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Order; Dis order



T W E N T Y- S E V E N


Order; Dis



T W E N T Y- S E V E N



Dena Qaddumi Sofia Singler EDITORIAL TEAM

Nicoletta Michaletos Ekaterina Mizrokhi Megan Rourke Jamie Woods DESIGN

Nicoletta Michaletos Dena Qaddumi Sofia Singler ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Eve Avdoulos, Eliran Bar-El, Theodora Bowering, Dominic Edwards, Yasmina El Chami, Stan Finney, Jessie Fyfe, Swarnabh Ghosh, Yeonsook Heo, Clarissa Hoskison, Savia Palate, François Penz, Wendy Pullan, Stefanos Roimpas, Alex Young-Il Seo This publication was supported by the Department of Architecture and the Researcher Development Programme at the School of Arts and Humanities, University of Cambridge. ISSN 0966.1026 Issue 27 © Scroope Journal 2018

Copyright is retained by the respective authors unless otherwise indicated. Every effort has been made to contact copyright holders. Any copyright holders we have been unable to reach or to whom inaccurate acknowledgement has been made are encouraged to contact the publisher. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reprinted, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of the publishers. Although the highest care is taken to make the information contained in Scroope: Cambridge Architecture Journal as accurate as possible, neither the publishers nor the authors can accept any responsibility for damage resulting from the use of this information.

SCROOPE: Cambridge Architecture Journal Department of Architecture 1–5 Scroope Terrace Cambridge CB2 1PX United Kingdom

Order; Disorder Scroope Issue 27 2018

Contents 1

Foreword François Penz


Introducing Order; Disorder Dena Qaddumi and Sofia Singler


On Architecture, Aesthetics and Micropolitics: An Interview with Farshid Moussavi Dena Qaddumi and Sofia Singler


Os and Bucca: Communicative Disorder in the Italian Mannerist Garden Georgios Chatzopoulos and Vasiliki Christakou

Hydroanthropozoa: Installation, Joan Miró Museum and Foundation

From Disorderly Dispersion to Orderly Concentration: Frontier Villages at the Korean Border 1951–1973 Alex Young-Il Seo

Soviet Workers’ Clubs: Architecture for a New Civic Order? Sol Pérez Martínez

The Influence of Flux on Auto-construction in the Jungle of Calais Eefje Hendriks, Hanne Vrebos and Joop de Zwart

Listed Buildings in Decay: The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of Athens’s Urban Heritage Christos-Georgios Kritikos

Graffiti, Street Art, Advertising, and Contested Visual Space in New York City Sam Holleran

Cosmos out of Chaos: An Episode in the Rise and Fall of Proportion Following the Second World War


Patricia Mato-Mora

Natura Urbana: The Brachen of Berlin

43 59

Matthew Gandy

21st Century Monument: The Dialogue Between Local Place/Migrant Identity

63 89

Ozana Gherman

Empower: Integrated Development for the Upgrade of BT Section, Site C Khayelitsha

93 109

Urban-Think Tank/A. Brillembourg & H. Klumpner

Kawaii-Kowai [Cute-Scary]: The Accidental Aesthetics of Tokyo’s Subdivurbanism

113 131

Yannick Scott and Rachel Smillie

Sketching with Mathematics: Variations of a Pavilion Joseph Choma

135 155 159

Jeffery Roberson



Scroope Issues and Lectures


Foreword François Penz

In this volume on Order; Disorder, edited by Dena Qaddumi and Sofia Singler, Scroope 27 reverberates the most relentless of the laws of physics: the second law of thermodynamics. The second law establishes the irreversibility of physical phenomena, especially during heat exchange. It also introduces the notion of entropy, usually equated with disorder. In A User’s Guide to Entropy, Yve-Alain Bois and Rosalind Krauss present the following metaphor to define entropy: Imagine a sandbox filled on one side with white sand and on the other with black. A little boy begins to run around the enclosure in a clockwise direction, kicking up the sand as he goes and mixing together dark grains with light. He is then told to reverse his course and run counterclockwise. This will certainly do nothing to undo the movement toward uniformity and re-sort the two colors into separate fields. As his legs continue to churn, the process of entropy will, irreversibly, only progress and deepen.1

Children are commonly associated with metaphors related to entropy; Rudolf Arnheim in Entropy and Art: An Essay on Disorder and Order refers to the child’s playroom analogy as a way of describing entropy as a tendency of systems to move towards disorder.2 He imagines a child left alone in an initially ordered room. Given time, the room will move to a state of disorder–many of us would have experienced the entropy messy room model! 1 Yve-Alain Bois and Rosalind Krauss, ‘A User’s Guide to Entropy’, October, 78 (1996), 38-88 (p. 38). 2 Rudolf Arnheim, Entropy and Art: An Essay on Disorder and Order (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971).


Architecture is a container of entropy–of order; disorder. In Vers une Architecture, Le Corbusier refers to the Regulating Lines as an ‘inevitable element of Architecture. The necessity for order. The regulating line is a guarantee against the arbitrary’.3 Similarly, the Plan–the generator–is necessary, for ‘without plan, there is disorder’.4 But architecture needs constant attention to escape turning to dust: ‘Our building culture is always trying to hold decay and entropy at bay. We repaint, we repair, we prop up our old idols on new stilts, trying to engineer some sort of equilibrium out of broken parts.’5 In my own work on the everyday and cinema, I construe architecture as the ordering container of our everyday life where the regulating lines structure our daily gestures. Most fiction films start by establishing a baseline of everydayness–the order–creating a climate and an atmosphere of ordinariness for viewers to ease themselves in, while dramatic events– disorder–are staged in contrast to this baseline. Some films present us with a high level of entropy–high drama and low everydayness, e.g. the Bourne film franchise–in contrast to slow movies with low entropy and minimal disorder, containing high levels of daily lives in everyday environments with minor dramatic events, e.g. the Dardenne brothers’ films. In Isaac Asimov’s short story The Last Question, the following recurring question is asked of Multivac: ‘How can the net amount of entropy of the universe be massively decreased?’6 This is equivalent to asking: Can the workings of the second law of thermodynamics (used in the story as the increase of the entropy of the universe) be reversed? Multivac invariably responds, ‘insufficient data for meaningful answer.’7 With articles, projects and an interview, this Scroope volume addresses this issue, wherein some answers may finally be found.

François Penz Head of the Department of Architecture University of Cambridge June, 2018

3 Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture (New York: Dover Publications, 1986), p. 3. 4 Ibid., p. 3. 5 Matthew Johnson, ‘The Weather Inside: Thermodynamic Flows and Architectural Entropy’, 98th ACSA Annual Meeting Proceedings: Rebuilding, 2010, 250-57 (p. 254). 6 Multivac is a self-improving super-intelligent computer that serves as the custodian of humanity. 7 Isaac Asimov, Science Fiction and Philosophy: From Time Travel to Superintelligence, ed. Susan Schneider, 2nd edn (Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2016), p. 282.



Introducing Order; Disorder Dena Qaddumi and Sofia Singler

Revolutionary events generally take place in the street. Doesn’t this show that the disorder of the streets engenders another kind of order?1 Henri Lefebvre, The Urban Revolution (1970)

At the 1959 Annual General Meeting of the Architectural Association, President H.T. Cadbury-Brown addressed members with a speech entitled ‘Ideas of Disorder’. Cadbury-Brown cautioned against the timelessness of the modern movement, which, in his view, had divorced architectural practice from history and placed it at the mercy of the machine. Individualism and diversity were not possible in the subsequent ‘frightening regularity of life’.2 Further, the preoccupation in architecture and urban theory with order—prevalent since the Renaissance and the revival of the Classical Orders—threatened to sterilise the urban fabric and prevent ‘real’ human contact with buildings themselves, the machine acting as a middle-man. For Cadbury-Brown, the over-ordering of urban life had encouraged reactions aimed at disordering, often with unpredictable outcomes. This tension between the uses of order and disorder has been salient in the theory and practice of architecture and urbanism since time immemorial.3 Aesthetic, structural, political, and social orders have been forced and reinforced in cities, urban spaces, and buildings, but they have also been questioned and challenged. The Classical Orders defined a canon of ‘correct’ proportions; yet the (in)famous problem of resolving corner columns led architects to deviate from established rules to maintain visual coherence. The urban grid was employed in colonial contexts as an instrument of land appropriation and a symbol of a new socio-political order—in contradistinction to indigenous urban morphologies. Yet, it was violated and adapted in settings like the hills of San Francisco, where it was interrupted by sudden diagonals and winding bends. And so, is order liberating or constraining, or both? 1 Henri Lefebvre, The Urban Revolution, trans. by Robert Bononno (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003) p. 19. 2 Cadbury-Brown, ‘Ideas of Disorder’, AA journal, 75, (1959), 82-87 (p. 82). 3 We borrow the phrase from Sennett who viewed disorder a necessary element of urban life, particularly in its ability to dissolve purified identities. Richard Sennett, The Uses of Disorder: Personal Identity and City Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970).


This issue of Scroope, which includes both articles and projects, examines order and disorder in architecture and cities in different times and scales, questioning their relevance for today and the future. Much effort has been invested in creating sets of values and rules that produce harmony, proportion and civility—the promises of order. On the other hand, disorder has been seen as a lack, a negative state of incompleteness, chaos, or threat; to be ‘out of order’ is to be inappropriate or broken. Just as order can be sinister, can disorder be virtuous? What are the implications for buildings and cities if it is disorder, rather than order, that is desired? Is order necessarily related to control, or can it appear without conscious intervention? Are order and disorder inevitably a dichotomy, or is their relationship more nuanced? The punctuation of this issue’s title is an attempt to frame these problematics. Order and disorder implies a pair, a reciprocal duo; order or disorder a choice of either but not both; order–disorder joined poles, an axis. The semicolon, however, functions grammatically as a ‘both–and’; it signifies pause and continuation simultaneously, stasis and movement at once. Its ambiguity communicates the premise on which our inquiry began: what is order; what is disorder; and how do they relate to one another? Just a few years prior to Cadbury-Brown’s plea for disorder, Louis Kahn published his poem ‘Order is’ (1955).4 The poem, published in the Yale architecture journal Perspecta, was printed within the article ‘Order and Form’, which outlined Kahn’s architecture philosophy, and his design approach to the recently completed Yale Art Gallery and Design Centre (1953). In the poem, Kahn distils order from a value judgment, repeatedly distinguishing it from beauty and design. In contrast to Cadbury-Brown he presents order as an open system, one that invites creativity and critique: Order does not imply Beauty The same order created the dwarf and Adonis Design is not making Beauty Beauty emerges from selection affinities integration love Art is a form making life in order—psychic Order in intangible It is a level of creative consciousness forever becoming higher in level The higher the order the more diversity in design Order supports integration From what the space wants to be the unfamiliar may be revealed to the architect. From order he will derive creative force and power of self criticism to give form to this unfamiliar. Beauty will evolve5

4 Louis I. Kahn, ‘Order and Form’, Perspecta, 3 (1955), 46-63 (p. 59). 5 Excerpt of ‘Order Is’. Idib. p. 59.



The work of Farshid Moussavi, whose interview opens our issue, resonates with Kahn’s ideas in this poem. Through her Function book series (The Function of Ornament, 2006; The Function of Form, 2009; The Function of Style, 2014) she revisits prominent tenets in architectural theory by decoupling function and aesthetics. We discuss with Moussavi where this line of enquiry will move next and how it relates to ‘micropolitics’, a term she uses to describe shifts in the possibilities of architecture as generated by design choices at all scales: ‘It is not that we go and sign petitions outside, and then get back to the office and become apolitical. It is putting at the forefront of our minds that every decision we make affects daily life.’6 The relationship between the natural and human worlds is addressed in the article by Georgios Chatzopoulos and Vasiliki Christakou, and the art installation by Patricia Mato-Mora. Chatzopoulos and Christakou describe the interplay between the natural and the artificial in the Mannerist garden and the resulting ‘communicative disorder’, in contradistinction to the Renaissance garden. Mato-Mora’s work playfully interrogates the natural and the manmade by inviting museum visitors to assume the role of barnacles at harbour. She questions the originators of order and disorder at the meeting of the sea and shore. Another theme running through this issue is the resulting orders from war, revolution and political discord. Alex Young-Il Seo describes the efforts of the South Korean government to render legible the frontier villages established in the aftermath of the Korean War. His contribution explores how the new state was driven by territorial and security concerns under the guise of modernist planning and architecture. In Natura Urbana, Matthew Gandy traces the international ecology of post-war Berlin. Through a forensic reading of this urban nature, Gandy offers a method for chronicling the political and material history of a divided city. In the context of post revolution Russia, Sol Pérez Martínez examines the establishment of the Soviet workers’ club as a ‘social condenser’. She analyses the Zil workers’ club, demonstrating how the spatial order of the building supported an ideology based on the collective. Ozana Gherman’s project questions the stability of collective culture in the 21st century given the proliferation of migration. Her design for a monument counters solidity with the fluidity of water (and people), while providing spaces for shared experience. In their article on the Jungle of Calais, Eefje Hendriks, Hanne Vrebos and Joop de Zwart also address the effects of migration and war on architecture. They argue that the informal camps of the Jungle followed an underlying urban order that should be considered by governments and NGOs in their approaches to humanitarian and development assistance. In their project ‘Empower’, Alfredo Brillembourg, Hubert Klumpner, Scott Lloyd and Andy Bolnick acknowledge this tension through the design of slum upgrading in Cape Town. The provision of a structural and service core is the basis on which residents have the freedom to expand their housing according to their needs. 6 See ‘On Architecture, Aesthetics and Micropolitics’ in this issue, p. 17.



The evolution of housing typologies as an ordering device in the city is addressed in contributions looking at Athens and Tokyo. ChristosGeorgios Kritikos proposes that a new typology of ‘listed buildings in decay’ is afflicting Athens and has created an ambivalent relationship between public opinion and heritage conservation. He uses the case of 82 Acharnon Street, an abandoned mansion turned squat, to illustrate that seemingly disordered methods of preservation may be a way forward to address this building typology. Rising land prices, building regulations and limited space create typologies that are both cute and scary in the case of Tokyo. Yannick Scott and Rachel Smillie develop this logic into an aesthetic that is generated from its urban context. Shifting from the aesthetics of buildings to the aesthetics of space, Sam Holleran’s contribution explores the transition from graffiti to street art in New York City. He shows how the image of a disordered New York is advantageous, when this value is appropriated by advertisers and urban developers. The conceptual design by Joseph Choma produces an aesthetic and form that uses mathematics as the primary generator. He presents a chronology of equations which morph a torus to a pavilion. Jeffery Roberson’s article examines the discussions on proportion by Rudolf Wittkower and Le Corbusier following the Second World War. These efforts attempted to renew Platonism and its belief in a cosmos ordered by mathematics. Ultimately, Wittkower’s efforts to position proportion as a primary architectural concern had failed; a 1957 RIBA debate voted against a motion that would privilege systems of proportion. It is two years after this debate that Cadbury-Brown delivers his talk on the ‘Ideas of Disorder’. Perhaps the cosmological dimension of order that Roberson explicates was missing from the order that Cadbury-Brown laments. Or perhaps he felt that the discussion did not adequately address the larger context of mid-20th century architectural and urban production. He fittingly chooses Le Corbusier’s Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp (1954) as a case in point: I am sure that it is this desire for continuity both with nature and history that made Le Corbusier allude to peasant forms in Ronchamp and that also makes us want to design caves. But if the best aspects of Ronchamp indicate that the architect should aim at working in a sculptural way, its faults make it clear that the forms used for this sort of sculpture must be buildable under normal conditions. The making of ungeometric literally organic cave like and tree like forms waits expectantly for the invention of new methods of building and drawing. I am sure that if architects want it enough that an answer can be found.7

7 Cadbury-Brown, ‘Ideas of Disorder’, p. 84.



On Architecture, Aesthetics and Micropolitics: An Interview with Farshid Moussavi Dena Qaddumi and Sofia Singler

Farshid Moussavi OBE RA (FM) was interviewed by Dena Qaddumi (DQ) and Sofia Singler (SS) on 27 April, 2018, at the Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge. That evening, she delivered the Second Annual Scroope Lecture to a full house at the Auditorium of Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. Her lecture was titled ‘Architecture, Aesthetics and Micropolitics’. DQ: Let’s start by looking at your projects and your praxis. You’ve described how, when you look at a project, you ‘see it through a problem’, which informs your approach to it. How do you articulate the problem in order to move toward a design? FM: I believe that architecture is fundamentally about life, and being committed to improving life means understanding how life is right now. If we were to look at a museum, I would want to understand what the problematics of a museum are. How can architecture address them? The museum is a place of production: you create shows where people visit and experience art. But it also includes running a museum—lots of people


Figure 1 (opposite): The Second Annual Scroope Lecture: Farshid Moussavi, ‘Architecture, Aesthetics and Micropolitics’. Eve Avdoulos, 2018.

working there—so museums are also office buildings. I would want to understand where we are now with these in order to know where we should take them, and what kind of shifts are required. Otherwise it can be a false start. This is about the relationship between the present and history: understanding you are a moment along a line that has started and will continue. Buildings have to be projective, but they also need to be informed by what we know of the past. As culture changes, certain ways of using buildings are abandoned, but may come back. Sometimes you can learn from other cultures. We know, for example, that office buildings in Europe are shallower and therefore environmentally much more responsible than the UK. It is not possible in Europe to design a deep office building, whereas in London, you could. The idea that freedom means a vacuum is highly questionable. I think you need to define the territory in which you want to act and in which you want to exert some form of agency. You need to define the territory in which you are looking for freedom to do things differently. I do not even know how to work in any other way. Doing projects is also about the discipline of managing time; I mean managing creative time. There is a limited amount of time within which you need to do your work. If you are ambitious you want to be as thoughtful and creative as you can within that time frame. It is very important to build some kind of discipline whereby you can assess the decisions that you make and go on in an insightful way. SS: You mention clients’ desire for ‘innovation’. More than what the clients want, what does innovation mean in your work? FM: The word ‘innovation’ has been banalised because a lot of mainstream architecture uses it too easily. But I think it is a good word. It is a good word for architecture. Innovation means taking something that already exists and changing it to make something new. It is different to invention; you could say it is the opposite of invention. I am not saying that architecture cannot invent, but the idea that some kind of superstar invents something every decade or so and then everybody else just copies it—I find it very uninteresting. The concept of innovation allows architects to respond to ongoing changes in culture, technical means, ideas and habits; every so many years, having changed so much, they may require a fundamentally different way of looking at things. And that would lead to the invention of a new building type, or a new way of building. Meanwhile, life does not remain static, and change happens incrementally. We need to be perceptive of change at a smaller scale so that architectural practice is not dumb. Day-to-day architectural decisions, then, embrace creativity and change at different scales. Let’s consider the office building. Maybe an office building today doesn’t have to change entirely. Maybe only certain parts about the way we use it, such as the climate it gives to people, or the relationship it provides them between inside and outside, needs to change. Office buildings involve a variety of coefficients such as structure, services, space planning, lighting, and security, and each one of them is





subject to change at different speed. So are the regulations related to them. At FMA, we try not to assign hierarchy to the parameters we must work with, so that they could—each one individually, or in combination—become creative sources for the building. You can make quite a different building if you just change the curtain wall. When people sit and work they are unlikely to look at the floor, and they are unlikely to look at the ceiling. But they are going to look at the curtain wall, which also defines their relationship with the city outside. Every building is made of a myriad of these kinds of elements. ‘Innovation’ is the right word when referring to this microscale set of changes. I am not afraid of using it just because other people use it badly, and I don’t think this scale of creativity is insignificant. SS: You are not afraid of scale—you work with a fluidity across different scales. FM: Buildings have lots of different kinds of elements that introduce different kinds of scales to them, and they perform at different scales once assembled. They need to work with the individual, with groups of people, and with the entire city. They also bring different scales, textures, colours and forms to a building. Throughout the history of architecture, a good building has either involved formulating an idea based on the whole, to which parts are made subservient, or beginning from a small part that would then generate the whole. There has always been an expectation of an isomorphism, where the part and the whole are united through a kind of organicism. This approach to buildings doesn’t leave any independence for the parts to generate a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts. It is remarkable how architectural thinking about buildings remains so archaic. It is. We need to question the idea that an architect has a genius idea at the beginning, which suddenly, somehow, becomes the end result. That’s not how buildings come about now. The process is stretched over four, six, ten years. And during that time all of these different elements and parts—the coefficients—come in at different times. It is like sailing in a rough sea. You can’t go to sleep and expect to wake up at your destination. You have to sail along the way, you have to fight and be artistic. You have to be opportunistic about how you navigate the journey. And this is what makes practice so exciting. It is so exciting. It is not easy, by any means, and it doesn’t always go the way you think it will. But if you are up for the ride and you remain insightful about the changes that come along—that is, how they can be used for the benefit of the project—then I think you will arrive at a far more sophisticated project than the one you thought of at the beginning. Our mind just doesn’t think six years immediately. DQ: It is perhaps ironic that if a project’s life is much longer than you anticipated, you can use that to your advantage. You have said before that time makes a project richer. Today, projects have extremely long time-spans and delays: does this make for a better project in the end, and work in favour of the architect or the building itself?



