designed in rational repetitive concrete slabs and floors. The facades however are decorated with stone or stucco and sometimes fully glazed. The composition of the facades gives the buildings a sort of lightness that masks the tallness and scale of the complex itself and gives it a more human scale. These different sequences of horizontal and vertical blocks allow the association of high and low density. These coexisting towers and slabs are a recognizable feature which Pouillon uses in many of his projects. The facades are characterized by uniformity in the window openings, uniting the blocks as a whole. But the main instruments to order the large residential complex are the vegetation and the water features which are aligned with the architecture and the connecting walkways. Here the project gets its special character, its genius loci. Pouillon was strongly influenced by his master Eugêne Beaudouin, who was to state: “a city is much more interesting for the relationship existing between its voids than that of its filled spaces.”3 This is very vital in all Pouillons projects, where the voids are in fact enclosed spaces varying in size and treatment. These so called courtyards are essential according to Sam Davis: “it is the courtyard, serving as a foyer for the dwellings, that marks the physical and perceptual transition from the outside world to the dwelling unit, much as the sidewalk and front porch do for a house.”4 “The obsession with the single-family house and its attached private patio or garden undermines the needs of the community and group, while courtyard housing reinforces them.”5 These courtyards in Point du Jour are filled with trees, gardens and water to give the generic rationalized boundaries a counterpart and serve as a transition zone from the public to the private sphere. Fernand Pouillon is a forerunner of pedestrian zoning within enclosed spaces, in the “Point du Jour” residence complex; he uses a set of linear axis to create a composition of perceptions for the pedestrian, through a play of volumes and voids, allowing people to walk through underpasses and portals on the ground floor, giving continuity to the walkways. Sam Davis associates the quality of a city as follows: “The best cities are built on a pedestrian’s scale, and they offer pedestrians choice and diversity.”6 It’s important to emphasize this fact which abandons the common modernized and actual hybrid perception of space experienced through the car. In this project, pedestrians can travel through a sequence of courtyards offering a variety of views, sometimes intimate, others monumental, through a playful composition between low and high volumes; human scale is conserved and abandoned resulting in this diverse enclosed space.7 According to the architect, the repetition of the same buildings and same span sizes, are the bases of the project and follow a logical grid. Pouillon explains that: “Regardless of the facade material; stone, brick, glass, iron, the span is perceived by the eye, and therefore by the brain, and imposes a rhythm, scale, and atmosphere.”8 At first this repetition could be interpreted as boring and result into a rational monotony. But thanks to different orientations of the spectator -the points of view are always different- we can have different perceptions of each building, thus making the experience less monotonous than the repetition might suggest. For the architectural scale, the different perspectives of façades lead to different games of shadow play, improving the depth sensation for the pedestrians. 3. Architectural urbanism Pouillon solved this architectural problem of creating a big amount of dwellings based on a rationalized composition of towers and slabs, whereas designing a piece of city on
Figure 1: F. Pouillon, “Boulogne-Billancourt,” Paris, Publication of the project: “la nouvelle ville-lumiere,” (“BoulogneBillancourt, Meudon-la-Foret: Fernand Pouillonm Architecte,” 104-105.)
such an immense scale is beyond architecture. Modernization made it possible to build projects of this magnitude. Due to rationalization of building techniques and procedures, higher production and lower costs were guaranteed. From an economical point of view, building on this scale became an attractive solution for the housing crisis, producing a high amount of dwellings for a low price in a short time, by jumping to a new scale of city densification: architectural urbanism. Lefebvre describes Pouillons profession as follows: “In the domain of architecture, a variety of local, regional, and national architectural styles has given way to “architectural urbanism,” a universalizing system of structures and functions in supposedly rational geometric forms.”9 Pouillon can be seen as an architectural urbanist using rational geometric forms to compose a piece of city. Although the chosen forms can be seen as a collection of universalizing repetitive shapes, the treatment and the composition of these shapes allow the architect to add different layers of perception to the architecture but also to the space it encloses. However the towers and their façades are repeated, Pouillon claims that the rhythm is based on the human scale and the dialogue between architecture and urbanism. Sam Davis describes this shift in planning high density urban fabric as follows:
9. H. Lefebvre, “Everyday and Everydayness,” 8.
“For much of the past fifty years planners, architects and housing administrators made housing choices that sacrificed urbanism. The general public has viewed most of the resulting high-density housing for those with low incomes as the modern equivalent of tenements and slums…Trough urban renewal or abandonment, the buildings that once formed continuous walls that defined streets, made corners, and served as the backdrop for public life disappeared, leaving gaping voids.” Continuing the urban fabric and adding new voids with a function can be seen as counter position towards Davis judgement. The principles for the composition of the Pouillons urban enclave are based on the very composition of a city with its powerful highlights and the mix of built form versus trees, gardens and water, where architectural regularity acts as a balanced boundary for indoor gardens and squares, by alternating narrow streets, facades and sunny courtyards. Pouillon also states that the appreciation for a city comes from its balance, not the size of components, the impressions it makes on us, impressions generated by the proportions and volumes, and the architectural work is unrelated to any measure (excluding that caused by the human scale) and any dimension.10 Davis continues his critique about the housing as follows: “For decades the only housing model proposed for cities was the tower in the park… The park land below was not a park, it was a no-man’s-land—unsafe, dreary and uninviting. The new housing type was the worst of both worlds—unsatisfactory for its residents and for the neighboring area alike. The urban fabric rotted.”11 In retrospect to the tower in the park concept we can make a comparison between Le Corbusiers ‘Unite d’Habitation’ where he designed a massive tower block standing in a ‘green space’ leaving so called no-man’s-land around it. Pouillon on the other hand creates multiple blocks which enclose green spaces and at the same time connecting the urban fabric. These two examples can be related to another point of view by Lefebvre: “Today we see a worldwide tendency to uniformity. Rationality dominates, accompanied but not diversified by irrationality.”12 Relating to this remark, we can state that the irrationality within Pouillons ‘Point Du Jour’ comes mainly from the diversified enclosed spaces, though there is a clear layering in the façade, which contributes to a less rational experience of the high-rise, where the base is a more human scale consisting out of two vertical accentuated stories topped by a varying number of thin horizontal slabs. Compared to the ‘Unite d’Habitation,’ where the façades create an irrational image, Poullions façades create a rational boundary for the irrational diversified courtyards. Both are examples of diversification by rationality, since the starting points of Le Corbusiers
10. Catherine Sayen and Michel Fayolas, “Quand Fernand Pouillon invente Meudon-la-Forêt,” 35.
11. Sam Davis,The architecture of affordable housing, 97
12. H. Lefebvre, “Everyday and Everydayness,” 7.
façades and Pouillons courtyards are both based on rational configurations of linear grid structures. A façade can be seen as a wall, a screen or an object made of solid material on the other hand a green enclosed space is dynamic and allows a space to get a different character, where the facades are merely walls who become spectators of these courtyards. The ‘Unite d’Habitation,’ can be seen as a rational diversified object, which merely stands in an open space as an object, not adding to the quality of the space it surrounds.
4. Conclusion In the “Everyday and Everydayness” Lefebvres defines two modes of repetition:
13. H. Lefebvre, “Everyday and Everydayness,” 10.
14. P. Zumthor, “A Way of Looking at Things,” 21.
“The everyday is situated at the intersection of two modes of repetition: the cyclical, which dominates in nature, and the linear, which dominates in processes known as “rational.” The everyday implies on the one hand cycles, nights and days, seasons and harvests, activity and rest, hunger and satisfaction, desire and its fulfillment, life and death, and it implies on the other hand the repetitive gestures of work and consumption. In modern life, the repetitive gestures tend to mask and to crush the cycles. The everyday imposes its monotony.”13 These two modes of repetition play a key role in the project “Point du Jour” on the one hand there is an urban enclave, which is designed on a large scale by one architect with its universalizing style and repetition. On the other hand, the blocks and their somewhat monotonous appearance do not mask or crush the cycles; instead they provide a monumental décor for the cyclical repetition of nature; the trees, gardens and water will show the seasons. Lefebvre his fear for a monotonous city is not an overstatement, there are examples all over the world were the tendency of low cost and rational production lead to monotonous buildings. However, the way Pouillon distinct himself from Lefebvres idea of the stereotype rationalist urban approach, is the consciousness of the pedestrian, the human scale, the way a building is perceived and the space it creates around and between it. Peter Zumthor describes two ways how to compose space: “I draw spatial diagrams and simple volumes. I try to visualize them as precise bodies in space, and I feel it is important to sense exactly how they define and separate an area of interior space from the space that surrounds them, or how they contain a part of the infinite spatial continuum in a kind of open vessel.”14 In Pouillons work a clear sense of separation of interior space and surrounding space is noticeable though it is on an urban scale. Zumthor also states that: “It is essential to the quality of the intervention that the new building should embrace the qualities which can enter into a meaningful dialogue with the existing situation.” Pouillon actually treats the direct urban context as a delicate tissue, which he uses to compose his intervention while respecting the existing situation and even trying to improve it. In the residence complex “Point du Jour” the space that is enclosed by the building blocks adds something to the everydayness, it is a place for the people to escape from the streets that are dominated by cars, consumers and workers, it is a place to celebrate the cycles of natural repetition.
Figure 2: F. Pouillon, “Boulogne-Billancourt,” Composition of main courtyards. (“Boulogne-Billancourt, Meudon-la-Foret: Fernand Pouillonm Architecte,” 107.)
Figure 3: Le Corbusier, “Unite d’Habitation,” Marseille, Housing block as an object in the green, ignoring the urban fabric. (Retrieved at 28-6-2011, available at http://www.bing.com/maps)
Figure 4: F. Pouillon, “BoulogneBillancourt,” Housing blocks used to enclosed spaces. (“Boulogne-Billancourt, Meudon-la-Foret: Fernand Pouillonm Architecte,” 113.)
Figure 5: F. Pouillon, “BoulogneBillancourt,”Winter season manifesting itself in the frozen pool and snow covered green. (“Boulogne-Billancourt, Meudon-la-Foret: Fernand Pouillonm Architecte,” 123.)
H. Lefebvre, “Everyday and Everydayness”,Yale French Studies, No. 73, Everyday Life (1987), 7-11. P. Zumthor, “A Way of Looking at Things”, in Thinking Architecture, P. Zumthor (Basel/ Boston/Berlin: Birkhäuser, 2006), 9-26. Catherine Sayen and Michel Fayolas, “Quand Fernand Pouillon invente Meudon-la-Forêt” (Revue 92 Dec. 2010), 31-37. Pantin Montrouge, “Boulogne-Billancourt, Meudon-la-Foret: Fernand Pouillonm Architecte” (Paris: Picard Éditeur, April 2003), 100-133. Saskia I. de Wit, “Hidden landscapes – The Enclosed Garden as a Prototype for New Urban Spaces,” Landscape – Great Idea! X-LArch III Conference Proceedings (Vienna, Mattersburg: Wograndl Druck GmbH, April 2009), 140-143. Javier Mozas, “Fernand Pouillon. Boulongne-Billancourt. Paris”, June 2010, A+T, http:// aplust.net/permalink.php?atajo=_fernand_pouillon_boulongnebillancourt_paris &filtrado=cat (accessed June 2011). Javier Mozas, “Fernand Pouillon. Pantin. Paris” June 2010, A+T, http://aplust.net/permalink. php?atajo=fernand_pouillon_pantin_paris&filtrado=cat (accessed June 2011). Sam Davis, The architecture of affordable housing, (Berkley, California, University of
Chassé Park: A masterplan misunderstood? Once, there was no discussion whether architecture was art or a form of applied social studies. And then Modernism ruined it for all of us. As noted by John Habraken1, up until Modernism architecture was focused on the extraordinary. It stood outside of the realm of the everyday. Modernism brought with it a complete redefinition of both the everyday and the built environment.2 The everyday became industrialised3 and was picked up by architects as a part of their field. Unfortunately the Modernists did not sufficiently think about how one would design for the everyday. Habraken’s solution is a clear separation of structure and infill. The structure should be able to last a century whereas the infill can be changed every decade. Of course, when developing a masterplan, one is mostly engaged with the structure. Rem Koolhaas, however, is said to be focused on structure more than other designers. His way of structuring is all about programme, to create frameworks for scenarios. “As scriptwriter Rem magnified the importance of the programme in architecture. Already established from Modernism’s outset in one form, amplified by Team X in another, the notion of the plan as scenario became central to the work of OMA, growing in importance to the point where it became a bureaucratic tyranny.”4 Yet when looking at the Chassé Park, a strict framework or ordering structure is unapparent. Is the Chassé Park the odd one out in OMA’s body of work? The strategy of OMA Rem Koolhaas describes himself as an extreme rationalist: ”I love what is rational, and this in itself is irrational. It’s a powerful tool because, when you go right to the end of an extrapolation, you always discover amazing things. So maybe it’s my fundamental lack of imagination that has made me hang on so much to logics that may turn out to be paradoxical or unexpected.”5 This extrapolated rationalism has given rise to what can almost be described as a pessimistic view of the impact of architecture on the everyday. The most obvious example of this must be “The Generic City”. Its urbanism and architecture are transient and non-descriptive, its history non-existing.6 Yet according to Koolhaas, this is our reality: “People can inhabit anything. And they can be miserable in anything and ecstatic in anything. More and more I think that architecture has nothing to do with it. Of course, that’s both liberating and alarming. But the generic city, the general urban condition, is happening everywhere, and just the fact that it occurs in such enormous quantities must mean that it’s habitable.”7 So even though the Generic City might be on the extreme end of rationalism, this This self-proclaimed rationalism is also visible in OMA’s strategies for urban design. An example of this is the masterplan for Ville Nouvelle Melun-Senart8 from 1987. It consists of a 5000 hectare plot of land south of Paris, overlaid with a very rigid structure of voids. These voids are based on relations between existing villages and infrastructural elements, and are meant to keep certain relationships between elements and qualities of the existing situation intact.9 The strategy of OMA is to create a framework, a structure that steers what can and cannot happen. “Instead of a city organized through its built form, Melun-Senart will be formless, defined by this system of emptinesses that guarantees beauty, serenity, accessibility, identity regardless – or even in spite of – its future architecture.”10 The new town can grow according to its own pace and create its own infills where needed. This strategy of planning the voids can be seen as an example of the extreme separation of structure and infill of Habraken.11 Habraken himself stated in his inaugural speech at the Technische Hogeschool Eindhoven: “The everyday cannot be created. It can only arise. A building can be created. A plan can be created. A law can be created. But a living environment is the result of a social process. The simple truth is that the everyday cannot be created for a society, it can only arise from that society.”12 For OMA this means creating a framework in which this process can thrive, on often complex sites such as Melun-Senart or the site of Euralille, another masterplan project in
1. John Habraken, Het alledaagse: Over het ontstaan van de omgeving van alle dag. [Lecture] (Eindhoven,Technische Hogeschool, 8 juni 1967) 2. H. Lefebvre, “Everyday and Everydayness”,Yale French Studies, No. 73, Everyday Life (1987). 3. Ibid.
4. Lara Schrijver, “OMA as a tribute to OMU: exploring resonances in the work of Koolhaas and Ungers”The Journal of Architecture volume 12, issue 3 (2008), 243
5. François Chaslin, “Un rationalisme paradoxal, Entretien avec Rem Koolhaas”, l’Architecture d’aujourd’hui issue 280 (April 1992),169. 6. Rem Koolhaas S,M,L,XL. (New York: The Monacelli Press, 1998), 1252-1263.
7. Katrina Heron, “From Bauhaus to Koolhaas”,Wired volume 4, issue 07, July 1996, http://www.wired.com/wired/ archive/4.07/koolhaas.html (accessed: 16 May 2011). 8.This masterplan for a new town in France was designed by a team consisting amongst others of Rem Koolhaas and Xaveer the Geyter. Both were also part of the design team of the Chassé Park, Breda. 9. Rem Koolhaas, S,M,L,XL, 979. 10. Ibid, 981. 11. Habraken, Het alledaagse.
12. Ibid.Translated from the original source text in Dutch.
by Jurgen Beliën and Bas Looman
13. Rem Koolhaas, S,M,L,XL, 969. 14. Katrina Heron, “From Bauhaus to Koolhaas”.
15. Chaslin, “Une rationalisme paradoxal”, 169.
16. John Westrik, “Het campus-model als succesformule”, Archis issue 7 (1998), 29-33.
17. OMA, Breda Chassé Campus, Netherlands, Breda, 2000, http://www. oma.eu/index.php?option=com_projec ts&view=project&id=471&Itemid=10.
18. Westrik, “Het campus-model als succesformule”, 33.
France. According to Koolhaas, the Euralille project was very much about creating order. “We found ourselves obliged to create an order, to play the role of city planners in the most traditional sense, [...].” It is worth noting that while Koolhaas often foretells the ‘death’ of urbanism13 and architecture14, OMA might still perform traditional urbanism and architecture in practice, whenever the project might demand such a method. It is however often done with a form of restraint. The structure and program is more important than the architecture, according to Koolhaas: “In our approach there is a little distrust for spatial questions and a relative incapacity to talk about them openly, just as there is distrust of the obligation to have architecture, and of the principle that holds that architects can only express themselves by adding on more form, more matter, more substance, in a world that often doesn’t want any more.”15 The campus model of Chassé Park In the early nineties the city of Breda was looking for a way to revitalise the site of the former barracks, that laid in between the perimeter of the old city centre and the Singel. The city chose to put out a closed design competition for the design of the masterplan, open to property developers who would form teams with urbanism firms. The municipal executive proclaimed the design by Ashok Bhalorta of KuiperCompagnons as the winning design. The city council however, preferred the plan of OMA. After three years, both property developers joined forces and commissioned OMA to redesign the Chassé Park based on the previous scheme of the Campus model.16 “The design takes the model of the university campus as point of departure combining urban living with openess [sic]. The reason for this is the position of the Chassé site in Breda – an empty spot in the compact city center but also part of a green lob which leans to the city center and is defined by the three parks (Sport park, Wilhelmina park and Brabant park). The diverse range of buildings placed separately on the site are ‘held together’ by the unifying green space.”17 OMA’s Chassé Park is in essence a collection of seemingly randomly placed buildings on a field: a campus. “By contrast, OMA’s plan has succeeded in breaking the site’s location. It [Chassé Park] has been conceived as a single green space, as a result of which the central city not only acquire a new residential area but a second park as well. It was a shrewd move – after the failure of the competition – to use this so-called ‘campus model’ as a basis for further plan-making.”18 So is this campus model just an excuse for a random placement of architectural elements, or a feasable strategy for urban planning? Historically, the definition of a campus was the grounds, a green field, where the buildings of a college or university were placed. The origins of this typology comes from the United States, where most of the East Coast universities share this lay-out. Nowadays this typology is also used, even in name, for business parks, such as the Google Campus in Silicon Valley or the High-Tech Campus in Eindhoven, and for living environments, such as the Chassé Park. One of the key elements of the campus model seems to be that it tries to capture varied buildings –different in form or function– into one greater whole. The variety within this unity is what binds it together, meaning that individual elements could be altered without forcing the whole to lose its integrity. The architectural infill of OMA’s competition entry for the Chassé Park has been altered a few times before it reached its definitive built form. “OMA’s definitive urban plan (by Rem Koolhaas and Xaveer de Geyter) is largely in accordance with the 1994 competition design. It constructs the Chassé site as one large park-like space, in the middle of which is an underground car park whose roof functions as a plaza in the park. The key departure from the earlier design is that all of the buildings (except for De Geijter’s [sic] residential towers) have been replaced by new ones designed by other architects. West 8’s design for the Chassé site is an elaboration of the campus model, with the campus configured as a park. A planting
Figure 1. Preserved buildings.
Figure 2. All buildings.
Figure 3. Grid system.
figure 4. Structure ChassĂŠ Park
Illustrations by Jurgen BeliĂŤn and Bas Looman 35
of oak trees, together with the many existing groves, is to lend cohesion”19 This would mean that even though the buildings have been designed by other architects, and have changed shape during the design phase20, the landscape provides the coherency. But, is this the only feature that keeps the masterplan together? Is the attitude of OMA this lax towards the placement of the buildings and their urban context, or is there actually a strategy at the root of it? A masterplan misunderstood? As noted earlier, the campus model of the Chassé Park gives the casual observer the impression that there is no ordering principle dictating placement of the buildings within the Chassé Park. This impression is strengthened by the appearance of the individual buildings, as well as the irregular shape of both the triangle-based plaza and the green structure surrounding the buildings. John Westrik21 is confident that there is no hidden ordering structure behind the placement of the buildings within the Chassé Park: “It seems that OMA has deployed the concept [of the university campus] in order to sidestep a discussion about the siting of individual buildings in space. Indeed it is far from easy to explain why the buildings are situated where there are.” But, would Rem Koolhaas artificially create a form of disorder? Koolhaas himself writes in S,M,L,XL22: “In our more permissive moments, we have surrendered to the aesthetics of chaos — ‘our’ chaos. But in the technical sense chaos is what happens when nothing happens, not something that can be engineered or embraced; it is something that infiltrates; it cannot be fabricated. The only legitimate relationship that architects can have with the subject of chaos is to take their rightful place in the army devoted to resist it, and fail.” So according to Koolhaas, the ostensible chaos or disorder of Chassé Park cannot be created by the architect. In an interview he explains his position using OMA’s 1994 Euralille masterplan: “It is not correct to say that we tried to escape from order at Lille. On the contrary, even if we do have a limited confidence in the idea of order, and are not even sure of what it means in our day and age, what with the difficulty we had trying to make the ring road, the TGV train station and the towers coexist, any attempt to set up disorder would have been frivolous. [...] We are not deliberately introducing chaos; it is the contemporary system that is doing so, with its contradictory assemblage of architectural wills, populist sensibilities, financial policies, triumphalist dreams and so on. As architects, our contribution to chaos might be to simply take our stand in the ranks of those who are dedicated to resisting it.”23 If Koolhaas means what he says, that chaos cannot be designed, only imposed by preconditions, then the masterplan for Chassé Park cannot be designed to be chaos. The ostensible chaos of the Chassé Park can be explained by the history of the site in the form of the preserved buildings (figure 1). These buildings are found alongside the periphery of the site. The rest of the park follows a pattern based on the periphery. Projecting lines alongside the footprint of the newer buildings of the Chassé Park show a grid system in which a multitude of these lines meet the periphery perpendicularly (figure 3). This is especially apparent when looking at Xaveer de Geyter’s Chassé Park Apartments. The buildings are thus placed on a system of grid lines that sprouted from the periphery. This hidden system of perpendicular lines seems to be what formed the Chasse Park. The end result is an environment that is intriguing and diverse. Its concept avoids repetition, the largest pitfall of rational Modernist town planning. Designing for the everyday means striving for multiplicity: “The everyday cannot be captured in single realisation. It is not singular, it is multiplicity itself. And multiplicity is different from monotony and uniformity, both the result of many repetitions of the singular.”24 Koolhaas was able to create a seemingly unordered‘ living environment, without artificially planning
19. Ibid, 33-34. 20. Even after OMA was commissioned to redesign the Chassé Park masterplan, there were multiple variations published. There are for instance notable differences in building volumes in publications of the plan from 1996 and 2000.
21.Westrik, “Het campusmodel als succesformule”, 33.
22. Koolhaas, S,M,L,XL, 969.
23. Chaslin, “Une rationalisme paradoxal”, 168.
24. Habraken, Het Alledaagse.
25. Chaslin, “Une rationalisme paradoxal”, 169.
26. Lara Schrijver, “OMA as a tribute to OMU”, 256.
chaos, by using the context. “By definition, the architect is someone who is impatient of whatever he finds on the site that hampers him. But the ‘found object’ extends architectural potential. [...] It introduces a complexity that would be artificial otherwise.”25 The ‘found object’ Rem Koolhaas mentioned is in this case the remnants of the old Chassé terrain. Together with newer buildings and the Chassésingel, they form the barrier of the park. Emerging from this barrier are the guides that dictate the placement of the other buildings. Because of their origin, these guides meet each other in unexpected ways. The urban space between the buildings, where buildings aligned to different grids meet, is almost formed by coincidence. Exactly this ‘coincidence’ is the basis of the perceived chaos of the design. This coincidence is exaggerated in the design of the square of triangles by West 8. Generally speaking, OMA designed a set of rules based on the context, combined with a certain urban typology. This set of rules would then generate a ostensible chaotic and ‘lively’ situation without directly having to design a pretend chaos. Conclusion When looking at the Chasse Park for the first time, it is quite easy to join people such as John Westrik in their opinion and to criticise OMA for using the campus model to “sidestep a discussion about the siting of individual buildings in space”. From the point of view of the open space, the buildings do seem randomly placed. However as with other designs by OMA, there is a system of intervention and laissez-faire at work. It embraces and emphasises the multiformity of the contemporary city. Any paradox in this system becomes its strength. “The projects of OMA tend to call attention to oppositions rather than subdue them.”26 In the case of the Chassé Park, the oppositions are the city and the park. Its clash is the campus model. The campus model provides the multiplicity that is needed for a city to develop, while the ostensible chaos of the actual arrangement can lower the threshold to adapt the park to future requirements. The relationship between open space and buildings is oblique, they are not directly linked. This is in a sense a sharp separation between structure –the park– and infill –the buildings– on an urban level. Looking at the project from this point of view, one would imagine it to function more like an actual part of the city than most other contemporary urban plans. The critique of John Westrik could actually be seen as proof that OMA’s hidden structure is so well executed that it is unnoticed even by some experts. And if this is true, then it could also be true that the campus label is a way to sidestep the discussion about the siting of the buildings, as a hidden system is best kept hidden.
Bibiography François Chaslin, “Un rationalisme paradoxal, Entretien avec Rem Koolhaas”, l’Architecture d’aujourd’hui 280 (april 1992),162-169. John Habraken, Het alledaagse: Over het ontstaan van de omgeving van alle dag. [Lecture] (Eindhoven, Technische Hogeschool, 8 juni 1967) Katrina Heron, “From Bauhaus to Koolhaas”, Wired volume 4, issue 07, July 1996, http:// www.wired.com/wired/archive/4.07/koolhaas.html (accessed: 16 May 2011). Rem Koolhaas S,M,L,XL. (New York: The Monacelli Press, 1998). H. Lefebvre, “Everyday and Everydayness”,Yale French Studies, No. 73, Everyday Life (1987), 7-11. OMA, Breda Chassé Campus, Netherlands, Breda, 2000, http://www.oma.eu/index. php?option=com_projects&view=project&id=471&Itemid=10. (Accessed: 25 May 2011) Lara Schrijver, “OMA as a tribute to OMU: exploring resonances in the work of Koolhaas and Ungers” The Journal of Architecture volume 12, no. 3 (2008), 235-261. John Westrik, “Het campus-model als succesformule”, Archis issue 7 (1998), 28-35. 37
A Modern Traditionalist (?): A.J. Kropholler Introduction In the south-east of the Dutch capital Amsterdam lies a small urban enclave called Linnaeushof. Closed off from the surroundings and focused on a large church in its middle. This catholic church is the Church of the Holy Martyrs of Gorcum and was designed by Kropholler in 1927 together with the housings and monastery around it. The housing served exclusively the people affiliated with the church and Linneaushof provided them with all the services and amenities they could ever need; the inhabitants could live out their days almost exclusively in Linnaeushof, as apart from the aforementioned church and housing, the urban enclave also included a school and shops.1 Nowadays, fewer people attend the church and not all the inhabitants of the enclave are affiliated with it. The focus has shifted somewhat, as the shops are also largely gone, to the tennis courts just beside the church. However, due to the spatial articulation and the particular functional (traffic) connection to the urban network of Amsterdam, Linnaeushof is still very much an enclave, with a strong identity and perhaps some distance from its immediate context. The enclave was built just as modernism in Architecture was growing more and more influential, and although Kropholler is viewed as a traditionalist, his attitude towards the problem of mass housing and metropolitan living suggest, but at the same time transcends the modernist paradigm. A Brief Description Alexander Jacobus Kropholler was born in 1881 into a large family of 5 children: two of the children grew up to be architects, two became musicians in Germany and one became an artist. The Kropholler family was very artictic. A.J. Kropholler became wellnown for his Berlage-influenced architecture; especially due to his designs of sober brick churches and town halls. In the 1920s and 1930s, Kropholler, as all the Dutch architects at the time, wordked within a field which was split into several groups of differing positions and ideologies2 many of them, such as the Amsterdam School, de Stijl and even Nieuwe Bouwen claimed to be influenced by Berlage. While some architects, such as Rietveld, who transitioned from De Stijl into Het Niewe Bouwen, Kropholler always kept faithful to the rational and somewhat traditional-looking architecture and the “Hollandse bouwtraditie” (Dutch building tradition)3. For over 10 years, Kropholler worked together with Staal. They developed a style that combined Berlage’s influences and the high-rise architecture of the USA. After they split, Kropholler focused solely on the “Hollandse bouwtraditie”. After the ending of the cooperation with Staal, Kropholler joined the “Algemene Katholieke Kunstenaars Vereniging” an associations of catholic artists, in which other figures, such a Granpré Molière belonged as well. After his accession, churches formed an import role in the oeuvre of Kropholler; he designed about 18 churches and several town halls.4 The building of the church in Linnaeushof was financed by the sale of the surrounding dwellings, thus the whole enclave was focused toward the inside; the church. When one stands in the enclave, one can hardly notice the surrounding city-fabric of Amsterdam. The housing scheme is really closed off from the surroundings, but it is not a gated community; anyone can enter. There are three openings in the building blocks where people can get in and out of the enclave, two larger ones that can be used by cars and one small just enough for the pedestrians. In the enclave there are 3 different kinds of facades that surround the central space (where the church stands), however they bear a marked resemblance to each other, the biggest difference between them is in the articulation of the roof. But all the facades consist of red hand formed brick, even the church, forming a diverse, if not sober scheme. The plans on the other hand are the standardized behind every facade, only the housing on the corners have different plans, but that is mainly because of the different shape of these buildings. Kropholler likely wanted to create diversity in housing types and plans but also needed to approach the enclave as a mass
1. Baar,W. N. P.-P. d. (2002). 75 jaar Linnaeushof. Ons Amsterdam, 54(12), 402-406. p. 403
2. Searing, H. (1983).The Dutch scene: Black and Red All over. Art Journal, vol. 43(Revising Modernist History: The Architecture of the 1920s and 1930s), p. 172 3. NAI. (2011). Kropholler, Alexander Jacobus. Retrieved 23 May, 2011, from http://zoeken.nai.nl/CIS/persoon/1437
4. Hofstede, A. C. H. (1985). A.J. Kropholler Een onbekend Amsterdams architect. Ons Amsterdam, 37(4), 92-96 p. 94
by Peter Smisek and Marcel van Bockhoven
5. Ibid. p. 95
6. Searing,H.The Dutch scene. p. 173
7. Hilliker, L. (2001).Tin the Modernist Mirror: Jacques Tati and the Parisian Landscape.The French Review, vol. 76, 318-329.
housing project because of its size. Thus the project contains a few standard plans (maisonettes, row-houses and apartments, for example) within a larger scheme. The design also needed to be built cheaply, because the profit from the sale of the houses went toward financing the church. The Linnaeushof can therefore be seen as a combination between modernist thinking on rationalized dwelling and traditionalis formal language. However, it should be noted that Kropholler himself opposed modern architecture of it time5, and probably never wanted to make a modern design. That’s probably why Kropholler tried to make various façades for the different blocks, even if the floor plans were almost the same. Therefore positioning Linnaeushof in a history of Dutch dwelling architecture might be more problematic than it would seem. While historians have largely focused on de Stijl and Nieuwe Bouwen as the most prominent movements in the building in the inter-war period6, Searing points out that many developments are being re-evaluated, especially those who, like Kropholler, have been largely influenced by Berlage and even the strongly traditionalist “Delft School” of Granpré Moliere. However, with hindsight, it might be considered that the combination of a perhaps more traditional articulation, mass housing and its unique position as an enclave within the greater metropolitan network of Amsterdam has made Linnaeushof an attractive place for its inhabitants. Far from the modernist dream-turned-nightmare of bare, transparent, standardised and ultimately controlling housing that can be seen in the film “Playtime”7 which, much like Lefebvre, criticizes modernism’s tendency to design only in terms of functional relationships and machine production, which results in a bland environment that is more like a prison for the human inhabitant. We would like to discuss Kropholler’s attitude to the nature of modernity, identity and the facilitating everyday as it is evident in his Linnaeushof project in Amsterdam. Here, a certain amount of perhaps seemingly opposing attitudes are present which we will now analyse in more detail, specifically dealing with the architect’s treatment of place, identity and the problem of dwelling and mass housing.
8. Lefebvre, H., & Levich, C. (1987).The Everyday and Everydayness.Yale French Studies, 73(Everyday life), 7-11., p.9 9. Lefebvre, H., & Levich, C. (1987).The Everyday and Everydayness.Yale French Studies, 73(Everyday life), 7-11., p.9 10. Lefebvre, H., & Levich C.,The Everyday and Everydayness p.10
11. Heynen, H. (1999). Architecture and Modernity: A Critique. Cambridge: MIT Press, p. 15
Everyday life as facilitated by the architecture of Linnaeushof Lefebvre argues that the modern project has led to an autonomy of different disciplines and thus severed as inherent order present in everyday life, all the while placing a very strong conscious emphasis on the link between form and function 8. And while certain architects, such as Venturi and Scott-Brown have tried to salvage the inherent symbolism and meaning in architecture, they failed to relay all but the simplest architectural messages, such as “I am rich” and the like9. Truth be told, this effort might have come a little too late. By the time Venturi and Scott-Brown published “Learning from Las Vegas” in 1972, the Western civilization had already been stripped of any inherent underlying system, except the debased, commercialised, and as Lefebvre argues, commercially controlled everydayness10. Linnaeushof, a project built along a more traditionalist lines in the inter-war period, does not seem have been influenced by modernity, indeed, it fits quite snugly into Heidegger’s description of an ideal dwelling, as it conforms to all four of his requirements (connection to heaven, earth divinity and mortal11, especially if we consider the whole plan (and so the church) as an extension of the individual dwelling. This allows true dwelling to take place, and thus provides its inhabitants with a sense of identity. This is especially true if we consider the circumstances under which Linnaeushof was built. As a small catholic enclave in Amsterdam, with a church, a cloister and a school, it provides community facilities for its inhabitants that surely strengthen a sense of belonging to a place. Furthermore, the whole project is orientated toward the church in the middle of the block and
provides a literal and symbolic focal point12. Such intense focus on place-making betrays a humanist approach to architecture. However, far from being completely traditionalist, or anti-urban, as is the case of Granpré Moliere’s Vreewijk in Rotterdam13, the Linnaeushof also displays an unusual stance towards urbanity and technology. The project’s embedidness and functional traffic connection with the metropolis is softened by the articulation of the transition from the main roads into the block. Furthermore, far from being a mere imitation of a village square, the height of the buildings, the rationalisation of the façade, which means that maximum effect is reached with a few variations in the articulation and the standardised floor plans of mid-rise apartment buildings means that Kropholler was most likely aware of the discourse on affordable dwellings and his design can be seen as an alternative to the modernist abstract projects by J.J.P. Oud in that were built even before his time. The design by Kropholler attaches a great importance to the familiar, the recognizable and the identifiable. Thus, there seems to be a slight discrepancy between the more “modern” concern of the architects, such as the standardized apartment units and rationalized façade designs with the more traditionalist articulation and detailing. And while some scholars argue that tradition is not a static thing in itself, but is capable of gradual change over time14 , the three approaches that Alan Mann describes are as follows. The traditionalist approach where the architects presents no innovative features and does things “as they have always been done”, the modernist method, in which the architect reinvents the wheel, or a third way (which was proposed by Eco) where the architect would “link the basic codes and conventions of society...its basis exists within the framework of social and aesthetic expectations. At the same time, this architecture would anticipate cultural, technological and economic changes...”15. Linnaeushof certainly answers the call for a catholic enclave, but how about anticipating various changes. While we cannot speak for the architect, but the project itself makes is still standing, though not all the original functions have been kept. Furthermore, we can see that the varied availability of dwelling types and dwelling areas has stood the test of time very well, especially since big cities require a mix of functions and residents16. Furthermore, instead of working-class Catholic families, the apartments now sell for high prices to the well-to-do. What we propose is that the project could be classified as proto-critical regionalist. Kenneth Frampton argues that critical regionalism is not a certain unified style, but an attitude adopted by the architect toward the matter at hand, critical regionalism is framed as neither populist nor back-ward looking, but as mindful of cultural context, concerned with place-making and in touch with the global architectural discourse17. The list of critical regionalist architects includes such diverse figures as Botta, Barragán and Ando, however, their architectures are very diverse. Especially interesting is Barragán, who “veered towards a nostalgic anti-modernism”18, thus showing that the personal conviction of critical regionalists is also not a monolithic thing, but can vary from architect to architect. Moreover, Goldhagen argues that modernism should be viewed neither as a style, nor as a political movement within architecture, but rather a discourse of architects who have decided not to ignore the onslaught of modernity19. That is why the modernist discourse, in its various phases, was able to discuss such diverse issues as rationalization and standardisation, pop culture and social agenda20. Kropholler might not have been a fully fledged modernist, although his Linnaeushof does show several strains in common with the pastoral view of architectural product in modernism21, namely the belief that architecture can provide a soothing environment
12. Alexander, C. (1977). A Pattern Language. New York: Oxford University Press., p.606-608 13. Barbieri, S.U.,Van Duin, L. (2008) Honderd jaar Nederlandse Architectuur, 1901-2000:Tendensen, hoogtepunten. Amsterdam: SUN., p 94
14. Mann, D. A. (1984). Between Traditionalism and Modernism: Approaches to a Vernacular Architecture. Journal of Architectural Education, 39(3), 10-16., p. 12
15. Ibid. p.15
16. Jacobs, J. (1961) Life and Death of Great American Cities, New York: Random House
17. Frampton, K. (1983). Prospects for a Critical Regionalism. Perspecta, vol. 20, 147-162. 18. Goldhagen, S.W. (2005). Something to talk about: Modernism, Discourse, Style. Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 64(2), 144-167., p.150 19. Ibid. p.154-162 20. Ibid. p.162
21. Heynen, H., Architecture and Modernity: A Critique, p. 5
within the modern metropolis. Furthermore, we can view Linnaeushof as drawing and contributing from and to various fields of modernist discourse, such as mass housing and providing a green living environment in the city. It also caters to the need of appropriation and identification of its inhabitants and is thus far ahead of its time, since these issues would be raised again by Team X after World War II. Thus the architects, while was able to be involved in contemporary architectural discourse, while respecting the cultural context of this particular project, which in our view, is what Frampton describes as the critical regionalist attitude.
22. Curtis,W.J.R., (1996). Modern Architecture Since 1900, London:Phaidon, p.12
23. Ibid. p.620
Conclusion History of architecture, and architectural projects themselves are not always easy to classify, and efforts to make them fit a certain ideology end up selective and therefore limited22 . It seems it is not difficult for an architect to claim a certain heritage. Both Modernist, Amsterdam-school (Expressionist) and traditionalist architects in the Netherlands have claimed to be the successors to Berlage, for example, and in a certain sense, all of them are correct. In Kropholler’s Linnaeushof, we find a surprising mixture of ideas and forms. The green quiet enclave, “an area of quietude” as Le Corbusier would say, is carefully embedded into the metropolitan network. Kropholler, in our opinion, must have been aware of the modernist discourse and have been equally interested in solving the problem of mass housing within the city. However, unlike some of his modernist contemporaries, he did not chose to dissolve the city into a field with housing slabs, nor did he dissolve the city into a low density garden village scheme. While we could argue that any of the following approaches would have been impossible, we only need to take a look at Van Tijen’s and Maaskrant’s Bergpolderflat building to see that an ideologically charged piece of architecture need not take megalomaniac proportions, but can be realized as a manifesto on a smaller area than the grand schemes (of for example Le Corbusier and his projects for cities) would have us imagine. Linnaeushof, due to its unique combination of urbanisation and architectural articulation, becomes an ideal fragment, rather than the fragment of an ideal. In this project, a synthesis of several ideas is realized which hint at a different sensibility than purely a traditionalist one, although we can safely say that Kropholler did reject the formal and urbanistic proposals of the then up-and-coming modernism. The special attention given to place making and identifiable formal language, while dealing with the typically modernist problems of standardisation and mass housing. While it may not have been the architect’s original intention, the project is able to anticipate the future, with subtle differentiation in external and internal articulation, and an inclusion of different dwelling typologies within the project. We believe that this approach can be seen as a critical regionalist one. Frampton essentially sees Critical regionalism as an alternative to post-modernism and populist architecture which included some traditionalists23. Kropholler continues in the Berlage’s footsteps, and while he does reference history, it is never a pastiche or a copy of a pre-existing work, he can imbue his work with the familiar, but it is never cliché. The architect’s sensibility, in regards to the place, the contemporary discourse on mass housing and the a unique take on urbanism in this project can be seen as forerunners of critical regionalist sensibilities that are able to provide an architecture which lends itself to the people and to the place, yet without compromising its integrity.
Figure 1 The enclave
Bibliography Alexander, C. (1977). A Pattern Language. New York: Oxford University Press., p.606-608 Baar, W. N. P.-P. d. (2002). 75 jaar Linnaeushof. Ons Amsterdam, 54(12), 402-406. p. 403 Barbieri, S.U.,Van Duin, L. (2008) Honderd jaar Nederlandse Architectuur, 1901-2000: Tendensen, hoogtepunten. Amsterdam: SUN., p 94 Curtis, W.J.R., (1996). Modern Architecture Since 1900, London:Phaidon, p.12 Frampton, K. (1983). Prospects for a Critical Regionalism. Perspecta, vol. 20, 147-162. Goldhagen, S. W. (2005). Something to talk about: Modernism, Discourse, Style. Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 64(2), 144-167., p.150 Heynen, H. (1999). Architecture and Modernity: A Critique. Cambridge: MIT Press, p. 15 Hilliker, L. (2001). Tin the Modernist Mirror: Jacques Tati and the Parisian Landscape. The French Review, vol. 76, 318-329. Hofstede, A. C. H. (1985). A.J. Kropholler Een onbekend Amsterdams architect. Ons Amsterdam, 37(4), 92-96 p. 94 Jacobs, J. (1961) Life and Death of Great American Cities, New York: Random House Lefebvre, H., & Levich, C. (1987). The Everyday and Everydayness.Yale French Studies, 73(Everyday life), 7-11., p.9 Mann, D. A. (1984). Between Traditionalism and Modernism: Approaches to a Vernacular Architecture. Journal of Architectural Education, 39(3), 10-16., p. 12 NAI. (2011). Kropholler, Alexander Jacobus. Retrieved 23 May, 2011, from http://zoeken. nai.nl/CIS/persoon/1437 Searing, H. (1983). The Dutch scene: Black and Red All over. Art Journal, vol. 43(Revising Modernist History: The Architecture of the 1920s and 1930s), p. 172 Upton, D. (2002). Architecture in everyday life. New Literary History,VOl. 33 (Everyday life), 707-723., p715 42
Figure 2&3:The â€˜differentâ€™ facades and the standardized plans
part B subjective positions by Oliver Ebben
“Thinking Architecture” is the first book of Peter Zumthor’s written oeuvre, first published in 1999 after his built projects were already established in the architectural discussion, in particular after finishing his “Therme Vals” in 1996. In the first chapter of his book, entitled “A way of looking at things” he describes, in narrative style, his observations of the “concrete appearance of the world” creating the imaginary reference book for his architectural vocabulary. Zumthor provides us with a reflection on building determining components, which if being correlated, create architectural entity. Unlike a theoretical construct, his reflections are far from abstract. Rather than seeking objective validity he adopts a subjective position in relation to architectural content, by constantly referring to images of disciplines, other than architecture, such as music and art.
Despite Zumthor’s overarching approach in which references solely serve to demonstrate his conception of architecture, the reader might be tempted to envision buildings whose constructive lines follow the complex structure of a Bach Fuga, being famous for it’s rich ornamentation and show the pureness of Richard Serra’s sculptures at the same time, I assume that’s why some of the authors feel challenged to react.
In “The meaning of detail” George Klamer and Charlotte Nieveen van Dijkum expose Zumthor’s notion of homogeneity as being antithetic to his compositional implementation of building materials, providing technical solutions in order to evoke merely visual qualities - images. By means of a direct comparison between his “Therme Vals” and “La Maison du Brésil” of Le Corbusier, the authors critically describe the “meaning of detail” in Zumthor’s built oevre as primarily accentuating the aesthetic entity of the building itself, and therefore neglecting the unavoidable relation to human scale. Another critical view of Peter Zumthor’s design approach is authored by René Brakels and Kakeru Inuiya. In their article “The pretentiousness of Peter Zumthor” they question the evidence of his written proposition, by providing an analytic view on a selection of his projects and a comparative description, relating his architecture to a postmodern design approach, illustrated by “big gesture” architecture of Venturi, Scott, Brown and the early work of Frank Gehry, such as the Chiat/Day building in Los Angeles. The missing identity of peripheral Dutch housing projects, caused by the absence of historical references is discussed in “Hollow Identity in Dutch housing developments” by Maarten Thewissen and Wieland Boers. By carrying out three case studies, and relating them to Liebeskind’s contextual design approach and Koolhaas’ concept of the “generic city” they point out lost opportunities in dutch town planning. Starting from a discussion on Marc Augé’s treatise on the “Anthropology of Supermodernity” and his definition of “non-spaces”, Rik Holierhoek and Mark Ivangh investigate the correlation between the urban enclave and it’s context in their essay “ Let The Public Create The Realm”. Different from Augé, Stephan Holl embraces modern cities, acting as “fertilizer for the growth of architectures“. By their case study on “Linked Hybrid” the authors expose the devaluation of spatial and programmatic relations between the “city within the city” and it’s urban context.
the meaning of details by George Klamer & Charlotte Nieveen van Dijkum
Introduction What a detail is has changed through the course of time. In early days, a detail was the build interpretation of the workers and craftsmen of the drawings of the architect, which did not contain and details or measurements. The builders supplied the necessary knowledge for making them1. The architect could almost entirely rely on his craftsmen for realizing his designs. According to Marco Frascari this method of producing details became problematic in and increasingly economically motivated society. Buildings were no longer considered vessels for long-lasting cultural and social values but instead seen as economic investments, with intentionally short life spans. In reaction to this, details were no longer solved on site, but on the drawing board. Draftsmanship replaced craftsmanship. The detail was no longer part of the building, no longer a joint, but a graphical means of controlling the work by variable groups of workers, which might even be untrustworthy2. This seems like a major downgrade in the significance of the detail. A different notion of the significance of the detail of Peter Zumthor, we found very intriguing: successful details would clarify the meaning of the building as a whole, of which they are an integral part. This suggests that there is meaning to be found in Zumthor’s details.
1. Frascari, M.,The Tell-the-Tale Detail, 502.
2. Ibid, 503
Admiration for Zumthor’s work, curiosity about Le Corbusier, and a fascination with everything having to with detailing is what led us to researching the details of these two Swiss architects with our focus on extracting their meaning. Surprisingly, Peter Zumthor’s written statements about details are not paralleled in his build works, while on the contrary this is true in the case of Le Corbusier. Our thesis is then that Le Corbusier’s details really do lead to an understanding of his buildings as a whole, even of his view on the world and society, while those of Peter Zumthor are no more than technological solutions for a specific visual perception, which lacks a deeper meaning. The two case study buildings used in this essay are Maison du Brèsil by Le Corbusier and the Therme Vals by Peter Zumthor. First, the term detail is more narrowly defined, followed by brief descriptions of both projects. The different approaches to architecture and the detail of Le Corbusier and Zumthor are then discussed, resulting in the conclusion.
The Context The detail Details are the joints of a building. At least two building elements or components need to come together; else there is no joint, and thus no detail. As Marco Frascari put it “Dictionaries define “detail” as a small part in relation to a larger whole. ... The problem of scale and dimension in those classifications … make the dictionary definitions useless in architecture. However…any architectural element defined as detail is always a joint”3. According to Alberti: “The joint, that is the detail, is the place of the meeting of the mental construing and of the actual construction.” Construction here means building, and differs from the term construing which indicated giving order and intelligibility to the world, or in other words constructing meaning4. For Alberti, the detail is thus where architectural idea meets construction: build meaning. The smallest part creates order for the larger whole. Marco Frascari and Kenneth Frampton both agree with Alberti. Frascari considers details to be “the minimal units of signification in the architectural production of meanings”5 and Frampton calls the joint a “nexus” which can have idealogical and referential roles, part of a tectonic syntax6.
3. Ibid, 501
4. Ibid, 498
5. Ibid, 500 6. Frampton, Rappel à l’ordre, the Case for the Tectonic, 517.
Therme Vals One of Peter Zumthor most well known works is the Therme Vals, a spa in the mountains of Vals, Switzerland. The project was completed in 1997. One of the intentions for the design was to make it look like as if the newly build spa was build long before the al46
Le corbusier versus Peter zumthor
7. Zumthor, Peter Zumthor, works: buildings and projects, 1979-1997, 135-136.
8. Ibid, 139.
9. Gans,The Le Corbusier Guide, 42.
10. Gans,The Le Corbusier Guide, 42.
11. Samuel, Le Corbusier in Detail, 3.
12. Zumthor,Thinking Architecture, 16.
ready existing hotel was built. The spa is built into the mountain slope, south-west of the hotel. It is accessible through a subterranean passage which you enter through the hotel. Zumthor wanted the Therme to look like it had always been there, very minimalistic, and used natural stone,Vals gneiss, quarried 1000 meters up the slope for interior and exterior7. The interior consists of a landscape with number of different ‘blocks’, opening or enclosing connected spaces through which you can wander. Within each block is a ‘special, hollowed-out space’, created for functions that need or benefit from privacy: for instance showers, changing rooms or special baths. According to Zumthor the blocks are loosely arranged to various orthogonal ordering lines, but with an underlying circulation path leading visitors to certain predetermined points, while letting them explore other areas according to their own wishes8. Maison du Brèsil Maison du Brèsil is not one of Le Corbusier’s more famous works, and often overshadowed by its bigger brother, The Pavilion Suisse. Both buildings are situated at the university campus of Paris: Cité Universitaire. Originally build to house visiting Brazilian students, hence the name; it is now open to visiting students of all nationalities. The initial drawings were done by Lúcio Costa, a Brazilian architect, but during the design process he asked Le Corbusier to collaborate with him, who in the end took over the project. The final plan was executed and overseen by Le Corbusier’s office9. Maison du Brèsil consists of a dormitory slab on pilotis, with on the ground floor underneath a freeform volume containing the entrance, shared amenities for the whole dormitory and homes for the dean and the janitor. The upper floors in the dormitory are organized along a corridor, with the student rooms on one side and the shared bathrooms, kitchens, study spaces including spaces for music practice and vertical circulation on the other. Two staircases and one elevator make up the vertical circulation for the whole building. The whole building is made in bare concrete, giving the building’s surface a, familiar, rough look and feel. Costa and Le Corbusier used four colors, a red, yellow, green and blue, inspired by Brazilian culture, to highlight several elements of the building, on the interior and exterior. Maison du Brèsil does not conform to Le Corbusier’s five points of architecture: it is missing the rooftop garden, is does not have a ‘plan libre’ or free plan and although it is on pilotis, the building is not lifted free from the ground as there are communal enclosed spaces all between them. Compared to the Pavillion Suisse or the Unités, Maison du Brésil shows a shift in Le Corbusier’s thinking from his earlier machine age esthetic to a more primitive and plastic10. However, several key concepts remained the focus of Le Corbusier throughout his career. Details: signifiers of meaning According to Flora Samual, the concept of “Unity of idea” is definitely central to Le Corbusier’s work. She describes this as his “desperate attempt to create order in what he perceived to be a fragmented and chaotic world”. As Le Corbusier worded it: “Everything is arranged according to principles consistent with the whole”. Even the smallest building parts, the details, should add to the meaning of the whole11. This seems much alike to what Peter Zumthor has written about the detail: “Details express what the basic idea of the design requires at the point in the object: belonging or separation, tension or lightness, friction, solidity, fragility. Details, when they are successful, are not mere decoration. They do not disturb or entertain. They lead to an understanding of the whole of which they are an inherent part”12. Both architects thus entertain the notion that details should enlarge and clarify the meaning of the larger whole of which they are a part. What this meaning in a building is, however, is wholly different for the two.
Figure 1. Peter Zumthor,Therme Vals, Vals, 1997, Interior of the spa showing the apparent continuous natural stone from inside to outside (HĂŠlĂ¨ne Binet).
Figure 2. Peter Zumthor,Therme Vals, Vals, 1997, Close up of the layerering and detailing of the natural stone in the interior (HĂŠlĂ¨ne Binet).
Different approaches Rationality This difference arises from their very different departure points for architecture. For Le Corbusier, dominating his ideas about architecture was the human body. More specifically, the interaction of the human body with architecture. He believed that the principle instrument to influence human thought was by “influencing the body at a subconscious level”. The body would then transmit impulses to the brain which eventually would alter the state of consciousness13. Le Corbusier was interested in influencing thought, because he aimed to “assist people in the process of ‘savoir habiter’: knowing how to live, to appreciate the important things in life”14. An example of his view on how to live can be found in his ideas about families: “A shorter working day and decreased travel to and from work would allow men and women to spend more time together, resulting in an improvement in their relationships”15. Le Corbusier himself wrote: “A woman, a man and a few children, elements of the harmony of the hearth. But, today, the mother of the family is crushed by housework. A hard lot hers and such a common one that she deserves all our consideration. It is absolutely imperative that women are liberated from the domestic drama”16. “His Unité (Marseille) was designed with the issues of cleaning in mind and would provide the answer to modern life. Le Corbusier’s designs for streamlined homes, labour-saving kitchens with washable seamless surfaces, free-form curves, largely free of cornices, skirtings, mouldings and other dust-collecting details were conceived with the feather duster and mop very much in mind –‘economy in your actions, your household management and in your thoughts”17. Like his famous statement “The house is a machine for living”18. According to André Wogenscky, one of Le Corbusier’s assistants, Le Corbusier was so concerned about designing his buildings to the needs of the human body, that he often asked them to draw plans and section 1:1, designing in full scale19. Feeling Peter Zumthor himself states that he does not work from any theoretical position, but strives towards an “ideal of perception”, or atmosphere in his architecture, of which the underlying reasons are not even clear to him (Zumthor, Thinking Architecture, 35). The atmospheres he is looking for and trying to create are guided by images, stemming from his childhood, his education and work as an architect. These memories, for Zumthor contain the most encompassing architectural experience possible (Zumthor, Thinking Architecture, 9-10). Although he believes “designing is about understanding and creating order”, is not hard to comprehend that the essential or soul of a building according to Zumthor comes from (irrational) feeling and insight (Zumthor, Thinking Architecture, 20). Zumthor even acknowledges the fact that there is a difference between reality and his memories of it, claiming that he has never been or wanted to, a good observer. More important than accuracy to him is the ability to collect moods and feelings from which he can later pick certain details when designing (Zumthor, Thinking Architecture, 45). His attitude towards architecture is foremost a visual one, creating images. The structuring idea for the Therme Vals was the concept of a monolith, hollowed out to provide caves, niches and pools for different uses20. Zumthor wrote about the Therme: “Right from the start, there was a feeling for the mystical nature of a world of stone inside the mountain, for darkness and light, for the reflection of light upon the water, for the diffusion of light through steam-filled air, for the different sounds that water makes in stone surroundings, for warm stone and naked skin, for the ritual of bathing.” In the same paragraph he recalls that he visited the ancient baths of Budapest, Istanbul and Bursa only when the design for the Therme Vals was near completion, only realizing then where his initial images and feelings came from21, suggesting that the origin of his ‘atmospheres’ is
13. Samuel, Le Corbusier in Detail, 39. 14. Ibid, 15
15. Ibid, 50
17. Ibid 18. Le Corbusier,Toward an Architecture, 87. 19. Samuel, Le Corbusier, 65.
20. Zumthor, Peter Zumthor, works: buildings and projects, 1979-1997, 136.
21. Ibid 135.
not very important to Zumthor. He almost seems to treat his own mind as a black box, generating ideas to work with, to explore.