FM: I think so. Over time, the project becomes different to what you thought it would be. It requires changing mind-set constantly, and reframing it constantly. Imagine you are writing a book. I am sure people write books differently, but I would have thought that if the book is to have novelty, it involves a certain amount of research, and you are going to go back and forth, and it is going to evolve over time. The act of writing will make the book become what it is rather than be a transcription of something that you knew at the beginning. That would make writing a book a creative act, and in my opinion more enjoyable. SS: What are the techniques or strategies that you use to tackle design problems at different scales? How do you approach long processes that take several years? You’ve previously discussed the diagram as a design tool, for example. FM: I show diagrams in my lectures to ‘unpack’ the building. Some things you can show in an image, whereas others, which are, for example, about how a building is used over time, you cannot really convey very easily in a lecture. Many diagrams I show are actually done after the fact. In any case, if diagrams are an abstraction, practicing architecture involves making many diagrams that become more and more elaborate over time to a point where they have sufficient references to the concrete project that you can issue them for construction. At the beginning you are perhaps talking about how spaces relate to each other; that’s an abstraction of an aspect of the ultimate building. That drawing would not have a lot of the other information which the project would eventually have. Then you might add some windows, and then you might start looking at the way people would use it because of where the light comes in… Only at some later point do the drawings lose their abstraction. At FMA, we are interested in how practical and aesthetic decisions are interrelated. Moving an element would both change how people would use the room and how it would appear to those people. If you can keep the two in tandem, one doesn’t produce the other, but the building becomes very much about their dialogue. SS: Could you say more about architectural representation in your work? FM: Representation is a word I pick at a lot. I prefer to use ‘architectural drawings’, not ‘representations’. Representation means ‘re-presenting’, that is, presenting something you know already, whereas I think architectural drawings are a construction. You are constructing spaces, you are constructing a drawing also. So I don’t use the word ‘representation’. Of course you can make a copy of, let’s say, this coffee pot, and that would be a representation of the coffee pot. But I don’t think what architects do is representation.



SS: How about models in your work, and the relationship between drawings and models? FM: Every now and again we are asked to produce a model for a competition, but those are not the ones most interesting to me. The models we make are part of the thinking process. We would rarely make a model to check the form, because we can do that far quicker with the computer. Because we work in an iterative way, and we like to keep the project open to changes, physical models are too slow in that sense. So we use physical models to try to approximate the physicality, the real quality of the building, by using the actual materials, or at least mimicking them. We try to simulate the dynamic that might be at play in using certain materials together. For that reason, there is nothing you can replace a physical model with. A rendering can come close—quite close—but not really. It won’t give you a sense of weight or touch for example. DQ: You have two recent housing projects in France: La Folie Divine in Montpellier and Îlot 19 La Défense in Nanterre. Can you discuss the role of the client in these projects? FM: In France, private promoters—developers—need to buy land from the city through a competitive bid. The bid is a financial proposal for the land, but it also requires putting forward a design. So it’s interesting because buying land from the public sector is design-led, which I think is great. We competed against two other architects and presented in front a panel of experts headed by the mayor, who ultimately selected the projects in both cities. In Montpellier, the site is just on the edge of the city. The city called the project une folie, and it was supposed to be one of eight follies—but then the mayor changed, so only ours and Sou Fujimoto’s will be built. We tried to play with the idea of the folly, which has historically been a useless structure in a park, purely for pleasure and delight. Montpellier has other kinds of historic follies: extravagant summer-houses in park settings, commissioned by wealthy families. We said, well, if they’re calling affordable housing a folly, they’re obviously asking us to question the ordinary ways that one would approach affordable housing. At the time of the competition, it was more about working with the landscape around the building. The main theme we proposed was indoor/outdoor living, because the weather of Montpellier is quite warm; we said, balconies are important, so we will give people these interesting curvy balconies. Our client was very nervous about the shape of the building and the cost to build it—so just before we went to the competition presentation room, he was asking me to promise them that I would agree to all the necessary changes for the building to be buildable, even if it meant changing the design. What do you say? You say ‘Yes. Of course.’ We won the competition and the clients had my promise that we would make all necessary changes. As we started working with the project, I suddenly realised that we had to shift the interior division of the apartments



Figure 2: Elevation of La Folie Divine, Montpellier (2017). FMA.

entirely. What we had were these curved balconies—let’s call them ‘moonshaped’—that had divisions right in the middle; every flat had two halfbalconies. I realised that we needed to shift the relationship between the interior division and the balcony so that the balconies would have no division, and everyone could have one complete moon-shaped balcony rather than two halves. This meant that individual balconies would never overlook each other, which is of course ever more important if you use your balcony throughout the year, given the mild climate of Montpellier. This meant redrawing all the plans and sections. But in France they sell the apartments ‘off-plan’, meaning, before they build the building. Since our client had already started marketing the competition plans to potential buyers, they didn’t want to change them. I was, in parallel, giving lectures about the project and explaining our ideas for the project (as I do with all of our projects). The project was published shortly after in The Architectural Review and made it to the cover. The issue’s text applauded how clever the balconies were as there were no dividing walls, but they were super private. I think the aura built around the curvy balconies—that they were



very practical—was soon difficult for the client to ignore, and they agreed for us to change the interior planning so that balcony divisions would be avoided. We were very lucky with the timing of things. In every project you need some luck, because sometimes, your good ideas don’t come on Day One. Montpellier is a perfect example. We had a project that, in some ways, was more superficial at the beginning, but is deep now. We created something—a problem, if you like—which we were not even aware of. It’s only when I had to compare and ask, ‘What’s the difference between Montpellier and the Marina Towers or the Aqua Tower in Chicago?’ that I immediately realised what we had to do. Neither of those two schemes have dividing walls, but their balconies are very exposed; they give the buildings an image at the expense of people’s privacy. In the Marina Towers, you assume each balcony is for one unit, which makes it look like the units are the same size. But actually there are larger units that require a balcony and a half—if you look closely, you will find balcony divisions. SS: The way in which you frame a project and justify design choices is important. FM: You always need to take a position for projects. For me, housing is one building type where you need to give people the right to privacy, and the option to socialise if they want to. When we make large residential buildings, we forget that ninety-nine percent of people are living in an apartment not because they want to socialise with other people, but because there is not enough land in the city for each of them to have their own individual building. I think, ultimately, we architects have to put ourselves in the shoes of people, because we can only second-guess what people want. SS: Zooming out from balconies and parks to a slightly larger scale: What does urbanism mean in your work? How about the relationship between architecture and the city? FM: When we were FOA [Foreign Office Architects], we started working on infrastructure projects, such as the Yokohama Port Terminal, which allowed us to test how buildings can be seamless with the urban. We designed the roof of the building as a public destination, and the interior as a covered public space that would serve as a ferry terminal when ships would moor at the building. Since then, as buildings have continued to become larger and larger, the boundary between public and private has become less rigid. For example, I think Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall is an indoor public space. These large buildings have a scale in between the architectural and the urban, like a third category. Consider the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank, where the ground floor lobby is fully open but covered by the building above. During weekends it becomes a destination for Filipino women to gather and picnic. It has become their urban living room. That kind of gathering wouldn’t happen in quite the same way if it wasn’t for the openness of the lobby of the Bank. Seagram is another famous example.



Mies, by setting the tower back, created a little pocket of open space on what I assume was private land. So buildings can be urban in many ways. Even buildings that are quite private, like residential buildings, can engage the city. For example, if the apartments are designed so that the city is always something you look at when you look out of your window, you are far more likely to take an interest in it and want to nurture it. If the city is part of the experience of your living room, you are never going to forget that you are living in that city. The degree of openness of a building can similarly develop this kind of attachment between its workers and the urban context surrounding it. There is another way in which buildings contribute to the urban, which is through their physical make-up. Every building is both an accommodation for whatever goes on inside and also a piece of the city. When it is built with care, it contributes to the overall quality of our experience of the city.

Figure 3: Foreign Office Architects, Yokohama Port Terminal (2002). Ramon Prat.

DQ: Did you have many small-scale buildings before Yokohama? FM: No, that was our first project. DQ: It’s fascinating that you started at this urban and infrastructural scale, not the typical trajectory of an architect. Did such beginnings shape how you ‘returned’ to architecture later? FM: We were very conscious of how lucky we were—really, the word ‘lucky’ is not enough to describe the situation. We tried to make the most of it and work very hard. Yet we were also conscious that we should not stay at that scale indefinitely, because architecture at that scale is rare. And, frankly, it would not even be interesting to us to become specialists in infrastructure



projects. I was 28 when I did that project. We went on to do some other larger, or medium-sized, projects, although not as big as Yokohama. It was good for us to have gone and done other kinds of projects rather than stay at that scale. It allowed us to engage with different architectural problems that emerged subsequent to the role of infrastructure. For example, we went through a period of retail-led projects in the UK that were helping centres of cities north of London to regenerate. I am glad to have participated in those projects, including the John Lewis Department Store in Leicester, where we managed to convince the store to use transparency for the very first time. This contextualised the experience of shopping in the store in the city of Leicester and enabled the store to rely on less artificial light. Today, housing is one of the main subjects where I think we need much innovation. DQ: You’ve titled your Second Annual Scroope Lecture ‘Architecture, Aesthetics and Micropolitics’. What do you mean by ‘micropolitics’? FM: I first saw the word in Deleuze and Guattari’s writings, although not in relation to architecture, when I was researching ideas on affect which had grown from Spinoza’s writings on the subject. I thought micropolitics was a very useful way to talk about strategic choices architects make when working on projects. More recently, I have been very inspired by Jacques Rancière’s work on aesthetics and politics. He contrasts ‘Politics’ with a capital P with being ‘political’ with a lowercase p. He too writes about art, not architecture; actually, we are going to have a conversation in October on architecture which I am looking forward to. I’m not sure if Rancière would agree, but for me, the ‘political’ with the small p is micropolitics. In architecture, we can start from what has become the status quo at any one time, and then identify what kind of shifts we can introduce to create certain alternative possibilities in the present. That’s what I mean by micropolitics. Going back to the word ‘representation’, I think architecture, with the exception of a few episodes where people actively spoke about architecture and politics, has been trapped in representational thinking. We have thought about architecture as representing an author—‘It’s so-andso’s architecture’—or a geography, or a nation. We have had manifestoes for what architecture should represent, what it should mean, and what it should be a sign of. Sometimes it has been about symbolism, particularly since the Enlightenment. Sometimes it has been about the ‘zeitgeist’, about representing time; sometimes it has been about representing some kind of inner harmony of parts, using the machine as metaphor. But in the absence of a shared understanding amongst users of buildings, this approach to architecture, in my opinion, is doomed to failure. My daughter would look at a building from the 1980s and think something entirely different from what I would. I am not interested in spoon-feeding people narratives. The real question, when we discuss buildings and micropolitics is: ‘What is the significance of buildings?’, not ‘What do buildings signify?’ The practice of architecture, and the practice of using buildings, generates ordinary



conventions for buildings over time, for example, the arrangement of seating in a theatre, or the arrangement of tills in a supermarket. If these conventions are simply repeated, a sense of passivity develops in people’s relationship to those activities that people engage in buildings—such as sitting watching a performance, or, paying for your shopping. If we shift those conventions, we open up new possibilities for how people come to engage with buildings. Great architecture has always done that. I am interested in highlighting that because we live in an era where politics is on our mind all of the time. Politics in the sense of governments and our relationship to them is one thing, and very important, but when we practice as architects we need to use our own tools in a political way too. It is not that we go and sign petitions outside and then get back to the office and become apolitical. It is putting at the forefront of our minds that every decision we make affects daily life. Micropolitics might be about small-scale decisions in buildings, but slowly they can amount to a very different kind of building. In the case of our housing project in Paris, for example, we questioned conventions relating to the handrail, the dividing wall, the structure, the core, and so on. Initially it may not have been clear to our client and the rest of the team why we were so interested in small-scale elements of the building, but slowly, as we began to produce mock-ups, it became clear that such small-scale decisions can add up to a different kind of building. My experience is that if you do what you think is right and there is good reason, those who are not convinced to begin with eventually come around. Your proposals might upset the people that have to market it or make the work of the contractor more difficult, but if we just want to make things easy, we’d better just make one building and repeat it ad infinitum. Any time you propose changes it unsettles lots of people because realising buildings involves so many people and of course they are not all like-minded. I don’t see my role as pleasing everyone. I don’t mind not being liked along the way as long as I’m liked at the end. SS: Going back to the idea of what a building can do, you discuss function ‘not as utility but agency’. Can you expand on that? FM: It’s about the orientation that a building is given to open up certain possibilities that would otherwise not exist. For example, our Cleveland Museum (MOCA) is a private museum. Like other private museums in the United States, you have to buy a ticket to enter its galleries, which makes them exclusive. We thought, wouldn’t it be great if a private museum was very inclusive? We proposed a four-storey building with the paid gallery at the top, which meant the first three floors would be free to access (which is the case today). Then we asked: What if people who would not enter the paid gallery could view the art in a different way? The main stair of the building is designed to take you beyond the top floor, where the gallery is located, so that you can stand above the paid gallery and view the art from above. The four-storey volume of the building as well as the stair are therefore agents that make the museum building inclusive.



Figure 4: Section perspective, MOCA (2012). FMA.

Other parts of the building—like the entrance, the roof or the windows—carry other agencies in MOCA. These same elements in other types of buildings can be given other agencies. In the window of a museum, there are different things at stake compared to a window in an office or residential building. In a residential building it is about the way you locate the window, in an office building it might be about how large it is. By connecting decisions regarding the physical elements, or parts of buildings, with everyday life concerns, their inherent political role becomes evident. DQ: In your work you’ve sought to position function and aesthetics in relation to architecture. Where do you see this line of enquiry moving forward? FM: The Function books [The Function of Ornament, 2006; The Function of Form, 2009; The Function of Style, 2014] evolved in a natural way, as each one came to address the questions raised by the previous one. With each one of the books I’ve tried to unpack a series of dualisms in the history of architecture. The Function of Ornament looks at ‘ornament versus core’, let’s say: whether the aesthetic experience of a building is a contingent factor or whether it is integral to its being. The Function of Form looks at the duality of form and structure, which again goes back deep into the history of architecture. And The Function of Style considers the dualism between style and typology. The books together contend that architecture happens at the intersection of all of these dualisms.



Ornament is a subject in its own right, with its own history, but ultimately that first book was about saying, ‘Let’s talk about architecture and what it is.’ What is architecture—distinct from building—and how does it manifest itself? It manifests itself through affects. It took time to normalise the use of the word ‘affect’ as opposed to ‘effect’. In The Function of Style I tried to situate what is at stake with affect; it is not just something that you spray out there with no consequence. Yet the way affects are perceived is not entirely under the architect’s control. Ultimately, the books also ask, ‘At a time when architects collaborate with a lot of other experts during the design process, what is the specific contribution of the architect?’ There are a lot of different questions and ideas that remain for me and I am dying to have the peace and quiet to put them down on paper. As the Function books have been primarily graphic, I wonder how many people have actually read the introductions, that situate the graphic work in a broader sphere, in the history of the subject. Maybe next time, it should be just a small piece of writing by itself. SS: You talk about architecture operating in an interstitial space between different ‘dualisms’ as you called them. How about order; disorder? Is that another dualism that architecture operates in between? FM: I doubt that disorder in the sense of dysfunction would be desirable in architecture, but I can imagine disorder as another kind of order, as an order that we are not able to recognise. People talk about Tokyo as a city where there’s disorder, but of course there is no city that is more functional than Tokyo. It is so densely populated; if it was dysfunctional, nothing would work, but everything works beautifully and smoothly, to the second. As it does not have uniformity, which would allow us to recognise its order easily, we might refer to it as disorder. Maybe disorder is a new, unfamiliar order. We need to constantly look for new orders—a kind of a disordering—like the idea of the ‘shifts’ I talk about, or like Rancière’s idea of ‘dissensus’. It would be about disrupting what we are used to, not making dysfunctional. Sometimes change in the order you live with is so great that it creates anxiety—consider cities or parts of cities that grow very quickly, like Canary Wharf in London. Everybody hated it because it was too ordered, following an American downtown model. It was an order unfamiliar to Londoners who were familiar with the disordered character of their city’s medieval grain. Of course, London has always had an order, but its order is not uniform. As it is managed as boroughs that make decisions of their own, its order is complex. This ‘London kind of structure’ is what I am advocating for in buildings: buildings as wholes, where independence is given to different parts but they function together. SS: You’ve done a lot of teaching and research. Can you tell us more about the pedagogical and research arms of your work?



FM: I have taught ever since I started practice—at some point it became obvious that the work of the office had informed my teaching and vice versa, and I needed to set up a research arm in the office where I could look at the relationship of the two all the time. Very often my teaching is about considering problems and issues that I experience in practice. Sometimes it is the other way around, where I spend a while thinking about my teaching, and that informs my practice. More recently, I’ve been working with the idea of learning environments, for example. I am waiting for the opportunity to work on the 21st century learning environment, especially at the scale of the university! I think that the architecture of our universities is so out of sync with what we think of knowledge and how we want knowledge to come about. It is incredible. SS: How is it out of sync? FM: It is out of sync because we put students in silos. No one knows what knowledge we need in the future, or what the jobs and professions in the future are. I think the university should be a place where you both acquire knowledge that already exists and also grow the seeds for knowledge that we don’t have. For this, one of the basic ingredients is encounters of different fields of knowledge. Many universities are creating labs for joint projects across faculties. There, though, you already know that a given project would benefit from people from different faculties coming together. But encounters can lead to unplanned collaborations, like when students studying chemistry and electronics might meet each other in the cafeteria and come up with a new idea. It is important to nurture those, not necessarily in a prescribed way, but by creating environments where such cross-fertilisation might occur. For architecture, these encounters are essential, because we have to work with so many different fields. There really should not be so much cultural difference between engineers and architects, for example. I think it is partly because the two are physically separate at university and develop different habits and not enough common values. But if we all went to the same space, over time, there would be more mobility of ideas and behaviours. I think that we have to invest in future knowledge, otherwise new knowledge is created only by industry. But industry is more goal-oriented; it is not about learning. This is where the physical organisation of the university can carry agency. Many of these encounters would happen naturally and wouldn’t even cost any money. If you have a cafeteria every day where students of architecture and engineering and sociology and whatnot sit around long tables, over time they are bound to become friends and talk and learn from each other. DQ: This is exactly how Cambridge Colleges work. We architects are associated with this Department, but we all have different Colleges, where we share dining and other facilities with students across all disciplines.



FM: So Cambridge is a 21st century university! The AA, the Bartlett and Harvard GSD, as you know, have their own buildings, and students hardly ever mix with any other faculty.

Figure 5: Reception following the Second Annual Scroope Lecture. Eve Avdoulos, 2018.

SS: How has your pedagogical approach developed or evolved over the years? FM: I started teaching at the AA, and the AA could not be more different from the GSD. This means I have had to adapt myself to their different cultures. At the AA, there are units and unit masters or tutors; the tutors present their units, students apply to the units they are interested in, and tutors select their students after portfolio interviews. Then it becomes an unwritten contract: the student obviously expressed interest in the tutor, but the tutor also chose the student. This does not happen at the GSD, where you never see the students’ prior work and it is only the students who choose their tutors through a lottery system, placing them in preferred order from 1 to 5! I miss the portfolio interviews—as someone who wants to help a student’s learning, you want to know what they have done before so that you can add to it. When you see someone’s portfolio, you become aware of their strengths and weaknesses. And you can work on those. Another difference is how work is reviewed throughout the term or semester. At the AA you do tutorials in a room, one-to-one. In America, you do studio desk crits in the open. So the relationship between tutor and student is quite different. It is much more intimate at the AA, so both the student and tutor can perhaps be more frank and the student, I would imagine, feels less exposed. I know I wouldn’t want to pick up all of our



drawings in the middle of, let’s say, a competition and explain it to an audience. Those are fragile moments because maybe you think that your drawing does not look good enough yet. Or you haven’t quite worked it all out yet. I don’t know whether explaining your design ‘in the open’, as it happens in America, works for everyone. The sense of exposure at the GSD has advantages, on the other hand, in its own setting. While the AA is focussed on the learning of architecture, the GSD is a larger design school with three departments—planning, landscape and architecture—which give it a very rich environment. Walking through the school, with all the work of students exposed, feels like going through an Internet of ideas. You are seeing projects of different scales and areas of design all the time, and I think that is actually very inspiring. It’s like when you are working on a piece of writing but you see or hear something on television that suddenly makes you think differently—it can be quite inspirational, being hit by things other than what you are individually working on. Going back to your question—since I have taught at the GSD, where I have the title of ‘Professor of Practice’, my studios have been more focused on issues that are directly practice-related. We have taken different building types and revisited them in the light of current challenges or opportunities, such as perimeter envelopes; or roofs of blank typologies, such as shopping malls or department stores; the ongoing need to expand airports; display space for contemporary art; the 21st century learning environment in the context of high schools and the 21st century university; and the multi-storey residential building in cities where diversity, inequality and change prevail. My seminars, on the other hand have looked at large historical time frames through the lens of architectural subjects—such as ornament, form and style. DQ: You are Professor of Practice, but your students have gone through some prior education that has presented to them what architecture is. Have you ever thought about revisiting the historiography of architecture? How you would want it taught differently? FM: I think given the state of the world around us, the idea of ‘going to university to be taught’ has to be changed to ‘going to university to learn how to become a lifelong learner’. This is because once you leave university you will, no doubt, confront problems that were previously not in existence. So we need to evolve as the reality outside evolves. We need a culture of enquiry at the heart of everything we do and the realisation that we are not always going to find the answers ready-made for us. We need to learn how to research and how to develop responses. This is how I approach the teaching of my studios and seminars. We address a specific subject, but we are also constructing a system for enquiring that subject. The studios and seminars are as demanding as I am demanding of myself when I am learning—I guess we can only be who we are.