22. Ibid, 273
23. Zumthor,Thinking Architecture, 12. 24. Zumthor, Peter Zumthor, works: buildings and projects, 1979-1997, 136.
25. Ibid, 136. 26. Ibid
27. Zumthor,Thinking Architecture, 18.
28. Ibid, 44 29. Ibid, 14
Craftsmanship Besides propagating his intuitive attitude to architecture in his written works, Peter Zumthor also likes to project himself as a craftsman. Admittedly Zumthor was originally trained to be cabinetmaker and only later as designer at the Kunstgewerbeschule, in Basel, and finally to be an architect at the Pratt Institute, in New York22. Zumthor feels respect for what he calls the ‘art of joining’, the ability of craftsmen and engineers and claims to be designing his buildings to be worthy of their knowledge and present meaningful challenges to their skill23. Considering the Therme Vals, all the technical details there have been designed to strengthen the “monolithic and homogenous presence of the structure as whole” building24. The keyword here is presence. Although Zumthor claims the project was conceived, constituted and constructed monolithically, he calls the wall structure a “homogenous composite construction”. The terms homogenous and composite are contradictory: either the construction is made from one material only: a homogenous construction or it is composite construction, made up of layers of different materials. It cannot be both, and the actual wall structure is a composite of a layer of Vals gneiss and a layer of reinforced concrete, both load bearing, a construction dubbed “Vals composite masonry” by the craftsmen and developed specially for this project building25. Zumthor’s words are thus deceiving. Moreover, waterproofing, thermal insulating and horizontal expansion joints are integrated out of sight, also within these walls26 and the technical infrastructure providing the required climate conditions is hidden in the floors (Hauser & Zumthor , Peter Zumthor Therme Vals, 7). The structure although it is not, does really present itself as a monolith to the viewer: there seem to be no details in the Therme, or they are very, very minimal, the materials appear to be seamlessly joined together. A considerable effort it was surely, but not really showing adoration or decoration of the joints or of craftsmanship. Surprisingly Peter Zumthor claims his favourite drawings are the working drawings, because he finds they reveal the art of joining and human effort that went into a building, which the finished architecture according to him doesn’t easily show27. Hiding all this art and effort is however precisely what Zumthor does in his architecture, especially in the Therme Vals. He goes to great lengths for it. Seemingly, he expresses his respect for the art of joining by constructing architecture which visually seems to have almost no joints. There is no way to tell how the ingenious details of the Therme are constructed by looking at its surfaces. Actually, there seems to be no way at all. Almost everything ever published about Zumthor or his works is written by himself or at least written under his strict supervision, resulting in a handful of books and a short list of articles and interviews. The books are beautifully curated collections of stunning photographs combined with written statements by Peter Zumthor himself. However, nowhere to be found are the technical details by which his architecture is erected. The working drawings Zumthor speaks so fondly of remain hidden, hiding for the general public the art of joining and human effort that went into the Therme Vals. Zumthor’s concealing of the complexity upholding his building seems contradictory to expressing his respect for craftsmanship. Surely a lot of craftsmanship went into the Therme Vals, but apparently the visual presence of the structure in reality and documentation is finally more important to Zumthor than disclosing the making of the joints or stress their presence. The details are super minimalistic and it is all about the ability to impress the viewer. This focus on perception is also clearly expressed by his resistance when clients want him to design simpler and cheaper details, arguing that the only thing what people encountering his buildings in five or fifty years will see is what was actually build and its quality of building, or lack of it28. To Zumthor, the quality of a building is largely determined by the - visual - quality of the joints29. The only meaning in his details is visual.
Figure 1 Alvaro Siza, social housing project BouĂ§a, Porto, 1973-1976, 20032006 (El Croquis, no. 2 (140) )
Figure 3. Le Corbusier, Maison du BrĂ¨sil, Paris, 2007,The door handle of the entrance door showing the curved shape fit to the human hand (Flora Samuel).
Figure 4. Le Corbusier, La Tourette, Eveux-sur-Arbresle, Elevation, section, detail and plan of the outdoor space of a private cell in the cloister of La Tourette (Flora Samuel).
Figure 5 Le Corbusier, Maison du Brèsil, Paris,View of a single loggia, with niche for planter (www.maisondubresil.org).
Figure 6 Le Corbusier, Unité d’Habitation, Marseille,View of the loggia’s (Paul Koslowski), from www. fondationlecorbusier.fr.
Rough but refined Compared to those of Zumthor, Le Corbusier’s joints might seem even unfinished. Flora Samuel calls his details “raw and risky, but loaded with meaning”30. Although le Corbusier was from the very beginning convinced of the need of collaboration between engineers and the architect from the first drafts - which he also practiced31 – the quality of Le Corbusier’s details has been a topic of discussion. Ford and Curtis have both criticized Corbusier for the technological shortcomings of his buildings and his treatment of materials and finishes. Kenneth Frampton is more forbearing, noting the presence of tectonic quality in his works, and Reyner Banham believed Le Corbusier was so famous, making him a too easy target for criticism. Artist Tom Benton considered him obsessive about detailing, pointing to the many sketches for windows mechanisms, lamps and fitments32. Very interesting is a second comment from Edward Ford praising Le Corbusier’s ability to “develop detailing systems that reproduced on a small scale, the organizational ideas of the buildings themselves.” Flora Samuel agrees, stating “Not only do they (the details) express the organizational ideas; they also express Le Corbusier’s philosophies which encompassed not just buildings, but his view of the entirety of existence”33. This is in line with Le Corbusier’s concept of ‘unity of idea’. The main ideas of Le Corbusier can be found in many of the details of Maison du Brèsil. The door handles in the entrance are obliviously shaped with the shape of the human hand in mind, designed to invite touch and support the body34. On the upper floors, in the student rooms, even the furniture is designed by Le Corbusier himself according to his ideas about living. When looking at Maison du Brèsil and any of the Unitès it is clear that the first contains many elements already present in the Unitès, which were specifically designed to economize human actions, as mentioned earlier. This is not surprising because another of Le Corbusier’s interests was the standardization of buildings and building elements. Experimentation was according to Le Corbusier the way to determine ‘ideal standards’, although he never reached this ideal35. The detailing of the loggia’s in Maison du Brèsil is very similar to that of the Unitè in Marseille. Even the outdoor space in the cloister of La Tourette shows great resemblance, both having the same niches, for plants and the bevelled edges of the concrete railing so one can lean comfortably against it. Le Corbusier’s architecture is often very comfortable36. It is specifically these very small details that demonstrate Le Corbusier’s core ideas about architecture, in this case assisting people ‘in knowing how to live’.
30. Samuel, Le Corbusier in Detail, 1. 31. Ibid, 7.
32. Ibid, 4-5.
33. Ibid, 1.
34. Ibid, 47
35. Ibid, 34
36. Ibid, 45
Conclusion Both Zumthor and Le Corbusier have written about making order out of chaos, creating a meaningful whole out of many parts and details that should lead to an understanding of the ideas inside a building. However, while Le Corbusier’s details stem from his philosophy of life: how the body interacts with architecture and standardization, Peter Zumthor’s details are merely a realization of the visual experience he wants to create. These ‘atmospheres’ as he calls them come from childhood memories, his architectural studies and his work as an architect. They are not rational as he himself admits, but arise out of feeling and insight: intuition. He even admits his observations and memories are not very accurate and that he does not wish them to be. The origin of the images is of no importance to him. Le Corbusier’s details might be rough in execution, while Zumthor’s details are beautiful, but the latter are devoid of meaning, empty, because his notion or philosophy of architecture could be said to be non-existent or so abstract it has no definite impact on his architectural forms. He just tries to realize images he has in his mind, and there is no significant meaning in these images. The order he speaks of is only a visual order. Le Corbusier’s details however do reproduce the ideas of his buildings themselves, his view on how society should function, how people should live, and how the human body functions. The classical commonplace architectural critique that a 54
building might have been great architecture if somebody had worked out the details, of course holds a certain truth. However the quality of a detail is not only determined by the quality of the materials or the way of construction, but also by the quality of the idea behind it, the construing. In this light we value Le Corbusier’s rough details to be more significant as transmitters of certain values and ideas and consider Zumthor’s details to be superficial technological solutions for his visual creations, devoid of meaning, however beautiful they are.
Bibliography Frampton, K., Rappel à l’ordre, the Case for the Tectonic. In: Theorizing a new agenda for architecture, An anthology of architectural theory 1965-1995, Red. Nesbitt, K., (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996). Frascari, M., “The Tell-the-Tale Detail” In: Theorizing a new agenda for architecture, An anthology of architectural theory 1965-1995, Red. Nesbitt, K., (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996). Gans, D. The Le Corbusier Guide. (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1987). Le Corbusier, trans. Goodman,J., Toward an Architecture. (London: Frances Lincoln Ltd, 2008) Samuel, F., Le Corbusier in detail. (Architectural Press, 2007). Zumthor, P. & H. Binet. Peter Zumthor, works: buildings and projects, 1979-1997, (Boston: Birkhauser, 1999). Zumthor, P., Thinking Architecture, (Boston: Birkhauser, 2010).
Figure 7 Le Corbusier, Maison du Brèsil, Paris,View of the loggia’s, similar to the designs for the Unité d’Habitation and La Tourette (www.maisondubresil.org).
The pretentiousness of Peter Zumthor Introduction Peter Zumthor’s philosophy is that his architecture should be timeless and unpretentious. By comparing his design ideas with other architects in relation to his statements we will see that his buildings cannot back up these claims. As a context-orientated architect he gets his inspiration from the site and aspires to build low key, non-intrusive buildings that almost dissipate in their environments. His vision is to design buildings that look as if they have always been there and even explain to us additional aspects of their surroundings, he even goes so far as to desire his buildings are not noticed anymore after a while. Through architecture critics like Colin Rowe and Peter and Alison Smithson we will be looking at context and integration aspects, while with architects such as Steven Holl, Tadao Ando, Robert Venturi, Frank Gehry and Gerrit Rietveld; detailing, art and architecture and shape. Through these comparisons we will see that Zumthor’s claims will not stand. Context & integration Peter Zumthor states, “Our times of change and transition do not permit big gestures.”1 This refers to the fact that traditions break down and with them the identities that culture bring along as the cohesion within a larger varied group.2 We can look at architecture like that of Venturi, who makes grand gestures and specific time-based architecture (figure 1) and immediately feel how out of date it would be now (if it would have still existed) as opposed to it just being different in its own time as intended. This means that Zumthor sees any statement in a building to be a passing fad, not relevant or real. Colin Rowe agrees with Zumthor in the search for the ‘real’ in saying that architecture is not subordinate to Zeitgeist, programme or technology. It cannot and should not conform, like fashion, to time or culture. It is autonomous, transcending time.3 Peter and Alison Smithson explain that a building’s first duty is to its context and that in order to stand the test of time, a building should be “the natural extension of the tradition of modern architecture.”4 This produces a different architectural style in a similar background while conforming to the modernistic style, therefore creating a somewhat coherent whole. Despite the changing traditions, styles and whimsicalness, Zumthor does believe that ‘real things’ do exist.5 By using poetic metaphors of the context, ‘real’ is then his own interpretation of what he wants us to discover of the site in relation to what he feels the spirit of the site is. Much like what Tadao Ando is saying in that “You cannot simply put something new into a place.You have to absorb what you see around you, what exists on the land, and then use that knowledge along with contemporary thinking to interpret what you see.”6 This interpretation is something we would never be able to do before their buildings would add to that location to our benefit. As such, Zumthor says that buildings can only be accepted by their surroundings if they have the ability to appeal to our emotions and minds in a historical, aesthetic, functional, personal and also very passionate way.7 Like Zumthor, Steven Holl is also very contextually driven, and his book Anchoring, reveals his agreement with Zumthor that architecture is bound to the site a building has. He designs with sun angles, circulation, access and the vistas of the location in mind. “In the past this connection [with the site] was manifest without conscious intention through the use of local materials and craft, and by association of the landscape with events of history and myth. Now the link between site and architecture must be found in new ways, which are part of a constructive transformation in modern life”.8 Zumthor tries to achieve this link by desiring to anchor his buildings firmly in the ground, wanting them to simply be there. To not give a message, but for us to be calmed and even dulled by them. This gives us a paradox between the letting us experience his interpretation of the site and boring us to some extend. This he tries in every location in a different way, as he believes all buildings are “for a specific place and society, bound to the present”.9
1. Peter Zumthor, “A way of looking at things,” in Thinking architecture, Peter Zumthor (Basel/Boston/Berlin: Birkhäuser, 2006), p. 22 2. Ibid, 16
3. Dirk van den Heuvel, “Another sensibility – the discovery of context,” in Oase 76, p. 33 4. Ibid, 30
5. Zumthor, “A way of looking at things”, p. 16-17
6. Robert Ivy, interview with Tadao Ando, The Architectural Record, May 2002 http://archrecord.construction.com/ people/interviews/archives/0205Ando. asp (accessed on 15-05-2011) 7. Zumthor, “A way of looking at things”, p. 18
8. Ibid, 9
9. Ibid, 22
by René Brakels & Kakeru Inuiya
10. Ibid, 18
11.The Hyatt foundation, biography of Tadao Ando, 1995, p. 4 http://www.pritzkerprize.com/laureates/1995/_downloads/1995_bio.pdf (accessed on 01-06-2011)
12. van den Heuvel, “Another sensibility – the discovery of context,” p. 39
13. Bernard Leupen, René Heijne, Jasper van Zwol ed.,Time based Architecture, (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2005), p. 9
14. Adolf Loos, “Ornament en misdaad”, in Dat is architectuur: Sleutelteksten uit de twintigste eeuw, ed. Hilde Heynen, André Loeckx, Lieven De Cauter en Karina Van Herck, (Rotterdam: Uitgeverij 010, 1910 ), p. 65, own translation
And that “[Buildings] can make an impression of being a self evident part of their surroundings [as if] they would seem to be saying: I am as you see me and I belong here”.10 Like Zumthor and Holl, Tadao Ando is also very keen on his relationship with his surroundings and the connection with nature. In his Pritzker Prize biography his works are said to “possess an indelible timelessness and universality”.11 Working with the light that only happens on that location he links with these architects in a similar manner. They all believe that buildings should not intrude in a landscape but serve to explain it, be anchored in it, belong. Peter and Alison Smithson, who deeply look at and make their buildings an integral part of the context, designed the Economist Building as an expression of their theory of integration. It is a plug-in in the London townscape, yet they give back to the city fabric via creating a public path through their plot. They believe that a building should have a ‘specificity to place,’ a grounding in context, stating, “it is not exactly a question of ‘fittingin,’ but of re-materialising, re-focusing ... The context may demand a totally invisible building or no building, a ‘counter-geometry’ or a ‘continuation geometry’.“12 The fitting in lies in the bringing together of the qualities of continuity and that of newness, an equilibrium of old and new. Yet this type of integration into the city fabric is something Zumthor does not do. He creates only closed blocks, boundaries and separation instead of interwoven integration with the context. This is especially seen in his design of the Kolumba museum (figure 2). The physical integration is lacking as they are seen as singular items, and this makes his designs stand out. Bernard Leupen, René Heijne and Jasper van Zwol further argue, “During the 20th century it became increasingly clear that architecture is by no means a timeless medium.”13 It is then a difficult task to create a building that will be forgotten or ignored as if it has always been a part of that location, when it is so clearly distinctive in its appearance. Even in a 100 years the separation of the old and new will still be there in the core of what they are in the non-homogeneousness of that is created now. Additionally Peter Zumthor’s architecture is in some ways pretentious in the very fact that it has been built. They are foreign objects in a natural context. And even though Zumthor says he tries to minimalize this foreign nature in his designs, the connection of the theory of integration and context of his work in practise is hard to find. Like the hexagonal concrete pile of the Bruder Klaus Feldkapelle it interrupts a natural environment with the built environment (figure 3). It has a strong contrast by using hard geometrical shapes. Be it in the middle of a field, in the city on a ruin of a cathedral or a colour changing glass box in the historical city centre of Bregentz, they attract attention as foreign items from their natural coherent environment that they are a part of. Zumthor’s belief that a building needs to appeal to our emotions and minds is the reason to why he goes back to his own childhood memories and experiences, smells and feelings of materials, shapes and uses. These things are integrated in his designs but as such his ‘realness’ may only be real to himself and only an anecdote to those who experience it. Perceived as an anecdote of Zumthor’s childhood memories and visions of the coherence of the building and site, we will never be able to see the real thing as he intended. Trying to engage our emotions he can only portray what we let ourselves be touched by. Detailing When we look at Adolf Loos, he argues that ornaments are a waste of labour and that they have no connection with our cultural development. ‘We’ have evolved beyond it. “The ornaments that are now created have nothing to do with us, human culture as a whole, nor the world order. It does not pertain to life.”14 Similarly, Zumthor, Holl, Ando,
Figure 1 Venturi, Scott Brown, Best Showroom, Langhorne, PA, USA, 1978, accessed on 04-05-2011, http://www. vsba.com/pdfs/BestProducts01.pdf Figure 2 Peter Zumthor, Kolumba museum, Koln, Germany, 2007, on Wikipedia, accessed on 04-05-2011, http:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kolumba.jpg Figure 3 Peter Zumthor, Bruder Klaus Feldkapelle,Wachendorf, Germany, 2007, on Wikipedia, accessed on 04-05-2011, http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/File:Wachendorf-Feldkapelle-BruderKlaus.jpg Figure 4. image hy Robbert Guis
Gerrit Rietveld and many others avoid ornaments all together, or in other words, they spend their time detailing everything away that all and any notion of the composition of structure or underlying elements are hidden. In this context Zumthor likes the way artists Richard Serra and Joseph Beuys use a minimalistic approach to the joints where their few materials connect (figure 4). “There is no interruption of the overall impression by small parts which have nothing to do with the object’s statement. Our perception of the whole is not distracted by inessential details.”15 In Zumthor’s buildings he then sets forth to make his details “not distract or entertain, but to lead to an understanding of the whole of which they are an inherent part.”16 In other words, he puts a lot of effort into making it look simple, pretending to be plain. In many ways this is the exact thing Loos is saying is a waste. Many hours and money are spent on having clean lines, which are for them the finishing touches (ornaments) of their gestures (figure 5-6). In their hiding of all the underlying structure, the buildings are trying to be more pure, simpler. While in fact this causes the buildings to more complicated underneath. For Zumthor says that even if these things that are later unseen, they are intricately designed and are still important because “Der liebe Gott sieht alles!”17 Zumthor, like Rietveld and Ando, was trained as a carpenter. With this came an instilled eye for detail and knowledge of crafts. In Zumthor’s case this causes him to need a lot of time to develop his buildings. The Kunsthaus in Bregentz took ten years to design and build, while Steven Holl’s Simmons Hall, being six times bigger, took less than a third of the time. “People often say, ‘a lot of work went into this’ when they sense the care and skill that its maker has lavished on a carefully constructed object.”18 This is because Zumthor looks at every aspect of his buildings in various models and wants to know everything from every angle, looking at all alternatives until he and his colleagues all agree that it is the only correct solution.Yet if after looking at it again after a few months he is not satisfied with it, he will not build it. The office of Peter Zumthor is a small one in order for Zumthor to keep intricate control over every detail that is going on in his practice. This detailed cleanliness in avoidance of material interaction then does not support unpretentiousness, but rather creates a deeper complicatedness. Art and architecture In an interview with a Welch student, Zumthor says that architecture is not art.19 Yet he tries to parallel his architecture in the style that he likes of the works of art of Joseph Buys for the way he uses few plain materials that do not attract too much attention to themselves. However, they do create contrast as art, while minimising the clash with modernity by spanning a gap between old and new. “If a work of architecture consists of forms and contents which combine to create a strong fundamental mood that is powerful enough to affect us, it may possess the qualities of a work of art. This art has, however, nothing to do with interesting configurations or originality.”20 In relation to Zumthor’s goal to create buildings that are hardly noticeable, Buys’ definition backs up Zumthor’s claim that the two are separate. Frank Gehry, like Zumthor also says no to architecture as art in an interview entitled ‘Should An Artwork Have Toilets?’, although he states that it is possible for such a mix to exists with the likes of Bernini and Michelangelo.21 Yet if we look at his work in comparison to Zumthor’s and Holl’s there is a distinct difference in the way it draws attention to itself in its contextual sense and the way form and colour are used. Fish-shaped buildings for restaurants and random warped reflective metal surfaces express distinctiveness to their surroundings, and are clearly attention-grabbing. Similarly, if we look at the Chiat/ Day Building in Los Angeles (figure 7) where he uses a sculpture of a pair of binoculars as the entrance to the parking garage and hold offices, it has a complete lack of context or any sense of nativity. Still, it consists of few simple materials, clean detailing and is an ob-
15. Zumthor, “A way of looking at things”, p. 14 16. Ibid, 16
17. Serge Schoemaker, 28 Januari 2008, In de leer bij de Zwitserse meester, on Archined, http://www.archined.nl/nieuws/ in-de-leer-bij-de-zwitserse-meester/ (accessed on 20-05-2011) 18. Zumthor, “A way of looking at things”, p. 12
19. Nick, blog of 28 April, 2010,Thinking/Making architecture, An interview with Peter Zumthor http://thinkingmakingarchitecture.blogspot.com/2010/04/ interview-with-peter-zumthor.html
20. Zumthor, “A way of looking at things”, p. 19
21. Barbara Isenberg, Conversations with Frank Gehry, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009) p56
22. van den Heuvel, “Another sensibility – the discovery of context,” p. 43
23. Zumthor, “A way of looking at things”, p. 19
ject that does not copy its neighbours and stays within the modernistic style. Therefore it might fit better in the context of Los Angeles then the monolithic block of foreign pale brick of the Kolumba museum in its own context. Other architects such as Venturi and Rietveld can also relate to detailing clean connections and avoiding ornaments, such as in the kind that Luis Sullivan added to his buildings, but they are very opposed to the notion that architecture should only be timeless, non-intrusive and non-art. In many ways they say, like Rem Koolhaas, ‘fuck context.’22 They create an architecture usually with the intension of making statements. With this they then dismiss the classical view of context as Holl has stated with their solitary expressive buildings.Van Doesburg argues that De Stijl functions as a collaboration between the arts (painting, sculpture and architecture) with the Gesamtkunstwerk as a multi-disciplinary work. The Rietveld Schroder house is a great and pure example of what the artist movement De Stijl stood for (figure 8). James Stirling brings these aspects together in (pop)art and contextual integration in his Neue Staatsgalerie where he connects the street above with the street below via a path through the building (like the Smithsons) using shapes from other buildings in the city (connecting to the context and history) and yet also using explicit colours to create a collage, highlighting different elements (like Venturi & Rietveld). Holl’s Simmons Hall (figure 9) has large openings in the building at base level with collective functions to draw the students into the building and uses expressive colours to add to the diverse experience. Zumthor may use less expressive materials but in combination with the shape he contrasts himself with the surroundings just like Venturi, Gehry and Rietveld do as individual sculptures, although perhaps more toned down like those of Buys. His architecture may even be said to possess the qualities of a work of art as it creates a strong mood to affect us via its forms and content.23 As such Zumthor’s works may be more ‘timeless’ then those of his peers, but they are not unpretentious. Shape Whereas Zumthor does not build literal binoculars or fishes like the ones Gehry designs, he does work in a very abstract geometrical way, like Holl and Rietveld. Therme Vals is an example of this, where geometrical granite square shapes come out of a rolling hillside (figure 10). The Kunsthaus (figure 11) in the 3500 year old city of Bregenz is another exhibit where a colourful glass rectangular box that even lights up in various colours at night is put in a very diverse, historic lakeside context. And let us not forget the Bruder Klaus Feldkapelle, a hexagonal concrete pile in the middle of a field. Like Steven Holl, Zumthor uses a lot of squares and contrast with voids and mass. Looking at Therme Vals specifically, the design comes from one angle out of the hill as if it were a semi-hidden part of the landscape, while from another its large angular mass is completely foreign to the curves of its environment. In contrast, Holl’s rectangular box of Simmons Hall becomes part of the ‘wall’ that the buildings along Vassar Street form against the backdrop of the sports field. In this way Holl’s use of geometrical shapes is effective in relation to its context, something that Zumthor fails to achieve in his designs, such as in Therme Vals. Contrasting to the existing environment, Zumthor’s buildings stand out as geometric solid shapes in an articulated local dynamic context, further causing us to question his claim to be unpretentious.
24. Robin Pogrebin, “Pritzker Prize Goes to Peter Zumthor,” Art & Design, New York Times, page C1, April 13 2009.
The scar of being a star The unknown and hardly noticed architect of before 2009 “hasn’t designed many buildings … he has toiled in relative obscurity for the last 30 years in a remote village in the Swiss mountains.”24 But his Pritzker Prize did cause his buildings to be recognized as bigger ‘hits’ then before. He may still not be another celebrity star architect such as Frank
Figure 5 Joseph Buys, Scala Libera, 1985, image from Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG BildKunst, Bonn, 2010, http://oneartworld.com/artists/J/Joseph+Beuys. html?atab=works&image=34697, accessed on 04-05-2011 Figure 6 Steven Holl, Knut Hamsun Center, HamarĂ¸y, Norway, 2009, accessed on 04-05-2011, http:// www.stevenholl.com/project-detail. php?id=39&worldmap=true Figure 7 Peter Zumthor,Therme Vals, Vals, Switserland, 1996, on ArchDaily, accessed on 04-05-2011, http:// www.archdaily.com/13358/the-thermevals/1311729538_stairs/ Figure 8 Frank Gehry Chiat/Day Building, Los Angeles, USA, 1991, on Wikipedia, accessed on 04-05-2011, http:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiat/Day_Building Figure 9 Gerrit Rietveld, Rietveld SchrĂśder house, Utrecht, Holland, 1924, on Wikipedia, accessed on 04-05-2011, http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Bestand:RietveldSchroederhuis.jpg Figure 10 Steven Holl, Simmons Hall, Boston, USA, 2002, accessed on 0405-2011, http://www.stevenholl.com/ project-detail.php?type=educational&id =47&page=0 Figure 11 Peter Zumthor,Therme Vals, Vals, Switserland, 1996, on Wikipedia, accessed on 04-05-2011, http:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Therme_Vals
Gehry or Rem Koolhaas, but this attraction on the basis of his fame negates his building’s ability to blend into its environment even more, attracting thousands of additional visitors on the basis of the acknowledgement of the quality of his works to worldwide architecture. While not wanting to publish too much of his work as he wants people to experience his buildings instead of looking at a picture, Zumthor’s buildings roam the web now as never before. Conclusion While Zumthor says that our times of change do not permit big gestures, his goal to design buildings that blend into the context and may eventually even be ignored is not evident in reality. The timelessness that he aspires to achieve in his designs are even argued by some, like Bernard Leupen, to even be unreachable in the first place, due to the distinct differences that the constantly changing culture brings to each age. Because he incorporates much of his own experience and history into his attempts to bridge the old with the new, his assumption that his interpretation of a building’s connection to its surroundings will be evident to others is an ignorant claim. Furthermore, the ‘anchoring’ that Steven Holl refers to, is difficult for Zumthor to achieve because of the boldness of his geometric designs, often juxtaposed in natural environments. Even Zumthor’s minimalistic approach, while seemingly unpretentious at the outset, is in fact another example of how he fails in his wider goals. His sterile approach to detailing leads to very abstract connections where his few different materials meet. This causes his buildings to be unique points in the rich environment that they are in. The minimalism that he works so hard to achieve in the elimination of added ornaments is in fact his version of integrated ornaments. The amount of time spent on creating these ornaments is, as Adolf Loos argues, a waste of labour and even health. And Zumthor does spend huge amounts of time on his designs, a product of his training as a carpenter. Such precision and laborious attention to detailing cannot go overlooked when experiencing one of his buildings. Zumthor’s use of contrast can also be critiqued. Contextual integration of authenticity in the way he does creates a contrast that is ‘other’. He creates new objects that, though built with natural materials, often do not look like they have always been part of that contextual situation. It is this drawing attention to itself that is exactly what Zumthor claims to be avoiding, particularly when claiming that his architecture is not art. Peter Zumthor may argue that his architecture is accepted by their surroundings in an unpretentious way, but it is clear that his designs do not achieve this. The self-proclaimed unpretentiousness of his works of architecture is indeed not as subtle as he wants to believe. On top of this, his recently rendered fame has caused his buildings to be widely spread over the entire world, attracting thousands of additional visitors to crowd the environment his buildings set foot in. Negating any chance of the blandness he tries to achieve in theory. All in all it can be said that Peter Zumthor is a pretentious architect like many others as evidenced in his works.
Bibliography Adolf Loos, “Ornament en misdaad”, in Dat is architectuur: Sleutelteksten uit de twintigste eeuw, ed. Hilde Heynen, André Loeckx, Lieven De Cauter en Karina Van Herck, (Rotterdam: Uitgeverij 010, 1910 ), p. 63-66 Barbara Isenberg, Conversations with Frank Gehry, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009) p. 54-69 Bernard Leupen, René Heijne, Jasper van Zwol ed., Time based Architecture, (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2005) p. 9 Dirk van den Heuvel, “Another sensibility – the discovery of context,” Oase 76, p. 21-46 64
www.oase.archined.nl/up/OASE76_Another_Sensibility-Dirk_van_den_Heuvel.pdf (accessed 28 April 2011). Nick, blog of 28 April, 2010, Thinking/Making architecture, An interview with Peter Zumthor http://thinkingmakingarchitecture.blogspot.com/2010/04/interview-with-peter-zumthor. html Peter Zumthor, “A way of looking at things,” in Thinking architecture, P. Zumthor (Basel/ Boston/Berlin: Birkhäuser, 2006), p. 9-26 Robert Ivy, interview with Tadao Ando, The Architectural Record, May 2002 http://archrecord.construction.com/people/interviews/archives/0205Ando.asp (accessed on 15-05-2011) Robin Pogrebin, “Pritzker Prize Goes to Peter Zumthor,” Art & Design, New York Times, page C1, April 13 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/13/arts/design/13pritzker.html (accessed on 01-052011) Serge Schoemaker, 28 Januari 2008, In de leer bij de Zwitserse meester, on Archined, http://www.archined.nl/nieuws/in-de-leer-bij-de-zwitserse-meester/ (accessed on 20-052011) Steven Holl, Anchoring (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996) p. 9-13 The Hyatt foundation, biography of Tadao Ando, 1995, p. 4 http://www.pritzkerprize.com/laureates/1995/_downloads/1995_bio.pdf (accessed on 01-06-2011)
Figure 12 Peter Zumthor, Kunsthaus, Bregenz, Bregenz, Austria, 1997, on Wikipedia, accessed on 04-052011, http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Bestand:BregenzHafenCUB.JPG
in Dutch housing developments Dutch housing developments Nowadays the Dutch housing assignment is a more and more complicated one. There is an increasing need for housing near or in the expanding city centres while at the same time the available building space close to these areas is decreasing. Within this precarious state architects and urban planners have to look for new solutions to fit the dwellers needs. Large-scale housing development is one of the answers. The difficulty with these large-scale housing developments is the need of well thought planning and designing to create a neighborhood fitting the demands of its residents. This is the advance of gradually developed historical cities. Such historical ensembles have the strength to change and adapt to the needs of its inhabitants, and gained their characteristics over time. At the initiation of a housing development everything that is built still has to prove that it will function over time, and is able to adapt when needed. In these housing developments a distinction can be made between developments located in and near city-centers and projects build in the periphery; mostly on former agricultural land. In the first situation there is always usable historical context available, most of the time in the presence of existing urban structures and developments. This can be existing elements on the site or a broader structure covering the project area. These leads are usually strong enough to refer to in a new development and make it part of the existing urban structure and its characteristics. In the second situation the project is set on a location missing the context described above. Architects and planners have to deal with the fact that there is no tangible historical context for large scale housing developments available on site. According to all the projects built on a site described in this second situation there’s no set guide how to deal with these situations, a lot of variations and strategies can be discovered. One can see projects where architects create a new standalone theme, based on an imitation of a historical context for example. On the other hand there are the more anonymous housing developments, focussed on ordering and well working compositions. The question, if these designed themes benefit the quality for Dutch housing is discussed. In this essay these different situations and strategies are set out by some typical Dutch housing estate projects. Later on these situations and strategies and their (created) themes will be discussed. Concluding with a direction for a new routine in solving today’s large-scale housing assignments. 1. Examples from practice The following projects have been analyzed to support the discussion about new housing developments in the Netherlands; GWL terrain (Amsterdam), The Reeshof(Tilburg), Kattenbroek(Amersfoort) and Brandevoort(Helmond). 1.1 GWL terrain, Amsterdam On the former ‘Municipality Water Company terrain’, close to the old centre of Amsterdam, a neighbourhood was built in 1997. It was designed, in close cooperation with surrounding residents and potential buyers. The main goal was living in an environment with a lot of private and communal outside spaces well connected to the city with the same density as the surrounding neighbourhoods.1 The freestanding building blocks contain a lot of different typologies, but still the GWL terrain in a whole is covered with the same unique identity, done by the general shape of the blocks and the uniform way of materialisation. The continuing lines and axes from the surrounding through the GWL terrain, at the same time function as sightlines, do this as well. Still all blocks have unique floor plans and details designed by different architects. The existing elements of the water supply company are preserved, and converted into public functions. All leading elements from the surroundings and on site elements are
1. Joost Ector, ‘Een entropisch woongebouw’(magazine: Architect, november 1997) p. 58
by Wieland Boers & Maarten Thewissen
used to embed the project in its location, the plan must be on this specific spot to function the way it does.
6. Augé, Non-places, p. 75-120
2. Rob van Gool, ‘Tilburg: de Reeshof ’ (magazine: Stedenbouw, 1997, vol. 49 no. 541 juli), p.24
3.Wijnand Looise, ‘Learning from Amersfoort? Eerste fase van Bhalotra’s plan voor Kattenbroek’ (magazine: Architect, vol. 23 no. 4 april 1992) p. 86
1.2 Vinex Exactly twenty years ago the Vinex (Fourth Memorandum National Spational Planning Extra) was presented by the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and Environment. This memorandum contained notions and attitudes on Dutch spatial planning towards 2015. According to this, the amount of dwellings should be increased by 600.000 within a period of 25 years. Provinces and municipality would be in control of these large-scale housing developments, which should be located near existing city centers. Moreover all projects should have a density of at least 30 dwellings a hectare. 1.3 The Reeshof, Tilburg The Reeshof is a large scale newly built Vinex project west of Tilburg, the sixth biggest city in the Netherlands. At the completion of the housing development (approx. five years) it will be able to accommodate at least 50.000 residents.2 The Reeshof is located outside the city on former agricultural land. Existing agricultural plots, crossing park like elements and a strict transition zone between the Reeshof and the existing urban structures of Tilburg makes the development stand on its own. These elements seem so strong that the Reeshof really becomes an island and rejects itself from the environment outside the development. Pedestrian blocking ring roads and encapsulate building blocks contribute as well to this isolation. In such way it seems to be a village on itself, dough it is like most Vinex projects a ‘sleeping neighborhood’, it houses a lot of commuters and lacks facilities as well as public functions. The identity of the Reeshof can’t be easily or uniformly distilled. Several zones and structures are designed, though most of them have a minimum of expression which results in look alikes. By contriving names for the sub districts of the Reeshof existing names are used. Every sub district has streets names that start with the same unique front letter as a trick to let a visitor easily recognize the different zones, this only works if the visitor is aware that. The layout of the streets itself has no specific historical legitimacy; it’s planned on the drawing table. Most of the houses along these streets have the same typology, which makes it hard to orientate and results in an even more generic neighborhood. 1.4 Kattenbroek, Amersfoort Kattenbroek is an early 1990’s neighborhood near Amersfoort and accommodates almost 5000 households. One of the goals of the architect (Ashok Bhalotra) was to make a nonstandard neighborhood where people feel at home and get stimulated to express themselves. To realize this ,metaphors and characteristic themes were used, which were projected over the agricultural landscape (typical Dutch parcels).3 The basic design elements and ingredients of a traditional Vinex projects are present. Areas with different formations to create specific atmospheres were designed. In this case it was not the history of the area but new contrived atmospheres that were used to order. According to the idea of ‘traveling makes people enjoy always new experiences’ Kattenbroek can be seen as a chain of different elements. Except for living comfort these themes are mostly used as a marketing instrument. Still it is hard to distinguish one area from another; most dwellings have standard floor plans and only differ in materialization. 1.5 Brandevoort, Helmond The Vinex development Brandevoort is located between Eindhoven and Helmond. The main theme of this development is the medieval fortress-city with Dutch row houses. A fortress functions as the center of the new district, which is surrounded by small sub districts, each with an own medieval theme. It houses a mix of different functions, which are except for houses; shops, restaurants and schools. To strengthen the
Figure 1. Printscreen, bing.com/maps, (14-06-2011)
Figure 2. Printscreen, bing.com/maps, (14-06-2011)
Figure 3. Printscreen, maps.google.nl, (14-06-2011)
Figure 4. Structuurplan, Bhalotra, (1406-2011), Architect, vol. 23 no. 4 april 1992) p. 87
historic theme, the Municipality placed some ‘monumental elements’, the ‘Paris-looking’ market-hall out of cast iron on the central square for example. These elements are meant to provide a point of recognition, like a church does. 4, 5 The theme that goes with the interventions mentioned above is based on idyllic cities in the south of the Netherlands that must have looked like this. Though, in or near the direct area of Helmond there were no motives at all that would justify a design like this. The individual dwellings have no relation at all with the organization of a medieval dwelling on the inside; the façade contains characterizing elements, when stepping inside it’s like any other recently developed Vinex dwelling. The obvious presence of car parking’s and back gardens do not contribute either to the medieval theme. 2. Notion of Layers One of the today’s most efficiently used design strategies is making use of concepts. This strategy helps with implementing a specific idea into a project, and makes it easier for designers to practice maximum control in their design choices. A conceptual idea can be worked out in different levels of expression in a layer. This can be a single layer like a façade or as well be multiple layers. The level of conceptual integration over more layers fully depends on the desired expression by the designer and developer. Conceptual integration not only consists in the physical presence, it as well can be interpreted as the sensible character of a project. A remarkable example in expressing a concept in multiple layers can be found in the Jewish Museum in Berlin, designed by Daniel Libeskind. In this project the initial concept of the museum is present in all layers of the building. To name a few; for the urban implementation the zigzag-shape is a reminiscent of a warped Star of David, representing the suffering of the Jewish population. All the windows of the building are shaped by connecting the geographical data of Jewish families living in Berlin. According to Libeskind: “It acts as a lens magnifying the vectors of history, in order to make the continuity of spaces visible“.6 In today’s housing developments architects and urban planners often make use of a thematic theme. Such a theme can be fetched out of existing elements, or can be newly designed. In both cases it is used to amplify an identity of the area, to make residents able to identify themselves with. The level of integration of a theme in layers differs in every project, and provides many successful and failed examples. In Das Prinzip Hoffnung, Ernst Bloch refers to Vitruvius,Vitruvius stated that the three principles of architecture (utilitas, firmitas and venustas) should converge in a design. This combination of different elements can be compared with the integral use of multiple layers. Bloch continues: “Here, however, they no longer cohere: utilitas and firmitas are aspects of functionalism, while venustas is allotted to expressionism, with the result that the essence of architecture is glossed over”.7 The essence of architecture disappears when a project lacks coherence in the layers, or it conflicts when these layers aren’t enough interlaced. This advocated for projects with an integral thematic layering, as an instrument for success. Examples of failed thematic layering are projects in which a theme is executed as a compensation for other defects. This theme (often with a strong expression) is only legitimated by one layer, and tries to amend the other layers that are most of the time simplified due to financial reasons. Unfortunately a lot of Dutch Vinex developments show such kind of character that is delirious in its expression, but superficial in its overall layering. In the next chapters the selected projects are discussed by relating them to different theoretical design approaches. Doing this, the use of thematic layering with its different gradations is a factor constantly taken in account.
4. Joks Janssen, ‘Verstikt in de constructie van een nieuw verleden; Brandevoort in Helmond’, (magazine: Architect, vol.32, no. 4 april 2001) p. 36 5. Elke Ennen, ‘Wonen in gecreeerd erfgoed, belevingen en bindingen in Brandevoort’, (report: NETHUR 2004)
6. Daniel Libeskind, ‘Jewish Museum, Berlin: Between the Lines’ (Prestel Publishing, February 1999) p.27
7. Ernst Bloch, ‘Die Bebauung des Hohlraums’, Das Prinzip Hoffnung (part 4), (Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main, 1959), p. 862
8. Rem Koolhaas, ‘SMLXL’, (New York, Monacelli Press, 1995), p.1256
9. Ernst Bloch, ‘Die Bebauung des Hohlraums’, Das Prinzip Hoffnung (part 4), (Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main, 1959), p. 859
3. Intended anonymity In his book S,M,L,XL Rem Koolhaas introduces the concept ‘generic city’. Meaning the neutral city, liberated from an oppressing identity and perfectly planned by its functionality. In this generic city, there is “the Lipservice, where a minimum of the past is preserved. […] it celebrates the past as only the recently conceived can. It is a machine.”8 Koolhaas describes these preserved elements as an almost gated theme park where tourists can take a look at the city of the past. These elements are separated from the rest of the city and are also not meant to compensate any misplaced melancholy. All left history was removed from the new city, to generate place for individual expression. With his text Koolhaas takes a distinctive position in the debate about character and identity in housing developments. His conceptual approach is straight and sincere, and keeps up a struggle to projects that use history as a superficial selling trick. Rather than covering it up, the anonymity of the project is seen as a theme and is integrated in all layers. In a lot of Vinex projects (like the Reeshof), lots of anonymous streets can be seen (_07) in an endless repetition and without a prevailing historical character. The residents can decorate their dwelling themselves, but the exterior expression is identical to their neighbors. One can see this kind of neighborhoods as an example of the generic city, but this is definitely a false claim. In these projects, the anonymous character is not a quality, it is a shortcoming. The exterior spaces are intended to be activated by the residents, but at the same time they are inflexible and poorly sized. The ‘anonymous’ streets are often planned to be part of a communal character, unfortunately rarely seen at some small points in the project. In the streets themselves this character is economized, a concealing façade is all that rests. The character seems to be a selling trick that, once people are convinced to reside, retires itself and leaves the inhabitants to their own fate. The urban layout is as well no functional translation from the generic city. It’s a cheap compromise between people’s main requirements (a house close to the city, with an own garage and a garden) and the most economical solution. There seems to be no interest for bigger urban questions that are able to influence the well-being of the residents. When looking to the Reeshof again, an equivalent of the generic city’s ‘Lipservice’ can be found in the presence of the Dongevalei. The Dongevalei is a green park structure along an old riverbed. Nevertheless, where Koolhaas thought about this Lipservice as an educational element in the city, in the Reeshof it’s a compensation for the simplified other parts of the project. Compensational gestures like the Dongevalei are popular in a lot of Vinex projects. In most cases they are not only misplaced, but moreover they achieve the desired result. The effects of big gestures don’t reach till building level, and are too limited executed in their interlacing with others layers. The fact that the Vinex-concept still influences the designers must be a result in the lack of interest in dwellers well-being, due to the rooted ideas of modernism, combined with limitations set by project developers. This financial aspect strikes out the qualities of the project and introduces bad compromises. To quote Ernst Bloch: “the urban plans of those functionalists are private, abstract; in the face of the “etre humain” the people in those houses and cities become standardized termites, or in a “living-machine” alienated bodies, this is all so far away from real human, from home, from pleasure”.9 4. Creating Identity An opposite intention of the generic city is found in the Vinex-projects where a new identity is created. Architect and planners are confronted with a project area that lacks tangible history. Instead of welcoming the neutrality, a theme is introduced in the development. This theme can be for example ‘a medieval European city’, a type of industry or a natural element. Reason for designing with such theme is because people prefer places
Figure 5. Bestaande structuur, Bhalotra, (14-06-2011), Architect, vol. 23 no. 4 april 1992) p. 87 Figure 6. Printscreen, bing.com/maps, (14-06-2011)
Figure 7. Printscreen, maps.google.nl, (14-06-2011)
with a clear character that are expressing a ‘story’. They are looking for an environment that ‘fits’ their demands. At the GWL terrain in Amsterdam, one can see the historical elements clearly. At this location close to an inner city location man can find a great number of historical starting points on the terrain and in the surrounding. The investor did choose to develop the area for dwelling and the architects had their freedom to make use of these characteristics. The existing elements were used to characterize, and so to expand the history of the site. Most present are the preserved buildings from the water supply company. These monuments are visible from nearly each position by smart sightlines, which are guided by both the buildings and the park like structure. Furthermore, building blocks are lined up with the surrounding urban structure, and corresponding in materialization and expression. The individual dwellings are part of this character, and provide well-considered layouts to lodge the dwellers in a unique way. Therefore, this project can be seen as an example how historical context can interfere in housing developments in a decent way. The historical themes are spread out over multiple layers and merge fluently with contemporary requirements. In Vinex projects located on the periphery, architects usually have to deal with a lack of this historical context. This is because of the flat piece of land, the ‘tabula rasa’, mostly a result of Dutch land creating activities. These agricultural plots where planned purely functional, without any prospected occupation, in contrast to the (old) cities that originated fluently, and where every extension caused historical constraints. In this situation, the architects are forced to invent or stage a new identity without any strong starting points given by its location. Brandevoort, a Vinex project near Eindhoven is a typical example of a project with a staged history. The characterized dwellings are designed for people who are in search for a historical (looking) dwelling, in a corresponding urban layout. Though the problem occurring for a lot of these projects is that this historical layer is again too much focused on a single layer. This results in a disappearing experience of this identity when people live in the project for a longer time and are getting used to it. They still have a catalogue dwelling just now with a ‘characterized’ facade. The historical qualities remain superficial, as well as the composition of the building blocks are equal to standard Vinex-projects and are not to compare with those of a medieval city. The urban layout is inspired by ancient cities; however key elements are missing, like a vivid mix of functions, to name one. Therefore Brandevoort still remains at an abstract level of ‘staging’, failing in its incompletion to fulfill the promises made by the developers and architect over time. The thematic layering lacks integration and stagnates on practical compromises, like a back garden or parking lots. More than one staged theme is demonstrated in Kattenbroek, the Vinex-project near Amersfoort. The urban layout is designed as a form of art, while on level of the street several smaller themes can be found. The characters of these themes are affecting only a limited number of layers and are not referring other themes in the project. In a search for a way to determine the local characteristics of a place and how to make them visible, Kenneth Frampton writes; ‘It (Critical Regionalism) may find its governing inspiration in such things as the range and quality of the local light, or in a tectonic derived from a peculiar structural mode, or in the topography of a given site’.10 Not meaning to create a superficial historical building shell, but a deeper and more advanced way to experience the (architectural) character. This shows that the implementation of invented historical themes doesn’t have to be restricted to a literal approach that only reaches the skin of a building. Developers seem not to be aware, or don’t want to be aware, that it’s impossible to create a comfortable neighborhood only by a group of buildings and a nice costume. ‘The assumption that a community can be ‘created’ by geographic isolation is invalid’.11
10. Kenneth Frampton, ‘Towards a Critical Regionalism: Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance’, in ‘The AntiAesthetic’ essays on postmodern culture (Port Townsend,Washington, Bay Press, 1983) p. 26 11. Alison and Peter Smitson,’ Ordinariness and light, Urban theories 1952-60 and their application in a building project 1963-70 ‘(London, Faber and Faber, 1970) p. 42
12. Kenneth Frampton, ‘Towards a Critical Regionalism: Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance’, in ‘The AntiAesthetic’ essays on postmodern culture (Port Townsend,Washington, Bay Press, 1983) p. 21
5. The Dutch design assignment According to modernist planning the tabula rasa (a clean slate) is the most efficient starting point to construct a building. ‘It is self-evident that the tabula rasa tendency of modernization favours the optimum use of earth-moving equipment in as much as a totally flat datum is regarded as the most economic matrix upon which to predicate the rationalization of construction.’12 (Kenneth Frampton, 1964) Last decennia the modernist planning techniques have decreased in popularity and its imperfections are broadly admitted. ‘Unfortunately’ for the Dutch, their ‘polder landscape’ is still this close to a ‘tabula rasa’, and having the disadvantages like the composition of soil and waterway structures that don’t fit the proportions and requirements for housing. By making new neighborhoods outside the existing Dutch city centers, architects are forced to make the choice for a specific identity. In some rare cases this identity can be deducted from historical elements, but in most cases these elements are hardly usable due to their scale. In such case a (historical) theme can be designed as a leading element. It is up to the ambitions of the developer and the skills of the (urban) architect how decent a theme is implemented into a project. As already mentioned; failure is often made by implementing a chosen theme in a single layer onto the project. In this way the identity stays abstract, superficial and will never be well rooted. Designers and developers should be aware of this and accomplish a multilayered design strategy. They shouldn’t only focus on facades and visible elements, but above all on the real qualities that for example were hidden in these historic cities and reinterpret them. By distilling those qualities they should be able to make new neighborhoods that function well without the need to dress them up with superficial gestures. If the choice is made for an incomplete execution of the theme, the architect is misleading future residents. He has to be conscious and make the choice for a neighborhood with decent social and building qualities. This neighborhood can be generic or addressed with a specific theme, but should be integral implemented and without false gestures. To achieve this, the designer and the project developer should think in one line, so compromises don’t have to lead to a decrease in quality. Sweep away the hollow identity and focus on living qualities, dispersed over all layers of the projects.
Bibliography Kenneth Frampton, ‘Towards a Critical Regionalism: Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance’, in ‘The Anti-Aesthetic’ essays on postmodern culture (Port Townsend, Washington, Bay Press, 1983) p. 16-29 Alison and Peter Smitson,’ Ordinariness and light, Urban theories 1952-60 and their application in a building project 1963-70 ‘(London, Faber and Faber, 1970) p. 39-61 Aldo van Eijck, ‘De milde raderen van de reprociteit’ (Forum, 1960-61 nr 6-7), p. 204-229 Rem Koolhaas, ‘SMLXL’, (New York, Monacelli Press, 1995), p.1248-1257 Ernst Bloch, ‘Die Bebauung des Hohlraums’, Das Prinzip Hoffnung (part 4), (Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main, 1959), p. 858-872 Daniel Libeskind, ‘Jewish Museum, Berlin: Between the Lines’ (Prestel Publishing, February 1999), p.27 Joost Ector, ‘Een entropisch woongebouw’(magazine: Architect, november 1997) p. 58-62 Rob van Gool, ‘Tilburg: de Reeshof’ (magazine: Stedenbouw, 1997, vol. 49 no. 541 juli), p.24 Joks Janssen, ‘Verstikt in de constructie van een nieuw verleden; Brandevoort in Helmond’, (magazine: Architect, vol.32, no. 4 april 2001) p. 36-39 Elke Ennen, ‘Wonen in gecreeerd erfgoed, belevingen en bindingen in Brandevoort’, (report: NETHUR 2004) Wijnand Looise, ‘Learning from Amersfoort? Eerste fase van Bhalotra’s plan voor Kattenbroek’ (magazine: Architect, vol. 23 no. 4 april 1992) p. 85-91
Let The Public Create The Realm
by Rik Holierhoek & Mark Ivangh
“In architecture, there are two basic possibilities of spatial composition: the closed architectural body that isolates space within itself, and the open body that embraces an area of space that is connected with the endless continuum.” 1 It is inevitable in buildings, that they interact with their surroundings. While designing, architects have the choice to accept this fact and use it so that their design becomes a part of the bigger picture, or ignore, and design a building that functions on its own and takes the side effects it has on its surroundings for granted. In modern architecture, the latter has won terrain and seems to be an effect of the virtualization of society. With the upswing of the computer, social life has shifted from the outdoors to the privacy of the home and selectiveness of the internet. The public requests facilities nearby, just to diminish time on the outside, and enlarge the private time at home. Projects have become larger and incorporate not only dwelling, but complete self function societies. The effect of this inward motion is the dissolution of the common public realm. This effect is described by Rem Koolhaas in his article on the Generic city. “The urban plane now only accommodates necessary movement, fundamentally the car; highways are a superior version of boulevards and plazas, taking more and more space…”2 A resembling phrasing is introduced by Marc Augé in his book Non-places, Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity “The non-places are places of transience that cannot be described as places because they do not hold enough significance to be regarded as such.”3 Examples are the aforementioned highways, as well as hotel rooms and airports. Alongside this dystopian approach stands the celebration of places, Generic city’s, hybrid buildings, neglecting the desolated in between places they create. In the foreword of Pamphlet Architecture 11: Hybrid Buildings, Steven Holl embraces the phenomena of the hybrid building. “The modern city has acted as fertilizer for the growth of architectures from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous in regard to use. Urban densities and evolving building techniques have effected the mixing of functions, piling one atop another, defying critics who contend that a building should look like what it is.”4 A little over twenty years later, Steven Holl finished a building complex just outside of the city centre of Beijing. Located on a site, that was cleared years ago by Mao, he realized 650 dwellings in a complex of 8 towers. Accompanied by enough functions to act, in a programmatic sense, as an urban enclave or a city within a city. the complex finds it climax in a public sky loop (figure 1), a snake shaped bridge running through all 8 towers between floor twelve and eighteen, accommodating several functions, from a swimming pool to a café. This element gives the building its distinctiveness in spatial image and programmatic respect. About this complex, known under the name ‘Linked Hybrid’ Steven Holl claims the following: “In Linked Hybrid we realized a thesis begun in 1986 with Pamphlet Architecture 11: Hybrid Buildings on an urban scale.”5. With the term thesis Holl means the theory that was formed on hybrid buildings, that started with the pamphlet of 1986, and finds its culmination in Linked Hybrid. This statement or theory is worth looking deeper into. What is his position on this theme and how did he realise this in the Linked Hybrid?
1. Peter Zumthor,Thinking Architecture (Boston: Birkhauser, 1988), p. 9-26
2. Rem Koolhaas and Bruce Mau, Small, Medium, Large, Extra-Large (Rotterdam: 010, 1995), p. 1248-1264 3. Marc Augé, Non-places, introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity (London:Verso, 1995), p. 75-120
4. Steven Holl, foreword of Pamphlet architecture 11: Hybrid Buildings, by Joseph Fenton (New Jersey: Princeton Architectural Press, 1986), p. 3
5. Steven Holl, Domus 928, 2009, p. 14-36
Holl clearly acknowledges the fact that his hybrid building could fit the mentioned terms like Generic city and leaving public space as non-places. However, Holl seems to have tried to counteract the presence of non-places. He tried to build a closed architectural body that isolates space within itself and at the same time embraces an area of space that is connected with the endless continuum. Is Linked Hybrid a Generic city? Does Holl create non-places, or did he come up with a well working symbiosis of enclosed and open space within one complex? 76
overinterpretation of the urban enclave
6. Augé, Non-places, p. 75-120
8. Michael Sorkin,Variations on a theme park (New York:The Noonday Press, 1992), p. XI – XV
10. Spiro Kostof, A History of Architecture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 3-20
To answer this question perspicuous, it is important to first have the terms defined properly. In his book ‘Non-places’, Marc Augé talks about a new term called Non-lieux (Nonplace). If a non-place is the opposite of a place, the definition of one term automatically defines the counter-term. “If a place can be defined as relational, historical and concerned with identity, then a space which cannot be defined as relational, or historical, or concerned with identity will be a non-place.”6 Augé also claims that supermodernity produces this non-places. Meaning “spaces which are not themselves anthropological places and which, ..., do not integrate the earlier places: instead these are listed, classified, promoted to the status of ‘places of memory’”7 In the book ‘Variations on a theme park’, Michael Sorkin talks about the current cities as if they are ’theme parks’. “What is missing in this city is not a matter of any particular building or place; it is the spaces in between, the connections that make sense of forms.”8 The traditional cities exist mostly from single function buildings joined together by streets and squares on which the interaction between one and another happens. This public realm, spaces in between different buildings, is what Sorkin finds so important. In opposite of the traditional city there is the evolution of constructing entire cities with a wide range of functions, in one high-rise unit. This is an answer to the high land values in city centers and stimulated by the development of the elevator, improved construction methods and strengthened by the trend of easy living and having everything within reach. The ‘city within a city’ is mainly focused on a particular target group. An inhabitant almost never has to leave the building, which results in a monotonous mixture of inhabitants. Augé classifies this ‘city within a city’ under supermodernity. It results in complexes or resorts without a proper working public realm between the different functions. Augé calls this spaces non-places. When Sorkin compares the traditional city with the super modern city he names the latter a recombinant city. With recombinant he refers to DNA in which a piece of odd DNA is inserted. By looking at the city as DNA a hybrid or ‘city within a city’ is the odd DNA, which will never work with or will even counteract with the already existing DNA. “Obsessed with the point of production and the point of scale, the new city is little more than a swarm of urban bits jettisoning a physical view of the whole, sacrificing the idea of the city as the site of community and human connection.”9 So by creating the supermodern ‘bits’ in the city, the urban tissue or network will never again function the way it did. To restore the city, everybody who is involved in the development proces of the city, like architects and urban planners, need to make connections to create a place to be again. Another interesting discussion within our thesis, is concerned with the meaning which a building can have on its surrounding. Spiro Kostof, a leading architectural historian, wrote about this subject in the introduction of his book ‘A History of Architecture, Settings and Rituals’. “No building is an isolated object, sufficient unto itself. It belongs in a larger setting, within a bit of nature or a neighborhood of other buildings, or both, and derives much of its character from this natural or manufactured environment that embraces it. …, Once a building is up, it will itself be irrevocable, however long its natural life, as a sound is irrevocable once it has been uttered. The building may delight or disgust us; we may grow to revere it or make fun of it, cross ourselves as we go by it or call it by an unflattering nickname. But we get used to it. It becomes a tradition, a fixture in the continuum of form which new buildings are forever replenishing.”10 What Kostof is explaining in his vision on existing buildings in combination with the ‘to be build buildings’ is that the latter needs to work with the ongoing continuum, because every building is experienced by the citizens and users of that particular building and the spaces and buildings surrounding it, the larger setting. It is all about the experience of space. Many critics are anyhow against the direction of which this development of ‘city within
a city’ is heading. Rem Koolhaas is pointing out both sides of the medallion in his text Generic city, published in his book S, M, L, XL. “The Generic city is the city liberated from the captivity of center, from the straitjacket of identity. The Generic city breaks with this destructive cycle of dependency: it is nothing but a reflection of present need and present ability. It is the city without history. It is big enough for everybody. It is easy. It does not need maintenance. If it gets too small it just expands. If it gets old it just selfdestructs and renews. It is equally exciting – or unexciting- everywhere. It is ‘superficial’ – like a Hollywood studio lot, it can produce a new identity every Monday morning.”11 But on the other hand he talks about the Generic city as a non-place, as a part of a city where the public realm has been deserted and the streets are only in use to get to the Generic city. It results in a world with identity-free cities without a history or city center what so ever. In 1977, fresh out of college, Steven Holl started an alternative to mainstream architecture, a chance for young architects and writers to ventilate their theoretical ideas, theories and designs. Starting the pamphlet of himself with a booklet on bridges, the initiative boosted the careers of, among others, Holl himself and Zaha Hadid. In 1986, Joseph Fenton wrote pamphlet number 11, on the subject of hybrid buildings. Until then, this was somewhat of an ignored building type, being grouped under the larger type of the ‘mixed building’. Holl wrote the introductory for this pamphlet. Recently, Holl finished his Linked Hybrid complex in Beijing, China. Not only by name, but also in theory, Holl describes this complex as the culmination of the hybrid thesis or theorem. At first glance, the design fits perfectly into the terms mentioned earlier. It is a city “without a place attached to it. It’s visible in clumps of skyscrapers rising from well-wired fields next to the Interstate, …, in uniform ‘historic’ gentrifications…”12 As described by Sorkin. It is a Generic city, as defined by Koolhaas: “The Generic city is fractal, an endless repetition of the same simple structural module.” And “The Generic city is held together, …, by the residual. …, the residual was merely green, its controlled neatness a moralistic assertion of good intentions, discouraging association, use. …, The Generic city is on its way from horizontality to verticality. The skyscraper looks as if it will be the final, definitive typology. It has swallowed everything else. It can exist anywhere.”13. One can replace the term Generic City with the name Linked Hybrid and every comparison holds up. Linked Hybrid is a repetition of the same structural module (eight almost identical towers), it is held together by a green park and a designed orthogonal pond, controlled neatness. It is vertical, instead of horizontal, and it looks as if it can exist anywhere. These classifications are quite negative in a period where openness is desired, but of course, Holl isn’t any architect, but a well renowned architect who knows these theories and uses them in his designs. For Linked Hybrid, Steven Holl states on his website that the complex is pedestrian-oriented and “aims to counter the current privatized urban developments in China by creating a new twenty-first century porous urban space, inviting and open to the public from every side. Filmic urban public space; around, over and through multifaceted spatial layers, as well as the many passages through the project, make the Linked Hybrid an ‘open city within a city’.”14 Linked Hybrid indeed is a porous complex, which is accessible from every direction, and consists of various commercial functions that are attractive to the entire neighborhood. The inner plaza is covered by a pond, in order to control and diminish pedestrian space, to create more random social encounters. The first problem that occurs with Linked Hybrid, is that the commercial space is split in half which results in a split in users as well, the ‘flyers’ and the ‘ground bound public’ (figure 2). Furthermore, the site relies on the public from outside the complex to use the functions, but the complex is located outside the city centre, next to a highway, surrounded by old dwellings, inhabited by lower social classes, unequipped to use the Linked Hybrid.