Os and Bucca: Communicative Disorder in the Italian Mannerist Garden Georgios Chatzopoulos and Vasiliki Christakou

This article examines the relationship between meaning and experience in the Italian Mannerist garden, using two different aspects of the mouth: the mouth as os and the mouth as bucca. The tension between communicative order and disorder is conceptualised and clarified as expressed in the Mannerist garden. To the Renaissance ideals of beauty, balance and proportion, Mannerism counter-proposes principles such as unresolved tension, frustration, paradox and disturbed balance.1 Mannerist works of art attempt to express these terms on a communicative level, taking on multiple layers of meaning which initiated visitors are to read.2 In this context, the Mannerist garden becomes a communicative medium, producing and maintaining in tension two different ways of articulating meaning: first, the enunciation of narratives, and second, the constitution of sensorial experiences. Due 1 Creighton Gilbert, review of Wylie Sypher Four Stages of Renaissance Style: Transformations in Art and Literature 1400-1700 (1955), The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 14:3 (1956), 394-95 (p. 395). 2 Ernst Gombrich, To chroniko tis technis (The Story of Art), trans. by Lina Kasdagli, (Athens, Morphotiko Idryma Ethnikis Trapezis, 1998), pp. 361-62.


to this unresolved tension, the production of meaning and, consequently, communicative order and disorder are constantly left seeking for balance. Mannerist gardens narrate: they articulate incessant speech, implying the presence of a speaking mouth. Through the correlation of sculptures with, and through, sequences of spaces and mythological narrations, a discourse is established in the garden. It is, in fact, a theatrical play which takes place before the eyes of the visitors. On the one hand, the garden speaks with a mouth which, though not visible, was audible to the initiated. Understanding the narration of the garden demanded knowledge, either of texts from Roman antiquity like Virgil’s Aeneid, the Metamorphoses of Ovid, the letters of Pliny the Younger, or of texts more or less contemporary to the gardens, like the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, Dante’s Divine Comedy or Petrarch’s De Vita Solitaria. On the other hand, sculptural depictions of mouths appear again and again in an obsessive manner. Here, the function of the mouth as verbal agent is subverted, and instead another kind of mouth is promoted—a mouth more primitive and primordial than that which speaks, a mouth that either effuses water constantly, in a vomitinglike manner, or gapes open ready to scream, to eat or to swallow. The mouth of the garden does speak, but it does other things, too. These two aspects of the mouth, verbal agent and bodily orifice, suggest ‘the distinction of the mouth between os and bucca, the latter being more primitive than the former’.3 Os, from which the word ‘oral’ is derived, refers to a mouth capable of articulating speech. The garden as os speaks a language, and as Ferdinand de Saussure puts it, every language presupposes a contract between the members of a community.4 The garden’s os cannot be understood by everyone. Bucca refers to a mouth capable of communicating sentiments in a way both sensorial and pre-verbal, yet universal. We may recall Darwin’s book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, where he emphasises the universality of the communication of facial expressions.5 It is fairly well-known that the binary of nature and art, which in Renaissance gardens was in a state of resolved repression, is accentuated by Mannerist gardens, producing a constant ambivalence.6 Through this opposition, the gardens constitute a third term, which the humanist monk Jacobo Bonfadio and later Bartolomeo Taegio named ‘third nature’.7 Bucca and os parallel this binary of nature and art: bucca is the ‘natural’, the primordial mouth, while os is the artificial, the cultural construct. Mannerist gardens establish a hybrid communicative medium: they construct a third mouth, where the two modes of communication are intertwined. In order to understand the changes that were introduced by the Renaissance and later by the Mannerist garden, a brief historical examination is necessary. The great shift brought about by the Renaissance 3 Derrida, On Touching–Jean-Luc Nancy, trans. by Christine Irizarry (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005), pp. 20-21. 4 Ferdinand de Saussure, Mathimata Genikis Glossologias (Course in General Linguistics), trans. by F. D. Apostolopoulos (Athens: Papazisi, 1979), p.44. 5 See Charles Darwin, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. 6 Grazia Gobbi Sica, The Florentine Villa: Architecture, History, Society, trans. by Ursula Greigh (Abingdon: Routledge, 2007), p. 72. 7 Thomas Beck, ‘Gardens as a Third Nature: the Ancient Roots of a Renaissance Idea’, Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes, 22:4 (2002), 327-34.



garden was the conceptualisation of both the villa and the garden as constructions subject to common organising principles.8 This brought to an end the irreconcilability of architecture and nature as well as the notion of a garden as a succession of fragments lacking a coherent composition. During the Renaissance, the development of the natural sciences revealed nature as rational, and as an expression of an imperceptible yet accessible order. This contrasts with the medieval conception of nature as absolute disorder, the patterns of which were chaotic and unpredictable.9 In this new notion of order expressed by the garden, the ground occupies a preeminent role since it is the surface on which the plan is projected, and upon which the geometrical rules which govern both the villa and the garden are established. Through geometry and proportion, nature is formalised and, it is presumed, expresses its hidden principles; analogously, by means of perspectives, the visitor’s visual experience could itself be designed and predicted. Gardens have been appendages to villas since the High Renaissance; they have a complementary role and are subject to the organisational principles of the villa. In Mannerism, this condition is inverted: the villas are integrated into the garden’s organisational principles, as the latter defines the narrative and sensorial frame of perception. While the Renaissance garden is an affirmation of the owner’s sovereignty with undisputed emphasis on geometry over the organic, on art over nature, on order over disorder, in Mannerism, the garden is imbued with ambiguity and ambivalence and interest shifts to the tension between the binaries instead of promoting one term over the other.10 In this system, the villa may maintain its centrality in stabilising meanings; at other times, it becomes just a term in a binary system; and yet at other times it is significantly absent. Two examples will guide us through our investigation, both of which take ‘communicative disorder’ to the extreme: the Villa Medici di Castello, one of the first Mannerist gardens, and the Sacro Bosco in Bomarzo, the culmination of Mannerist garden experimentations. The former, although seemingly a very ordered garden, introduces spatial innovations which imbue the garden with communicative ambiguity; the latter, grounded in these innovations, is the manifestation of organisational and communicative disorder. GARDEN OF VILLA MEDICI DI CASTELLO

Villa Medici di Castello is located about ten kilometres northwest of Florence in the foothills of the Apennine Mountains. The construction of its garden started in about 1538. It was designed mainly by the sculptor, architect and hydraulic engineer Niccolo Tribolo, although Bartolommeo Ammannati was also involved in the design. The garden today has been 8 Sica, The Florentine Villa, p. 72. 9 Clemens Steenbergen and Wouter Reh, Architecture and Landscape: The Design Experiment of the Great European Gardens and Landscapes, rev. edn. (Basel: Birkhauser, 2003), p. 22. 10 Sica, The Florentine Villa, p. 72.



Figure 1: Giusto Utens, Villa Medicea di Castello, c. 1588, Petraia Villa Medici. Wikimedia Commons [accessed 24 April 2018].

drastically altered; thus our analysis will be supplemented by the extensive description of Giorgio Vasari and by the bird’s-eye painting of Giusto Utens (Figure 1).11 The garden consists of three sequential and discrete parts, each of which is located on a higher level in respect to the former. The first part is a square garden divided into square compartments and dominated by a circular labyrinth, in the centre of which there was a sculpture of Venus. The second one is an elongated rectangle, with its main axis vertical to the garden’s axis. It is located about one metre above the previous one, the two separated from one another by a retaining wall. A second retaining wall runs along the other long side, supporting the third garden. In the middle of this wall—at the end of the main axis and below the third garden—sits an excavated grotto. The third part is dominated by the bosco, while a pool collects and utilises the water of the aqueduct designed by Tribolo. In the centre of the pool, there is a sculpture by Ammannati, depicting Appennino with his arms around his body as though shivering.12 Villa Medici di Castello is one of the first Mannerist gardens; hence, before we try to understand the dialectics of communicative order and disorder, we should understand its spatial innovations. First, it established a new garden typology, and second, it introduced the grotto (cave), the bosco (forest) and the labyrinth as central compositional motifs. The first spatial innovation of the Villa Medici di Castello is that it establishes a garden typology where movement acquires a narrative and cinematic dimension. As one enters from the lower level of the garden there is a gradual revelation of spaces and exhibits; this contrasts with the organisational principles of the Renaissance gardens, where one could 11 Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects, Vol. 7 (of 10) Tribolo to Il Sodoma, trans. by Gaston du C. De Vere (London: Macmillan and Co. Ld. & the Medici Society, Ld., 1914) pp. 1-38 < files/31845/31845.txt> [accessed 9 March 2018] 12 Claudia Lazzaro, ‘River Gods: Personifying Nature in Sixteenth-Century Italy’, Renaissance Studies, 25:1 (2011), 70-94 (p. 93).



survey the whole by entering from the highest level. In the course of this movement a gradual transformation occurs: from a highly formalised design where art imposes its formal laws on nature, to a more ‘natural’ one where the distinction between artificial and natural becomes blurred, and the artificial must disguise itself in naturalistic form. So, before looking for meaning in the garden’s iconography, we must understand the meaning which this elemental syntax produces. Based upon observation of a series of Mannerist gardens such as Villa Medici di Castello, Villa Lante, Villa Aldobrandini or Villa d’Este, we might condense the syntactic rules for the production of meaning to certain key principles. The aforementioned graduation along the central axis establishes the elemental narrative of transition from the artificial to the natural. Furthermore, there is a counterpoint along this axis, where an element is repeated or altered, or where it assumes a more ‘natural’ state. The counterpoint produces meaning through difference. In Villa Lante, for example, two casini (literally, ‘small houses’) welcome the visitors, whose itinerary ends up in a nympheum between two other casini, which have now been converted into caves. In Villa Aldobrandini there are also symmetrical counterpoints with the villa being the centre of symmetry, organising the generation of meaning. The second spatial innovation was the introduction of the grotto, the bosco and the labyrinth. Integrated into and organised by the system of the garden, these three elements bring about topological complexity, density of meanings and a sensorial experience in which uncertainty and suspense are of primary importance. In the Villa Medici di Castello, not only are the same three elements introduced, but furthermore, they are located one after the other along the main axis (Figure 2a), perplexing sight, movements and meanings. In contrast to the topological simplification of the medieval garden, which was designed as a wall-enclosed interior, the grotto, bosco and labyrinth pervade the Mannerist garden with a topological complexity. The grotto, as cave, is the inner interior which is externalised into the garden, while the bosco, as a part of a forest which is surrounded by the garden, is an exterior that has been internalised. The labyrinth, for its part, has an inherent topological ambiguity. As its boundaries keep folding in and out, it can be seen at the same time as both an interior and an exterior. The grotto, the bosco and the labyrinth should not be considered ‘untamed nature’—as it is typically put—but rather spatial metaphors which, through the negation of perspective, divest the visitor of any certainties.13 The bosco creates a kind of uniform space, where orientation is rendered impossible, since the spatial image is almost undifferentiated in every direction. As the gardens keep developing, the bosco becomes all the more important. In Villa Lante, the bosco becomes an autonomous unity which surrounds the formalistic garden, while in Sacro Bosco, as its very name suggests, the whole garden has become a bosco. The grotto, in turn, is an artificial cave. Located more often than not at the end of an axis, it 13 Steenbergen and Reh, Architecture and Landscape, p. 86.



Appennino bosco


Asinaio & Falterona

Arno & Mugnone




Figure 2a. Sequence, Villa di Castello,

b. Narrative 1938

Figure 2c. Central Labyrinth, Villa di Castello,

Figure 2d. Dipole, Villa di Castello, Florence, d. Dipole 1938

c. Central1938 labyrinth Florence,


Figure 2b. Narrative, Villa di Castello, Florence,

a. Sequence Florence, 1938


negates the perspective horizon, since the vanishing point does not tend to infinity but instead disappears in the grotto’s dark hollow. In its interior, the absence of light and the dead-end claustrophobic space subvert the dominant role of sight, and instead the other senses assume the primary role. According to Battisti: [The] grotto is like a dome turned upside down, pointing to earth instead of towards the heavens. Its area of greatest interest is less the most luminous part than the darkest; the darkness we must move towards, while knowing this is not the road to knowledge but to mystery.14

Figure 2 (opposite): Diagrams of Villa Medici di Castello. Authors, 2018. Created in reference to the Villa Medici di Castello entry on by Tom Turner [accessed 7 May 2018]. a. Sequence b. Narrative c. Central labyrinth d. Dipole

In the labyrinth, sight once more is subverted since personal choices are rendered useless, a mere matter of arbitrarily selecting one path among others. Having understood the spatial shifts that were introduced by Villa Medici di Castello, we now return to the narrative of the garden. As has previously been remarked by various commenters, in this garden one can find two narrative levels.15 On a primary level the garden constitutes a model of Tuscan topography, where the sculptures personify geographical entities and are arranged in the garden in a way that emulates their actual spatial relationships. On the upper level and in the centre of the water pool there is a sculpture by Ammannati. It is Appennino, a personification of the Apennine Mountains, a dominant presence in the background of the garden. Water pours over his body from an outlet on top of his head, and he shivers. For the niches in the second retaining wall supporting the bosco, Tribolo planned, but never completed, sculpted fountains of two local mountains, the Asinaio and the Falterona. For the lower wall, in similar rustic niches directly below those intended for the mountains, Tribolo carved statues in sandstone of two local rivers, the Mugnone and Arno, which meet in Florence (Figure 2b).16 Two water conduits were to pass from the sculpted mountains to the river gods, and then onto the fountain of Venus, which symbolises the city of Florence. On a secondary level, the iconographic program extolls the Medici family’s predecessors and virtues, as well as Cosimo di Medici, the owner of the villa. On the main axis, just in front of the villa, a statue of Hercules crushing Antaios symbolises the victory of Cosimo di Medici over his political opponents for the rule of Florence. The garden was filled with statuary associating the virtues of ancient Rome with the power and virtue of the ruler of Florence.17 Nevertheless, this narration can only be perceived when one wanders off the main axis, and given that the axis is hierarchically the most important compositional element, one should ask what, if anything, the garden seeks 14 Eugenio Battisti, L’Antirinascimento: con un appendice di manoscritti inedita (Milan: Feltrinelli, 1962). p. 182; Sica, The Florentine Villa, p. 80. 15 Lazzaro, ‘River Gods’, pp. 86-87; Vasari, Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects. 16 Lazzaro, ‘River Gods’, pp. 86-87. 17 Helena Attlee, Italian Gardens: A Cultural History (London: Frances Lincoln, 2006), p. 240.



to narrate. The garden’s narrative levels would be far clearer without the labyrinth or the grotto. We should ask ourselves what the placement of the Venus in a labyrinth connotes, and how the iconography of the grotto complements the rest of the garden’s narrative. The movement along the main axis is constantly reversed. The labyrinth permits sight to penetrate to the other side but one must move peripherally through the labyrinth, where water jets unexpectedly drench the visitors (Figure 2c). Locating the labyrinth at the centre of the composition expresses a basic scepticism regarding man’s ability to fully comprehend existence. The course of the labyrinth, which prevents any view beyond the imposed path, not only perplexes but removes any confidence one has in reality.18 The labyrinth renders uncertainty and play motifs of the garden, producing a centrality which expresses scepticism about the idea of centrality as such. Symmetrically opposed to the labyrinth, the villa and the grotto form a contrapuntal, dialectical relationship (Figure 2d). The counterpointing of the villa with the grotto is significant, and produces meaningful associations: cave opposed to house; firmly-founded building opposed to darkness; civilisation opposed to the untamed; art opposed to nature; and os opposed to bucca. On the one hand, the villa—the owner’s residence— is the enclosed and secured space, and as such it is the representative of os. It is where speech can safely and freely circulate. On the other hand, the grotto, as the den of animals, is the space where bucca reigns. This links to later Mannerist gardens (f.e. Villa della Torre) where the grotto is explicitly adorned with gigantic depictions of mouths, thus intensifying the identification of grotto with bucca. The evocation of bucca is not only accomplished in an iconographic manner, but first and foremost by the spatial experience of the grotto. Here, once more, water jets surprise the visitors with a drenching while the entrance gate closes automatically, thus intensifying the uncertainty and suspense. The body is subjected to a violently sensorial attack, disrupting every attempt to articulate meaning. Although a host of interpretations have been proposed, the grotto subverts the two narrative levels of the garden in an ironic manner.19 The animals represent Medici family members who are struggling to climb the ladder of power, while the ancestral landscape of Tuscany is replaced by a shadowy cave, the common ancestral womb of all humanity.20 The main axis constitutes a non-narrative perception of the garden. This playful and multisensory perception subverts the garden’s intellectual and scholarly aspect. Along the axis, one is to abandon narration and interpretation in favour of play; that is, abandon intellectual perception in favour of bodily entanglement. Both in the labyrinth and in the grotto the body is forcefully compelled into contact with water. Along the main axis the garden opens its mouth in order to laugh or to scream rather than to speak. The body is left exposed and shivering, much like the naked Appennino. 18 Battisti, L’Antirinascimento, p. 135. 19 See Claudia Lazzaro, ‘Animals as Cultural Signs: A Medici Menagerie in the Grotto at Castello’, in Reframing the Renaissance, Visual Culture in Europe and Latin America, 1450-1650, ed. by Claire Farago (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1995), pp. 197-228. 20 ‘Florence’, Monty Don’s Italian Gardens, BBC Two, 22 April 2011.




Sacro Bosco is located in the valley below the village of Bomarzo, sixtyeight kilometres north of Rome. While the design is often attributed to the architect Pirro Ligorio, the owner of the garden, Vicino Orsini, greatly influenced the development of the garden.21 Construction started in around 1552, and was completed between 1557 and 1563.22 The death of Vicino’s wife, in 1558, determined the intentions of the design: the garden became a sepulchral monument, a reflection on life and death, and an act of mourning. The garden is organised on four levels, each with sculptures dispersed in a seemingly random manner (Figure 3a). As its name implies, it is a bosco rather than a garden. Nature presents itself in a non-formalised, untamed way, while, ostensibly, every unifying geometrical principal is absent. The absence of a villa is also significant, since it deprives the garden of any symbolism of the power of its owner, a feature so prominent in the majority of other gardens. In this garden, the impossibility of establishing a single and coherent narrative is manifest. The communicative disorder, which characterises Mannerist gardens in general, is displayed to an extreme degree in Sacro Bosco. Its mythological, literary and autobiographical references are very sophisticated, and the interweaving of space and language is more obvious than ever: there are elusive inscriptions dispersed throughout the garden. The relationship of the garden with texts such as Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, Dante’s Divine Comedy, the poems of Petrarch, Virgil’s Aeneid and the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili has been examined by various scholars.23 Many of the sculptures have been carved out of stones existing in situ, a fact which undermines the notion of a holistic, preconceived design. As Luke Morgan explains, Sacro Bosco ‘enables multiple and varying (even contradictory) experiences and interpretations. It can hardly be said to possess a coherent, unified narrative on the model of a conventional text or painting.’24 It would suffice to collate the many interpretations that have accumulated around the garden to substantiate this assertion. Nevertheless, the study of Sacro Bosco has been marked by an obsession with understanding its iconographic program, focusing almost exclusively on the sculptures. Unlike in typical Renaissance gardens, the majority of the sculptures here do not follow the syntactic rules of the garden. This disassociation produces an inherent incapacity to articulate a narrative. We might compare 21 Torsten Olaf Enge and Carl Friedrich Schroer, Garden Architecture in Europe 1450-1800: From the Villa Garden of the Italian Renaissance to the English Landscape Garden (Cologne: Benedikt Taschen, 1992), p. 76. 22 Sandra Álvarez Hernández, ‘El Sacro Bosco. Fuentes clásicas de la tradición grecolatina en el jardín manierista de Pier Francesco Orsini’, unpublished paper,, < clásicas_de_la_tradición_grecolatina_en_el_jardín_manierista_de_Pier_Francesco_ Orsini> [accessed 1 April 2018] 23 See Jessie Sheeler, Le Jardin de Bomarzo, Une Enigme de la Renaissance, trans. by Christine Piot, (Arles: Actes Sud, 2007); ‘III. The Itinerary of the Sacro Bosco’, The Journal of Garden History, 4:1 (1984), 11-72; Louisa Roquero, Un Jardin Alquimico (Madrid: Celeste, 1999). 24 Luke Morgan, ‘Living Rocks and Petrified Giants in Vicino Orsini’s Sacro Bosco’, Architectural Theory Review, 20:1 (2015), 7-29 (p. 22).