11. Koolhaas, S,M,L,XL, 1995, p. 1248-1264
12. Sorkin,Variations, p. XI – XV.
13. Koolhaas, S,M,L,XL, p. 1248-1264.
14. Steven Holl, website, last accessed June 21, 2009, http:// stevenholl.com/project-detail. php?type=housing&id=58&page=0
The above mentioned problems and more all derive from the same, wider problem as described in the beginning: an over interpreted public realm. Every step a user can take, is carefully planned by the architect. Connections between buildings and the public realm are all artificially designed. Linked Hybrid presents itself as the perfect example of contemporary architecture, an architecture where more and more space is needed and resources become scarce. Projects become bigger and the public realm shifts from the streets to the atria in the smaller scale buildings and to the enclosed courtyards and plazas in the bigger scale projects. However, as is proven time and time again, the public realm is not easily designed. Sometimes rigid grids, broken by rigorous interventions, become well functioning spaces. This for example is done in Barcelona and Manhattan. In both a large diagonal disrupts the standard street pattern, resulting in numerous exiting confrontations which stand out of the ordinary, making them special (figure 3). Both are popular cities who have a public realm which is considered successful. But the success of these cities are also granted by numerous other factors, like the architecture of Gaudi in Barcelona, and the skyscrapers of Manhattan. Another example of a vibrant public atmosphere is Place du Têrtre in Paris (figure 4). In the mid-19th century, great artists came to inhabit Montmartre, the XVIIIe arrondissement in Paris, wherein the Place du Têrtre is located. By the end of the century, the district had become the principal artistic center of Paris. Nowadays the square with its many artists is one of the important and famous tourist atractions in France. It finds its origin in the fact that the city is tight and closely planned with its narrow streets and small alleys where this square creates some breathing space. The success of these spaces is not due to the fact that they are overdesigned, but to the fact that these spaces allow spontaneous promptings and actions. In Linked Hybrid this feature becomes dominant, as people do not have to chose how to walk through the plaza or park, perfect pedestrian roads are placed, to lead people from one place to the other (figure 5). The different towers are placed seemingly random, but completely in order to function as an enclosure of the public realm, and to create the theoretically most practical sky loop. This leads to unspontaneous prompting and actions, but orchestrated ones.
15. Li Hu, Domus 928, 2009, p. 14-36
The fact that Steven Holl acknowledged that Linked Hybrid was becoming a Generic city and creating non-places has sent Linked Hybrid into a split between a closed architectural body that isolates space within itself and an open body that is connected to the continuum public realm of Beijing. Whether this renders the building useless is a question that can only be answered in time, but a preliminary conclusion can already be adopted. The building is quite an ambitious project, and one can wonder which external factors made this possible. This question is answered by Li Hu, project architect of the Linked Hybrid. In a interview in Domus he answers skeptical on the question if he thinks the building will provide a model for future residential complexes in China. “Sadly I doubt it… I think an ambition of this magnitude – not just the appearance and the cost and the geothermal system – will be difficult to achieve again. I think this was a product of the pre-Olympic mood, and we were lucky to catch that moment.”15 Also, two key aspects of the design are under great threat of reality. The developer has plans to fence off the property and provide only gated access to residents, turning Linked Hybrid from a critique on fenced enclaves, into one itself. The other aspect is the revolutionary commercial sky-loop. The success of the sky loop depends on commercial parties to invest, but until now they have been hesitant to rent space so far away from conventional public space, leaving the space only used to advertise the developers projects. Is it that we are just not ready yet to leave the city as we know it behind and embrace buildings like Linked Hybrid, and will we ever? Instead of excel in either being an
Figure 1, Linked Hybrid, Public sky loop, 2009, Archive: Chair of Architecture and Dwelling
Figure 2, Linked Hybrid, Exploded view Linked_Hybrid_Exploded view.jpg, 2011 Author: Mark Ivangh and Rik Holierhoek
Figure 3, Barcelona Grid cerda1.jpg, 06.21.2011 www.hduquesadecardona.com URL: http://www.hduquesadecardona. com/blog/history-of-barcelona-iiithe-19th-century-the-arrival-of-newtrends/84/
enclosed body or an open body, it becomes a failed child from a forced marriage of the both. An anomaly in current times. Only time can tell whether this project is a future vision ahead of time or a design that has strayed from the righteous path. But for now we can only look into our own soul and conclude that despite its impressive spatial image and innovating programmatic ordering this building type is just not suited for this kind of urban implementations. Urban enclaves can be made ‘as public as possible’ nevertheless will a external user feel like being in someone else’s territory because it surrounds you by one single complex. A city square is connected to the urban fabric, system or grid and is surrounded by the city. composed of several different building volumes which are developed separately. Despite being an anomaly in contemporary architecture, Linked Hybrid shares a common problem, found in more contemporary architecture. Architects have tried to design the encounters of different buildings inside one complex in order to get a functioning public realm, trying to recreate the unexpected effects of the ‘old’ public realm, where random buildings create and surround an open space, and in which the public made the realm. Architects should learn that the public realm is not something they can design for the public. The realm is a vague zone which has to find, with some guidance, its way in between various projects. The place has to atract people, not force them in paths or impose decisions they have to make themselves. Eventually it is the public who, if unconstrained, create a vibrant public realm.
Bibliography Augé, Marc. Non-places, introduction to an Anthropopolgy of supermodernity. London: Verso, 1995. Den Hartog, Harry. “Stad in een stad,” De Architect (Mei 2009), p. 38-43. Holl, Steven. Foreword of Pamphlet architecture 11: Hybrid Buildings,by Joseph Fenton, p. 3. New Jersey: Princeton Architectural Press, 1986. Holl, Steven. “Teeter Totter Principles,” Perspecta 21, (1984), p. 30-51 Koolhaas, Rem and Mau, Bruce. Small, Medium, Large, Extra-Large. Rotterdam: 010, 1995 Kostof, Spiro. A History of Architecture, Settings and rituals. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. McGetrick, Brendan. “Linked Hybrid, Beijing; Architects: Steven Holl Architects,” Domus 928, (2009), p. 14-36. Nieuwenhuys, Constant. “New Babylon,”, Architectural Design, 71, 3, (2001), p. 12-14. Sorkin, Michael.Variations on a theme park, The new American city and the end of public space. New York: The Noonday Press, 1992. Zumthor, Peter. Thinking Architecture. Boston: Birkhauser, 1988.
Figure 4, Place du TĂŞrtre Paris_Montmartre_Place_du_Tertre_dsc07247.jpg, 06.21.2011 www.ladolcevitafanfiction.blogspot.com URL: http://ladolcevitafanfiction.blogspot. com/
Image 5, Linked Hybrid, Urban enclave pond, IMG_0843.jpg, 2009 Author: Rik Holierhoek
part c poles apart by Pierijn van der Putt
Alison Smithsons’ article ‘The Violent Consumer; or Waiting for the Goodies’ was written and published in 1974, shortly after Alison’s and her husband Peter’s social housing estate Robin Hood Gardens in London had become a colossal failure. While Alison Smithson’s disappointment may be forgiven, some of her remarks and phrasings seem needlessly provocative. Especially when she refers to the dwellers in social housing complexes as ‘lost human animals’ in need of ‘strict, imposing rules’, readers may suffer from a fit of moral outrage. It is my contention that the vitriolic tone is part of the rhetorical scheme. What Smithson supposes in her article – that the welfare state ideal creates a mismatch between providers and receivers – is an unpleasant message no matter what, so there is no use in trying to make it sound nice. Her harsh words merely accelerate the destruction of a formidable idea. However, beyond the anger and the resentment there lies an important question: what can architects do to deal with a society that suffers from a diminished sense of community, shared identity and self esteem? In her attempt to formulate an answer Smithson can’t help to be mildly optimistic: “The idea of fragmenting the mass movements, compartmenting in free choice, is worth trying. […] Fragmentation, so that the pieces each become the size that mends minds, responding to those demands in society that are poles apart at the moment…” It will require ‘an immense concept-step’ but one feels that by considering it possible Smithson manages to uphold the belief in a meaningful architectural discipline.
Presented with Smithson’s text our authors took different approaches toward developing their argument. Alison Smithson’s debunking of the welfare state, holding its mechanisms responsible for the failure of social housing complexes (and her evident unwillingness to have the architect’s profession accept any part of the blame), prompt Vijoleta Petrak and Jan Diederik van Heemstra to critically reaffirm the role and responsibility of the architect within the building process. Their inquiry leads them in two directions, one toward a well defined and autonomous architectural discipline and one the opposite way, toward a more managerial role as the mediator or organizer of al the specialist disciplines that together form architecture. Authors Bas Alders and Johannes Dijkman scrutinize the Modernists’ attempt at creating the ideal machine for living by comparing the Smithsons’ Robin Hood Gardens to OMA’s Chassé Park in Breda. The authors contend that a rapid ascent toward the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs diagram has rendered the ideas underpinning Robin Hood Gardens obsolete and calls for solutions more aimed at inhabitants’ participation and sense of community. Anthony Dann examines the possibility of instilling in an object an innate architectural quality, one that allows a building to withstand the ebb and flow of fashion, customs and use. By re-introducing the ideas of O.M. Ungers’ Grossform and linking these with Frank Bijdendijk’s concept of the Solid, the author argues that strong form is where lasting architecture is to be found, not in new – and soon to be outdated - functional or organizational concepts. A.J. Kropholler’s Linnaeushof in Amsterdam serves as an example. Also investigating architectural means to bolster the quality of social housing estates, Elwin van Heyningen and Peter van der Gaauw draw on Kenneth Frampton’s notion of critical regionalism. The authors claim that the apparent failure of the Smithsons’ Robin Hood Gardens and the success of Alvaro Siza’s Bouça project in Porto, can be attributed to a lack of formal and architectural contextualization of the former and an abundance thereof of the latter. Seemingly furthest removed from the source text is the article by Thomas de Bos and Roderik Trompert. Their analysis of the possibilities and impossibilities of creating nostalgic cityscapes within the boundaries of contemporary building practice is more directly linked to their research project – Rob Krier’s Noorderhof development in Amsterdam – than to Smithson’s eulogy of the welfare state. However, the Violent Consumer and Robin Hood Gardens are present between the lines. With Robin Hood Gardens perhaps exemplifying the demise of the modernist ideal of the buildable world, Noorderhof may exemplify a similarly futile attempt at creating an artificial past. Nathalie Rabouille and Jaap de Jong don’t question the concept of the Smithsons’ Robin Hood Garden, instead they question the physical manifestation of it. Close reading both Robin Hood Gardens and Dutch architect Herman Haan’s student housing in Enschede, the authors propose a number of architecturally articulated delineations and transitory zones between the private and the public. 85
The limits have shifted
by Viojeta Petrak and Jan Diederik van Heemstra
In the article ‘’The violent consumer, or waiting for the goodies’’ (1974)1 Alison Smithson criticized the failure of subsidized housing. She argued that the idea that these projects, because of their grouping structure, would form a unity of the tenants is untrue. Giving people a place in the same environment will not ensure that they have any commitment together. Furthermore, Smithson stresses that residents themselves should take responsibility for their social cohesion. By sharing the responsibility of the success of these projects with other actors, she tries to excuse the architect from the dogma that he and his design are responsible for the social coherence in the built environment. The idea that architects can influence social life has its origins in the 20th century. With the development of the architect as urban planner, also his task changed to that of a social demographical planner. By intervening in the city layout architects and city governments thought they could influence the behaviour and welfare of the residents. To some extent this was true because the first improvements focused on sanitary facilities, daylight and the presence of green - all aspects the city planner had a direct effect on. But when these functional problems were solved, new social problems emerged. Intuitively we went back to the architect who, eagerly, tried to solve the problems, promising new architectural models for a better community. Berlage, Le Corbusier,Van Eesteren and later the Smithsons, they all made new models. Some models did actually succeed, but many did not. Most remarkable about this was the difficulty to determine whether it was the failure of the models or something else. According to Smithson, unless the quality of the model, residents have to take their own responsibility to make a social coherence. However, sometimes even that is impossible, simply because the group of people is too diverse. But still, commissioners, governments and residents expect the architect to improve their surrounding environment. This raises the question what the field of the architect nowadays is. Is it really the architect who determines everything in the design? What is the influence of social life on his work and is it possible for the architect to have an influence on this social life in return? The first known definition of the role of the architect was stated by Vitruvius. According to Vitruvius architecture must exhibit the three qualities firmitas, utilitas and venustas. Logically then, the architect is the guardian of these qualities, which was actually the case in those times. In fact the architect was also the creator and scientist of these qualities, a versatile practitioner of all different kinds of arts and sciences, later known as the uomo universale. But is this still true nowadays? At first sight it is deceptively easy to say that the architect creates all what architecture is. And because architecture is such an important element in the city it is likely to think that the architect can influence social life through his buildings. It is true that because the built environment is growing rapidly architecture itself has an increasing influence on society. Clearly this built environment has an impact on people’s lives, how we use the city or building block (utilitas), the feeling of solidness of a structure (firmitas) and certainly with the valuation of its external expression (venustas). But is it the architect who designs all these qualities? And is it the architect who determines how a building will be used? It is certainly not the architect (anymore) who determines what beauty is. There is a vague but very important difference between the influence of the architect on architecture and the influences of architecture on society. In the article “On the Responsibility of the Architect” (1953)2 several leading architects were asked about the role of architecture. Philip Johnson stated that “architecture is an art primarily and hardly anything else”, where Pietro Belluschi believed that architecture is about “processing every-day material of life into superior aesthetic forms” and thereby he elevated the functional aspect to art. He even argues that the pure artistic part of the architecture is merely “architectural sculpture”. In fact nothing more is done here than
1. Alison Smithson, “The violent consumer, or waiting for the goodies”, Architectural Design,Vol.5 (1974): 274-279.
2. Louis Kahn, Paul Weiss and Vincent Scully, “ On the Responsibility of the Architect.”, Perspecta,Vol.2 (1953): 45-57.
A redefining of the extent of the architectural practice
3. Carl Feiss, “The future role of the architect”, Journal of Architectural Education,Vol.13, No.1 (Spring, 1958): 13-16.
4. Andrea Deplazes, Constructing architecture: materials processes structures (Basel: Birkhäuser, 2005), 10.
5. Henk Engel and François Claessens, Wat is architectuur? Architectuurtheoretische verkenningen (Amsterdam: Sun, 2007), 152.
emphasizing and rejecting the different notions of Vitruvius. Nothing new is introduced, it is rather a simplification of the notions based on specific preferences of an individual architect. Hundreds of years after Vitruvius, none of the notions is actually overthrown. A significant change is to be found when Carl Feiss quotes in his lecture “The Future Role of the Architect” (1958)3 a report from the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The report stated the role of the architect as: “Our Goal: To create a better environment for human living through intelligent community planning”... “will be achieved through design which is the architects own field. The profession must recognize its responsibility to Society in the field of community design”. With this statement he adds an entirely new aspect to architecture and even to the profession of the architect itself. Feiss, once chairman of the Committee on Education of the AIA, connects architecture to the well-being of people. He seems well-aware of the extent to what architects can create that better environment by quoting that it is the design that enables the architect to improve this. Nevertheless we can argue that using the words community planning and community design will give the idea that the architect can design this whole community, which is very naive. The difficulty is that, from all the visible appearances of the community, the built environment is the most thought out. Of course tenants have an important influence on the appearance as well. But their presence is not ‘designed’, they just bought the most suitable home they could get. The architect can design the community thinking of the people who will live there. But in the end a complete different group can occupy the area, using it in a very different way. We see that there is an extent to what the architect can design the community. If we want to define the extent of the architectural work we must avoid the social demographical terms, like community and society, and use architectural terms instead. These terms can be found in Andrea Deplazes’ diagram (see figure 1) where influences on architecture are arranged by the architectural terms topology, typology and tectonics (Deplazes, 2005)4.You might say that this is, just like the Vitruvian notions, another arrangement of aspects concerning the design. But the difference is that Deplazes’ terms are purely practised by architects. Also the knowledge and the theory of these terms are created in the architectural realm. If the architects work is described by the terms topology, typology and tectonics he is forced to find an answer to the assignment within these terms. For example: if we look at the diagram we see that people influence the choice of the typology. This means that the architect shall analyse the people in order to chose a suitable typology. From then on he only works with the typology. He cannot chose or ‘design’ the people, because that is beyond the extent of his practice. The influence is therefore directed towards the architect and cannot be returned. Here we see a first limitation of the architects influence on social life. The choice of the typology defines the beginning of the actual work of the architect. To understand this we need to know about the terms type and model. Quatremère de Quincy describes the model as a formal elaboration of the type (Engel, 2007)5. A model is a resemblance in the elaboration of an assignment. The type, however, could be seen as a similarity in the assignment itself. The model is the overall design, presented for example with a spatial structure, a concept sketch or even more precise with drawings. Defining the type and making the model, are the first two tasks of the architect (see figure 2). The type and model are products of the architect himself. Their knowledge lies within the architectural realm and is not used or changed by other professions. After these two tasks the architect depends on different professions and he will function as a collector of different options. He consults several specialists or other resources. Important about this phase of the design process is that all the solutions are combinations of former architectural work with knowledge from other professions. This part
of the design is not purely architectural but more about managing. His fourth task is to integrate all these options and solutions in one coherent design, trying to stay as close to his model as needed. A clear example to illustrate the first two tasks of the architect can be found in the design of Funenpark. The assignment was housing a varied group of tenants in one area. The architect found a type and created a suitable model. As type a division was chosen between students and starters on one hand and young families on the other. A grand L-shaped building around the plot with smaller building blocks in the middle is the formal elaboration of the model (see figure 3). After finishing the model, the architect’s work was done and he invited several other architects to take over the job by designing each particular block. He chose to develop the L-shaped building himself. Why is it important to define the type and to make the model? You could say that when the assignment is the same, the same type and model could be used again. In fact we could make a catalogue and for each assignment we could chose which type and model are useful. This would make the work of the architect redundant. If we look at the different Unités of Le Corbusier, built throughout France but also in Berlin we see that each time the same type and model are used. The first Unité in Marseille is made through an extensive analysis of the new city which could be stacked upon itself creating a vertical city. The model was created with the well-known duplex apartment with the corridor in the middle of the block (see figure 4). The building was a success. The same model was then used in Berlin without re-thinking the model or even the slightest doubt about the type, resulting in a far less appreciated building. So, even when the assignment looks very much the same and the locations are not that far away from each other, we still need the free mind of the architect to analyze the assignment before defining the type or the model. The practice of the type and the model is purely based on architectural knowledge and is only carried out by architects, no other participant discusses these subjects with the architect. Even the words type and model are never used again in the design process. From now on the architect will talk about a design, a concept or ideas but he will never explain his work by mentioning the words type or model. After the architect has done his ‘secret work’, he enters a new phase in which he develops the concept into exact form, drawings and materialization. This is where the vitruvian terms come into sight. The firmitas, utilitas and venustas are not purely architectural based practices. In far gone times the architect sure was responsible and had all the knowledge about these aspects. The uomo universale in that time was both the constructor and the planner, he even knew – or decided – what real beauty was. But nowadays more and more specialists are taking over parts of his work. Even the increasingly independent user of the building has its own opinion and the means to carry out his wishes. The role of the architect has changed. Still the architect has to deal with many different aspects which can be divided in the Vitruvian terms. He has to know something or more about these aspects, but he will not decide on his own. If we look at the firmitas, it is very clear that the architect has to deal with another specialist: the constructor. Almost every building needs a constructor to calculate the load-bearing elements. The architect knows about the standard sizes and the most common structures, but in the end the constructor will design the construction and thus taking care of the firmitas. For utilitas the architect creates a map in which he thinks people will behave in a certain way and use the spaces as he intended. But in his research on how people behave and how the spaces are used he still has to observe the user. Also after the building is finished he has to wait and see if the building is used the way he intended to. The success of the utilitas depends on a good cooperation between the architect and the user. Even 88
the design process adapted to this cooperation.You could even argue about who is really creating the floor plan. When the architect relies on the opinion of the user, the user itself has determined the layout. The stronger the wishes of the user, the more he determines the floor plan. The third and most controversial term of Vitruvius is venustas. With this aspect the role of the architect is even more doubtful. It could be the architect who decides what is beautiful and what he wants to build, but how far is that his own opinion? Is he not trying to make something that pleases the user or the commissioner? In the field of venustas the actors altogether determine whether it is the architect or someone else who is responsible. At this point it looks as if all the work after creating the model is shared with other participants. About some aspects the architect has very little to say. But this is not the end of the design process. It is a good thing that the architect can send his work to different specialists, or that he can share his view with the future users to adapt his design to their opinions. But after the participation phase, the architect has to do his last task – the integration of all these aspects. To illustrate the need to do this we consider the practice of Rem Koolhaas in the Kunsthal. After his rough sketch he asked all the specialists to participate and design their part in the best possible way. All the best solutions were assembled and, seemingly, without rethinking put together. A profound integration of all the different aspects of the building has never been done. This is very visible in the poorly detailed corners in the sloping corridor of the building. The window frames do not fit at all with the ceiling and the incoming ramp. The connection of this ceiling with the wall sure is a problem area. Difficult glass connections, extra concrete attachments and sloppy window frames are the result (see figure 5). A redesign after all the different solutions of the specialists would have made the design far more coherent and even easier to build. The choice not to do so was made because of the small budget. Koolhaas wanted to spend the money on the expression of the construction. Of course people can appreciate the Kunsthal for this non-finished appearance and in a building like this it is possible to do so. But the example shows what happens when you leave out the fourth phase in the design process. In most buildings it is necessary to integrate all the different elements, if only it was for a more efficient building method. In the end it is needed to have a fourth phase in the design process: that someone validates all solutions and chooses the best set of solutions according to the assignment. The question remains why is it the architect to do this job? The answer is rather simple: the architect alone can make a decision without renouncing his profession. If he chooses the best solution for the construction, but a second-best for the installations he can do so because he can choose which part of the design is decisive.You cannot ask the installer to design a second-best solution at forehand. In the end it is the architect who knows which part is important and what the building is really about. When Alison Smithson described the subsidized housing tenant as a violent consumer, she clearly needed to ventilate her frustration of a failed project and a destroyed believe that architecture can intervene in social disrupted areas. But if we place her article in time with that of Carl Feiss who, sixteen years earlier, believes architecture must take its responsibility in the social community, we can also see it as an important redefining of the limits of the architectural profession. The influence of architecture has its boundaries when it is used as a healing element for social discrepancies. The problem is that architects in the sixties still argued about which Vitruvian notion was more important, while the real issue about the extent of the architectural profession was never discussed thoroughly. The limits of the profession had shifted unnoticed and the 89
Figure 1 Andrea Deplazes, Form-finding or form-developing processes, Basel, based on a statement by Kenneth Frampton (2005).
Figure 3 Vijoleta Petrak, Concept Funenpark, based on the design of AchitectenCie, Delft, (2011).
(left) Figure 2 Vijoleta Petrak and Jan Diederik van Heemstra, Design process, Delft, (2011).
Figure 4 Vijoleta Petrak, Unité d’Habitation, based on a section of Le Corbusier, Delft, (2011)
3: ASSEMBLY:-ﬁrmitas -utilitas -venustas
Figure 5 Jan Diederik van Heemstra, Detail window of Kunsthal, Architect: OMA, Rotterdam, (2010)
architect had to face expectations which could not be fulfilled with his practice. The introduction of the terms topology, typology and tectonics, which are solely affiliated with the architectural realm, give us the necessary means to separate the actual field of the architect from the endless list of influences on architecture. These terms define the limit and create a new starting point for the architect to rely on. Thereby setting the architect free from the obligation to design something that will heal the flaws on the side of the influences. The actual tools type and model have an even more separating quality to prevent the profession from being flooded with problems to solve. The profession has to deal with a lot of influences which determine the type, but that does not mean that the design, in the end, will have a solution for all of them. To accept the limitations of architecture in healing the social coherence can also lead us to a better understanding what architecture actually can do. At the end of her article Smithson gave us her first attempt for new typologies. The idea of creating different places “to allow society to freely fragment” (Smithson, 1974)6 is the acceptation that one model cannot provide for the divided community. But at the same time it is the discovery that this diversity of people is an important input for the creation of this new typology.
6. Alison Smithson, “The violent consumer, or waiting for the goodies”, Architectural Design,Vol.5 (1974): 274-279.
The creation of new typologies and models is the responsibility for the architectural profession - it is our science and knowledge which we have to develop in order to adapt to new design matters. But we can never let the social problems be a direct design matter itself, because that will create false expectations and doing so withholding the tenants themselves from initiating a change in their social environment.
Bibliography: Andrea Deplazes, Constructing architecture: materials processes structures (Basel: Birkhäuser, 2005), 10. Henk Engel and François Claessens, Wat is architectuur? Architectuurtheoretische verkenningen (Amsterdam: Sun, 2007), 152. Carl Feiss, “The future role of the architect”, Journal of Architectural Education,Vol.13, No.1 (Spring, 1958): 13-16. Louis Kahn, Paul Weiss and Vincent Scully, “ On the Responsibility of the Architect.”, Perspecta,Vol.2 (1953): 45-57. Alison Smithson, “The violent consumer, or waiting for the goodies”, Architectural Design,Vol.5 (1974): 274-279.
Designing the ideal neighbourhood: From Living Machine to Living City Imposing the architects way The architecture of large housing projects has always been a source of debate because this is where the ideals of our society are made tangible. Housing projects establish our living environment for the coming decades and therefore it is important that architects pay close attention to their designs. Despite this not all projects are successful. A substantial number of projects is plagued by problems we all know too well: crime, violence and vandalism leading to degeneration of the neighbourhood. The famous British architect Alison Smithson wrote an article discussing this when the project Robin Hood Gardens, which she had designed together with her husband Peter Smithson, also fell victim to these problems. This article, The Violent Consumer published in Architectural Design in 1974, tried to get a grasp on the reasons why projects fall victim to crime and vandalism. In it Alison Smithson puts forward that the problems are caused by the way our society works. It provides too much, causing resentment both for those providing and those provided. She claims that a more diverse, choice-based society is the solution. We believe that exactly the lack of diversity and choice in Robin Hood Gardens caused the problems at hand. In essence it is our contention that in many Modernistic projects the architect has tried to enforce his ideas and visions too strongly upon the inhabitants. In the ideal city the architect should leave blanks for the user to fill in. When the inhabitant fills in these blanks it is no longer an anonymous machine but instead an object the user can connect to. We will elaborate this statement in this essay by comparing Robin Hood Gardens to a contemporary urban design. Evaporating the Modern approach The contemporary urban design we choose to compare to Robin Hood Gardens (1972) by the Smithsons is the Chassépark (2007) in Breda designed by Rem Koolhaas. Robin Hood Gardens is a social housing estate in London which was conceived in the 1960s to replace Victorian slums. It consists of two apartment blocks enclosed by busy roads. In between the two large concrete blocks a public garden is situated. The dwellings are reached by broad galleries which are a manifestation of the streets in the sky concept the Smithsons envisioned. They were supposed to allow social interaction, as one would find in a traditional neighbourhood, to continue in this much denser social housing project1. The Smithsons intended their project as a model for future developments as Peter Smithson stated: “It is a model, it is an exemplar of a new mode of urbanisation.”(BBC, 2008) However the Smithsons went beyond this, for architects not too uncommon view, by implying that their project would be a model for a new society. As the Design Museum in London states: “All their subsequent projects … were infused with the same crusading zeal to build schools, workplaces and homes for a progressive, more meritocratic post-war society.”2 Soon after completion the project was heavily vandalised and became a hotbed of crime.3 Since completion Robin Hood Gardens has been maintained poorly and is now nominated to be demolished and replaced with new (partly social) housing. The Smithsons were the main proponent of an architectural movement known as New Brutalism which involves the use of monumental sculptural shapes and of raw unfinished concrete. It advocated the return to functionalist principles and the exposure of structural elements. It was strongly linked to the architectural style of Le Corbusier with whom the Smithons identified. However, the Smithsons did not simply copy the principles of Le Corbusier. To Alison and Peter Smithson creating a house was not about designing a smooth machine in good working order: they wanted to construct a place, a territory. This idea is specified by the idea that a structure should welcome its appropriation by inhabitants, their patterns of use, their art of inhabitation. 4 The Chassépark is a project located in the city of Breda in the Netherlands and is a redevelopment of an old barracks area within the old historic city centre. It consists of
1. Moore, 2010
2. Design Museum, 2011
3. Pearman, 2003
4.Van den Heuvel and Risselada, 2004:10
by Bas Albers and Johannes Dijkman
5.Van Onna, 2007
seven hundred dwellings, offices and public facilities, a city park and underground parking. The masterplan of the project was designed by Rem Koolhaas (OMA) and further developed by the Belgian architect Xaveer de Geyter. To a certain extent the project was developed bottom-up as twelve different architectural firms developed the different projects within the park. 5 As all the buildings are designed by different architects the styles vary from modernist to classicism and include historical and modern buildings. The campus model with its green landscape, however, combines all these strong buildings effortlessly into a unity. This also allows great flexibility in adapting to changed demands by adding new buildings and demolishing unwanted ones.6 The Chassépark is designed according to the campus model in which different buildings are situated in an open grass field with connecting paths and lanes. One of the starting points in the development of the Chassépark is the call for differentiation. Extensive inquires showed that future tenants demanded more choice in different price classes. This has led to (limited) social housing on the one hand and expensive apartments on the other hand. However, this differentiation also means that the neighbourhood should attract different people, from families to retired people. Furthermore the neighbourhood should not become solely a residential area, but combine living, working and recreation.7
7.Van Onna, 2007 8. Barbieri, 2010:10 9. Ghijs, 2010
10. Le Corbusier, 2010;349
According to Barbieri the urban designs by Koolhaas are a prime example of that he calls ‘the evaporated city’ 8. In the evaporated city the classic paradigm of the Western classic tradition is gone. 9 There is no prevailing architectonic theory anymore, no limits to shapes and references. Instead, the pure act of designing demands and deserves absolute freedom. This absolute freedom means the architect does not have to conform himself to or rebel against the current dominant architectural theory. Instead he can study the design task and develop the best approach to solve the problem. This strongly contrasts to the Modern approach where theory and ideas were leading aspects in the design of buildings. If we compare Barbieri’s observation of the evaporated city where architectural theory does not dominate anymore to the very theory heavy era in which Robin Hood Gardens was built, we can claim that there has been a shift in urban design; from the Living Machine by Le Corbusier to something we can call the Living City. Fixing the Living Machine In his Vers une architecture Le Corbusier comments on the industrialization of society, expressing his praise for automobiles, airplanes, steamships and mass-production. This leads to his claim that we “must look upon the house as a machine to live in”. Later on working on his Ville Radieuse he stipulates a number of design rules, the most important one being the call for geometry and repetition. “The city of to-day is a dying thing because it is not geometrical. To build in the open would be to replace our present haphazard arrangements, which are all we have to-day by a uniform lay-out. Unless we do this there is no salvation. The result of a true geometrical lay-out is repetition.” 10 Le Corbusier goes as far as sketching the working day pattern and stating what people should do in their free time, assuming the entire society should function as one machine. This theoretical framework to architecture creates houses like machines. The architect becomes an engineer who tries to build efficient machines rather than creating homes for real people. This house is not a dwelling to live in and make into a home but instead a machine which needs to be maintained and operated. It is hard for an inhabitant to convert this machine into a home. This causes the inhabitant to disconnect from the property and he most likely won’t feel responsible for maintaining the complex. For a person to be happy and responsible he needs to be able to make his environment his own. He needs a connection with his home and his outside environment. This idea is not new, and surprisingly, was already postulated by Alison
Smithson. “A basis for a new try – so-called participation – will need complete honesty: yet almost everything is against allowing the individual of today to face up to knowing himself or his needs.” 11 Alison Smithson doubts the concept of participation because she assumes that the individual does not know his needs. This would make it impossible to create a successful project based on participation. However, the social structure in the Chasse Park is based on participation and is successful. How come Koolhaas swims in it, yet the Smithsons drowned in it? The essence of the answer is that the inhabitants share responsibility for their park and their influence is not limited to just paying the rent. Every inhabitant, regardless of class, descent or income tries to pursue the same goal: creating a pleasurable environment to live in. The architect left space for the inhabitants’ input. First of all the building in the park are very diverse, giving new inhabitants every choice to pick their own style. Secondly the inhabitants can adapt their surroundings: “The communal roofterrace with view of the old city centre has been made into an enjoyable meeting place.” 12 Thirdly the owners can also influence the maintenance of the park with an innovative management construction. The owners themselves decide how a part of the maintenance budget is spent: being extra cleaning services, removal of weed or surveillance by security personnel. 13 This importance is also understood by Herman Hertzberger who writes: “the form of the space itself must offer the opportunities, including basic fittings and attachments etc., for the users to fill in the spaces according to their personal needs and desires.”14 The contrast with the Smithsons is clear. Peter Smithson claimed: “Whichever technique he chooses, the architect’s function is to propose a way of life”.15 The concept of the streets in the skies is just one example how the Smithson tried to impose a way of life through their buildings. Defining every aspect of the building and postulating a strong architectural theory on the usage of a design severely limits the possibilities for the inhabitants to make a design their own. This provokes the misuse of a building and the success of a design strongly depends on the way it is used. In this context is it hardly surprising that most iconic buildings that are considered the masterpieces of an individual architect are public buildings or single family houses. In designing a single family house the architect can focus his design on the needs of just one single family. The architect can study their needs and design a dwelling that is specifically oriented towards the users. As the users see their wishes and their way of life reflected in the design, they will instantly connect to it. Sometimes even connecting the dwelling to just one single person fails. Did not the owner of the Farnsworth House, considered an iconic masterpiece, sue Mies van der Rohe because she found the building too expensive to live in?16 Today this is reduced to just another anecdote but disconnecting a building from its inhabitant can have much more serious consequences when the scale is upgraded from one house to an entire neighbourhood. There are modern architecture buildings that work very well, even though the architect has imposed his view of a perfect solution upon the inhabitants. Buildings such as Le Corbusier’s Pavillion de la Suisse and Unite d’Habitation are examples of buildings that are considered iconic nowadays. These buildings were the first in a long tradition. That does not mean these buildings are perfect; like many Modernist buildings the new way of building with steel and glass caused a lot of practical problems.17 Still these old buildings are a success and people want to live in them. Why does imposing a perfect solution and leaving little space for users’ input work for these buildings but leads to mediocre results in so many other cases? The answer to this seeming paradox is simple: People want to live in these buildings because they can relate to the building because it has become an icon. The building does not have to relate to them anymore, a luxury only very few architects can enjoy.
11. Smithson, 1974;276
12.Van Onna, 2007
13.Van den Bergen, 2000
14. Hertzberger, 2009;24 15. Curtis, 1996;529
16.Watkin, 2001; 649
17.Watkin, 2001; 612
18.Van Onna, 2007; 38
19.Van Onna, 200719. Heyman et al., 2001; 397
It is often stated that Modern architecture such as Robin Hood Gardens or the Bijlmer in Amsterdam did not fail because of the architecture, but due to other reasons such as demographics: a concentration of poor, ill-educated people that are not able to take part in society as normal. This often leads to a concentration of problems such as high unemployment, neglect of children, drug dependence and in turn also vandalism, violence and crime. A similar statement was made by the architect of the Chassépark De Geyter: “Especially in the 1980s the campus model was strongly criticized. … That the problems of these neighbourhoods were caused by the architecture was only partly correct, because the main reason must be sought in the social problems at hand. They have brought too many people from the same population group and from social lower classes together”8 Of course social issues play a major role in the success or failure of a neighbourhood, but social problems can be amplified or diminished by the architecture. A good example of this can be found in the Victorian slums of the 19th century. The living conditions in the neighbourhoods were appalling due to diseases, overcrowding and severe poverty. To a large extent these living conditions were created by the fact that millions of people moved to the cities within decades and could not find a job. The uncoordinated growth of the cities meant that industry and residential areas were one and the same and the housing quality was extremely poor. The urban planning greatly amplified the problems of these neighbourhoods. The Modern architects’ view that different functions needed to be separated might sound outdated, but in the light of the Victorian slums it formed a major improvement. Removing the industry is one of the grounds why these old neighbourhoods are a success again nowadays even when the old buildings are still there. This shows that although social issues play a significant role, architecture and urban planning can improve or degrade living conditions. Climbing the Maslow Pyramid We have shown the different approaches for Robin Hood Gardens and the Chassé Park where in the first project a ‘perfect’ design was created for the user whereas in the second design room was left for the users to adapt their environment. Important aspects of the Chassépark being differentiation and participation have been mentioned. The Smithsons were part of the Modern Architecture movement, but already saw its flaws and wanted more input from the user. This is especially apparent, as in a way the Smithons already anticipated in 1967 that the Chassépark would be a successful design: “A city pattern that answers to the new lifestyle, should consist of extensive and intelligible groups of houses in a liveable environment with inviolable, peaceful spaces, of intelligible workplaces in a liveable environment, of Disneylike shopping-strolling zones where one can walk at ease, with in between easy and anonymous transport modes.” 19 The Smithsons were unable to apply the new principles in a tangible project. Rem Koolhaas has gone a step further and wants serious input from the (future) user. Demands of future owners were investigated, the neighbourhood was differentiated in building type, price, function and room was left for the users to adapt their environment. We live in a time when opportunities are limitless, architects not excluded. As boundaries have vanished everyone tries to reach perfection. The question is whether this perfection is attainable and more important whether it’s unique. Maybe we have moved on to the next stage of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This scheme states that we want to fulfil our needs in a certain order: first physiological needs (food, sleep), second safety needs (safe environment, job security), third social needs (friendship), fourth esteem needs (recognition) and fifth self-actualization (meaning). The Modernists have improved the world considerably as they strived for the availability of basic needs for everyone thereby fulfilling the physiological and safety needs. They allowed everybody to have a decent home with running water, electricity and entertainment nearby. However, as soon as we attained these basic needs we moved to the next stage, trying to fulfil social and esteem needs and finally reach self-actualization. The
Figure 1: Maslowâ€™s Hierarchy of needs (Wikimedia Commons)
Figure 2: Birds view Chasse Park Breda (Chasse Park Breda NL), 37
Figure 3: Alison and Peter Smithson, Robin Hood Gardens, Robin Hood Lane, London, 1966-1972, axonometric drawing (Modern Architecture since 1900), 533
20. Huxley, 1932
first two levels, giving shelter and a safe environment for example, can be fulfilled for everyone with the same provisions. Fulfilling the top three levels asks for a unique approach that architects can never deliver for large groups of people. Our current society therefore demands buildings that we can connect to in order to fulfil the top three levels of the pyramid. It is interesting that already at the beginning of the 20th century the Russian philosopher Berdiaeff stated that although the technical and economical means to achieve perfection are available we should not strive for perfection as it will smother our freedom and eventually our happiness. “Utopias seem to be much more achievable than we formerly believed them to be. Now we find ourselves presented with another alarming question: how do we prevent utopias from coming into existence? …Utopias are possible. Life tends towards the formation of utopias. Perhaps a new century will begin, a century in which intellectuals and the privileged will dream of ways to eliminate utopias and return to a non-utopic society less “perfect” and more free.”20
Bibliography: Barbieri, U. “Citta ideale,” Faculty of Architecture, October 20, 2010. http://www.bk.tudelft.nl/live/pagina.jsp?id=87c0fb93-44dc-4708-929666ef6b76e75a&lang=nl&binary=/doc/Tekst_afscheidsrede_Barbieri_%20def.pdf (accessed May 20, 2011) Van den Bergen, M., “Chasse Park Breda, een schone en veilige campus”, Archined, November 21, 2000. http://www.classic.archined.nl/news/0011/chasse.html (accessed May 22, 2011) BBC News, “Row over ‘street in sky’ estate”, BBC News, March 7, 2008. http://news.bbc. co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/7281156.stm (accessed May 19, 2011) Curtis, W.J.R., Modern Architecture since 1900 (New York: Phaidon Press Inc., 1996), 528-545. Design Museum, “Alison + Peter Smithson”, Design Museum, http://designmuseum.org/ design/alison-peter-smithson. Accessed May 19, 2011 Ghijs, A., “Verlichte idealen. Interview met Prof. Umberto Barbieri”, B-Nieuws 03 20102011, 6-7. Hertzberger H., Lessons for Students in Architecture (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2009), 22-27. Heyman,H., Loeckx, A., De Cassier, L.,Van Hoeck, M., Dat is Architectuur (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2001) Huxley, A., Epigraph of Brave New World (London: Chatto and Windus, 1932) Le Corbusier, “The City of Tomorrow,” in The Blackwell City Reader, ed. Bridge, G. and Watson, S. (Chichester, West Sussex: Blackwell Publishing, 2010), 345,354. Moore, R., “Robin Hood Gardens: don’t knock it…down”, The Guardian, December 5, 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2010/dec/05/robin-hood-gardens-eastlondon (accessed May 19, 2011) Van Onna, E., Chassé Park. Een campus als collectief stadslandschap (Amsterdam: BIS Publishers, 2007), 14-108. Pearman, H., “The Smithsons”, first published in The Month, November 30, 2003. http:// www.hughpearman.com/articles5/smithsons5.html (accessed May 19, 2011) Smithson, A., “The violent consumer”, Architectural Design, May 1974, 274-278. Van den Heuvel, D. and Risselada, M., From a House of the Future to a House of Today (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2004), 10. Tilman, H. (1997), “Binnenstedelijke landschappen”, De Architect, (april 1997), 32-43. Watkin, D., De westerse architectuur, een geschiedenis (Nijmegen:Sun, 2001), 648-659.
Figure 4: Le Corbusier, Plan Voisin for Paris 1925, model (De Westerse Architectuur), 609
CONTAINING CHANCE AND CHANGE by Anthony Dann
Thesis Unpredictable but inevitable functional changes can be accommodated for within an urban dwelling block if it possesses formal architectural qualities giving it a strong sense of identity, longevity and relationship to place. Dwelling blocks in the urban compact are sometimes blessed at the outset with enduring forms that stand the test of time. Likewise, they might inherit forms with robust characteristics that have outlived their original program, such as abandoned warehouses or civic buildings. In all cases the way the building functions will change over time, depending to a greater or lesser extent on the demands, trends and shifts in society, economy and technology. Buildings which honour time while absorbing these changes bring character and identity to the city, tell the stories of history, and offer practical strategies for building sustainably. In the Netherlands, as with most of Europe, the standard in the building industry measures a building’s lifespan between fifteen to fifty years.1 This is in sharp contrast to the lifespan of commonly used building materials, which would actually suggest that buildings can, and indeed should, stand for hundreds of years. The canal houses of Amsterdam for example are commonly dated to the 17th century, and the diversity regulated by time and some guidelines has enduring and ever increasing value. By its very nature, building out of, say, brick, concrete and steel is a long term investment, not only inherent in the permanence of the materials themselves, but for the energy and resources involved in creating them. The forms to which these products are moulded are thus a great legacy of the part of the architect. In contrast to the enduring nature of the architectural product, the use of buildings is a fluid thing, based on the shifts in society, developments in technology, the changes in economy, reorganisation of the city fabric, and many other factors. Buildings therefore should accommodate this change in pattern and use within the more enduring architectural container, which provides the city its character and diversity over time. The fact that buildings must absorb unpredictable functional changes as time passes seems at odds with the conventional design process, where a brief is delivered to the architect outlining a strict guideline of how a building must perform. In order for the brief to be met, but also for adaptability and change to be accommodated, the building must be open to multiple interpretations.2 The flexibility aspect at briefing level is not common, but is expected to eventually become a standard consideration, particularly in light of growing sustainability requirements in the building industry.3 Two important theories will be presented in the following text to support the notion of an architecture that provides a framework in which change is accommodated over a long period of time. The first is Grossform, which emerged in the 1960’s. It argues that strong form provides the conditions for change to occur independently from the ideas of the architect. The other, Solids theory, is a contemporary examination of how accommodating change in an emotionally valuable base building is an approach for holistic sustainability. A counterargument to the ‘permanence’ of Grossform and Solids is found in Sir Peter Cook’s work. He challenges the very notion of the definition of architecture as a solid and definable thing and will be examined towards the end of this essay. A method suited to creating dense urban forms of enduring quality and maximum adaptation is that described by Oswald Mathias Ungers in his 1966 essay ‘Grossformen im Wohnungsbau’.4 The theory of Grossform sees the building as the long-standing culturally significant container, but the life within it developing independently from the ideas of the architect.5 The possibilities inherent within the Grossform approach mean that the architect is not limited by the precise fit of refined program, public opinion or other short-lived notions. As Ungers puts it, the life within the architectural project will almost necessarily change, provided the architecture lasts long enough. The formally ‘strong’ gesture can act as a more forgiving and convincing frame for the ‘ever-changing
1.Walter Spangenberg, “Flexibility in Structures” in Time Based Architecture, ed. Bernard Leupen et al. (Netherlands: 010 Publishers, 2005), 76.
2. Herman Hertzberger “Time Based Buildings” in Time Based Architecture, ed. Bernard Leupen et al. (Netherlands: 010 Publishers, 2005), 82-90. 3. Spangenberg, “Flexibility in Structures”, 80.
4. O.M. Ungers, ‘Grossformen im Wohnungsbau’. Veröffentlichungen zur Architektur 5, December 1966. 5. Lara Schrijver, “Grossform, a Perspective on the Large-scale Urban Project” in DASH, (Netherlands, NAI Publishers, 2011), 1.
6. Schrijver, “Grossform,” 5.
7.Tom Avermaete et al., “Defining the City Through Grossform” in OASE Journal for Architecture No.71 (Netherlands, NAI Publishers, November 2006), 24.
life within it’.6 Ungers considers the less predictable perspective of function to be taken up in connective spaces such as streets and plateaus, allowing him to first and foremost address the architectural, formal and solid, such as the upright manifestations of walls and towers.7 With formal strength and coherence as the foundation for a Grossform, it suits the larger scale, as the urban ‘frame’ is more easily defined by sheer size. He further outlines four criteria; any of which may signal a Grossform, and states that there must be something beyond the mere sum of parts; an extra dimension that is strictly architectural. The criteria are: -an over-accentuated element -a connecting element -the principle of figure and theme -a specific ordering principle.8
8. Schrijver, “Grossform,” 4.
9. Mumford, E.The CIAM Discourse on Urbanism, 1928-1960 (USA Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2000), 236. 10. Schrijver, “Grossform,” 5.
11. Frank Bijdendijk, “Solids” in Time Based Architecture, ed. Bernard Leupen et al. (Netherlands: 010 Publishers, 2005), 42.
12. Bijdendijk, “Solids” 42-50.
The other important notion of Ungers’ approach is that the architect is not the antidote to society’s ills, and that the social is merely the field in which the architect works, not an area that can be directly transformed through architecture. This is an important departure from the agenda of the CIAM modernists, and subsequently Ungers’ fellow members at Team 10, who were driving towards a doctrine of social reform through architecture, where functionalism and technology were the preoccupying themes.9 Finally, because Grossform is suited to the larger scale it is a useful principle to realise a ‘city within the city’. It has a direct morphological impact on the city, and is a long-term transformation of the urban environment. It is set up to contain a specifically urban problem of containing diversity.10 A comparative approach is Frank Bijdendijk’s theory of Solids which sees the long lifespan of the building container full of possibilities. Solids, he argues, are sustainable buildings, because they combine an adaptable ‘accommodation capacity’ with an emotional value connected to the exterior and entrance spaces, which he terms ‘preciousness’.11 The combination of preciousness and adaptability comprises the Solid, and Bijdendijk argues that the upfront investment required in a building with Solids quality will lead to economic, functional, technical and emotional sustainability long into the future. Preciousness is targeted at collective values. It’s about a building’s identity and the emotional connection of the community within and surrounding it that develops over time. As the connectedness develops, so too does the tendency to want to see the building preserved. Bijdendijk’s theory is a reaction to common building practice, where the limitations and pressures that exist in the developer-driven way of making dwellings leads to short term thinking. He claims that the investment made in a high-quality exterior with emotional resonance will likely cost more upfront, but the pay-off far outweighs the alternative…a building intended for a short lifespan made to a “sober and objective” brief with highly rationalised building methods.12 In essence, the theory of Solids is an argument for sustainability. It suggests that resource saving comes with preservation of the base building, but not only that; it provides an identity and a value which transcends the short-term. The vessel which can accrue value across both of these fronts will be far more holistically sustainable, and the cost-benefit argument is one that is time-based…not fifteen or fifty, but perhaps hundreds of years in pay-off, but with ever increasing, rather than diminishing returns. Like Ungers, Bijdendijk argues that change is the only constant factor in usage patterns. Throw in current world trends such as shifts in economy and climate, and the ability to plan long-term becomes all the more difficult. By embracing the unpredictable, Bijdendijk builds a case for a functionally changeable building with long-standing exterior frame. Solids and Grossform are similar concepts. They are both reacting to the movement
towards hyper- rationalization of building methods, densification, and quantity over quality in urban dwelling block development. Solids theory talks about the contemporary issues of sustainability and economics and makes technical suggestions for adaptability. Grossform is explained within its own historical context, and is refers to the larger and more abstract family of ideas tied together with 1960’s modernism and the post-war housing boom. Commonly though, they both nod to the longstanding historical discipline of architecture. The following two examples give a comparative analysis of these theories. Each is an urban enclave situated within conventional row-housing environments in moderately dense areas. Similarly, each has the same number of dwellings, roughly two hundred. They are interesting to compare because they both demonstrate qualities of a Grossform and a Solid, but only one is successful. The first is Robin Hood Gardens in London designed by contemporaries of Ungers and fellow Team 10 members, The Smithsons. The other is Linneaushof in Amsterdam by Alexander Kropholler, designed fifty years earlier in the traditionalist manner. The Robin Hood Gardens social housing block is located in the East End of London and was completed in 1972 by Alison and Peter Smithson. Self-proclaimed “makers of society”, the Smithsons came in the wake of CIAM and modernism’s ambitious social and tech agenda. Alison Smithson was bitterly disappointed at the immediate rejection of the project by the inhabitants and Londoners in general. The residents that she dubbed “wild animals” wilfully vandalised the building and slandered the brutalist structure, discrediting her “years of hard work”.13 Part of the trouble was that the project was tainted from the start. The old terracehousing standing on the site was bulldozed tabula rasa to the retrospective dismay of many Londoners.14 Forty years later, in the wake of a slow but steady establishment of stable communities at Robin Hood, the building has ultimately failed to convince the city of its worthiness. Prominent architects including Norman Foster and Richard Rogers have come out in defence of its architectural heritage, but it will soon be demolished.15 The controversial building has constantly provoked strong opinion. Architectural historian Alan Powers whimsically described it as “a sizeable piece of green turf and sky is caught between two boomerang-shaped cliffs of housing, making a particular and special place where the reflected light of the Thames bounces around.”16 Opposed in equal and opposite measure, it has been discredited as “a grim building in an even grimmer place”.17 Some residents have stood by it, giving accounts of a deeply connected community life, though others are critical of the building’s inability to adapt to their changing family needs.18 Many conclusions can be drawn from an examination of Robin Hood. In scale and formal assembly it has the qualities of a Grossform, with its connecting elements the streets in the air, its over-accentuated element the green hill and park, and its specific ordering of brutalist concrete block construction repeated and uniform. It intended a forced socialisation however, and was programmatically over-defined, so that future adaptation by the inhabitants or functional change entirely was an expensive, difficult exercise. In the end it failed to win the hearts and minds of the wider community, other than those with an architectural education or an address in the block. Its fatal shortcomings were that it fostered neither programmatic change, nor an emotional attachment by the city at large, which by Bijdendijk’s measure of a Solid, is then an unsustainable building. A useful comparison to make is with Linneaushof in the east of Amsterdam, designed in 1927 by Alexander Kropholler. Like Robin Hood Gardens, Linneaushof is an ordered arrangement of dwellings oriented to share an open courtyard space. It differs significantly though in that the building is literally hidden from view and camouflaged by the scale and typology of its traditional brick row houses. There was never any outcry at its implementation as it offended none, though its design was far from experimental...Kropholler
13. Alison Smithson “The Violent Consumer,” Architectural Design 5 (1974) 274-278
14. Guardian.co.uk “Robin Hood Gardens, Don’t Knock it Down.” Last modified December 5, 2010, http:// www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2010/ dec/05/robin-hood-gardens-east-london 15. “Robin Hood Gardens Part 2,” last updated November 20, 2010, http:// lovelondoncouncilhousing.blogspot. com/2010/11/robin-hood-gardens-partii-new-vision.html 16.The Times “Robin Hood Gardens: For and Against” Last updated May 29, 2008, http://entertainment.timesonline. co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/ visual_arts/architecture_and_design/ article4023353.ece 17.The Times “Robin Hood Gardens: For and Against” 18. Guardian.co.uk “Is London’s Robin Hood Gardens an Architectural Masterpiece?”Video link interviewing residents, posted July 29, 2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/video/2009/ jul/28/robin-hood-gardens-architecture
based the enclave on others like it, notably the Begijnhof chapel courtyard enclave also in Amsterdam.19
19. Paul Groenendijk, Piet Vollard et al., Architectural Guide to the Netherlands 1900-2000 (Netherlands, 010 Publishers, 2009), 316.
20. Information gathered during site visits during March, 2011
21. Bijdendijk, “Solids” 50. 22. Guardian.co.uk “Robin Hood Gardens, Don’t Knock it Down.”
23. Peter Cook, “Slithering Away from the Solid” INDESEM ‘11 Conference,TU Delft Netherlands, May 20, 2011
24. Peter Cook, “The Archigram Story.” Last modified April 29, 2009. http:// www.berlage-institute.nl/persons/ sir_peter_cook 25. Cook, “Slithering Away From the Solid” 2011
The fiercely anti-modernist Kropholler was contracted by the Catholic Church to develop a scheme of dwelling units, shops, school, convent and church in a secluded village arrangement, targeting well-off Catholics. The complex is simple and functional construction of row housing around the perimeter, with two layers of brick dwellings over four storeys. The complex works on the level of the human scale, with street level entry to all dwellings, and views across the complex that give open-ness but at the same time privacy. Observing the functional changes of the buildings over its eighty-four year lifespan reveals great shifts in use. Originally designed as an exclusive Catholic enclave, the church used the dwellings as a means of paying for the construction of the chapel. But the drop in interest in Catholics to live there eventually forced the church to allow outsiders in. A school has now replaced the original convent, a gymnasium has replaced the shops, and religious faith diminished, meaning the chapel functions mainly as a service hall for weddings and funerals. Renovations are common in the dwellings themselves, with the original cramped 1920’s floor plans being inadequate for the informal open plan living of today.20 As a Grossform there are observable formal qualities to the complex. There is simplicity to the massing and detailing creating a strict ordering principle of scale and materiality. The connecting element is the quadrangle housing facing the perimeter street, and the church forms the over accentuated element to its centre. As the measure of a Solid, the formal composition has by now taken on the quality of preciousness, and because of this, it is a convincing and forgiving frame for functional change. Summarising these projects, both contain the formally measurable qualities of a Grossform, and have a degree of detail and material consideration that justify an appraisal as Solids. However, where one fails and the other succeeds is not ultimately based on functional adaptability or even cultural value, but on relationship to place. Ultimately, Robin Hood was rejected by its context, and also by the manner in which it was implemented, which the public never forgave. As Bijdendijk says, ‘The setting is uppermost, the building comes next’.21 Interestingly, the building set to replace Robin Hood is a Hong-Kong style high-rise tower block of some 1600 dwellings’ suggesting that history may well repeat itself.22 The underlying message of Grossform and Solids is that a building should stand for centuries. This has resonance with the historical discipline of architecture, but should be critically examined in light of other contemporary architectural approaches. “Slithering Away from the Solid” was the title of a recent 2011 lecture given by Sir Peter Cook when presenting a retrospective of his career in education and practice to students of Technical University Delft.23 Cook is highly regarded as an innovator, and is most identifiable with the anti-establishment group Archigram that he co-founded in the 1960’s. Archigram was a vehicle to express colourful concepts of fantasy cities and buildings which embraced rather than rejected popular culture and technology, and Cook has carried these themes on into the built work of today.24 His work suggests a counterargument to the heavier ‘architectural’ proposition of Grossform and Solids theory. His architectural visions mobilise with their robot inspired tectonics or dissolve into overgrowing vegetation, and are an exciting vision of architecture not rooted in bricks and mortar. By challenging the ‘solidity’ of architecture, Cook has enabled a fertile crossing of disciplines, such as with landscape architecture, industrial design and art.25 He puts the very definition of architecture up for question, most evidently in his highly artistic renderings where the lines defining the architectural and the wild are almost invisible. It is in his
Robin Hood Gardens, Poplar, East London, view of western ‘cliff ’ across the courtyard, date unknown.