Figure 3: Diagrams of Sacro Bosco. Authors, 2018. Created in reference to the Sacro Bosco visitor map at [Accessed 7 May 2018]. a. Sculptures b. Sequence c. Fields

Figure 3a. Sculptures, Sacro Bosco in

a. Sculptures


Hell Mouth

Leaning House

Figure 3b. Sequence, Sacro Bosco in Bomarzo

b. Sequence

Figure 3c. Fields, Sacro Bosco in Bomarzo

c. Fields



the garden to a music score without a stave. Meanings emerge through the local relationships of the sculptures, not by a global iconographic narrative. Renaissance gardens usually provide the visitors with a sentence to readâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;a linear narrative along an axis. The meaning of the individual constituent parts may be unstable, but the syntactic rules are not. Sacro Bosco, on the contrary, is like a game where the visitor is able to recompose new sentences and thus construct new meanings. The sculptures are able to convey one or multiple meanings; when they are put together, the meaning is constantly elusive. It is language to be experienced rather than heard. The gardenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mouth, like the Hell Mouth (Figure 4) remains open, and visitors are encouraged not to hear it but to spatially experience it, or to perceive the materiality of its voice rather than its meaning. The sculptures should not only be seen as signifiers to be interpreted, but also as material artifices to be experienced for their immense scale and volume, for the roughness of their texture and for the unexpected impression that an encounter with them produces. In Sacro Bosco, the fact that every sign is not only a conveyor of meaning, but first and foremost a formed material, is constantly laid out. If we were to attempt to pinpoint a minimum stable narrative, a non-reducible remainder of meaning, this would be rendered possible by following the fundamental rules that we traced in Villa Medici di Castello. The movement poses an elemental transition, this time not from art to nature, but from uncertainty to calmness, from life to death, and above all from communicative disorder to communicative order. Between the two


Figure 4: Hell Mouth, Sacro Bosco, 1552-1563. Authors, 2018.




pairs of levels (in the middle of which lies the Hell Mouth), a radical rupture takes place. The two upper levels are far clearer in terms of meaning. We could actually identify one central theme on each of the two higher levels, which are interconnected. On the third level there is the field of Persephone (Figure 5), the goddess of the underworld, preparing the visitor for ascent to the Tempietto; and on the fourth level the Tempietto itself, the sepulchral monument which, according to some researchers, houses the mortal remains of Vicino and his wife (Figure 6).25 The two lower levels, in turn, are occupied by a multitude of sculptures; the communicative intentions seem to be blurred, giving rise to a continual play of interpretations. Thus, the garden is broken into two parts: one representing the earthly world and one the after-world. On the two lower levels one is to experience anxiety at the inability to articulate meaning; on the two upper levels, anxiety at the fact that death is the only meaning. Despite its complexity and narrative instability, Sacro Bosco is more coherent spatially and experientially than Villa Medici di Castello. The garden’s os may speak in a rambling manner, but its bucca does not. The ground, the bosco and the sculptures define a constant transitional experience from uncertainty to certainty. The bosco, as discussed above, induces a feeling of suspense—as does the ground in Sacro Bosco. The role of the ground as the organising infrastructure (a common convention in all gardens) is subverted from the very moment one enters the garden. A leaning building welcomes the visitors by removing their confidence in the firmness of the ground (Figure 7). The edifice bends backwards, suggesting that the ground is unstable or even fluid like quicksand. The image of the angled building subverts the role of architecture as the indisputable paradigm of organisation and order, encouraging the visitors to abandon their certainties. In the interior, the obliquity of the space deprives the visitors of their sense of balance as they stagger around, struggling to adapt to this new spatial sensorial condition. The most disturbing factor is that the building is neither standing nor collapsing, but hovering at a moment between these two conditions, frozen in a state of unstable stability. The impression of the instability of the ground is reinforced by sculptural depictions of sea monsters which come out of the earth as though emerging from a watery surface. On the second level of the garden, there is another edifice, a tower-like construction, which is not accessible and which is founded on a hollow rock. Here the foundations are exposed, revealing the chasm that lies beneath the building. At the top of the hill, where the Tempietto is located, calmness, certainty and order are established, as the firmness of the ground is restored and the bosco recedes. The starting and the ending points of this transition—the first and fourth level respectively—are defined by two buildings forming a contrapuntal dipole (Figure 3b). The leaning house is opposed to the Tempietto as the only stable construction in the garden; the uncertainty and the vanity of the temporal world is opposed to the certainty of the after-world. From the top of the hill where the Tempietto is located one can—once and for all—look

Figure 5 (opposite, top): Field of Persephone, Sacro Bosco, 1552-1563. Authors, 2018. Figure 6 (opposite, bottom): Tempietto, Sacro Bosco, 1552-1563. Authors, 2018.

25 J. B. Bury, ‘Bomarzo Revisited’, The Journal of Garden History, 5:2, (2012), 213-23 (p. 222).



Figure 7: Leaning House, Sacro Bosco, 1552-1563. Authors, 2018.

upon Bomarzo and Vicino’s castle (Figure 8). Thus, a third building is added to the dipole of the leaning house and the Tempietto. The earthly residence forms a dialectic relationship with the funerary residence of the couple (with all the associations that this comparison entails), while the leaning house forebodes the inevitable end of every earthly construction, including that of Vicino’s castle. The symmetrical counterpoint is continued on the two middle levels by two rectangular fields (Figures 3c). In both cases, the two elongated sides are defined by punctual elements forming a rhythmical motif, while the visual lines converge to a central figure. The perspective here, for once, acts to define a centre of reference. In the field of the third level, the centre of reference is Persephone. In the lower field, the centre of reference is a figure that has been identified either as Poseidon, or Pluto, or Proteas (Figure 9), while at the perimeter, additional sculptures intensify the communicative noise.26 The fact that the central figure is characterised by such ambiguity and the impossibility to correlate and interpret the rest of the sculptures is suggestive of the meaninglessness of the temporal world. At the centre of these symmetrical counterpoints, almost equidistantly located between the two buildings, is the Hell Mouth, a gigantic head where one can enter and eat, its tongue forming a table. In a similar way, at the centre of the composition of Villa Lante, in the middle of the transition between artificial nature and natural artifice, an elongated table constitutes part of the main axis (Figure 10). The tables are precisely the fields where the two aspects of the mouth are constantly opposed: a mouth that speaks and a mouth that tastes and senses, intellectual and sensorial perception, are in constant interplay on the table. The Hell Mouth, occupying and claiming the centre of the composition (in the retaining wall between the second and third level) poses the mouth—with all its associations—as the central question of the garden. The mouth of the garden both opens up and bridges the rupture between the two parts of the garden, the gap between 26 Sheeler, Le Jardin de Bomarzo, p. 82.



order and disorder, the chasm between meaning and its absence. The echo of the enclosed space intensifies but also distorts voices, transforming them into an unintelligible sound. Inside the Hell Mouth, the articulation of speech is denied. The visitor’s os and bucca are blurred and mixed together. CONCLUSION

The Mannerist garden is a mouth: a third mouth between os and bucca. As os, it articulates speech and narrates in a sophisticated language, which is not necessarily comprehensible to everyone. As bucca, it functions beyond an oral vessel, evoking meanings sensorially and addressing the body rather than just the mouth. Which of the two mouths establishes order—and which subverts it—remains equivocal, and it is from this ambiguity that all the dynamism of the garden arises. The garden hovers between an articulated narrative and an associative accumulation of meanings, opening up an incessant play of interpretations. It floats between a rational layout (which,

Figure 8 (top): View towards Bomarzo and the castle, 1552-1563. Authors, 2018. Figure 9 (bottom): Field of Poseidon, Sacro Bosco, 1552-1563. Authors, 2018.



Figure 10: Table at Villa Lante, Bagnaia, Italy, 1556. Architect: Vignola. Authors, 2018.

by means of perspective, both designs and presages the spatial experience) and the invocation of feelings of uncertainty and suspense, which subvert any rationalisation of the experience. As a third mouth, it speaks a hybrid language, provoking a communicative disorder and posing the articulation of meaning as the constant issue at stake. Villa Medici di Castello and Sacro Bosco take this communicative play to extremes. The gardens introduce elements and are organised so as to permit open-ended meanings. They do not pursue a single and coherent narrative but instead constitute a kind of open text. In the majority of gardens a centre orients and stabilises meanings. As Jacques Derrida states: The concept of centred structure is in fact the concept of a play based on a fundamental ground, a play constituted on the basis of a fundamental immobility and a reassuring certitude, which itself is beyond the reach of play. And on the basis of this certitude anxiety can be mastered, for anxiety is invariably the result of a certain mode of being implicated in the game.27

In the Villa Medici di Castello and Sacro Bosco the notion of centrality is questioned. In the former the centre is enclosed by a labyrinth, while in the latter dispersion is absolute. In both cases, the inability to construct a meaning becomes an experience in itself, while sensorial strategies which shake the visitorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s certainties are examined.

27 Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference, trans. by Alan Bass (London and New York: Routledge Classics, 2001), p. 352.




Patricia Mato-Mora


Figure 1: Process documentation. Photograph by Prisca Laguna, 2017.

Figure 2 (left): Installation on opening night. Photograph by Plastiques - Lewis Ronald, 2017. Figure 3 (right): Growth of the hypersculpture after 45 days, detail. Photograph by Prisca Laguna, 2017.

Figure 4: Growth of the hypersculpture after 45 days, detail. Photograph by Prisca Laguna, 2017.

Figure 5 (opposite): General view of the installation on opening night. Photograph by Plastiques - Lewis Ronald, 2017.




By tying a nylon string to the ceramic sculptures, visitors create a natural/ manmade line of ‘tide’, related to the height of the average visitor, and reminiscent of the line where barnacles stop growing on the chains that moor boats to the harbour. Is the disordered hypersculpture growing in a man-made environment, or are the ordered boats intruders in their natural habitat?



From Disorderly Dispersion to Orderly Concentration: Frontier Villages at the Korean Border 1951–1973 Alex Young-Il Seo

This article considers the extensive role of frontier villages, starting from the early state period, and examines them as a foundational architectural mechanism that enabled the implementation of South Korea’s ideological, territorial, and economic strategies at a national scale. The inter-Korean border remains one of the most closed and heavily armed borders of the world as an abrupt military construction. Over the past six decades, the 255-kilometre-long Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) has been the centre of attention and has been paraded as a symbol of division, often perceived to be static and devoid of human presence. The trauma of war and adversarial politics have too often sensationalised and oversimplified this condition, which obscures existing social and spatial complexities that make up the space of the border. Despite what it represents, a closer examination reveals that at the seemingly empty border, human habitation persists in the form of frontier villages that have emerged from South Korea’s mixed state policies. This led to the emergence of what are called ‘individually stabilised villages’ and ‘strategic villages’. Whereas the first type aimed to disperse its population across the newly gained land known as the ‘recovered territories’ (subok chigu), the second type aimed


Figure 1: Map of frontier villages. Author, 2017.

to concentrate the dispersed to establish a modern socio-political order grounded in how territories and populations are negotiated, administered and manipulated (Figure 1). This paper examines the extensive role of frontier villages at the border, starting from the early state period, and proposes a reading of them as a foundational architectural mechanism that enabled the implementation of South Koreaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ideological, territorial, and economic strategies at a national scale. INFLUX

The â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;recovered territoriesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; is an official terminology endorsed by South Korea to refer to its central and eastern borderland that was previously occupied by North Korea before the Korean War. The recovered territories are, like the name suggests, a politically charged region that experienced several jurisdictional changes over a short period from North Korea (19451951) and the United Nations Command (1951-1954) to South Korea.1 As the jurisdiction of the borderland belonged to the United Nations Command (UNC) during and after the Korean war, civil occupation at the recovered territories was considered an essential prerequisite by the South Korean authorities to formally claim ownership of the newly gained land. The

1 Under the UN General Assembly Resolution 195 enacted on 12 December 1948, and the UN Resolution 84 passed on 7 July 1950, governance and civil administration of all land above the 38th Parallel was given to the UNC. Hence, the South Korean government could exert very little, if not none, influence over the recovered territories.



‘stateless region’2 of ‘2,300 square miles, once home to 130,000 people’3 became an important spatio-political agenda for the UNC and the South Korean government. For both the South Korean state and the refugees alike, the recovered territories were largely considered a space of frontier where hegemony was not yet established.4 By 1951, years before the 27 July 1953 Armistice, the recovered territories had already attracted over 150,000 refugees.5 For the refugees, the region served as ideal ‘nonstate space’—despite its nearly inhospitable conditions and chaotic qualities, such as housing left mostly destroyed from years of bombing, and few patches of unclaimed land that could be exploited for agrarian use and ownership.6 The vacuum of clear sovereignty significantly altered the demographics of the recovered territories, where almost two-thirds of the native population migrated to the North and were replaced by people from different parts of Korea. It included a mixed group of populations from both sides of Korea, who sought asylum and refuge in the aftermath of the Korean war, and a large number of U.S. and South Korean military personnel stationed in the region.7 The mix of populations at the recovered territories, in turn, added a new dimension to the constitutional stipulations of citizenship. It included a group of people whose citizenship had previously been identified as North Korean inmin and South Korean gugmin, yet who now became known as ‘population’ under the UNC’s military governance at the border.8 As a new state coming into being, it was imperative for Seungman Rhee’s regime to clearly spatialise the boundaries of their respective citizenship by

2 J. P. Gaillard, ‘A Principal Secretary to All Delegations: Subject: Secretariat Legal Opinion on Areas North of the 38th Parallel under United Nations Control (1954. 5. 31)’, RG 84, Seoul Embassy File, Entry Seoul, Korea, 1950–55, Box 12, 322.3: UNCURK 38th Parallel, 1953–55. 3 Resolution adopted by UNCURK at its 33rd meeting on 9 August 1954, quoted from Monica Hahn, ‘A Study on the UNC’s Occupation Policy and the Transfer of Administrative Control to the ROK in North Korea’, Critical Review of History, 11 (2008), 360–95 (p. 378). 4 For Pullan, ‘The frontier is a place of contradiction, where the “wild” and the “tamed” do not cancel each other but play out different roles, sometimes in reciprocity, and with different levels of impact’. Wendy Pullan, ‘Frontier urbanism: the periphery at the centre of contested cities’, The Journal of Architecture, 16(1) (2011), 15–35. 5 Hahn, ‘A Study on the UNC’s Occupation Policy and the Transfer of Administrative Control to the ROK in North Korea’, p. 377 6 To understand why the refugees were attracted to the war-torn spaces of the border, it is helpful to think of what Scott describes as ‘nonstate spaces’. In contrast to ‘state spaces’ that refers to productive and densely settled quasi-permanent communities that are made legible; non-state spaces refer to a more sparsely settled or highly mobile population, who typically practised slash-and-burn, and hence obstructing possibilities for reliable state appropriation. James Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1996), p. 186. 7 For an overview of the formation of a border society in the inter-Korean border region, see Monica Hahn, ‘The Process of Identity Formation among Residents of Restored Areas: A Shift from the “People” to the “Population”, from the “Population” to the “Nation”’, Critical Review of History, 5 (2010), 128–50. 8 Young-kyu Kim, 60 Years of Cheorwon County Administration (Cheorwon: Centre for Cheorwon History and Culture, 2013), p. 285.



taking control of the border and the recovered territories.9 However, South Korea’s inability to claim sovereignty over the border and the recovered territories prevented them from exercising any influence over this region. For Rhee, the foremost challenge lied in acquiring jurisdiction over the recovered territories from the UNC. Traditionally, stateless zones have often been seen to play a subversive role in the eye of the sovereign, where such spaces and their inhabitants were considered as rude, disorderly and barbaric, for they served as refuges for rebels and bandits, opposite the civility, order, and sophistication of the centre.10 For the UNC and South Korea alike, the recovered territories have always played a potentially subversive role, both symbolically and practically. The UNC regarded the recovered territories as a ‘critical region’, for it was the first case where a former communist region had turned to the Free World.11 It provided an opportunity to study ways to re-orientate and re-educate the residents at the recovered territories.12 The UNC's interest in the recovered territories was met by a rehabilitation programme called the Armed Forces Assistance to Korea (AFAK) that provided 2,500 houses and fifty-one public buildings, including a town hall, a church, a police station, a grain house, hospitals, and public baths that would facilitate 4,470 households and 20,577 residents at the recovered territories in 1954 (Figure 2).13 Similarly, for Rhee’s regime, those who were ‘freed from communism’ had yet to be tamed and controlled, and were subject to surveillance, suppression, and discrimination as secondary citizens.14 Concerned that the adoption of the natives in the region’s administration would persevere or restore the communist influence in the region, Rhee took the issue of establishment and composition of the administration as a problem of national identity and national security from the threat of communism.15 The role of statecraft in this context became that of establishing control or at least neutralising the nonstate spaces by process of repopulation, in which South Korea used the UNC’s rehabilitation programmes to its fullest. Eager to establish some form of order at the frontier, the Ministry of Interior designated state officers to administer the recovered territories 9 Seung Man Rhee was the first President of Republic of Korea from 1948–1960. As an anti-communist authoritarian, Seung Man Rhee carried out extrajudicial killings of communist supporters within South Korea during his three-term presidency until his resignation and exile. 10 Scott, Seeing Like a State, p. 187; and James C. Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia (New Haven and London: Yale University Press: 2009). 11 United States Department of State, ‘Memorandum of Conversation: Republic of Korea Administration of the Area north of the 38th Parallel and South of the Military Demarcation Line, 1954.3.2’. 12 Embassy, Pusan – The Department of State: Subject: Conditions in Area of North Korea Now Held by ROK, February 28, 1952, RG 59 Central Files Decimal File 795A series (1950-1954), 795A.00/2 – 2852; Hahn, ‘The Process of Identity Formation’, p. 133. 13 Kim, 60 Years of Cheorwon County Administration, p. 285. 14 Hahn, ‘The Process of Identity Formation’, pp. 128–50. 15 United States Department of State, ‘The Ambassador in Korea to the Secretary of State (1950. 10. 21)’, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950. Korea, Volume III, pp. 990–91 <>



Figure 2: Refugee camp at the South Korean frontier is captured in The Big Picture television series, a film documentary about a gesture which started as informal assistance and has mushroomed into a big, organised programme for the rehabilitation of certain areas of Korean life. The Big Picture: Armes Forces Assistance to Korea (AFAK), U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, gov. archives, arc.2569541.

well before the handover of the jurisdiction from the UNC but saw little room for intervention.16 It required another lever to help push through the transfer negotiations, which the South Korean government did through the sheer number of civilians in the region ‘longing for a government administration and establishment of order’.17 The South Korean government continued to applaud the ‘modern planning’ efforts funded through the UNC’s rehabilitation programme,18 to a point where the UNC started to feel burdened in supporting the growing population at the border and faced complex administrative issues.19 This led to the de facto transfer of administrative control of the recovered territories to the South Korean government on 17 November 1954, but never de jure sovereignty.20 Though the state referred to those at the border as the ‘displaced’ and the ‘lost’, it paradoxically publicised ‘the vast plains of empty, unclaimed frontier’ and a plan to ‘construct a radiant modern city’ in an on-going attempt to lure people to the recovered territories.21 Migration was thus encouraged, despite the remnant dangers of war. The seemingly disorderly migration was, in fact, a controlled disorder to take control of the newly gained land. Central to the repopulation plan were different types of frontier villages that emerged under different conditions, each to serve a distinct purpose. DISPERSION: INDEPENDENTLY STABILISED VILLAGES

Occupation of the recovered territories began in July 1951 after a proposal was made to the UNC that would ‘formally’ allow cultivation of the frontier 16 Kim, 60 Years of Cheorwon County Administration, p. 282. 17 Ibid., pp. 282–85. 18 Ibid., p. 285. 19 Hahn, ‘A Study on the UNC’s Occupation Policy’, p. 370. 20 Hahn, ‘A Study on the UNC’s Occupation Policy’’ pp. 364–81. 21 Kim, 60 Years of Cheorwon County Administration, pp. 282–85; Monica Hahn, Korean War and the Recovered Territories (Seoul: Pureun Yeoksa, 2017), p. 408.



by mobilising what was called the ‘agricultural units’ made up of locals divided into several platoons or company sized groups.22 Although the permission only granted access and not habitation, those with access began to occupy the frontier in makeshift shelters that eventually developed into what are called independently stabilised villages. Out of some 120 existing frontier villages that have emerged since the Armistice, more than a hundred were founded in this way—a system that was implemented with virtually no cost to the state. The minimal state involvement also meant, however, less control. It encouraged the scattered settlers to practice shifting cultivation and made it difficult to identify which piece of land belonged to whom. The initial pattern of habitation was irregular, temporal, unexpected and unbound in its form and location, which had made the borderland increasingly opaque to the state. The overall layout of the pioneer settlements evolved according to the inhabitants’ natural pattern of living, primarily to do with the types of crops they produced. Instead of cultivating rice fields that required group labour and a long time to harvest, the settlers individually grew a variety of crops in smaller quantities. This diversity prevented the settlers from starving in case one type of crop ended in a poor harvest, which proved far more reliable as they were expected to be self-sustained.23 Hence, in many cases, the houses were built where it seemed more appropriate to grow crops that would normally not require access to concentrated manpower. For this reason, the independently stabilised villages had significantly fewer households spread over an indefinite boundary. The conditions were poor as the houses were built using whatever material available: a mixture of mud and hay to build walls; straw-thatched roofs with the occasional addition of hardwood posts; and beams, windows and doors salvaged from dilapidating buildings (Figure 3). Until the late 1960s the state did little to interfere in such patterns of habitation and, instead, encouraged migration to the frontier by publicising the life of settlers as ‘living the most comfortable life that we can possibly imagine’.24 Despite the harsh conditions, however, as the only means for survival, the independently stabilised villages quickly spread to reach over a hundred in number by the early 1970s as they were glorified as an essential action in the state-building process.25 CONCENTRATION, SIMPLIFICATION AND MILITARISATION: STRATEGIC VILLAGES

A significant change in the approach towards the management of the people at the frontier came at the time of a regime change. For the new South Korean military government headed by Park Chung Hee, expansion of the state’s disciplinary power over individuals and social groups became

22 23 24 25


Hahn, ‘A Study on the UNC’s Occupation Policy’, pp. 367–68. Ibid. Kim, 60 Years of Cheorwon County Administration, pp. 284–85. Ibid., pp. 282–86.


Figure 3: Mahyeon-1-ri independently stabilised village. Young-kyu Kim, 2013.

a prerequisite for his dream of building a ‘security state’.26 Especially at the frontier, the growing population and continued presence of a military threat from the North, required clearly defined and easily monitored state spaces. By 1968, the state’s effort to ‘design’ a new way of living by methods of radical reorganisation and simplification created a new breed of villages known as the ‘strategic villages’, which closely reflected Park Chung Hee’s political objectives to strengthen his authoritarian rule and to enhance the level of domestic productivity. From the state’s perspective, it was part of a much needed process of modernisation that produced different types of frontier villages founded with reverse momentum: in this case, a more ordered process of concentration, simplification and militarisation, as opposed to the earlier method of indiscreet expansion (controlled disorder). Naturally, the emergence of the independently stabilised settlements declined from the late 1960s, and over time, normative hegemonic forms began to appear in the frontier villages. The strategic villages were first constructed in 1968, under the South Korean government initiative to build an ideal modern village for the purposes of making the frontier more legible. Respectively, the planners of the five-year programme adopted the use of the Israeli Kibbutz model, sharing the motto, ‘farming while fighting, fighting while farming’.27 This 26 Min Yong Lee, ‘The Vietnam War: South Korea’s Search for National Security’, in The Park Chung Hee Era: The Transformation of South Korea, ed. by Byung-kook Kim and Ezra F. Vogel (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2013), pp. 403–29. 27 Kim, 60 Years of Cheorwon County Administration, p. 356.



Figure 4: Map identifying new settlement land reserves at the recovered territories in 1966. Notice the initial title the self-help Labour Programme crossed out to Land Lease Reserves for Slash-and-burn famers. ROK National Archives, 1966.

newly embraced model was seen as an ideal architectural mechanism to provide more clearly defined, easily monitored, patrolled state spaces: first, to strengthen the defence of the frontier and second, to enhance the level of domestic agrarian production compared to the independently stabilised villages.28 This scheme, titled Hostile District (jeop-juk ji-yuk) Five-Year Comprehensive Development Program, was jointly devised by the Ministry of National Defence and the Ministry of Interior in 1966; it planned on relocating some 100,000 people at the recovered territories by concentrating the scattered households into villages (Figure 4).29 Central to 28 For a general overview of the border villages, see Dae-Yong Um, ‘Socio-Spatial Changes from the Easing of Control in Minbuk-Maeul’ (master’s dissertation, Seoul National University, 2002) 29 The term ‘Adjacent Enemy District’ or ‘jeop-juk ji-yu’ was used instead of ‘border area’ or ‘jeop-kyung ji-yeok’ as currently being used. This was largely due to the political condition at the time, where both North and South Korea did not recognise each other as a ‘justified’ state, and hence, refrained from using the term border or border area.



the five-year program was the construction of strategic villages fully funded by the state, whose benefits the South Korean military described: By grouping these 100,000 farmers into a unified set of collective villages, the plan will rationally attempt to cultivate land inside the area of military operation; concentrate separate households and villages; institute collective control; offer systemised support of the military and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.30

By the late 1960s, there was a growing urgency to revise national security policy in Korea for domestic and international reasons. In the context of wider Cold War rivalry, the failure of various other territorial schemes to pacify the border and modernise the rural, such as the new village project in Malaya and the Ngo Dinh Diem’s strategic hamlets programme in South Vietnam, began to ring alarm bells for the South Korean officials.31 Joong Yoon Park, then a senior advisor at the National Security Council, saw the rural not as the source of the stability of the state, but rather as an area imbued with threat, referring to its inhabitants as ‘potential enemies’. He alerted the council to the dire need for the ‘healthy growth of the rural’, pointing out the widening economic inequalities between the countryside and the city; the growing number of migrants from rural areas into cities; increasing unemployment, which raised doubt toward the regime; and vulnerability to easy penetration by the communist North.32 At the same time, referring to the displaced people at the frontier as ‘sheep who have lost their shepherd’ and expressing concern over their ‘evident anxiety over their future’, the state persisted with their call for heightened security over the region and its people to ‘prevent fear and terror from the threat of communists’.33 South Korea’s strategic village programme was essentially a quasimilitary operation, in which all aspects of everyday life of a specific population were controlled and managed. The strategic villages were never shy to exercise ‘surveillance’ and ‘normalisation’ to discipline their residents—two great instruments of disciplinary power.34 It would be misleading, however, to confine the state’s disciplinary power over 30 Over time, the Ministry of Interior proposed to develop an additional 14,876 hectares of land and resettle 8,000 ex-military households (13,000 households proposed by the Ministry of Defense) by 1971. Kim, 60 Years of Cheorwon County Administration, pp. 358–59. 31 The strategic hamlets programme was initially drafted by the British Advisory Mission in 1961, developed by the U.S. military, and implemented by the South Vietnamese government, which aimed to turn the existing 12,000 South Vietnam’s villages into strategic hamlets, that involved mass-relocation and separation of its people affecting almost eighty percent of its population. Richard Hunt, Pacification: The American Struggle for Vietnam’s Hearts and Mind (Westview Press: Boulder, San Francisco, Oxford, 1995), p. 21; Maynard Weston Dow, Nation Building in Southeast Asia (Pruett Press, Inc.: Boulder, Colorado, 1966), p. 195. 32 Heo Eun, ‘Ripple effects of the Cold War in East Asia and construction of new anti-communist communities by the government of President Park Chung Hee’, Critical Review of History, 5 (2015), 293–326, (pp. 304–05). 33 Kim, 60 Years of Cheorwon County Administration, p. 290. 34 Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (New York: Pantheon Books, 1979).



individuals in these villages as if it performed a single disciplinary role like that of a prison or concentration camp. The strategic villages, as a disciplinary space, exercised a more sophisticated form of power aimed at meticulous control over residents to maximise their productivity and utility and minimise their resistance. Unlike the hamlets programme that forced well-established populations to adapt to a new lifestyle, the establishment of the strategic villages relied on the voluntary migration of those who were left without a permanent place to settle. For the highly motivated migrants, the war-torn wasteland was regarded as a land of opportunity, which could be made their own as a compensation for their hard work. For the frontline commanders, independently stabilised villages such as Mahyeon-1-ri, were considered as ‘self-made trouble in the making’ that resulted from a reckless election pledge of the former ruling Liberal Party to earn votes.35 In the eyes of the military, formation of the independently stabilised villages at the frontier was seen as a politically driven initiative that should not have been allowed in the first place: When viewed on a map, the geographic position of Mahyeon-[1]-ri— located on a flat plain between the enemy and the friendly forces— does not possess the ability to protect nor provide any means of surveillance. It is obvious that it [Mahyeon-1-ri] will be an easy target for the enemy and their fanatic attempts to infiltrate. The village residents can always cross to the North; considering the current condition of extreme poverty, there is no guarantee that they [the residents] will not turn their sides [...] and it could always become an entry point of infiltration.36

Under such circumstances, many of the scattered independently stabilised villages were either moved to an entirely new location or redeveloped by the government and military authorities (Figure 5). To assist with relocating the dispersed settlers, the South Korean government appointed former military or police chiefs to head the civilian administration of the frontier. These individuals were very familiar with implementing and regulating a highly centralised system of control and surveillance. The selection of the villagers was based foremost on their ‘healthy ideology undeterred by communism’, filtering out those who did not suit the government’s political objective—a category fundamentally linked to the process of modern state development—which at its heart is a project to establish and maintain a mode of ‘fixity, stability and predictability’ related to territory, governance and population.37 To establish an effective central administrative mechanism of the periphery, the residents of these villages were carefully selected by a group of committee members formed 35 Kim, 60 Years of Cheorwon County Administration, pp. 357–58. 36 Ibid., pp. 357–58. 37 Hahn, Korean War and the Recovered Territories, pp. 377–78; Brian R. Nelson, The Making of the Modern State: A Theoretical Evolution (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006); Brian R. Nelson, The Making of the Modern State: A Theoretical Evolution (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006); Neil Brenner and Stuart Elden, ‘Henri Lefebvre on State, Space, Territory’, International Political Sociology, 3(4) (2009), 353–77 (p. 370).



Figure 5: Plan to relocate and concentrate an existing independently stabilised village. ROK National Archives, 1962.

of local military and government officials, who examined candidatesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; age, skills, assets, and political reliability.38 In many cases, more than half of the residency was constituted by retiring veterans who were far more experienced with the paramilitary activities required of the residents. Naturally, the veterans took a leading role, generating visible hierarchies within the village communities and developing social fissures. This effectively restricted the new village communities to developing a more intricate and complex social order amongst the residents.39 The new villages were, by definition, communities stripped from their sources of cohesion 38 The selection criteria included an age limit of forty-five, all expected to be fit for daily labour that sometimes required obtaining a medical report. Cheorwon County, The Annual Report of Yugok-Ri, Gimhwa-Up, 2009. 39 In contrast to Jane Jacobs, who saw the very jumble of buildings, people, and their activities as a sign of dynamic vitality: a complex and highly developed form of order. Jane Jacobs, Death and Life of Great American Cities (New York: Vintage Books, 1961), p. 222.



Figure 6: Daema-1-ri strategic village after redevelopment in 1979. ROK National Archives, 1979.

and joint action, and therefore more amenable to control from above and the centre. The purpose of the strategic villages, however, did not lie in their ability to better protect the border and its people. While it was argued that concentrating scattered villages would provide an increased system of defence across the frontier, the positions of these villages suggested otherwise.40 The military insisted that all villages be situated in areas deemed suitable for war-time strategies; however, many villages were also constructed in open flats, which were easy to observe and difficult to defend. War-time strategy, in this case, meant propaganda, not hiding or protection. To add to the effect, new villages were oriented to face north —rather than the more natural southerly orientation—in order for them to be visible from the North Korean side of the border (Figure 6). In contrast to the independently stabilised villages, uniformly shaped and sized houses were laid out in evenly spaced out rows, which provided clear village boundaries. At any strategic village, two families occupied a single 30m2 dwelling divided in two. Each village had between fifty and two hundred households, and was located in close proximity to an existing military infrastructure. This made it easier to monitor the residents’ overall movement and greatly improved legibility by an outside observer, in contrast to the independently stabilised villages.41 From the nearby South Korean military guard posts, everyone who entered and exited from each 40 Kim, 60 Years of Cheorwon County Administration, pp. 359–60. 41 The process of constructing and managing strategic villages was not entirely new for South Korea. Modern examples of this can be commonly found following World War II in the so-called ‘new villages’ in Malaya specifically designed to isolate and separate certain population groups; or in form of ‘strategic hamlets’ across Vietnam, Taiwan, Indonesia, also in Jeju Island, Korea, during the US military government period before the Korean War.



dwelling could be observed—turning them into ‘highly disciplined’ state space. DEVICE OF PRODUCTION

More than the security of its people, the state was concerned with the productivity of the frontier population, who seemed to ‘hope for a status quo’ as they were exempt from paying certain types of tax.42 In contrast to the independently stabilised villages, which primarily functioned as a territorial device that enabled specific populations to spread across the empty frontier, the strategic village programme now sought to utilise the villages as a mechanism that would work the land to produce and not just leave it as a territorial addition. Then, it makes one wonder, what exactly triggered the state to actively intervene with the existing socio-spatial structure of the frontier despite remaining relatively passive for over two decades? In principle, the sudden change of attitude was due mainly to significant cuts in international aid. Assistance from the U.S. dropped from 230 million U.S. dollars between 1959-1963 to 110 million U.S. dollars between 19641968. At the time, the U.S. supplied 73 per cent of South Korea’s annual imports while sharing about 12 per cent of its gross national product; the reduction in foreign aid compelled Park Chung Hee to seek a large-scale economic mobilisation to boost domestic production.43 In the eyes of government officials, irregularly shaped small holdings of land, randomly scattered with no real order, with the added diversity of crop types in small quantities, offered no readable patterns nor value. For the state, where formal order is regarded as a precondition of efficiency, the inability to quantify and control what is produced by whom is considered an index of their lamentable backwardness.44 In this regard, the ‘disorderly’ scattered dwellings and ‘incongruously’ shaped plots of land occupying the frontier were regarded as nonstate space that needed to be made clearly legible. This gives us another clue as to why the strategic villages were located in open plains: in addition to providing undisrupted vision over residents, the open setting had the capacity to eradicate illegible agriculture. The concentration of manpower in the flat plains satisfied the two fundamental requirements for legible rice farming to take place. The result was instantaneous: at Daema-1-ri and Mahyeon-2-ri, the first two strategic villages built in 1968, the central government was able to accurately calculate the annual production of 3,456 tons of rice from 297 hectares of land.45 As compact and sedentary agriculture, wet-rice farming not only allowed the state to have access to concentrated manpower close at hand, but also provided surplus grain that could be utilised to offset the deduction of foreign aid and safeguard the regime’s political stability. Like many high modernist projects, however, the plans for strategic 42 Kim, 60 Years of Cheorwon County Administration, p. 285. 43 Min Yong Lee, ‘The Vietnam War: South Korea’s Search for National Security’, p. 407. 44 Scott, Seeing Like a State, p. 187. 45 Kim, 60 Years of Cheorwon County Administration, p. 359.



villages failed (or never cared) to take into account the everyday life of the villagers.46 The uniform rectangular houses proved inadequate for the lifestyle of a farming village. Despite being praised as some of first modern South Korean villages, the villages did not have the necessary storage for farming equipment, the buildings lacked mechanisms to heat or insulate, and the villagers found their houses far too vulnerable, even in typical weather conditions. The social order within the strategic villages corresponded to the tidy look of geometric order, ignoring the individual needs of its inhabitants and failing to produce places where people would want to live and work. The everyday life of the residents was, to their discontent, ordered functionally through what they produced (what breed of rice), when they got up and went to sleep (time of lights-out), and who entered and left the village (morning and evening roll-calls). Aware of the growing discontent of the residents, the state introduced a more refined strategic village model called ‘unification villages’ by 1972, followed by a significant remodelling of the existing strategic villages in a similar style. PERFECTING THE STRATEGIC VILLAGE: UNIFICATION VILLAGE

The ‘unification village’ is an official name given to the two strategic villages constructed in July 1973 in Paju (Baekyeon-ri) and Cheorwon (Yugok-ri) on the edge of the DMZ.47 These unification villages are far more refined versions of their predecessors, where efforts to create sharply distinguished state spaces were carried to their logical conclusion. In contrast to the earlier models of frontier villages, the state was closely involved in all stages of planning, design, construction, and administration of the new villages, resulting in a permanent spatiality. Government officials from eight different departments, including the military, were involved in the realisation of the Unification Village Project, a testament of interest and will to ‘modernise’ the frontier expressed by the state.48 The creation of a more easily controlled micro-order in the strategic villages acted as a testing ground before existing strategic villages were redeveloped starting in 1978, with much of its social structure replicated on a nationwide scale.49 Hence 46 Some examples discussed by Scott includes cities such as Brasilia and Chandigarh, the two cities faithfully built according to CIAM doctrines, Soviet collectivization, and compulsory villagisation in Tanzania. Scott, Seeing Like a State, chapters 4, 6 and 7. 47 Although the plan was to construct hundreds more along the edge of the DMZ, it ended only after the construction of two unification villages in 1973 as the project lost momentum after Park’s assassination in 1979. 48 A better-known example of such kind is the North Korea’s Kijong-dong (Peace Village) and South Korea’s Taesong-dong (Freedom Village). Fuelled by fierce rivalry between the two states, the two villages received great interest from both governments as ‘an ideal model village’ that represented the splendour of the regimes’ success. Ministry of Interior, Freedom Village Development Plan, 1971, quoted in Gyeonggi-do DMZ Freedom Village Taesong-dong, ed. by Gil-jae Lee, Sujin Hwang and Yu-jeon Cho (Kyunggi Cultural Research Centre, 2014), pp. 110-13. 49 Many features of the two unification village projects were then applied to the redevelopment of the rural villages as a nationwide project called the ‘New Village Movement’. For a study on how South Korea’s New Village Movement developed, see Ki-Woo Lee, Young-Joo Kwon and Young-Hwa Ki, Study on the New Village Movement Policy, Korea Association of Local Administration, 2013; Hwan-Byung Lee, ‘Villages Development in the 1960s and the Early Stages of Development of Saemaeul Movement in the Farming Area’, The Journal of History, 23 (2012), 81–122.



‘unification’ is used here to suggest a double meaning: it is reminiscent of a notion of kinship engraved on bodily senses and emotional registers accentuating the sameness between North and South, while at the same time it connotes unification of different regulatory mechanisms in its final form as a device of power. As an advocate of high modernism, Park Chung Hee tended to see a rational order in remarkably visual terms. For Park, an efficient, rationally organised space was a village or a farm that looked regimented and orderly in a geometric sense. His idea of modernism was a highly instrumental, based on rigid functionalism that was inconsiderate of any sense of modern society or rights for citizens. Park firmly believed that the most efficient forms must have clarity and the ‘order’ of a thing is determined by a purely aesthetic view of its surface order—something which Jane Jacobs claimed as a fundamental mistake made by planners.50 It was part of modernism as an aesthetic category, typified by the destruction of the ‘disorderly’ past and the search for new ‘orderly’ practices. Modernisation was a social utopianism, recruiting science and technology to fight against qualities such as ambiguity, unpredictability and uncertainty. Not coincidentally, Park’s idea of aesthetic was hardly an aesthetic of modern beauty, but rather a basic visual form that arrived from new materials and building technology. ‘Beautification’, a term which Park used very often to describe a ‘modern’ village, did not mean a fascinating style of architecture. 51 Instead, it referred to the simplified uniformity of houses and roads that would help realise his cultural vision, ‘an elective affinity between high modernism and the interests of many state officials’—something which Scott identifies in other studies of high modernist planning.52 While the primary objective of the strategic villages was in improving readability of the frontier, the aim of the unification village project was creating and testing out a utopian village model. The radically simplified village, provided it is viewed from above, is also practical and efficient (Figure 7). The villages consisted of a uniform grid of homogeneous land and radically simplified house designs. The houses were built using concrete blocks and slate-roofs—relatively modern materials that replaced a more traditional method of construction using mud, timber and hay. By virtue of the repetition of identical houses that are simple to build, the process from planning, recruitment, selection, education and training of villagers, surveying, and land development to distribution was done under six months, and the villages were complete in less than five months after the start of construction on 1 March 1973.53 The new plans changed the spatiality of an existing layout, which now appeared as rigidly ordered instrumental spaces from what was once seen as unplanned and chaotic. The result was a ‘unified’ product of ultrahigh modernism, where every 50 Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, p. 376. 51 Hwan-Byung Lee, ‘Villages Development in the 1960s and the Early Stage of Development of Samaeul Movement in the Farming Area’, pp. 93–94. 52 Scott, Seeing Like a State, p. 5. 53 Institute for Peace and Unification Studies, Peace-Art Project on Place-Memory of Cheorwon (Seoul: Seoul National University, 2017), p. 170; Lee Hee-Suk, (Interview: 21 August 2015).



Figure 7: Yugok-ri unification village. ROK National Archives, 1962.

aspect of the village was made aesthetically uniform, readily identifying and locating its people in time and space. FRONTIER VILLAGES AS THE FACE OF A MODERN NATION

The investigation of the frontier villages reveals how the state dealt with the influx of people at the border by orchestrating how certain populations were located and administered. Central to the state’s effort to repopulate and restructure the space of the frontier was the architecture of frontier villages: the independently stabilised villages served as an efficient architectural mechanism for a ‘disorderly’ dispersion of migrants, and the strategic villages as an ‘orderly’ concentration and simplification of the settler society. Frontier villages as a spatio-political formation emerged in the early 1950s when new and old techniques for discipline and punishment came together, reaching its peak in the early 1970s, and going on to restructure the rest of the South Korean rural villages at a national scale. The rise of independently stabilised villages as a territorial device stemmed from South Korea’s particular circumstance of national division, territorial shifts, and claiming sovereignty at the recovered territories. The sudden change in South Korea’s policy at the recovered territories in the late 1960s resulted from changing domestic and international socio-political and economic situations, the post-war exigencies of building a modern nation via the establishment of a hierarchical system of order and the discipline of its population. These historical conditions modified the general trend of modernity characterised by a highly instrumental form of modernisation based on rigid functionalism, productivity, efficiency, and internal pacification in various spheres of human life, generating a highly legible society that began at the border.




Matthew Gandy


Figure 1: On the roof of the Friedrichshagen Waterworks. 2015 (film still).

Figure 2: Tempelhofer Feld. 2015 (film still).

Figure 3 (left): Südgelände, Schöneberg. 2015 (film still). Figure 4 (right): Dieffenbachstraße, Kreuzberg. 2015 (film still).