Linneaushof, Watergraafsmeer Amsterdam, 1927.
‘Walking City’, 1964, Drawing by Archigram
‘Kunsthaus Graz’, Austria, 2003, Peter Cook and Colin Fournier.
built work though that one sees the movement from the fantasy to the ‘concrete’ in a more sobering light. Inspiring as they are, the drawings cannot escape their fate in becoming ‘solidified’ as architecture. And in the process, many of the rich layers containing the art of the concept must necessarily find their place in the ordinary and the formal… concrete, glass and steel.26 Ultimately, they become permanent objects in the landscape, and as a result face the same issues of Grossform and Solids…longevity, cultural value and relationship to place. Cook’s work is concerned with spectacle, but by investing in making the buildings culturally valuable, regardless of how individualistic, long-term preservation and modification for inevitable change could naturally follow. As Ungers says, “it is not the architect’s task to shape the entire life of its inhabitants, but to provide a culturally significant container for an unpredictable life within it”.27 Anticipating unpredictable change is an opportunity rather than a limitation to the architect’s ability to be in control. It is a liberating element that puts the architect in a humble position in the broader context of time. The building can naturally outlive the context and the era of its creation, as long as it is adopted by the society that it serves. Grossform and Solids concepts work well towards these ends, because they address the quantity issue of the modern metropolis by rethinking our ideas on quality.28 And as the work of Peter Cook demonstrates, quality is found in the strength of the concept, which when carefully translated, can create the culturally valuable artefact. There is no specific set of rules in designing for quality. Grossform’s guidelines are open to interpretation, and the Solids notion of preciousness is equally subjective. As Bijdendijk rather vaguely states, “make a precious base building with an open mind, with empathy and great creative endeavour”.29
26. “Crab Studio,” Last visited, April 5, 2011, crabstudio.co.uk
27. Schrijver, “Grossform,” 2.
28. Schrijver, “Grossform,” 3.
29. Bijdendijk, “Solids” 51.
Bibliography Avermaete, T. et al., “Defining the City Through Grossform.” OASE Journal for Architecture No.71. Netherlands, NAI Publishers, 2006. Cook, P. “The Archigram Story.” Last modified April 29, 2009. http://www.berlage-institute.nl/persons/sir_peter_cook Cook, P. “Slithering Away from the Solid” INDESEM ‘11 Conference, TU Delft Netherlands, May 20, 2011. Hoogstraten, D. “Master of Your Own Home.” Delft Architectural Studies on Housing. Netherlands: NAI Publishers, 2011. Glancey, J. “Is London’s Robin Hood Gardens an Architectural Masterpiece?” Last modified July 29, 2009. http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/video/2009/jul/28/robin-hoodgardens-architecture Groenendijk, P. et al., Architectural Guide to the Netherlands 1900-2000. Netherlands, 010 Publishers, 2009. Heijne, R. et al., Time Based Architecture. Netherlands: 010 Publishers, 2005. Moore, R. “Robin Hood Gardens, Don’t Knock it Down.” Last modified December 5, 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2010/dec/05/robin-hood-gardens-eastlondon Mumford, E. The CIAM Discourse on Urbanism, 1928-1960. USA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2000. Schrijver, L. “Grossform, a Perspective on the Large-scale Urban Project.” Delft Architectural Studies on Housing. Netherlands: NAI Publishers, 2011. Smithson, A. “The Violent Consumer,” Architectural Design 5, 1974. Ungers, O. ‘Grossformen im Wohnungsbau.’ Veröffentlichungen zur Architektur 5, December 1966. 108
contextual opportunities by Peter van der Gaauw and Elwin van Heyningen
Since the beginning of the previous century there has been a shift in political views on housing. The new welfare state was to ensure that every citizen had adequate housing. The resulting social housing projects offered new challenges for architects. Over the years there have been many experiments and different solutions to this challenge. In her rather emotional essay called the violent consumer1, Alison Smithson argues that the people for whom the social housing projects are built are the same people who vandalize the building. She explains this by stating: “People are not necessarily grateful for what has not been directly earned”2 and thus will not act responsibly towards the building. Although it remains unsaid, the essay clearly refers to her and her husband’s Robin Hood Gardens project (1966-1972). However, it is obvious that in a social housing project the notion of earning to live there is irrelevant. People are obliged to live there. We believe that a sense of responsibility can also be generated if the tenants appreciate the place where they live. The question is how to generate this appreciation or sense of responsibility through architecture. In the same essay Smithson says it’s beyond the scope of an architect and some form of honest government control should combine the right groups of people. “People fetched together into a community must be able to reason why they are together”.3 But there are projects were the tenants do live happily; so a different design approach must make a difference. The social housing project Bouça (1973-1976, 20032006) by Alvaro Siza is an example. Due to political circumstances only half of the original project was built, but the tenants enjoyed living there. Therefore in 2006 the project was completed without major changes in the design. Presently Bouça is becoming very popular with young and creative people4. There is an appreciation for this building, unlike Robin Hood Gardens. We feel that this is so because Bouça’s design is grounded in local culture. To argue this we will make a analytical comparison between Bouça and Robin Hood Gardens. But first it is important to explain the backgrounds of the two architects as it will help us to understand the rationale behind their projects. The built projects of the Smithsons cannot be seen separately from their theories. They were part of CIAM (Congress Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne) and later of Team 10. They can be seen as figureheads of the modern movement. The modernization of transport and communication had a huge impact on everyday live. Its influence on the city was tremendous and resulted in a need to re-evaluate the way we were living. The modernists were very ambitious and wanted to change society with city planning and architecture. But most of the theoretical ideas that were built didn’t function as expected. As a reaction to the failures of modernism a lot of movements arose. One of them was critical regionalism, a term introduced by Alexander Tzonis and Liane Lefaivre in 19815 that was taken on further by Kenneth Frampton in 1983.6 This movement is opting for a commitment to place. It points out that the universal solutions of the modernists destroy traditional culture and thereby history. Critical regionalism is the careful consideration of specificities of a context to ensure the creation of defined places. Frampton points to Siza as one of the architects who possesses this skill. He states that his buildings are “delicately layered and inlaid into their sites. His approach is patently tactile and materialist, rather than visual and graphic”.7 Siza’s design approach can be illustrated with his own quote: “Architects don’t invent anything, they transform reality”.8 He states that innovation will always has to go through tradition. As an example he stresses that even the great ‘inventors’ of architecture were just transforming traditions. Frank Lloyd Wright transformed Japanese traditions to make them locally applicable. Louis Kahn did the same for India and le Corbusier for Morocco.9 According to Siza buildings in the city can’t ignore their surroundings. Individually they amount to nothing if their mutual company is ignored.10 However, using the context as a starting point should not be confused with mimicry. As architect, you can choose to oppose or mimic certain elements, but the end result
1. Alison Smithson, “The violent consumer, or waiting for the goodies”, Architectural design, no. 5 (1974), 274-279. 2. Smithson, “The violent consumer, Or waiting for the goodies” , 274.
3. Smithson, “The violent consumer, Or waiting for the goodies” , 277.
4. Juan Domingo Santos, “The Meaning of things, A conversation with Alvaro Siza”, El Croquis, no. 2 (140) (2008) , 42-43.
5. Alex Tzonis and Liliane Lefaivre, “The grid and the pathway; the work of D. and S. Antonakakis”, Architecture in Greece, 15 (1981) 6. Kenneth Frampton, “Prospects for a critical regionalism”, Perspecta,Vol. 20 (1983), 147-162. 7. Frampton, “Prospects for a critical regionalism”, 151. 8. Kenneth Frampton, “Kenneth Frampton on Alvaro Siza”, Architects journal, Vol. 229, No. 7 (Feb. 2009), 27. 9. Santos, “The Meaning of things, A conversation with Alvaro Siza”, 21. 10. Ibid 25.
Comparing results from two design approaches
11. Santos, “The Meaning of things, A conversation with Alvaro Siza”, 27.
12. Richard Ingersoll, “Context and modernity”, Journal of Architectural Education,Vol. 44, no. 2 (Feb. 1991), 124-125. 13. Peter Eisenman,”Robin Hood Gardens, London E 14”, Architectural Design, no. 9 (Sept. 1972), 557.
14. Ibid 557.
15. Ibid 558.
16. Frampton, “Prospects for a critical regionalism”, 151.
should always be a transformation. We are unable to copy vernacular architecture, because it was made under different conditions. Furthermore the evolving city is a continuous process. For continuation to exist there must be transformations instead of reproductions.11 This is stressed again during a conference at the TU Delft in 1990. A brief review states that the progressiveness of our modern age is undeniable. Therefore we shouldn’t deny that the world is globalizing, but we should always question one’s place in this world.12 Peter Eisenman already hints at this notion of place in his 1972 analysis of Robin Hood Gardens by saying: “The Robin Hood Gardens project is the culmination of an ideological development which concerns the capacity of ideas to be transposed into built-form, both at the scale of the city and of the individual building.”13 This shows that modernists are transforming an idea into built form. The specific context however is not part of this idea, thereby it will degenerate the quality of the idea. The Golden Lane housing scheme by the Smithsons is the ideological base of their Robin Hood Gardens. One of the problems of modern society the Smithsons were dealing with, was the relation between dwelling and street, subsequent to the introduction of the car. According to Eisenman the Smithsons saw, as some modernists well before them, that the car had changed the street into roads.14 The cars thus seemed to have instigated a decline in the quality of the public realm. Golden Lane was a solution to this problem. It saw buildings as a continuous, elevated network of streets. The cars would drive on ‘roads’ at ground level, while the pedestrians would walk around on the elevated ‘streets’. This network would be continuous and extendable over time. A new city that would develop on a different level, but have vertical and horizontal connections to the existing context.15 Putting this idea into form was a challenge because the scheme of Golden Lane was only projected on top of a city, not inferring with it. Bouça was built right after the Portuguese Carnation Revolution which ended the dictatorship in Portugal and turned it into a democracy. This led to the instigation of SAAL (Servico de Apoio Ambulatorio Local), which can be translated as ‘service supporting local volunteers’. This service was aiming to solve the housing problems, whereby participation of the tenants in the design process was very important. Bouça was a project of SAAL. At first sight it looks very modernistic (fig. 1). It stands out from its surroundings, but when taking a closer look you will find that it actually relates to the context on multiple levels. Frampton writes specifically about Bouça: “[Siza] seems to have been able to ground his building in the configuration of a given topography and in the fine-grained specificity of the local context.To this end his pieces are tight responses to the urban fabric and the marinescape of the Porto region. Other important factors are his extraordinary sensitivity towards local materials, craft work, and, above all, to the subtleties of local light- his sense for a particular kind of filtration and penetration.” 16 An important part of solving the housing problems in Porto was to get rid of the ‘ilhas’ (‘islands’ in Portuguese). The ilhas refer to illegal slums that were built within the closed housing blocks. The SAAL projects were meant to provide the people from these slums with adequate housing. The choice for maisonettes in Bouça related to the building pattern in the ilhas. People were used to live in ground bound houses. Siza recognized the importance of a close relationship between the entrance of a house and the public street. He transformed this into building blocks of two stacked maisonettes. The lower ones are directly accessible from the courtyards and the upper ones can be entered through galleries. These galleries are connected on both sides to the public street by a straight stair. By doing so the way to reach your front door feels natural in hilly Porto. The visual relationships between the galleries and the courtyards are very direct. There is no feeling of living on a top floor.
While Siza searched for a typology that had the same inside/outside relationship as the ilhas but addressed the problems of cluttering, the Smithsons were searching for a typology that would fit within all our new modern cities. Because of budgetary reasons, the Smithsons had to choose between development of the public realm or the private realm. They chose the public realm which is more crucial in the Golden Lane ideas. On the one hand however, according to Eisenman, the Smithsons saw “a potential aristocrat in the heart of every worker”17 and as they decided to put the money into the public realm they created “a housing project… [that has] a private realm where the aspiring middle-class worker sees himself in a working class environment, albeit with a middle-class income”.18 So the designed dwellings did not suit the tenants’ backgrounds. While Golden Lane was striving to return the traditional relationship between the public street and the private house (although on a different level), Robin Hood Gardens became different. The Golden Lane schemes were meant to be built as free standing objects, thereby not defining an enclosed space but rather leave a fragmented space. At Robin Hood Gardens the two building blocks are moved to opposite edges of the plot to enclose an open space and by placing the ‘public decks’ on the outside of these blocks, there is a very clear separation between public and private space (fig. 2). Clearly there’s a ‘front’ and a ‘back’ of the building. With Robin Hood Gardens the Smithsons foresaw that everybody would have a car and that horizontal movement would be by car only.19 However the galleries were still envisioned as public decks where tenants could meet each other, but a relationship with the rest of the city fabric was nonexistent. The dwellings were in effect not connected to a true street rather than a gallery with some additional room. The conditions for the ‘streets in the air’ concept were not apparent in Robin Hood Gardens. Hinting at a contextual approach Peter Smithson has stated “there is no reason for thinking we cannot invent something as good as the Georgian Square; the problem is how to make it speak”.20 The Georgian Square is considered a typically English and historic urban area however its qualities are not evident in Robin Hood Gardens. By comparing the way Georgian Squares treat the positioning of the various zones with Robin Hood Gardens, it becomes clear that a new idea has been projected on top of a site (fig. 3). The physical context (London) was not taken into account. The placement of the staircase, in the plan of a dwelling, has been crucial: “This does two things; first its parallel location creates a space and sound buffer between the public and private zones; second it creates a zone of space in front of the entry, which acts as a transition from the public to private.”21 Indeed, the idea in Robin Hood Gardens, according to Eisenman, was to see the gallery as a fully collective place. Opposed to Golden Lane the gallery in Robin Hood Gardens did not have a connection to the public street, the collective courtyard or the private dwelling. Apart from this disjunction in regard to physical context the separation of these elements also denote a way of living and relating to each other; it influences the social contact between tenants. This is very contradictory considering the Smithsons have geared their design towards the public realm. On Georgian Squares or in the closes of Ebenezer Howard’s garden cities there is a sense of community because the transitions between the public, private and collective realms have been positioned next to each other. The introduced buffers in the floor plans of Robin Hood Gardens and the connection from outside to inside of the building, are not a transformation of traditional urban fabrics. The placement of these zones in Robin Hood Gardens has no relation to the physical and social context. The people don’t know how to live there.
17. Eisenman,”Robin Hood Gardens, London E 14”, 591. 18. Ibid.
19. Ibid 558.
21. Ibid 590.
In Bouça there are no intended transition spaces, the spaces rather become different because of what happens around them. The collective space becomes a transition space in Bouça. This is the way it always was within the ilhas in Porto, though it was cluttered and didn’t serve the houses surrounding those ilhas. Since all dwellings have a relation (sight, entry and balcony) to these collective and transition spaces the tenants feel like a community. It has been done differently formally, with open courtyards, but the relations between public and private are very much the same as in the ilhas. A clear socio-contextual relation. Physically it’s different from the context; but in Bouça this has proven to be a correct interpretation of the existing problem of the ilhas. The collective space no longer gets cluttered and can continue to function as a transition and meeting space for its community. In Bouça the delicate weaving of pathways, with different degrees of privacy create an intricate system of relations between tenants and passers-by, which is a contextual transformation from the mazelike pathways in the slums of the ilhas.
22. Santos, “The Meaning of things, A conversation with Alvaro Siza”, 41.
23. Eisenman,”Robin Hood Gardens, London E 14”, 590.
The facades of Bouça are relating to the context as well. The typical closed building blocks of Porto have a defined ‘front’ and ‘back’ façade. The layout of Bouça, with its four blocks, doesn’t have this clear distinction. But with the placement of the entrances and the formal expression of the façades Siza creates a distinction between the front which is formal and neutral and the back which is informal and open (fig. 4). This also has to do with the routing through the courtyards as explained before. Another characteristic of the facades in Porto is that they are differentiated. The boundary between buildings is clear. The blocks of Bouça are a clear repetition of the same house, but the boundary between the individual maisonettes is made unclear by mirroring them next to each other and shifting the vertical lines with the drainpipes. By making the boundaries unclear the blocks are not perceived as a repetition of the same house, but as one big block. The facade openings also relate to the context. As we quoted Frampton, Siza is very much aware of specific local light and climate conditions. Bouça’s facade can’t be used in the Netherlands for example, as the facade of his design for a social housing block in the Hague can’t be used in Portugal. The red colour used in the façade of Bouça is referring to the ilhas. In an interview in 200722 Siza explains that it represents the highly colourful atmosphere in the ilhas, not just the built environment but also the varied people who inhabited them. But besides that it is also a reference to the Red Front building (1926) by Bruno Taut (fig. 5), with which Bouça has a more complex relationship. It thereby refers to the process of working with cooperatives and building social housing projects in a narrow time span. According to Eisenman the Smithsons were in a continuous search for a ‘generalising aesthetic’ with ordinariness as a norm, especially for the iconography of the facade.23 They wanted to create a uniform pattern with some degree of individual variation. To achieve this they used a skin. The idea of the skin comes from Mies van der Rohe, but Mies` aim was the opposite of expressing the individual unit. The facade of Robin Hood Gardens (fig. 6) is a repetition of vertical elements which act as a sound barrier between different units, as well as give expression to the cell structure of the building and its variations within this structure. The idea that the facade should show ordinariness but also have flexibility to individualize the facade is somewhat contradictory. However, our point is that the idea of the façade doesn’t stem from the context; it is again a separate idea that has been pasted on a building. Similarities with the typical London house can be pointed out (i.e. the uniform appearance and slim selection of materials) but it is doubtfull that these similarities are intended to be a reference, they serve their own purposes in the Smithsons` ideas, instead of representing known factors in housing in London.
Figure 1 Alvaro Siza, social housing project Bouรงa, Porto, 1973-1976, 20032006 (El Croquis, no. 2 (140) )
Figure 2 Peter and Alison Smithson, Robin Hood Gardens, London, 1966-1972 (http://cracpreservation.wordpress.com/ category/alexs-posts/case-study-01robin-hood-gardens)
Figure 3 Public/private relationships, scheme made by author
Figure 4 Alvaro Siza, social housing project Bouรงa, Porto, 1973-1976, 20032006 (El Croquis, no. 2 (140) )
Figure 5 Bruno Taut, Red Front building, Britz, Berlin, 1926 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ File:Hufeisensiedlung_rotefront.jpg)
The comparison of the two projects makes clear that there is a difference in their architects` dealing with the context. While Siza tries to grasp the specificities of the place in Porto, the Smithons are trying to transform a main idea into a built form. The specific context of London isn’t part of this. Siza argues that when a large-scale gesture is designed within the city fabric without the community’s acceptance, it is bound to fail because it lacks the sense of naturalness that you can find in things that changed over time.24 This is exactly what happened at Robin Hood Gardens. Siza’s project was a transformation and thereby a continuation of the building culture of Porto. People can relate to the building and they have an appreciation for it. Of course a building does not always have to be embedded in the specific context for people to appreciate it. Sometimes it is possible to design something universal and outstanding, something iconic, and people will appreciate it very much. Siza mentions the Reichstag extension by Norman Foster, but the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao by Frank Gehry can also be considered. Siza states that with these kinds of projects there is a sort of freedom.25 They should be appealing to the whole world. But the conditions for a social housing project are completely different and as we have shown, context should have its influence here. A big difference between the two projects that should also be addressed is that the tenants in Porto were participating in the design process. Siza had conversations with the future inhabitants of the building and you can argue that’s the main reason for the appreciation of the building by the tenants. They were somehow responsible for the final design. But this would be a very harsh conclusion. Siza states that the tenants do not know what they want.26 They are influenced by popular media, which results in wrong ideas. Although discussions with the tenants led to a fruitful design process; eventually decisions can’t be based solely on these discussions. The life of the building will be much longer than the time the tenants will live there. The inhabitants will change much quicker than the specificities of the location and the culture. We believe that the appreciation for the Bouça project by its tenants is caused by the way Siza deals with the specificities of the context. It is unlikely that these specificities can be grasped and given a reaction to with an elaborated universal solution like the Smithsons were working with. Each project is a challenge on its own and there is no clear answer on how to grasp the specificities of every unique place. Siza searches for a perfect balance between all different aspects of designing among which are social and physical context. How rare this perfect balance is he described himself in 198027; “an architectonic proposition, whose aim is to go deep into the existing transformation trends, into the clashes and strains that make up reality; a proposition that intends to be more than a passive materialization, refusing to reduce that some reality, analyzing each of its aspects, one by one; that proposition can’t find support on a fixed image, can’t follow a linear evolution. Each design is bound to catch, with the utmost rigour, a precise moment of flittering image in all its shades and the better you can recognize that flittering quality of reality, the clearer your design must arise.”
24. Santos, “The Meaning of things, A conversation with Alvaro Siza”, 23.
25. Santos, “The Meaning of things, A conversation with Alvaro Siza”, 29.
26. Dorien Boasson, “Interview met Alvaro Siza”,Wonen-TA/BK, no. 9 (May 1983), 24-25.
27. Alvaro Siza, “To catch a precise moment of flittering image in all its shades”, A+U: Architecture and Urbanism, no. 12 (123) (Dec. 1980) , 9-11.
Bibliography: Boasson, Dorien and Hans van Dijk “Alvaro Siza – and, Architect and urban renewal in Portugal since 1974”, Wonen-TA/BK, no. 9 (May 1983), 8-29 Boasson, Dorien, “Interview met Alvaro Siza”, Wonen-TA/BK, no. 9 (May 1983), 24-29 Eisenman, Peter, ”Robin Hood Gardens, London E 14”, Architectural Design, no. 9 (Sept. 1972), 557-573, 588-592 Frampton, Kenneth, “Prospects for a critical regionalism”, Perspecta,Vol. 20 (1983), 147162. Frampton, Kenneth, “Kenneth Frampton on Alvaro Siza”, Architects journal,Vol. 229, No. 7 (Feb. 2009), 24-33. Ingersoll, Richard, “Context and modernity”, Journal of Architectural Education,Vol.44 no. 2 (Feb. 1991), 124-125. Santos, Juan Domingo, “The Meaning of things, A conversation with Alvaro Siza”, El Croquis, no. 2 (140) (2008) , 7-60. Siza, Alvaro, “To catch a precise moment of flittering image in all its shades”, A+U: Architecture and Urbanism, no. 12 (123) (Dec. 1980) , 9-11. Smithson, Alison, “The violent consumer, or waiting for the goodies”, Architectural design, no. 5 (1974), 274-279. Tzonis, Alex and Liliane Lefaivre, “The grid and the pathway; the work of D. and S. Antonakakis”, Architecture in Greece, 15 (1981) Wang, Wilfried, “Transformaties en referenties; vier recente projecten van Alvaro Siza”, Architect, vol. 25, no. 11 (Nov. 1994), 34-57
Figure 6 Peter and Alison Smithson, Robin Hood Gardens, London, 19661972 (http://www.plataformaarquitectura.cl/2008/03/04/robin-hood-gardensamenazas-de-demolcion/)
building the past today
by Thomas de Bos and Roderick Trompert
The Dutch historic city centres There is something we all love about the historic city centres of Dutch cities like Amsterdam, Delft or Dordrecht. The streets and the houses together form a visual quality and a type of atmosphere that pleases a broad percentage of its visitors. It is therefore not surprising architects at present have started to build houses and buildings in this image (image a) through contemporary traditionalist architecture. This new appreciation for the historic city has to do with the dismay of the many modernist souvenirs left by our ancestors and the dawning realisation throughout the 20th century that modernisation was erasing the traditional cityscapes.1 Still during last century many architects have tried to envision the future by designing large building blocks, standing isolated in vast green areas free from cars, noise and pollution. Though this modernist view on architecture, which lead to the creation of buildings like Robin Hood Gardens in London or the high-rise Bijlmer housing scheme in Amsterdam Southeast, turned out to be less future-proof than anticipated. Users tended not to appreciate these building blocks which led quickly to neglect and deterioration.2 According to Luxembourg architect Rob Krier it all started going wrong already in the 17th century, when urban planners turned their back to the medieval city by creating large utopian urban plans based on social concepts without feel for space or networks. 3 He is one of a select group of architects that have started to vocalise a new appreciation for the European historic city. By his hand new neighbourhoods have arisen in a contemporary traditionalist architecture, using modern materials and building techniques. One of these neighbourhoods is Noorderhof; a small-scale urban design experiment with a village-like character. It was built in 1999 in the Amsterdam Slotermeer district, in the midst of a large-scale urban plan by Cornelis van Eesteren consisting of row housing strips. (image b) A group of five young architects were commissioned by Rob Krier with the realisation of 220 row houses and 50 apartments. These six architects (Krier included) were all to design their own set of traditionalist façades based on a self-written loose design statute, called ‘the image quality plan’ in which they set specifications from the use of casement windows to the stressing of light-dark accents found across many streetscapes in historical Amsterdam.4
1 Hans Ibelings,Town Spaces: Anti-Modernist Megastructures (Berlin: Birkhäuser, 2003), 240. 2 Alisson Smithson, “The Violent Consumer, Or Waiting for the Goodies,” Architectural Design 5 (1974): 274-279. 3 Katharina Hagg, “Rob Krier: Zo ontwerp je een stad,” last modified January 25, 2010, http://www.archined. nl/nieuws/ 2010/januari/rob-krier-zo-ontwerp-jeeen-stad/
4 Rob Krier,Town Spaces: Composition of Urban Spaces (Berlin: Birkhäuser, 2003), 202.
The image being portrayed in Noorderhof clearly follows the predefined image quality plan, yet the constraints applied to make the realisation of these new neighbourhoods possible, make the end-result a far stretch from the Dutch historic city centres. (image c) When visiting Krier’s Noorderhof in Amsterdam, the question arises; does our current building practice have all the tools necessary to build these new interpretations of the historic city? Can we really rebuild the past? 2. The building practice One of the things that make the Dutch historic city centres so unique, is the diversity found in the cityscapes. Both on the level of architectural expression as in the urban fabric. They are the end result of a development that took centuries to come into existence. Hundreds of architects have been involved to create custom dwellings for their (often wealthy) contractors.Yet due to the limitations in resources and building techniques, these streetscapes still seem to form a unity. For there was a maximum width that could be spanned across a void that dictated a similar width of the houses and the selection of materials was limited, resulting in wooden constructions combined with brick front façades for most of these houses, in only a few different shades. When looking at this set of unique circumstances, in which the Dutch historic city centre could come into existence, it is commendable that architects like Rob Krier try to rebuild in this image within the modern building practice, though it hardly seems feasible. None of the mentioned circumstances can fully be recreated within the present day building practice.