Figure 5 (left): Teufelsberg, Berlin. 2015 (film still). Figure 6 (right): Silene vulgaris, Tempelhofer Feld. 2015 (film still).

Figure 7 (opposite): Street scene, Kreuzberg. 2015 (film still).




The prize-winning documentary film Natura Urbana tells the post-war history of Berlin through its plants. We encounter an extraordinary variety of spontaneous vegetation from all over the world that has sprouted along railway lines, on street corners, and in the distinctive Brachen of Berlin. In Natura Urbana the changing vegetation of Berlin serves as a parallel history to war-time destruction, geo-political division, and the newest phase of urban transformation.



Soviet Workers’ Clubs: Architecture for a New Civic Order? Sol Pérez Martínez

This article explores the architectural history of the Soviet workers’ club by analysing one of its emblematic examples, the Zil workers’ club by the Vesnin brothers. The aim is to understand how clubs attempted to forge the new Soviet citizen and his relation to Soviet culture and politics. CLUBS, SCHOOLS OF CIVIC AWARENESS The club is a bridge from the everyday life of the working man or woman to the life of the citizen, that is, to conscious participation in the constructive work of the state, the party, or the profession to which they belong. […] If the club can be called a school, it is a school of civic awareness, a school for heightening one’s qualifications as a citizen.1

The architecture associated with the word ‘club’ usually transmits exclusivity. Grand entrances, impenetrable façades, and lavish interiors 1 Leon Trotsky, Problems of Everyday Life: Creating the Foundations for a New Society in Revolutionary Russia (New York: Pathfinder, 1973), pp. 293.


accentuate an exclusive membership related, in most cases, to wealth and elitism—a membership which only accepts a selected group of citizens, using buildings as billboards to make explicit who is welcomed and who does not belong.2 The Soviet workers’ club, however, challenges the notion of the club as a secluded upper-class institution and repurposes the term for the ‘enlightenment’ of a new society through culture, education and leisure. Soviet club architecture opens up to the city and its programme broadens its membership to the nation, transforming the club into a civic building: a device to mediate between the State and the new Soviet citizen. My interest in Soviet clubs is threefold. Firstly, there is scarce Western scholarship addressing the programme, culture and politics of Soviet club architecture, although images of them are widely known. What was the context and aim of these buildings? Are they relevant solely because of their exterior appearance or are their use and interiors of interest to architectural history? Secondly, many of these buildings still exist, making it possible to study their architecture as material culture. Is there something to be learnt by combining historical analysis with the physical study of the clubs? As a foreign scholar, is it useful to experience and analyse the clubs from a different cultural perspective? Finally, I am interested in the club as an international typology that allows a detailed analysis of use and behaviour in relation to its architecture and representation. Clubs have the particular ambition of serving a large group of people that agree to behave in a certain way, usually following a code of conduct and some unspoken rules of behaviour embedded in the buildings. By studying clubs, is it possible to learn about the social relations promoted by their built spaces and the political agency responsible for their design? How did the purpose-built Soviet clubs attempt to construct a new civic order? The Soviet workers’ club was a social organisation and typology of club architecture with the aim of politically and culturally educating the working classes in an environment of socialisation and relaxation.3 The word ‘club’, rooted in the life of English Victorian ruling classes, was taken up by the Soviets as a way of contradicting the idea that culture and leisure were only available to the aristocracy, seeing it instead as a benefit that should be available for all.4 But more importantly, the club had the fundamental role of transforming Russian peasants and other immigrants arriving to the city into urban citizens through leisure and education.5 The aim was to help all people take part in civic life and contribute to the socialist cultural and technical idea of development. 2 For more information about the origins of the club and the politics of exception in the city, see Sol Pérez Martínez, ‘Club Architecture: A Vessel of Behavior, Language and Politics’, ARQ (Santiago), 92 (2016), pp. 104–13. 3 ‘Palace of Culture’ and ‘House of Culture’ are two terms often used to refer to the workers’ club, and their differences are subtle. ‘Palace of Culture’ usually refers to a later period of the workers’ club movement and larger installations. ‘House of Culture’ refers to more modest buildings that had the minimum required or to the Stalinist equivalent. Owen Hatherley, Landscapes of Communism: A History Through Buildings (London: Penguin, 2016) p. 154. 4 Anatole Kopp, Town and Revolution: Soviet Architecture and City Planning 19171935, trans. by Thomas E. Burton (London: Thames and Hudson, 1970), p. 120. 5 Anatole Kopp, Constructivist Architecture in the USSR, trans by. Sheila de Vallée (London: Academy Editions, 1985), p. 88.



Even though Soviet workers’ clubs and Victorian gentlemen’s clubs belong to different periods of time and sit on two opposite sides of the political and class spectrum, both portray their particular ideologies clearly. Their typologies are suited to their respective cultures and shared programmes of activities and rituals.6 In Britain, club architecture helped to establish the manners and etiquette of Victorian gentlemen, inducing ‘habits of economy, temperance, refinement, regularity, and good order’.7 In the Soviet Union, the workers’ club was ‘the centre for the training of proletarian public awareness, where the proletariat forges the elements of proletarian class culture’.8 Club architecture aimed, since its beginnings, to complement the role of propaganda in bringing a new socialist order into place. During the Russian Revolution of 1917, the leaders of the Bolshevik Party became concerned about the high illiteracy levels amongst the mainly rural and working-class population driving the transformation of the country. To address this issue, a broad set of cultural and educational institutions were set in place to achieve the ‘enlightenment of the masses’ and to increase the engagement of the new citizens, including free school provision, political literacy circles, adult education, and the creation of workers’ clubs. After the end of the civil war in 1920, following the relative success of the Bolsheviks in the political and military fronts, culture became the third front to tackle. Not surprisingly, however, culture presented an elusive battle to conquer, and required a long-term, planned approach. The economic problems of the first years of the Revolution did not make things easier for the enlightenment operations, nor did the lack of a consolidated view amongst the ruling party. Some Bolsheviks sustained that a new proletarian culture, free of its bourgeois past, was a prerequisite for revolution and a necessary element to sustain it.9 For people like Alexander Bogdanov, it was the task of the proletariat to create its own way of looking at the world, where ‘culture, art, science, literature and philosophy [...] were the weapons needed to prepare proletarian victory’.10 Others, like Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, were interested in the integration of the culture of the past as a tool for revolution, and thus concentrated on increasing productivity through the vocational education of the workers. Nevertheless, both factions agreed that culture was fundamental for the development of the ‘new Soviet man’ and considered the workers’ club a key space for its transformation.11 The development of clubs lasted approximately three decades, from the start of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1905 to the avant-garde’s fall from

6 For more information about behaviour, language and politics in the Victorian gentlemen’s club, see Pérez Martínez, pp. 104–13. 7 Edward Watford, ‘Pall Mall: Clubland’, in Old and New London, Volume IV (London: Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1878), pp. 140-64. 8 Trotsky, Problems of Everyday Life, p. 313 9 John Hatch, ‘The Politics of Mass Culture: Workers, Communists, and Prolet Kult in the Development of Workers’ Clubs, 1921-25’, Russian History, 13 (1986), p. 126. 10 Lynn Mally, Culture of the Future: The Proletkult Movement in Revolutionary Russia (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), p. 9. 11 Hatch, The Politics of Mass Culture, p. 145.



grace and the adoption of Stalin’s Social Realism aesthetic in 1932.12 Clubs were ‘the chief cultural arm of the trade-union movement since 1905’, playing a fundamental role in organising the proletarian community and in reinforcing the workers’ communist culture.13 This study concentrates on what Vladimir Paperny defines as ‘Culture One’, a moment in Russian history during the 1920s in which ‘collective ideas’ dominated. This approach changed during the 1930s into a totalitarian state wielding its power in relation to the individual, harbouring a different expression of Soviet architecture.14 Bearing in mind the prominent role of clubs for the Bolsheviks and how quickly they propagated during the first years of the revolution, the limited Western scholarship on them is rather surprising.15 In 2017, a centenary after the Revolution, only a handful of historical accounts cover Soviet workers’ clubs in depth; of them, only Lewis Siegelbaum, Owen Hatherley and Anna Bokov integrate an architectural perspective.16 While Siegelbaum analyses the existing literature and presents a critical development of workers’ club architecture,17 Hatherley concentrates on the contemporary experience of the clubs and their past constitution as social condensers.18 Bokov goes further and argues that ‘a workers’ club had an ideological coding—its entire programmatic composite was intended to condition a new social behaviour through a series of orchestrated collective experiences.’19 She analyses the history of the club and its different typologies, but the reader is left wondering: How did this ideological coding happen in space? Were these strategies successful? Exploring the history of this typology and its intentions through the analysis of one of its most emblematic cases in Moscow, the Zil workers’ club, this essay presents a different approach to previous scholarship. The analysis of archival photographs in relation to the drawings of a particular building offers clues to discuss the way in which architecture might have operated as a ‘school of behaviour’ for socialism. How did club architecture relate to the culture and the society it served? Is it possible to observe the political purpose behind its design? Can we assess the role of architecture 12 James Cracraft and Daniel Bruce Rowland, Architectures of Russian Identity: 1500 to the Present (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003), p. 147. 13 John Hatch, ‘Hangouts and Hangovers: State, Class and Culture in Moscow’s Workers’ Club Movement 1925-1928’, The Russian Review, 53 (1994), p. 97. 14 Vladimir Paperny, Architecture in the Age of Stalin: Culture Two (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. xxiv. 15 Lewis H. Siegelbaum, ‘The Shaping of Soviet Workers’ Leisure: Workers’ Clubs and Palaces of Culture in the 1930s’, International Labor and Working-Class History, 56 (1999), p. 78. 16 The workers’ clubs designed by Melnikov have received attention from architects, but mostly as isolated sculptural works, rather than in terms of political or social relevance in a wider cultural context. According to Jean-Louis Cohen, Soviet architecture was mostly ignored by mainstream publications in architectural history until the 1950s. Richard Pare’s pictures at the beginning of the 2000s would help to disseminate Soviet club architecture. Maria Ametova and others, Construir la revolución: Arte y arquitectura en Rusia 1915-1935, trans. by María Luisa Balseiro (Barcelona: Turner Publicaciones S.L., 2011), p. 21. 17 Siegelbaum, ‘The Shaping of Soviet Workers’ Leisure’, pp. 78-92. 18 Hatherley, ‘Landscapes of Communism’ pp.148-65. 19 Anna Bokov, ‘Soviet Workers’ Clubs: Lessons from the Social Condensers’, The Journal of Architecture, 22 (2017), 403-36 (p. 403).



in the construction of a new social order? A CHAIN OF SOCIAL CONDENSERS

The club was one of three new building types designed in the Soviet Union as a built mechanism to convert the ‘former man’, brought up in a capitalist and individualistic culture, into the new socialist order. Together with communal housing and public kitchens, clubs were built as ‘an image of the future world and a mould for it’.20 The need to define the formal expression of these new social organisations became the main challenge for avantgarde architects.21 Soviet workers’ clubs were considered ‘social condensers’, built mechanisms to transform habits and encourage collective life.22 Their objective was rooted in communal living and socialist revolutionary principles where ‘the interests of each merged with the interests of all’.23 The proletarian worker was supposed to live his or her everyday life on a track from one social condenser to another: from housing to kitchen to factory to club. Kopp refers to this circuit as a ‘human factory that was thought to “manufacture”, in the literal sense of the word, a working class’.24 The industrial development of the socialist plan focused mainly on peasants who had just arrived from rural Russia and ‘who had no technical training and lacked everything that was traditionally a part of political and social working-class culture’.25 The club acquired the role of transforming them into citizens by delivering them education through leisure, but also keeping them healthy in their free time in order to achieve the socialist cultural and technical plan.26 Activities, propaganda and architecture had to compete with the tavern—the usual place where working men spent their free time—leading to, as Susan Grant contends, one of the most interesting behavioural cultural devices for encouraging voluntary participation.27 In 1924, Trotsky argued that Soviet workers’ clubs should be thought of as tools to build a socialist classless culture, conceived from the start as a social engineering project by Bolshevik doctrine and the Proletkult movement.28 For the Proletkult leader, Alexander Bogdanov, it was clear that they had to break with the forms of the past because ‘any work of art 20 Kopp, Constructivist Architecture, p. 80. 21 Siegelbaum, ‘The Shaping of Soviet Workers’ Leisure’, p. 80. 22 Kopp, Constructivist Architecture, p. 112; Michał Murawski and Jane Rendell, ‘The Social Condenser: A Century of Revolution through Architecture, 1917-2017’, The Journal of Architecture, 22 (2017), 369-71 (p. 369). 23 Kopp, Town and Revolution, p. 115. 24 Ibid., p. 88. 25 Ibid., p. 88. 26 The organisation of workers’ free time became crucial after 1927 when the working hours were cut from fourteen to eight, increasing the relevance of the club in controlling alcoholism and other unhealthy behaviours. Anna Bronovitskaya, ‘Glimpses of Today in Visions of Russian Avant-Garde Architects’, Architekturos Fondas <http://www.> [accessed 10 September 2014] 27 Susan Grant, ‘The Collective Agitation of Arms and Legs: Organising Mass Physical Culture in 1920s Soviet Russia’, Revolutionary Russia, 23 (2010), p. 104. 28 Trotsky, Problems of Everyday Life, p. 288. Proletkult was a cultural and education organisation formed in 1917 by Bolshevik supporters. For more information see Mally, Culture of the Future.



Figure 1: Games on site at the Zil workers’ club. Zil Culture Centre, n.d.

reflected the ideology of a particular class and is not applicable for the other’.29 Thus, from the core of the political movement, there was a need to create art and architecture that matched the new socialist culture. In order to respond to this need, avant-garde artists embraced abstraction, functionality and aesthetic freedom after the Revolution, while figurative artists and classicists were relegated to ‘bourgeois intelligentsia’.30 However, Murray argues that not all Bolsheviks supported this aesthetic turn, but due to the lack of traditional artists willing to engage with the proletariat, the ‘tabula rasa’ approach was the only option available. She explains how Lenin and others with a ‘conservative taste’ would have preferred to work with more conventional artists and academics, but established artists ‘were reluctant to lower their status by talking to the masses’.31 For Proletkult activists, the club was a popular institution with a wide reach that could be used as a vehicle to deliver scientific education to the

29 Anya Bokov, ‘Transcending the Ideology: Introduction to Architecture of Soviet Workers’ Club 1917-1941’ in Arseny Afonin, Olga Krukovskaya and Kirill Lebedeve, The Rethinking of Avantgarde Clubs Diploma Research 2012-2013 (Moscow: Moscow Institute of Architecture, 2013), p.5. 30 Natalia Murray and others, Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932 (London: Royal Academy of Arts, 2017), p. 24. 31 Ibid p. 24.



masses.32 For Bogdanov, the club was the place to develop proletarian culture, where he believed it was possible to enlighten workers without dominating them. Through artistic and creative processes ‘he hoped to encourage workers to take control of the socialist movement themselves’.33 On the other hand, for Trotsky, the club was supposed to lay the foundations of socialist culture through raising the cultural and civic level of the workers who had no formal education other than the agricultural practices of their rural land. He spoke about the club’s role of teaching men and women to understand the world today in order to build a new, wider, spacious and happier world for the future.34 Apart from the cultural enlightenment of the masses, clubs also had the aim of cultivating a ‘social spirit’, teaching workers to have mutual respect and tolerance for other people’s thoughts and experiences.35 Due to the lack of space for social gatherings in communal housing, the club was assigned the role of a collective living room as ‘compensation for the discomfort and overcrowding that the workers suffered at home’.36 As Kopp explains, the communal home was conceived of as an individual place to rest, which therefore needed minimal space, since most of the day was to be spent engaged in collective centres where all social and cultural activities took place. Such centres naturally ‘functioned as sites for friendshipmaking and bonding, courtship, informal exchanges of information, sheer entertainment or fun’, combining learning with sociability (Figure 1).37 However, the data about the centres’ members is scarce and unreliable since ‘membership numbers were often padded’.38 According to Hatch, in 1925 more than ten per cent of all trade unionists in Moscow belonged to a club, totalling 140,000 members, of which seventy percent were under thirty.39 The club also allowed smaller groups to pursue specialised activities in study circles or kruzhki (Figure 2).The study circles ‘were the chief form of structured pedagogical activity in the clubs’.40 They covered various subjects from dressmaking to astronomy, developed in groups of fifteen to thirty members and directed by an instructor.41 According to Bokov, ‘one of the major tasks of club life was to occupy the free time of a Soviet worker almost entirely’, so the collective life would overrun the individual life.42 As explained by Susan Grant in her study of Soviet mass physical culture, in many cases the ‘masses were dying of boredom’ as the volume of political education and lectures led to the workers’ rejection of the club. But, she highlights, unlike other countries’ equivalents, Soviet clubs 32 Mally, Culture of the Future, p.172. 33 Ibid, p. 2. 34 Trotsky, Problems of Everyday Life, pp. 288-92. 35 Pletnev, one of the leaders of Proletkult, even defined clubs as ‘life itself’ in 1923. Quoted in Bokov, ‘Soviet Workers’ Clubs’, p. 403. 36 Kopp, Town and Revolution, p. 116. 37 Siegelbaum, ‘The Shaping of Soviet Workers’ Leisure’, p. 85. 38 Hatch, ‘The Politics of Mass Culture’, p. 140. 39 Ibid., p. 140. 40 Hatch, ‘Hangouts and Hangovers’, p. 104. 41 Ibid. 42 Bokov, ‘Transcending the Ideology’, p. 5.



Figure 2: Vegetable production study circle at the Zil workers’ club. Courtesy of Zil Culture Centre, n.d.

had a monopoly on the cultural interests of the proletariat, as they had eliminated all competing cultural or religious institutions. Thus, if clubs managed to entertain as well as reinforce culture, they had the potential to successfully organise people towards a new cultural and political life.43 All the community events once celebrated in the church were replaced by analogue socialist rituals.44 The programme of the club, then, was defined by the collective experience of culture and politics, be that on stage or in the spaces of the audience, in study circles or in the spaces of communal living rooms. These cultural and educational activities were, for the first time, agglutinated into a single building with a clear political aim, enhancing the creation of a new typology.45 THE WORKERS’ CLUB TYPOLOGY The aim of the club is to liberate man and not to oppress him as was formerly done by the Church and the State […]. The club’s role is to become a University of Culture.46

As gentlemen’s clubs were descendants of coffeehouses and taverns in Britain, workers’ clubs are considered a continuation of the ‘people’s houses’ and ‘people’s universities’ in late Imperial Russia.47 According to Mally, the origin of these institutions lies in the mid-nineteenth century, when the intelligentsia started their involvement in workers’ education by 43 Susan Grant, ‘The Collective Agitation of Arms and Legs: Organising Mass Physical Culture in 1920s Soviet Russia’, Revolutionary Russia, 23 (2010), 93-113 (p. 108). 44 Marriages celebrated in the club were ‘Red Weddings’ and baptism was replaced by the ‘Octobering rite’ where the baby was welcomed to the post-revolution world of the club. Cracraft and Rowland, Architectures of Russian Identity, p. 138. 45 For Lissitzky, there was ‘No building precedent in the past that by virtue of its social significance would provide us with a prototype solution’. El Lissitsky, Russia: An Architecture for World Revolution (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1984), p. 44. 46 Ibid., p. 44. 47 Lewis H. Siegelbaum, ‘Workers’ Clubs’, Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 2015 <> [accessed 10 August 2014].



Figure 3: Conferences and lectures at the Zil workers’ club. Courtesy of Zil Culture Centre, n.d.

leading Sunday schools and evening courses for the urban poor.48 These programmes related to social reform, started as literacy training and expanded to cover a wide range of subjects, creating a complex educational programme under the name of ‘people’s universities’.49 Similarly, ‘people’s houses’ were organisations run by philanthropic societies and private citizens, which provided workers and families with education and leisure spaces to socialise. The aim of the reformers behind them was to ‘elevate the masses’ through education and to create a ‘public sphere […] that transcended class divisions and modelled a democratic alternative to the country’s autocratic political culture’.50 A famous example was the Ligovsky People’s House, founded by Countess Sofia Panina in 1891. Panina, a liberal philanthropist, started working in collaboration with teachers in a poor area of St. Petersburg to help with the education of vulnerable children. Soon after the parents and families of the children started requesting education, which prompted the organisation to devise a wider learning programme. The popularity of the initiative encouraged the group of women to design a modern building in 1903 to house a theatre, public lecture halls, Sunday reading spaces, a tea room, a library and even an astronomical observatory.51 The people’s house was considered an ‘instrument to develop independent action and citizenship’ and was based in the ‘shared belief in the power of knowledge, culture, and “rational recreation” to change human behaviour’.52 Both people’s houses and people’s universities expanded and multiplied after the failed revolution of 1905, creating ‘a much richer and more complex network of educational experiences for the lower classes than had 48 Mally, Culture of the Future, p. 11. 49 Ibid., pp. 11-12. 50 Adele Lindenmeyr, ‘Building Civil Society One Brick at a Time: People’s Houses and Worker Enlightenment in Late Imperial Russia’, The Journal of Modern History, 84 (2012), 1-39 (pp. 5-6). 51 Ibid., pp. 1-2. 52 Ibid., p. 9.



existed before’.53 During the decades prior to the revolution, according to a survey led by Panina, there were more than 222 people’s houses around towns and cities in Russia.54 Even though people’s houses and workers’ clubs shared the belief in the ‘power of knowledge and culture to transform the “dark” masses into enlightened citizens’, they differed in content.55 According to Lindenmeyr, people’s houses were considered bourgeois projects by Bolsheviks, since they aimed to disseminate high culture and encourage behaviours and habits related to middle-class life.56 Also, they intended to be apolitical spaces ‘lacking the ideological component of “production of political culture”’ that was present in workers’ clubs.57 With the Bolshevik revolution, the first workers’ clubs inherited this Russian tradition and were created as social organisations with political aims that used existing community and religious spaces to house meetings (Figure 3). During the first decades of the twentieth century, workers’ clubs were also supposed to replace religious beliefs in the role of the ‘Temple of the Socialist Cult’.58 The idea of the cult of socialism as the new order was embodied graphically in Rodchenko’s interior design for a workers’ club at the 1925 International Exhibition in Paris.59 In the pavilion, the furniture was purposely designed to encourage the visitor to approach communist ideas through multiple publications, while the ‘Lenin corner’ exhibited cult images of Lenin in lieu of religious imagery. These ‘red corners’ for the socialist cult existed not just in the pavilion but in almost every factory, large shop and even individual houses as a locus for club activities.60 The club did not have to look like a church, but it had to replace its role as a space for the community to gather and share new rituals (Figure 4).61 It was not until 1925 when, according to Kopp, clubs found their ‘true function and a style stripped of outmoded conventions’, through which people started to change borrowed aristocratic models of culture, like opera or Italian theatre, for the spaces of socialist culture.62 By 1925, there were 3418 trade union and factory clubs in the Soviet Union, with more than 450 workers’ clubs in Moscow, making it the centre of club culture in the Soviet World.63 According to Kahn-Magomedov, although clubs shared an educational programme, a leisure component and the aim of spreading a new socialist culture, they varied widely in size and could be classified into subcategories depending on their membership: household (clubs as part of 53 Mally, Culture of the Future, pp. 11-12. 54 Lindenmeyr, ‘Building Civil Society One Brick at a Time’, p. 7. 55 Ibid., p. 9 56 Ibid., p. 33 57 Bokov, ‘Transcending the Ideology’, p, 5. 58 Arseny Afonin, Olga Krukovskaya and Kirill Lebedeve, The Rethinking of Avantgarde Clubs Diploma Research 2012-2013 (Moscow: Moscow Institute of Architecture, 2013), p. 27. 59 Bokov, ‘Soviet Workers’ Clubs’, p. 403. 60 Vladimir Zaitzev, Youth in the Soviet Union (New York: International Publishers, 1934), p. 54. 61 For more information about the relation between Church and club see Bokov, ‘Soviet Workers’ Clubs’, 418. 62 Kopp, Town and Revolution, p. 120. 63 Hatch, ‘Hangouts and Hangovers’, pp. 98-99.



communal housing), production (clubs as enterprises), professional (clubs built by trade unions) and territorial (district and city clubs also called ‘Palaces of Culture’).64 Analysing the cases in the book ‘Clubs Built According to the Trade Union Programme, 1927-1930’ it is possible to say that dozens of clubs in Moscow and its surrounding suburbs shared a similar design: an asymmetric layout and a complex volumetric composition which reflected the functions of the building.65 A comparison to the examples presented by Kahn-Magomedov suggests that the same type of architecture was used, at least partially, in other industrial cities in Russia.66 With the economy’s stabilisation during the second half of the 1920s, the trade unions’ and the Socialist Party’s club construction thrived. The need to define the space and the form of the club became the main challenge for architects.67 Considering the club ‘a machine for forging a new Soviet man’, the promoters of the club established their intentions to use architecture to codify behaviour in their discourses and writings.68 Still, how to achieve

Figure 4: Informative exhibition at the Zil workers’ club. Courtesy of Zil Culture Centre, n.d.

64 Selim O. Khan-Magomedov, ‘Architecture of the USSR, 1917-1932: Architecture of public buildings’, in Всеобщая история архитектуры: Архитектура Восточной Европы ; средние века, ed. by N. V. Baranova (Изд-во литературы по строительству, 1975), p. 105. 65 И. Чепкунова, Клубы, построенные по программе профсоюзов, 1927-1930 (Научно-исследовательский музей архитектуры им А.В. Щусева, 2010). 66 Khan-Magomedov, ‘Architecture of the USSR’, pp. 97-135. 67 Siegelbaum, ‘The Shaping of Soviet Workers’ Leisure’, p. 80. 68 Bokov, ‘Transcending the Ideology’, p. 5.



Figure 5: Workers’ Clubs in Moscow. Author, 2014. Left column, top to bottom: Golosov’s Zuev workers’ club, Melnikov’s Frunze workers’ club and Melnikov’s Svoboda workers’ club. Right column, top to bottom: Melnikov’s Rusakov workers’ club, Melnikov’s Kauchuk workers’ club and Melnikov’s Burevestnik workers’ club.

it was not clear.69 Architects asked the question: What formal expression should these new social organisations take? The answers to this question can be classified broadly into two categories. The first is symbolic sculptural forms, represented by Konstantin Melnikov’s and Ilya Golosov’s clubs. The second is complex arrangements of volumes ordered by functions, represented by the Vesnin brothers (Leonid, Victor and Alexander Vesnin) and Moisei Ginzburg. Each category mirrors the approach to Soviet architecture of two professional groups formed at the beginning of the 1920s: the former corresponds to the rationalist approach of the ASNOVA group, while the latter can be related to the constructivist approach of the OSA group.70 ASNOVA aimed for every 69 Trotsky, Problems of Everyday Life, pp. 288-92. 70 ASNOVA means ‘Association for New Architects’, founded by Nikolai Ladovsky, a teacher at VKhUTEMAS. Konstantin Melnikov and El Lissitzsky were related to the group for a brief time. OSA means ‘Organisation of Contemporary Architects’ founded by Moisei Ginzburg and Alexander Vesnin. Khan-Magomedov, ‘Architecture of the USSR’, p. 108.



project to be unique and to connect with a specific membership; most of their projects were striking, concise symmetrical forms which made them memorable. For OSA, the club had to be a translation of the club’s aim and programme into space; form followed function, resulting in a spread asymmetrical layout, memorable as a piece of urban fabric rather than a single form (Figure 5).71 In Melnikov’s case, the goal of the six clubs he designed for trade unions was to combine clubhouse functions with an ‘impressive and memorable symbolic form exerting a powerful influence on people’s emotions’.72 In the Vesnin brothers’ case, the design aim was to respond, in a rational manner, to the functional needs described by the programme in terms of accommodation and circulation, and offer a space that would be a ‘complete expression of the concept of a workers’ club’.73 Kopp states that the Vesnin brothers proved with one building that ‘Constructivism in architecture was expressed less by means of the architectural forms of the buildings than by the social and educational intentions with which their creators endowed them’.74 THE CREATION OF A NEW ORDER, FORM AND BEHAVIOUR

According to Victor Buchli, Marx’s idea that the material base of society determined its consciousness (as well as its economic and social organisation) underpinned the work of architects and other cultural workers during the revolutionary years of the Soviet period.75 Following Marx, it was necessary to design the material terms in which socialism was going to be crystallised. The belief, among the thinkers of the constructivist group, that architecture was a behavioural science made buildings a potential instrument for the party to forge the proletariat.76 Ginzburg, the leader of the constructivist group OSA, wrote: ‘From the moment a man takes his first steps, form exerts a spontaneous influence, which becomes increasingly more clear, distinct, and concrete.’77 Constructivist architects, including Alexander Vesnin, believed that the environment played a part in the social transformation of the proletariat with ‘a formative and educational influence’.78 Vesnin called for the creation of devices that could use the ‘potential energy of their psycho-physiological influence on the consciousness of the individual’, thus connecting architecture and behaviour in a manner later formulated by Ginzburg.79 For Ginzburg, this influence of society on the consciousness of the individual should be delivered by the careful study and restructuring of 71 Kopp, Constructivist Architecture, p. 112. In some cases, the design was repeated by the trade union for other factories. Afonin, Krukovskaya and Lebedeve, The Rethinking of Avantgarde Clubs, p. 12. 72 Andrei Ikonnikov, Russian Architecture of the Soviet Period (Moscow: Raduga Pub, 1988), p. 150. 73 Kopp, Constructivist Architecture, p. 112. 74 Ibid., p. 112. 75 Victor Buchli, An Archaeology of Socialism (Oxford: Berg 3PL, 2000), p. 7. 76 Cracraft and Rowland, Architectures of Russian Identity, p. 138. 77 Ibid., p. 138. 78 Kopp, Town and Revolution. 79 Cracraft and Rowland, Architectures of Russian Identity, p. 137.



byt, everyday life. According to Buchli, byt, which translates as ‘daily life, domesticity, lifestyle or way of life’, was a key political term for the early Bolshevik state seeking to restructure civic life into a new socialist society.80 Redesigning byt and its expression in material culture meant altering the ‘quotidian micropowers structuring the social fabric’.81 For Ginzburg, this could be done through ‘the functional method’, which he describes in an article written in 1927 in relation to communal housing: It is necessary to return with renewed vigour to the study of the production-byt [everyday life] processes of workers, to identify and distinguish their functions, to outline clearly and precisely, first of all, the flow diagrams and the schemes of equipment. […] When, with undoubted clarity, the labour and byt processes of this new form of accommodation appear, it will be easier to speak of the envelopes encasing and isolating these processes.82

In order to analyse the connections between form and behaviour, the ideas of Edward Hall and Humphry Osmond are used here as an analytical lens for the architecture of the Zil worker’s club. In his book The Silent Language, Hall argues, almost forty years after Ginzburg, that space unconsciously affects the way we behave.83 Sometimes confused with environmental determinism, Hall’s main argument is to bring to conscious consideration how the design of spaces can subtly change the way we interact with the world. According to his research, people unconsciously follow spatial cues that they find in their surroundings. For Hall, the distance to architectural elements or other people affects the way people communicate, a process which he describes as ‘proxemics’.84 Writing in the same decade as Hall, Humphry Osmond researched how spatial seating arrangements can change the way people interact with each other. He coined the terms ‘sociopetal’ and ‘sociofugal’ to describe the types of physical environments that encourage human interaction (sociopetal) and the ones that discourage social exchange (sociofugal).85 Hall then integrated these ideas from Osmond’s research into his own studies of people’s behaviour in urban areas and buildings. Hall and Osmond’s ideas, which were developed in the 1960s, concentrated on the relationship between a way of living—byt—and built space, with particular reference to Ginzburg and the constructivist concepts of the 1920s. While Ginzburg proposed the ‘functional method’ to give shape to the new Soviet order, Hall proposed ‘proxemics’ to understand how material constructions affect social order. In the previous sections, I have examined clubs in terms of their history, aims, design, scale, programme, and politics. In summary, Soviet 80 Buchli, An Archaeology of Socialism, p. 7. 81 Ibid., p. 7. 82 Moisei Ginzburg, Ivan Leonidov and Nikolai S. Kuzmin, ‘New Translations from Contemporary Architecture’, The Journal of Architecture, 22 (2017), p. 592. 83 Edward Twitchell Hall, The Silent Language (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1959). 84 Edward Twitchell Hall, ‘Proxemics [and Comments and Replies]’, Current Anthropology, 9 (1968), 83-108 (p. 83). 85 John Entenza, ‘Arts and Architecture’, Arts and Architecture, 83 (1966), p. 19.



workers’ clubs were a top-down, nation-wide cultural initiative during the Soviet revolutionary period; their aim was to forge the ‘new Soviet man and woman’ through culture and leisure. The clubs varied from the district-level ‘Palaces of Culture’, thousands of square metres in area, to the club-rooms or ‘red corners’ of homes and factories. Club architecture was developed through private competitions organised by trade unions or public competitions run by the government. The most well-known and widely disseminated examples of Soviet clubs are the symbolically-laden designs of Melnikov and Golosov, although recent publications suggest that a bigger proportion of clubs built in Russia relate to the constructivist design approach developed by Ginzburg and the Vesnin brothers.86 The clubs’ activities ranged from sports to study circles and theatre, but the ultimate goal was to gather people together and to provide spaces for the rituals of the new socialist society. Echoing Ginzburg’s thesis, it is necessary to understand the way of life that was proposed through Soviet clubs in order to understand their architecture. Following Hall, it is necessary to look for spatial cues and observe how people act in space in order to understand what triggers certain behaviours. Both approaches are employed in this essay to investigate the case of the Zil workers’ club: I seek here to incorporate the club’s history with the analysis of the building today through a combination of empirical observation, plans and archival photography. How did the club’s rituals take place in space? Is it possible to see in the buildings today the spatial cues of the Soviet period? FORM AND FUNCTION: THE ZIL WORKERS’ CLUB

Commissioned by the Trade Union of Steelworkers and designed by Leonid, Victor and Alexander Vesnin in 1931, the ‘Zil workers’ club’, or ‘Proletarsky District Palace of Culture’, is considered one of ‘the most complete embodiments of the concepts of Soviet constructivism’.87 It is one of the few clubs that has been refurbished according to its original design and that still preserves part of its role as a community centre today.88 At first, the Metal Trade Union organised an architectural competition to design an enlarged version of the workers club in the site of the Simonov Monastery, at the Proletarsky district—a paradigm of the replacement of the church by the club. The proposals ranged from the full restoration of the Monastery to the dispersal of the club activities into the territory by a young architect called Ivan Leonidov.89 According to Kahn-Magomedov, ‘Leonidov’s design on behalf of OSA attracted the greatest attention’ by transforming the club into an open cultural district with installations 86 Чепкунова, Клубы, построенные по программе профсоюзов, 1927-1930. 87 It is also called the ‘Likhachev Palace of Culture’. Ikonnikov, Russian Architecture of the Soviet Period, p. 158. 88 Most clubs have been victims to poor refurbishment and changes of use to venues or office buildings. Along with Zil, the Zuev workers’ club is one of the only ones that has kept its activities public. Owen Hatherley, ‘Actually Existing Social Condensers: On the Mundanity of Soviet Modernism’, The Journal of Architecture, 22 (2017), 512-21. 89 Catherine Cooke, Architectural Drawings of the Russian Avant-Garde, 1st Ed. edition (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1990) p.36.



Figure 6: Zil workers’ club with propaganda on its façade. Courtesy of Zil Culture Centre, n.d.

Figure 7 (opposite): Plans of the Zil workers’ club. Author, 2014. a. Access b. Reception (Exhibition hall on first floor is the same plan) c. Conservatory d. Vertical circulation e. Auditorium foyer f. Study circle waiting areas g. Study circle rooms


dispersed throughout a green area with a utopian proposal.90 However, the design did not respond to the brief and the competition was declared void. After two rounds of unfruitful design competitions in 1930, the Metal Trade Union contracted the Vesnin brothers to design the club. As explained by Ikonnikov, the Vesnin brothers started by defining the spaces for each function and then combined the volumes to create the image of the whole, seeking to make the different uses recognisable from the exterior and achieving ‘simple clear-cut forms, noble relationship to the masses […] a unity of internal space and external shape’.91 Ikonnikov states that the Vesnin brothers had ‘accurately calculated the psychological effect of the successive perception of the internal arrangement by the visitor moving inside the building’, consciously designing perspectives and considering how spaces interconnected.92 The volumes were highlighted by an absolute lack of ornament.93 Façades functioned as white canvases for the graphic 90 Selim O. Khan-Magomedov, Pioneers of Soviet Architecture: The Search for New Solutions in the 1920s and 1930s (London: Thames & Hudson, 1987) p. 458. 91 Ikonnikov, Russian Architecture of the Soviet Period, p. 158. 92 Ibid., p. 158. 93 Pare described the absence of ornament as a ‘perfect fit between the scarcity of resources and a minimal aesthetic’. Tim Tower, ‘An Interview with Richard Pare, Photographer and Expert on Soviet Modernist Architecture’, World Socialist Web Site <> [accessed 20 August 2014].








Figure 8: Flow diagram developed by the author, 2014. a. Access b. Reception (Exhibition hall on first floor is the same plan) c. Conservatory d. Vertical circulation e. Auditorium foyer f. Study circle waiting areas g. Study circle rooms

propaganda placed upon them (Figure 6).94 According to Hatherley, the Zil club is one of the purest embodiments of the idea of the social condenser due to ‘the complexity and diversity of its cultural functions’.95 Most of the specialised literature on workers’ clubs concentrates on the exterior expression of the buildings, or on the political aspect of the club movement; apart from Anna Bokov’s recent publication ‘Soviet Workers’ Clubs: Lessons from the Social Condensers’, and Owen Hatherley’s chapter about Social Condensers, there has been no publication in English relating to the use of club spaces with their political foundation.96 In the case of the Zil workers’ club, the information available about the building leaves the interior spaces inscrutable.97 Following Ginzburg’s ‘functional method’, Hall’s ‘proxemics’ and a proposed flow diagram, I present here an analysis of the experience of the spaces of the Zil club (Figures 7-8). Approaching the building from the street, the Zil looks like a complex agglomeration of pure volumes bounded by green areas. The flat grey surfaces alternate with equally smooth glassed planes; the lack of details and ornament makes them look like something is missing. The building is spread in the site; it is hard to know its limits but its shape is clearly asymmetrical. The access to the club is a broad glassed box that produces a fluent connection between the interior and the surrounding park: its entrance communicates the collective spirit of the project, trying to express literally its open admission to the public (Figures 7a and 9). The access is in a corner of the foyer, making evident the need to turn one’s body to get inside the building, where one encounters a new perspective of a wide flat space, divided into three areas by two lines of circular columns. Each side of the foyer contains cloak hangers, leaving only a tight central area between the columns to incentivise one to keep walking towards the conservatory and to encourage close personal interaction with the reception at the entrance (Figure 7b). 94 Bokov, ‘Transcending the Ideology’, p. 5. 95 Hatherley, ‘Actually Existing Social Condensers’, p. 519. 96 Bokov, ‘Soviet Workers’ Clubs’; Hatherley, Landscapes of Communism. 97 An internet site dedicated to the Russian avant-garde presents archival photos of the club’s interior during its construction found in the Museum of Architecture of Moscow, but there is no relation to the plans or a clear explanation of the use of the spaces. Ross Wolfe, ‘The Vesnin Brothers’ Likachev Palace of Culture (ZIL) in Moscow, 1930-1936’, The Charnel-House, 2013 < the-vesnin-brothers-likachev-palace-of-culture-zil-in-moscow-1930-1936/> [accessed 20 August 2014].



The conservatory is an articulated space between the two perpendicular volumes of the club: an internal plaza marked by a semi-circular façade and a double-height space containing the main staircases (Figure 7c). As shown in the plan, it is the only space that allows the meeting of bigger groups, but because it lacks stage-scenery, it does not suggest a performing situation. The built bench following the curved wall encourages social interaction in the perimeter of the space, leaving the centre empty for fortuitous interaction (Figure 10). The foyer, conservatory, staircases and exhibition hall create a sequence of interrelated open spaces where everyone is connected and observed; it is not possible to be alone or to feel privacy. There is a set of staircases at each side of the conservatory connected to the exhibition hall on the first floor. The landing of the staircases is


Figure 9 (top): Access to the Zil workers’ club. Author, 2014. Figure 10 (bottom): Conservatory of the Zil workers’ club. Author, 2014.


Figure 11: Exhibition hall of the Zil workers’ club. Author, 2014.

Figure 12 (opposite, top): Dance in the exhibition hall of the Zil workers’ club. Courtesy of Zil Culture Centre, n.d.

wide, working as a balcony or a stage (Figure 7d). The exhibition hall is an extended, flat space, composed of planar surfaces that encounter one another in clear orthogonal cuts, punctuated only by two rows of circular columns. This tripartite division is reinforced by subtle changes in the surfaces observed in the ceiling and the floor. On the ceiling of the exhibition hall, the centre aisle has a smooth finish, while the two wider areas on the sides have vaulted ceilings (Figure 11). The height of the room highlights the human scale so as to emphasise a horizontal view, where people are always at the centre of the gaze. In the plan, the space looks like a connector between the club and the auditorium, but the experience of the exhibition hall is unexpected. Its extension is such that the perception of what is on the other side is lost, making the space static. It is possible to associate the changes in space and materials with certain social behaviour using the photographs: in the centre corridor, couples stroll and the procession of the carnival flows through, encouraging movement and proximity between people; at the sides, people are dancing and the public is observing the carnival, enhancing the static gathering of people (Figures 12 and 13). In the exhibition hall, there are no screens or volumes. The absence of the columns would make this space lose its direction and would encourage a central focal point in the room. At the same time, the lack of volumes, textures or seating possibilities in the longitudinal walls does not invite people to gather near the perimeter, but brings people together between the columns. The space looks too vast and too flexible while it is inactive, but it makes sense when people use the space following the subtle cues. In this vast space, the body of the visitor is part of a mass and its actions would always be exposed. The most probable communication would be a social exchange, controlled by the surveillance of others. Gossip or discourse are forms of speech not suited for this space: it is an open plan that makes it difficult to have a private conversation or to create a hierarchical setting, where a person or a group would address an audience.98

Figure 13 (opposite, bottom): Carnival in the exhibition hall of the Zil workers’ club. Courtesy of Zil Culture Centre, n.d.