10. Ibid 25.
5 Krier,Town Spaces, 14.
6 Jurgen Beliën, “Interview with Rob Krier”, Pantheon// Kunst (2011): 6.
7 Harald Mooij, “Wat al goed is, hoeven we niet opnieuw uit te vinden”, DASH (unpublished)
2.1 duration In new developments the factor of time is always crucial, for time equals money. Any building project is being strictly planned in advance in order to provide for prognosis of involved costs, but also to streamline the entire building process from material deliveries to assembly order. This relates closely to the fact that most new-to-build neighbourhoods get planned as a whole, and are being built all at once. This is a practice that seems odd when the aim is to build a traditionalist image. Even Rob Krier himself, who designs such contemporary traditionalist neighbourhoods, remarks “It is somewhat strange that we have to plan within a short time a development that formerly took place gradually over centuries”. 5 It remains therefor highly questionable whether the desired end-result, which originally only came into existence by shaping and re-shaping the city over a long span of time, can be recreated when all the houses are built at the same time. 2.2 diversity Another issue confronted with is the costs involved when building these houses with such a diverse set of façades. Especially in the case of Noorderhof, where land prices are high and the planned houses had to be low-cost. Experience has taught the building practice that repetition of (preferably prefabricated) elements makes for the most cost-efficient method of building, yet Rob Krier tries to introduce as much diversity into the architecture as possible. “The trick is to find with the budget of low-cost housing a differentiation of houses.” 6 Still the situation in which the historic centre of Amsterdam got built, is simply one that can not be translated into present day anymore. Back then all the plots were sold separately to rich tradesmen who contracted their own architect. Applying this in the present day, would mean a logistical and management nightmare. Let alone the costs involved. A few initiatives for private commissions aside, it has therefore long been common in the building practice to involve only one architect to design an entire neighbourhood. By involving five different architects in Noorderhof (six including himself) Krier managed to find an acceptable middle ground to create the desired diverse image: “It is much more fun to draw a hundred different façades than to draw one and duplicate it endlessly.” 7 He admits it is still an artificial practice, but the fact it will help people identify with their home for him make that the ends justify the means. 2.3 resources The diversity in façades, as was striven for in Noorderhof, can also result in a messy, over the top end-result when not bound to certain limits. Natural limitations in available materials or coloration are things of the past. When creating Noorderhof, an artificial limitation was put in place on the type of material used -mainly brick- and coloration used -red and brown with few contrasts in light and dark-. In that sense Noorderhof does not resemble an historic city at all, where all available materials were being applied during construction. In that sense, a neighbourhood as New Leyden in Leiden should be more true to this image, yet it has become the perfect example why a limitation in resources doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The fact that no review committee (in Dutch: welstandscommissie) had any say here, resulted in a bold mixture of coloured façades in any combination of materials imaginable. The result is a streetscape that is highly fragmented and couldn’t be further from those found in Leiden’s historic centre. As fragmented and ‘free’ as these dwellings in New Leyden are, even here the building practice dictates for a large part the construction method. Even though in New Leyden all these (mainly modern) façades are ‘unique’, to make these projects build-able all the dwellings share underneath the same foundations and communal underground parking garage. Also many of them used the same contractor to speed up the building process and reduce costs. In an interview about Krier’s work, he referred to the urban plan for Java-eiland by Soetsers, consisting of canal
houses built with modern facades. (image d). “These single familiy houses cost a million or more, while the houses in Noorderhof are between 250 and 350 thousand euros.” He concludes that “if you have three times as much money, you could do modern façades.”8 However that doesn’t seem to hold the key for success when taking the current building practice into account. 2.4 forces The image quality plan used in Noorderhof formed a useful tool for Krier to achieve the desired end-result, especially with so many architects involved. Another, larger plan of his in The Hague, de Resident, shows a similar setup, yet proves this way of building doesn’t function well for larger projects. Even though a similar situation was created; where several architects would build on sites defined by Krier’s urban plan, he claims to have had no power over them. The architects he had asked to design different buildings, simply didn’t follow up on his instructions. 9 The result was a repetition of similar window sills, while a diversification was prescribed by Krier. But it didn’t stop there. In his urban design for de Resident the ground floor was meant to come alive with shops in order to create a normal centre. But during the planning process, the city of The Hague required the district was not to be supplied with commercial activity on the ground floor, as it was not to compete with the town centre. “The result is that de Resident is almost dead as a residential and office quarter.” 10 Of course these are two unfortunate events but they do show the increasing amount of forces involved in the present day building practice. While Krier prescribes the urban plan and the boundaries within which his diverse streetscapes can come into being, he has to deal with a range of different parties from architects and contractors to the developer and municipality. All of which have to share his vision and agree to following his rules in order achieve Krier’s desired results. One can imagine this is easier said than done, making his personal success at Noorderhof somewhat of an exception.
8 Beliën, Pantheon// Kunst, 7.
9 Mooij, DASH (unpublished)
10 Krier,Town Spaces, 151.
3. The Urban Fabric When looking at a contemporary traditionalist neighbourhood like Noorderhof, one can say a lot about its architecture, yet at the foundation of these plans lies an urban plan that sets the stage for the enclosed architecture. It is on this urban scale that success is booked and where we can see what Rob Krier is trying to portray. Where the architectural expression of his projects is somewhat underwhelming, the urban plan does a great job at making up for it. He very successfully recreates a dense urban fabric with lively and diverse streets. This makes us wonder that perhaps Krier’s vision of the contemporary traditionalist cityscape, which he is trying to create in close collaboration with the present day building practice, is only feasible on the urban scale. Likely this relates closely to the fact that even today, unlike the architectural design, the urban planning process still gets allocated a considerable amount of time. In his book Town Spaces, Krier mentions several of the elements he thinks are necessary for creating a successful urban site. Reaching back to historical city centres like Berlin and Amsterdam, he talks about the ‘traditional network of spatial interconnections’, ‘the compositional backbone of streets and town squares’ and ‘buildings of moderate size, differing in their outward appearance’. 11 The way in which these elements should be implemented in an urban design is summarised in an interview, where he states that when you have a carpet with holes in it, in order to repair them one should use the same quality fabric, use the same quality of colours, study the texture and the decorations and follow these in such a way that when the hole is repaired it is no longer visible. He then states that the same is true for urban design. 12 Although this sounds like a clear statement, when asked whether he believes this is
11 Krier,Town Spaces, 9.
12 Mooij, DASH (unpublished)
13 Hilde de Haan and Ids Haagsma, “Het functionalisme van toen geconfronteerd met het heden”, de Architect 12 (1981): 55-61.
14 Krier,Town Spaces, 206.
15 Krier,Town Spaces, 12.
accomplished at the site of Noorderhof, Krier simply evades the question and recalls a compliment by Van Eesteren himself on the design by Krier. The question is asked, because in the case of Noorderhof the urban design by Krier shows almost no resemblance to the existing urban fabric around it. The spacious, large-scale arrangement of modern row housing patterns by Van Eesteren, combined with large green areas, lack a human scale. Though it is described by Van Eesteren as “five patterns in different variations, as in music. Repetition without boredom!” 13 This then becomes the backdrop for Krier’s finely meshed urban fabric of streets and squares where human dimensions form the underlying base of the design. Also the outer rows of three-storey buildings act as a clear boundary towards the existing two-storey dwellings surrounding the site. By doing this, Krier seems to abandon his carpet-repairing technique and instead implements his vision of cities in the past, which were clearly separated from their surroundings. In this way Noorderhof becomes a city in itself, an enclave, instead of an invisible repair to Van Eesteren’s modern housing plan. Within this enclave, however, Krier lives up to his promise of a peaceful coexistence of buildings. 14 By introducing a small-scale network of streets and squares, he manages to capture the same qualities that can be found in the historic centres that form his inspiration. The urban plan, not taking into account the architectural expression, consists of narrow streets confined by two-storey housing that provide a human scale. The streets and houses are linked together with several different sized town squares and public parks. Looking at the enclaves Krier creates at an urban scale it becomes clear that the limitations mentioned with regard to the architectural expression, dictated by the current building practice, seem to have less of an impact on the urban design. Here urban models that have been tested, and proven successful over many centuries, form the basic organisation combined with dimensions taken from the history of the city in question. With this street profiles are created that fit within the existing urban fabric. 15 These ‘tools’ are not affected by the passing of time as is the case on an architectural level. Historic urban models do not change and are still applicable today. Recreating the qualities of the historic city centres requires the use of the same means –traditions- that created them in the first place. Because of the evolution of the building practice during the past centuries, the means to build are simply not the same anymore and never will be again. Apart from spending a surrealistic amount of money the only thing an architect can do is use those tools that remain unaffected. The term ‘traditionalism’ therefore seems to be avoided on purpose in his publications, because Krier himself feels that traditionalist architecture does not do the designs justice. Perhaps we should use the term traditionalist urbanism from now on. And by doing so we could set the stage for creating urban plans according to Krier’s ideals, but build them using modern façades based on the capabilities of the present-day building practice.
Bibliography Beliën, Jurgen. “Interview with Rob Krier” Pantheon// Kunst (2011): 6-7. Haan, Hilde de and Ids Haagsma. “Het functionalisme van toen geconfronteerd met het heden” de Architect 12 (1981): 55-61. Hagg, Katharina. “Rob Krier: Zo ontwerp je een stad” last modified January 25, 2010, http://www.archined.nl/nieuws/2010/januari/rob-krier-zo-ontwerp-je-een-stad/ Ibelings, Hans. Town Spaces: Anti-Modernist Megastructures. Berlin: Birkhäuser, 2003. Krier, Rob. Town Spaces: Composition of Urban Spaces. Berlin: Birkhäuser, 2003. Mooij, Harald. “Wat al goed is, hoeven we niet opnieuw uit te vinden” DASH (unpublished) Smithson, Alisson. “The Violent Consumer, Or Waiting for the Goodies” Architectural Design 5 (1974): 274-279 121
Figure 1. http://ywwg.com/wordpress/?p=359 (last modified July 19, 2006) | caption: “Traditional street view in historic city centre of Amsterdam.”
Figure 2. Dash (unpublished) | caption: “Krier’s Noorderhof within urban plan for Amsterdam Buitenveldert by van Eesteren”
Figure 3.Town Spaces (2003): 210. | caption: “Row-housing facades in Noorderhof ”
Figure 4. http://www.amsterdamimage.com/main.php?g2_itemId=1373 (last modified March 25, 2003) | caption: “Row-housing with modern facades in Java-eiland urban plan by Sjoerd Soeters.”
The perfect dwelling and the devastating violent consumer A large social housing building that is currently being considered for demolition and redevelopment is Robin Hood Gardens, designed by Peter and Alison Smithson in the late 1960s.The task of the redevelopment of this so called failed housing project is supposed to accommodate an increased numbers of dwellings on the site. One might argue the solution of increasing the amount of dwellings since the concept already contains high density dwelling and is not functioning properly. mass Massification and permanent change have been important topics in modern architecture since the beginning of it, these phenomena occurred in the city. From the industrial revolution, cities grew exponentially due to evolving economy and a desire to welfare and expansion. An abrupt halt to this was caused by WW II, economies froze and population decreased. This sudden pause in the massification process perhaps created the opportunity for contemplation. After WW II architectural movement CIAM and the derivative Team 10, in which the Smithsons both took part, were considering the consequences of the enormous growth of the city and the related massification. For instance, London grew from a total population of 6,6 million inhabitants in 1891 to 9,6 million to its peak at the outbreak of WW II1. Due to this exponential growth of the city, according to some, a so called ‘loss of identity’ occurred. Douglas Coupland mentioned this as follows: ’Up until recently, no matter where or when one was born on earth, one’s culture provided one with all components essential for the forging of identity. These components included: religion, family, ideology, class strata, a geography, politics and a sense of living within a historic continuum. Suddenly, around ten years ago, (...) these stencils within which we trace our lives began to vanish, almost overnight (...). It became possible to be alive yet have no religion, no family connections, no ideology, no sense of class location, no politics and no sense of history... In a very odd sense, the vacuum of nothingness forces the individual either to daily reinvent himself or herself or perish.’2 While Rem Koolhaas considers this loss of identity in his essay ‘Generic city’3 a quality or at least a circumstance, Team 10 did not perceive this as a positive development. As a reaction new concepts were established to solve the problem of the loss of identity4. The general shortage of housing in that time played a catalytic role in the actual realisation of these concepts. Through their ideas about massification several Team 10 members tried to contribute to a solution to the relevant problem of shortage of housing by designing large scale housing projects. An example of such a housing project, parallel to developments in other large cities over Europe, is ‘Robin Hood Gardens’ by Alison and Peter Smithson. It was designed in the late 1960s and completed in 1972. The complex in Poplar East London, inspired by Le Corbusier’s ‘Unite d’Habition’, drew on the idea of ‘streets in the sky.’5 Two high rise slabs, containing linear circulation space that are designed to be streets in the sky, block out interference from the city to create at ground level a peaceful garden in between. This garden was to be a collective space for dwellers, a space open for appropriation. In the same period in history, the Dutch architect Herman Haan designed a large scale housing complex for students at the campus of the University of Twente in the East of the Netherlands, this project was finished in 1969. Instead of using a high rise type, Herman Haan made a low rise high density complex with several collective patios. No large scale collective space similar to Robin Hood Gardens was given to the dwellers; in order to be in a green space of such scale the dweller of Haans project needs to enter the public realm. Both projects were designed according to a vision on dwelling in a large complex, a concept which was relatively new at that time. Their visions were meant to deal with problems such as proximity and the increase of scale in order to create a pleasant
1. Clouth & Ehrlich, 2011.
2. Coupland, 1994, cited in Van den Heuvel 1999:1. 3. Koolhaas, 1997, cited in Van den Heuvel 2000:40. 4.Van den Heuvel, 2000:40.
by Jaap de Jong and Nathalie Rabouille
environment to dwell in. Where Alison and Peter Smithson used one large green space, an apparent accumulation of all private gardens that are common in ground bound dwelling, Herman Haan uses multiple smaller collective squares appointed to a relatively small number of dwellers. Today we experience that not both designs have succeeded in providing pleasant space to dwell in. The Robin Hood Gardens project has become an unpleasant place to be in, occupied by people that seem to have little affection for their dwelling and the collective space, impoverished and crime ridden6 . The project showed these symptoms already shortly after being put into use. In contrast to this, the design of Herman Haan remained free of crime and still functions very well as until today and seems to continue doing so for a long time. This contrast presents a question that needs answering and an answer that needs analysing. It presents us with the question why the first did not succeed in creating a suitable place for dwelling at a large scale and why the latter did. 6. Eisenman, 1972:557.
7. Eisenman, 1972:588. 8. Eisenman, 1972:590.
9. Smithson, 1974:274.
10. Smithson, 1974:274.
11. Smithson, 1974:277.
12. Smithson, 1974:274.
blame Robin Hood Gardens has been excessively reviewed by multiple critics and has been labelled a failure. For example Peter Eisenman states in ‘Robin Hood Gardens London E14’ that Robin Hood Gardens failed to integrate the scale of the idea with the form of the building.7 He continues with stating that the private space and the private unit seem less than ideal.8 As a reaction to these critiques Alison Smithson felt the urge of explaining to these critics why they, unjustly, experience Robin Hood Gardens as a failure. In a cunning way Alison Smithson tries to defend her project without stating that she does so or even naming her project in her article ‘The violent consumer or waiting for the goodies’. In this article, which was published in 1974, she states that a social housing project cannot have any part in becoming hostile and unpleasant to dwell in.9 Instead she states that the dwellers cause problems and thus the apparent failure of a project. She rules out any possibility of the building being part of the reason it does not function as intended and becoming a hostile place. Blaming the ideology of the welfare state that provides dwelling for the ones that cannot provide for themselves Allison Smithson proposes in her article that dwellers that have been provided with dwelling by the government ‘are not necessarily grateful’ for their dwelling because they did not earn it.10 ‘... in the present world of municipal housing, subsidies are in fact cruel to a greater number than they are kind to, for they tend to pack together, without distinction, families with completely different standards of cleanliness, noisiness obstructiveness, and so on.’11 Already one might question the quality of the design and thus the building, for the Smithsons knew while designing the project that this so called ‘packing together’ would occur. Furthermore she states that ‘the architect-urbanist might well ask if the socialist welfare state is actually what is wanted by the very people for whom it was intended and in whose name it is kept on the road.’12 While in Alison Smithsons opinion the consumer is leading in the way a building will function, other architects from the same era claim a different truth; Herman Hertzberger claims such a different truth. The Dutch architects H. Hertzberger and E. Steenkist state in their book ‘Ruimte maken Ruimte laten’ that form, or architecture, will determine usage and experience.13 In addition to that in their book ‘Het openbare rijk’ it is stated that the influence of users can be stimulated if this is done in an appropriate fashion. This is mostly dependent on accessibility, territorial claim, organisation of maintenance and responsibilities, therefore it is important to be aware of these factors and their implicit relations as a designer.14 Without judging which vision is superior it is useful to mention that Hertzberger has until today never seen any of his housing projects fail or being criticised as severe as
projects of the Smithsons were, in order to place the vision and the work of Hertzberger in the appropriate perspective. nature Alison Smithson states in her article ‘The violent consumer or waiting for the goodies’ that people are not necessarily grateful for what has been given to them or what they have not earned.15 In her opinion this is the reason why dwellers of Robin Hood Gardens did not appreciate the building and why they did not feel responsible for it. Hertzberger and Steenkist believe that people feel responsible for a building when they feel involved.16 In ‘Ruimte laten Ruimte maken’ they elaborate on when people feel involved. According to them this will happen when people can extend their personal influences to their environment.17 In other words: people should be able to appropriate a building. This is a task that requires a lot of empathy from the architect. Herman Haan is an architect with such empathy. Piet Vollaard describes his designing method as one with ‘human motives’.18 This can be seen in his design for the student housing for the University of Twente. The building provides different spaces and difference in collectiveness. Not only are there private bedrooms, but there are also shared spaces for different amounts of people. A dweller can decide in which kind of collective space he or she wants to be. This building fulfils this way more accurately the needs or wishes of its residents. One can decide whether one wants to meet other people and with how many others one wants to share a space. There are four kinds of spaces of different collectiveness that can be distinguished between the private room and the public realm: the bathroom, the breakfast room, a small square and a large square. This can be seen in figure 1. The squares in front of the dwellings for instance, are an extension of the private space, this evokes an extension of responsibility and involvement, as is evident from figure 2. This way the involvement of the dweller is not confined to the private but spreads out to the periphery, gradually decreasing towards the public realm. In the Robin Hood Gardens project less spaces with different collectiveness can be distinguished. Besides the private dwelling and the public space only one collective space can be recognised: the large garden in between the two buildings, as shown in figure 3. The nature of the transition from private to public seems to be very binary, although it looks like an attempt has been made to create a more gradual transition of collectiveness. For example there are ‘collective’ streets in the sky, unfortunately they are not wide enough to function as occupied zones but are merely circulation space. The recesses in the facade at these streets offer no solution either, this can be seen in figure 4. These recesses are simply not deep enough and are perhaps too directly connected to the decks which causes them to belong to the circulation space instead of being an extension of the private. The mentioned recesses have great resemblance with the design of the entrance of the dwellings of Herman Hertzbergers ‘De Drie Hoven’, which is a large elderly housing complex. Here the dwellers use recesses as an extension of their private space, they store objects there permanently to appropriate it. The recesses are deeper and are separated subtly from the adjacent circulation space by relatively low walls and a column, as is evident from figure 5. Probably Herman Haan succeeded designing collective space so well because of his ‘human motives’. Clearly the Smithsons had more difficulty with this, maybe they focused too much on making a ‘street’. Not only the presence of different spaces with difference in collectiveness is an important issue, also the transition between those spaces matters. In Robin Hood Gardens one has several thresholds to take in order to go from the private dwelling to the collective garden. There is no (visual) connection between the dwellings and the streets in the sky; the liveable spaces of the dwellings are situated on the opposite side of the building. The circulation space of the dwellings is placed in
13. Hertzberger & Steenkist, 1984b:5.
14. Hertzberger & Steenkist, 1984b:19.
15. Smithson, 1974:274.
16. Hertzberger & Steenkist, 1984a:19. 17. Hertzberger & Steenkist, 1984b:89.
20. Eisenman, 1972:590.
21. Ouroussoff, 2009.
between to create a buffer between those two.19 This buffer is at the same time a barrier between the dwellings and the streets in the sky, as shown in figure 6. Furthermore there is no direct or easy way to go from a dwelling to the collective garden; many stairs or elevators have to be taken. The relationship between the horizontal and vertical access is badly articulated. ‘The access to the pedestrian deck is mean; the deck itself narrows to the lift lobby. This narrowing plus the particular articulation of the lift tower, suggest an escape stair more than a main entry’.20 Also this route does not have any visual connection to the collective garden. This was also remaked bij Nicolai Ouroussoff. In the New York Times he sarcastically mentioned this as follows: ‘Inside, tenants of Robin Hood Gardens ride claustrophobic elevators to reach their apartments. When the elevators break down, they climb a dank, airless stairwell. A barrier that runs up the center of the staircase makes it impossible to see what’s around the corner, so you worry that you are about to get mugged each time you reach a landing. The experience only reinforces the isolation of the mostly poor immigrants who live here.’21 In the student housing project of Herman Haan the transition from private through collective to public is very gradual. He designed the collective squares without circulation space running through them, this way the square can become an occupied space and is open for appropriation. The roof of the private dwelling extends towards the square and is supported by slim columns, creating an outside extension of the private space underneath the roof. This roof has several functions; it is a transition from private to (true!) collective for the individual dweller, it also provides a pleasant distance between the collective and the private by creating this transition space. The circulation space is positioned adjacent to the square and the dwelling, it connects the multiple collective spaces with each other and each collective space with the public realm. Thus enabling dwellers to meet in different collective spaces that belong to different dwellers and connecting them to the public realm as well. scale Furthermore the scale of the different spaces is very important in the design of a large housing building. Scale not only relates to the dimensions of a space, also the amount of people sharing a space is involved. When the collective space is designed too large compared to the amount of people living in the building, alienation with the collective space can occur. In the student housing project of Herman Haan not only the collectiveness increases in the direction ‘private to public’, the scale of the collective spaces does the same. Firstly there is the private bedroom, then the bathroom is shared with two other persons. The breakfast room and the little square are shared with five other persons, the square provides the opportunity to easily invite at least twenty persons into this collective space. Finally there is a large square that is intended for the entire building, shared with approximately 150 people. Only after passing these spaces the public realm is reached. In the Robin Hood Gardens project this transition of scale from private to public takes much larger steps. The only space separating the private housing from the public realm is the large green garden. This garden is meant as a collective space for both buildings, which means for circa 850 people. The so called collective space between the two buildings of Robin Hood Gardens does not have a character of a collective space, it rather seems a public space considering size and the large number of people sharing this space. This makes it harder for the dwellers of Robin Hood Gardens to relate to this garden. earn As mentioned before Alison Smithson states that people are not necessarily grateful for what has been given to them or what they have not earned. In her opinion this is one of the reasons why people do not appreciate well designed buildings.22 Therefore appreciation of the building would have been higher when people would have earned it.
Figure 1 Herman Haan, floorplan one with square unit UT Twente studenthousing, 2011 (author’s figure).
Figure 2 Herman Haan, photo of a collective little square (Timmerman, P., “Patiowoningen,” University of Twente, 2010, www.utwente.nl, accessed on 24 Mar. 2011).
Figure 3 “Collective” garden of Robin Hood Gardens (Cadman, S., “Robin Hood Gardens,” Flickr, 2008, ww.flickr. com, accessed on 23 Mar. 2011).
Figure 4 Streets in the sky, (Woodward, J., “Alison and Peter Smithson - Robin Hood Gardens,” Flickr, 2008, ww.flickr. com, accessed on 23 Mar. 2011).
Figure 5 Herman Hertzberger, view of the recesses on the Drie Hoven (Hertzberger, H., Steenkist, E. “Theorie en practijk van het ontwerpen; samenvatting colleges architectuurbeschouwing, 1973-1982. Deel A.” Het openbare rijk. Delft:TH Delft, afdeling der Bouwkunde, 1984a)
Figure 6 Peter and Alison Smithson, Floorplan Robin Hood Gardens adjacent to the streets in the sky, 2011 (author’s figure).
Herman Haans student housing project is similar in the aspect of ‘earning’, but yet does not have any problems receiving appreciation from its dwellers. In the Netherlands students are given an extra financial compensation when they rent a dwelling themselves and start living on their own. When meeting certain demands like having their own front door, so the dwelling can be considered as a single entity, students can apply for housing benefit. Apart from the fact that students as starting independent dwellers often do not have the same hygiene or tidy standards as experienced dwellers yet, in general they appreciate their dwelling enough to enjoy it and maintain it properly. When considering the fact that students do not always pay for their dwelling, Smithsons argument looses validity because not all students did earn their dwelling either. Prior to Robin Hood Gardens, in the Netherlands the construction of a large housing project similar to Robin Hood Gardens started in 1966. In a part of Amsterdam called ‘de Bijlmermeer’ 13,000 dwellings were realised in ten story high flats, positioned in a hexagonal structure encapsulating large green spaces. The same symptoms, such as impoverishment and rising crime rates, as in the Robin Hood Gardens project can be discovered here as well.23 These flats have no collective space directly related to the dwelling and the transition from private to public is even more binary than in Robin Hood Gardens. Therefore it needs mentioning that perhaps not the design of Alison and Peter Smithson itself is what could be criticised, but the concept of stacking dwellings in combination with accumulated large scale collective space could be questioned. wrong Blaming the users of a building that does not function as intended is too superficial or narrow minded, perhaps it is the design of a building that causes a not intended badly functioning situation. ‘The violent consumer or waiting for the goodies’ lead to researching this matter, comparing successful and unsuccessful examples this article tried to discover whether a building or the user is of decisive importance in the succeeding of a project. To let a large scale housing project like the student housing project of Herman Haan succeed, the aspects of ‘nature’, ‘transition’ and ‘scale’ of the collective space have to play an important role in the design. Occurring problems, that we as writers believed mainly occurred due to bad designing, are likely to be more complicated than we initially thought. Maybe the problem lies within the concept instead of being completely fixed on either building or user. Usually in a concept both building and user are described and, more important, the relation between these two and how they are intended to function in a certain way. Therefore, how can a building be successful if the concept that has been used in the design, and in all schemes that explore this design while designing, is bound to lead to failure? Perhaps Alison Smithson was right, in a bitter way, about the design of the building itself not being the problem in case of Robin Hood Gardens. Perhaps the complete concept or vision on which the building was based was a wrong assumption.
22. Smithson, 1974:274.
23. Luijten, 1997:17.
Bibliography Clout, H., Ehrlich, B., “London: Reconstruction after World War 2,” Britannica, 2011, www.britannica.com (accessed 23 May 2011). Coupland, D., “Brentwood Notebook,” (1994) in Van den Heuvel, D., “Editorial,” Oase 51 (1999), 1-4.Van den Heuvel, D. Eisenman, P. “Robin Hood Gardens London E14.” AD 72 (Sep. 1972), 557-592. Hertzberger, H., Steenkist, E. “Theorie en practijk van het ontwerpen; samenvatting colleges architectuurbeschouwing, 1973-1982. Deel A.” Het openbare rijk. Delft: TH Delft, afdeling der Bouwkunde, 1984a. Hertzberger, H., Steenkist, E. “Theorie en practijk van het ontwerpen: samenvatting colleges architectuurbeschouwing 1973-1982. Deel B.” Ruimte maken, ruimte laten. Delft: TH Delft, afdeling der Bouwkunde, 1984b. Koolhaas, R. “Generic City,” Domus 791 (Mar. 1997), 3-12, in “The Diagrams of Team 10,” Daidalos 74 (Jan. 2000), 40-51. Luijten, A., “Een vat vol tegenstrijdigheden, de dynamische geschiedenis van de Bijlmermeer,” Archis 3 (Mar. 1997), 14-21. Ouroussoff, N., “Rethinking Postwar Design in London,” New York Times, 2009, www. nytimes.com (accessed 24 May 2011). Smithson, A., “The violent consumer or waiting for the goodies,” AD 5 (Mar. 1974), 274278. Van den Heuvel, D., “The Diagrams of Team 10,” Daidalos 74 (Jan. 2000), 40-51. Vollaard, P., “Brutale eenvoud, het modernisme van Herman Haan,” De Architect 22 (Nov. 1991), 56-71. Wright, J., “Letter by Twentieth Century Society re Robin Hood Gardens,” (2007), in “The Architecture Foundation,” Robin Hood Gardens, International Ideas Competition, (2008), 12-15.
DOCS is an independent architectural journal by MSc students and tutors of The Chair of Architecture and Dwelling, Delft University of Technology
The chair of Architecture and Dwelling is involved in the research and education in the field of housing and architectural design.The chair aims to investigate the architecture of dwelling against the background of changing lifestyles and new technologies, which make up our daily environment.Topical issues which are addressed in our research and education programmes are the creation of diversity by the mixing of functions, research into high density schemes, sustainability in relation to spatial configurations, the rethinking of the quality of our suburbs and the interrelations between the private realm of dwelling and the public spaces of the city.
The seminars Architectural Studies and Architectural Reflections are strongly connected to the design studio. It is recommended to enroll these courses, which focus on the analysis of relevant projects and texts thus providing tools for the design work in the studio.The research in the seminars is linked to the research programme of the chair and its publication series Delft Architectural Studies on Housing (DASH).
DOCS Chair of Architecture and Dwelling Faculty of Architecture, Delft University of Technoglogy Julianalaan 132-134 2628 BL Delft Postbus 5043 2600 GA Delft Editors Pierijn van der Putt, Nelson Mota, Oliver Ebben Graphic Design and cover illustration Robbert Guis Publisher Chair of Architecture and Dwelling, Faculty of Architecture, TUDelft www.dwelling.nl
.docs is an independent architectural journal by MSc students andtutors of The Chair of Architecture and Dwelling, Delft University ofTechno...
Published on Feb 2, 2012
.docs is an independent architectural journal by MSc students andtutors of The Chair of Architecture and Dwelling, Delft University ofTechno...