98 Behavior and Environment: The Use of Space by Animals and Men. Proceedings of an International Symposium Held at the 1968 Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, ed. by Aristide H. Esser (New York: Plenum Press, 1971), p. 283.





Figure 14: Terrace and observatory of the Zil workers’ club; to the left, ruins of the Simonov monastery. Author, 2014.

From the exhibition hall, it is possible to access the auditorium’s firstfloor foyer. In the project plan, most of the forms are orthogonal, but the most remarkable spaces in terms of social interaction are those with curved features: one is the space defined by the concave façade of the foyer, creating a static gathering space which encourages sitting; the opposite side is the convex wall of the auditorium, which creates a circulation space marked by a set of columns, where it is not natural to socialise and which therefore draws the public to the sides (Figure 7e). In Osmond’s terms, the concave spaces are sociopetal (encourages interaction) and the convex spaces are sociofugal (promote seclusion).99 This strategy is repeated in the corridors, in front of the study circle classrooms of the second floor, where the concave windows create gathering spots that work not only as connectors but also as social spaces for the breaks between the different activities (Figure 7f). As shown in the plan, the study circle rooms are characterised by intimate spaces reserved for personalised learning (Figure 7g). The cafeteria works as a sociopetal space, with private bays of built benches that confront each other, leaving movable chairs in between. This arrangement permits comfortable social gathering and conversation in smaller groups: it is still a collective and shared space but it allows sub-grouping. On the other hand, the reading room is designed to resist direct eye contact and conversation with its long lines of individual desks. The auditorium, different to Melnikov’s clubs, follows a traditional, fixed seating arrangement directed towards the stage, where sitting side by side 99 Humphry Osmond, John A. Osmundsen and Jerome Agel, Understanding Understanding (New York: Harper & Row, 1973).



and observing a focal point allows people to be close to each other without feeling invaded, as they can easily avoid eye contact. The roof of the building works as a terrace with views of the park, the river and its hidden jewel, the observatory. Furthermore, the terrace is the space to discover part of the ruins of the Simonov monastery, a moment that signified the replacement of the church by the club (Figures 14 and 15). The Zil workers’ club maintains a constant ‘collective size’ among its visitors, making it difficult to seclude into smaller gatherings with a private feeling. Even when some of its spaces permit sub-grouping, the lack of nooks and screens that would break the space into smaller areas keeps the building in a constant public-social state, emphasised by the use of absolute geometries with mono-material surfaces. It could be argued that the Zil club’s organisation fulfils the idea of creating a space for the proletariat: there are no individualities in the size or form of these spaces. The club is, therefore, designed for sharing.

Figure 15: Observatory of the Zil workers’ club. Courtesy of Zil Culture Centre, n.d.

THE POLITICS OF THE CLUB Society produces its buildings, and the buildings, although not producing society, help maintain many of its social forms.100

While in the discourse on modern architecture it is common to find architects affirming that their designs can define people’s lives, this study of the Zil 100 Anthony D. King, Buildings and Society: Essays on the Social Development of the Built Environment (London: Routledge, 2003), p. 1.



workers’ club supports Hall’s view that the process is not straightforward: architecture does not determine behaviour, but has the power to trigger conduct in a subtle way.101 There is potential to shape behaviour in the design of the environment, but it is only effective when it matches ‘the social structure and culture attributes of the people who use it’.102 It is the analysis of both architecture and its social context which makes it possible to reflect on social interactions in space and raise the consciousness of the effective role of design in forming social relations. As Humphrey states, the Soviet case is especially explicit in showing that ‘political ideology can take material form’ and how material objects and environments are not ‘divorced from social relations’, contributing to the conceptual world of the people they serve.103 The Zil club reaffirms the condition of the workers’ club as a civic building. There is some sense of pride and openness communicated within its design, which transmits the idea of a public building more so than a private one. It relates to the scale of a neighbourhood and its asymmetrical shape, spreading into the park and the street, and reinforces its condition as part of the urban fabric. Its scale mirrors its programme as a middleground between the Soviet state and citizen. Its spaces are big enough to transmit the idea of a collective, but they are not so vast as to lose the scale of the community which it serves: a medium scale between the monumental dimension of Russian governmental buildings and the reduced size of the houses available for the millions of peasants arriving at the city. The Zil club, as other Soviet clubs, comprises recognisable volumes that linger in one’s imagination, allowing people to foster a sense of identity and belonging related to a place. In a time of displacement during the wars and the Revolution, such symbols of community might have played a role in bringing together neighbourhoods and signalled spaces where it was possible to gather. Also, if they keep attracting people’s attention today, was it too different a century ago? It remains a question for further research—particularly for Russian speakers—to explore the experiences of the original users of these buildings as a way of understanding Soviet club architecture in more depth. Clubs did not live up to Trotsky or Bogdanov’s standards. They did not transform society or forge a proletarian culture that dissolved social classes. Yet, as argued by Hatch, the mere existence and vast number of clubs built across Russia prove that the plan to forge the new Soviet citizen was set in place and that there was an attempt to break with the Old World and instead create ‘a new and closer relationship between workers and state’.104 Maybe the rise of Stalin and his support for social realism over constructivism truncated the achievement of its revolutionary ideas, 101 Dan Lockton, ‘Architecture, Urbanism, Design and Behaviour: A Brief Review’, Architectures, 2011 <> [accessed 10 September 2014]. 102 Robert Gutman, People and Buildings (New York: Transaction Publishers, 2011), p. 170. 103 Caroline Humphrey, ‘Ideology in Infrastructure: Architecture and Soviet Imagination’, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 11 (2005), 39-58 (p. 39). 104 Hatch, ‘The Politics of Mass Culture’, p. 140.



Figure 16 (top): Library of the Zil workers’ club. Courtesy of Zil Culture Centre, n.d. Figure 17 (bottom): Library of the Zil workers’ club. Author, 2014.

although Paperny would argue otherwise.105 Maybe there was too much responsibility assigned to a single typology to convey revolutionary ideas. Or maybe the Soviet citizen just had different interests. As a club director from the Metal Workers Union points out, ‘Workers feel more at ease and free in taverns than in clubs […]. It is necessary to remember that workers are not only revolutionaries […] they are also people.’106 This essay is not an attempt to try to discover Soviet constructivist intentions through the designs of the clubs, but rather to explore the connections between architecture, ideology and civic life. The study of the Soviet workers’ club unpacks positive and negative accounts that go far beyond their aesthetic interest. Compared to other club typologies with grassroots or collective origins like the Victorian gentlemen’s club or the Argentinian neighbourhood club, the Soviet workers’ club can come across as an oppressive initiative by an authoritarian top-down state, in the context 105 Paperny, ‘Architecture in the Age of Stalin’ p. xviii. 106 Hatch, ‘The Politics of Mass Culture’, p. 145.



of which education could be considered indoctrination. On the other hand, in a world where citizenship is in flux and where disengagement is a problem for most governments, Soviet clubs were a state-led initiative to supply a nation with spaces for culture, education and socialisation open to everyone, many of which sustain their use until today (Figures 16 and 17). Above all, this article argues for the relevance of use and politics behind the buildings by analysing both their history and peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s experiences of being in them in order to appreciate the lessons that could be learned beyond mere aesthetics. The Soviet workersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; clubs remain in Russian cities today as passages to a revolutionary Soviet order, which, enlightened through archival material and history, can reveal the use of design to encourage a collective civic life.




Ozana Gherman


Figure 1: Site plan. Site intention: Deciphering the crossroads of the city of migrant nations and the complexities that exist within the urban realm.

Figure 2: Axonometric. Perspective of the 21st Century Monument Architecture method, applying the steps of immigration to public space. Arriving at acceptance through shared collective experience in a non-figurative monument.

Figure 3 (opposite): Perspective of public gathering space around the tidal pool and land wall. Approach from land: The water is the counter to the monument. It is a fluid and changing state, moving with the flow of the people.




How can architecture, whose role was to generate the appearance of stability and identity of place by commemorating the past and something greater— monuments—adapt to today’s culture of disappearance (border migration, migration, immigration, refugee crisis, globalization)? Cultures were tied by borders, both physical and immaterial cultural borders. Monument architecture has been a way for cultures to mark their existence in the world and in the past generated order in both time and place. This project looks at monument architecture—and what it means today to the migrant condition that is impacting cultural identity at a global scale.



The Influence of Flux on Auto-construction in the Jungle of Calais Eefje Hendriks, Hanne Vrebos and Joop de Zwart

This article unveils examples of auto-construction amidst the chaotic conditions of the Calais Jungle. It explains how informal initiatives have resulted in a city-resembling complex structure with architectural and urban qualities. The relationship between continuously changing conditions and architectural outcomes is described and reflected upon. INTRODUCTION

The single-story view in the media framed the Jungle of Calais as a threat to society by emphasising the inhumane and lawless conditions of the camp. The camp was called the ‘Jungle’ because it symbolised disorder and dispossession, the term referring to nature or an environment that is not understood and therefore feared: ‘On the territory of this nation, the laws of the jungle cannot endure.’1 Yet, a more nuanced story can be told, looking beyond popular frames. Just as is the case in a natural jungle, the so-called disorder in the Calais Jungle holds a complex order within it. This article unveils examples of auto-construction amidst, and in spite of, undoubtedly harsh and chaotic conditions. It explains how informal 1 Michael Boyle, ‘Shelter provision and state sovereignty in Calais?’, Forced Migration Review Shelter in displacement FMR, 55 (2017), 30-32.


initiatives of the camp dwellers and legal alternatives have resulted in a cityresembling structure with a high complexity of functions and relationships with architectural and urban qualities. The enabling process of spatial development of neighbourhoods, each with their shelter typologies and governing strategies, is described. To do so, this article analyses the constant flux that drove the formation of the architectural creation process within these camps and the dynamics behind them. This investigation is based on the hypothesis that changing conditions in and around the camp triggered the formation of communities as well as urban and architectural spatial expressions. In this article, the relationship between these changing conditions and the architectural outcome is described and reflected upon. As a result of this analysis, the extent to which the spatial outcome is desirable and what lessons it offers is debated. The article aims to contribute to the debate between humanitarian agencies, politicians and policy-makers, and provide arguments to consider shelter approaches that give space to initiatives of camp inhabitants. THE INFLUENCE OF FLUX

One of the first to recognise the values of ‘auto-construction’ , the process in which people construct or manage the construction of their own house, was John Turner.2 In Housing by People, he suggested that people invest in their housing situation when there is a notion of permanency, i.e. when residents hold a future vision to remain in a place, often linked to tenure. Based on the work of Turner, it then would seem counterintuitive for migrants in Calais to invest in a temporary shelter (assuming that they do not intend to stay in Calais). This contradicts with the semi-permanent constructions that have emerged. Yet Turner also considered housing as a process. In this light permanency may no longer seen as the only sustainable solution for architecture and urbanism. 3 Architectural design no longer has to provide a fixed-end configuration, but instead allows for change and evolution.4 Recent research by Mehrotra, Vera and Mayoral has focussed on ephemeral cities and architecture, varying from military camps and music festivals to religious events, and considered the surplus value of studying ephemeral urbanism in relation to regular urbanism practices.5 Mehrotra claims that an understanding of these dynamics offers the arguments to negotiate more meaningful, productive and inclusive urban expressions more resilient to emergencies and shocks.6 He distinguishes the static city, which 2 John F. C. Turner, Housing by the People. Towards autonomy in the build environment (London: Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd, 1976). 3 John F.C. Turner, ‘Housing as a Verb’, in Freedom to Build, dweller control of the housing process, ed. by John F.C. Turner and Robert Fichter (New York: Macmillan, 1972), p.148-75.< FreedomtoBuildCh7.pdf> [accessed 31 June 2015] 4 Alejandro Aravena, Elemental : manual de vivienda incremental y diseño participativo = incremental housing and participatory design manual (Santiago: Hatja Cantz, 2002). 5 Rahul Mehrotra, Felipe Vera and José Mayoral, Ephemeral Urbanism: Does Permanence Matter? (LISt Lab, 2017) 6 Mehrotra, Vera, and Mayoral, Ephemeral Urbanism.



includes permanent architecture and infrastructure, from the informal and fast changing kinetic city, which is fluid and challenges permanence.7 The kinetic city consists not of architecture but of spaces that are functional, hold value and support lives.8 His work has shown that inhabitants deal with the constant flux in the city by aspiring to a certain permanency.9 The camp of Calais could be considered an example of such a kinetic city, clearly distinct from the static city and its rigid systems and regulations. The camp was subject to a continuous flux that led to spatial development with a high rate of auto-construction. While Turner connects auto-construction and the growth of cities to permanency, Mehrotra acknowledges flux as a driving force behind spatial changes in development.10 The research of Mehrotra, together with the earlier reflections of Turner on auto-construction, raises the question: What changing conditions have led to the spatial expressions in the Jungle? Notwithstanding the temporary character of the Calais camp, over a short period of time it developed into a kinetic city next to a static city. To some degree the Jungle was remarkably auto-regulated, despite a consistent presence of ‘external’ police control at the borders of the camp and the static city.11 How have changing conditions in and around the camp contributed to its spatial development? To answer this question, the spatial development of the camp will be explained based on the changing conditions within the camp. In this article we consider the influence of: (1) migration routes, (2) evictions, (3) demographic changes, (4) socio-economic opportunities, (5) informal shelter assistance, and (6) formal shelter assistance. METHODOLOGY

The analysis in this article is based upon participatory research, semistructured interviews, observation, and community mapping. Data collection took place over a period of fifteen weeks between March and October 2016 and in November 2017. In numerous visits, extensive and repeated walks throughout different neighbourhoods were conducted at different times of the day. The observations studied the interaction between the constant flux in the camp and the spatial configurations and livings conditions of the residents. Moreover, observations focused on how residents intervened in their spatial environment to adapt space to their needs. 7 Mehrotra, Vera, and Mayoral, Ephemeral Urbanism. 8 Rahul Mehrotra, ‘Mumbai: planning challenges for the Compact City’, in Conference proceedings of the Green Workshop: Compact city – Sustainable or just sustaining economic law? (Mumbai: LafargeHolcimFoundation, 2013). pp. 81-92 <https:// F13_Green_03_Mumbai_Planning_Challenges_for_the_Compact_City.pdf> [accessed 28 March 2018] 9 Rahul Mehrotra, Ephemeral Urbanism - Lecture by Rahul Mehrotra, Architeckturmuseum der TUM (2017) < watch?v=xD1shtVEjaQ> [accessed 20 March 2018] 10 Mehrotra, Vera, and Mayoral, Ephemeral Urbanism. 11 Ishita Singh and others, Humans of Calais: Migration from the Perspective of Migrants (London: KCL Migration Research Group, 2016) < sspp/departments/warstudies/research/groups/mrg/Humans-of-Calais-report.pdf> [accessed 19 December 2017]



The observations are supported with fifteen semi-structured interviews.12 The interviews were held with Iraqi, Sudanese, SouthSudanese, Afghan, Ethiopian, Iranian and Somali residents. Residents were selected to cover a variety of shelter options and neighbourhoods. In addition, actors involved in aid organisations or camp facilities have been interviewed. Often the semi-structured interviews were conducted in the course of multiple meetings. THE INFLUENCE OF MIGRATION ROUTES

The continuous arrival and departure of migrants passing through Calais has contributed to the formation of the camp. Although migrant camps existed in and around Calais from 1999 onward, it was not until 2015 that the recent Jungle was established.13 Until then, the number of migrants in the city was low, and they resided in used abandoned buildings within the town, small squatted camps or the temporary Red Cross reception centre.14 Migrants had a certain connection with the city and its inhabitants. The static city tolerated the development of this small-scale kinetic city within its boundaries.15 In 2015, when the number of migrants increased, migrants were pushed out of the city by the police and authorities. A new camp formed next to the recently established day reception centre ‘Jules Ferry’. The Jungle was established on an empty plot five kilometres northwest of the city centre, squeezed between the North Sea, the N216 highway, and an industrial and residential zone. The highway next to the camp gave direct access to the ferry port to the United Kingdom, a mere two hours away. However, vehicles, especially trucks which most refugees used as hiding spots, were actively stopped and controlled at the border. Migrants explained that they used Calais as a central place from where to disperse to attempt to cross. During night-time observations, these movements became clear. From the perspective of border control, the growth of the camp was inevitable on this strategic spot. The temporality of the camp is characterised by the search for possibilities and methods to travel to the UK. The camp emerged with an 12 Ben Baarda and others, Basisboek methoden en technieken : kwantitatief praktijkgericht onderzoek op wetenschappelijke basis [Book for methods and techniques: quantitative applied research on a scientific basis] (Groningen: Wolters Noordhoff, 2017) 6th edn. 13 Jean Aribaud and others, Monsieur le ministre de l’intérieur sur la situation des migrants dans le Calaisis. Le pas d’après (Paris : Ministry of interior, 2015). 14 Eugénie Bastié, ‘L’afflux de migrants à Calais: retour sur 15 ans d’impuissance publique’, Le Figaro, 4 September 2014 <> [accessed 20 March 2018] 15 See testimony of a police agent: ‘[...]A lot of things were tolerated before. They threw parties and the neighbours were invited. Sometimes; we would be called to cool things down after too much alcohol. But everybody knew they had a horrendous past... I’m not saying there weren’t any problems with rowdy people, fights or brushes with activists: we knew the dilapidated buildings in which they were squatting. They found places to crash, like the homeless do. The locals ended up talking with some of them, and often gave them stuff. Then suddenly, one day, they were gone. Now, there are no more connections. They are way over there. It’s no longer the people from Calais who take care of them.’ As quoted in Perou-Paris, ‘Urban Renewal Zones’, Calaismag: Edition Spéciale, April 2016: 12.



incredible speed,16 reaching a number of 9,000 migrants in October 2016.17 THE INFLUENCE OF EVICTIONS

A series of evictions by legal authorities have shown to impact the spatial development of the camp and the shelter typologies. A former summer camp in between World War II bunkers was transformed into the Jules Ferry reception centre with day services like showers and food distribution for camp residents, and accommodation for women and children in a separate space with controlled access, to ensure protection for this vulnerable group. The empty plot next to the centre, a former landfill and a zone at environmental risk,18 became a ‘tolerated zone’ were a camp was allowed to develop.19 On the plot, the camp emerged spontaneously, with self-build shelters, or as Katz describes, freely fabricated shelters.20 Little by little, prefabricated shelters, donated tents and caravans contributed to the growth of the camp.21 The available space to construct was constantly changing and this influenced movement within the camp. From the beginning of 2015, this freely fabricated camp developed around a network of streets with shops, restaurants, mosques and churches.22 Many of these had been partly or fully initiated and controlled by camp residents for camp residents.23 At that same time, severe security measures were put in place around the tunnel, ferry infrastructure and main roads, resulting in significant police presence.24 Due to political pressure around the informal development and living conditions in the camp, evictions took place in March 2016 and in October 2016.25 The police routinely used excessive force on both adults and children; Human Rights Watch described the situation as ‘living in

16 Simon Scarr and Christian Inton, ‘Hoe de jungle van Calais als een paddenstoel uit de grond schoot’, De Standaard, 7 September 2016 < dmf20160907_02457627> 17 Le Figaro, ‘Jungle de Calais, 9000 migrants recensés’,, 12 August 2016. <> [accessed 20 March 2018] 18 Le Monde ‘La « jungle » de Calais est majoritairement située en zone Seveso’, Le Monde, 19 October 2015, < la-jungle-de-calais-est-majoritairement-situee-en-zone-seveso_4792559_3224.html> [accessed 22 March 2018] 19 Angelique Chrisafis, ‘At night it’s like a horror movie’ – inside Calais’s official shanty town’, The Guardian, 6 April 2015, < apr/06/at-night-its-like-a-horror-movie-inside-calaiss-official-shanty-town> [accessed 19 August 2017] 20 Irit Katz, ‘Pre-fabricated or freely fabricated?’, Forced Migration Review Shelter in displacement FMR, 55 (2017), 17-19 < FMRdownloads/en/shelter/katz.pdf> [accessed 10 March 2018] 21 Idib. 22 Chrisafis, ‘At night it’s like a horror movie’. 23 Singh and others, Humans of Calais: Migration from the Perspective of Migrants. 24 BBC, ‘Calais migrants: How is the UK-France border policed?’, 3 March 2016 <> [accessed 22 December 2017] 25 Le Monde, ‘Calais: plus de 7 000 migrants ont été pris en charge lors du démantèlement de la « jungle »’, Le, 4 November 2016 <http://www.lemonde. fr/immigration-et-diversite/article/2016/11/04/calais-plus-de-7-000-migrantsont-ete-pris-en-charge-lors-du-demantelement-de-la-jungle_5025664_1654200. html#Gf3E3yHm8zLw7uyL.99> [accessed 22 March 2018]





hell’.26 The ongoing threat of eviction by the police gave rise to a deep sense of temporality to its dwellers. Sudanese interviewees explained that they felt insecure about their short-term and long-term future, also symbolised in the word Inshallah—if Allah wills it—as the standard departure greeting. Two migrants interviewed mentioned they were aware of the evictions, but they heard so many different stories that they did not know what to believe and thus ignored the rumours. Within the Calais Jungle many signs of chaos could be recognised: high security measures, muddy streets, garbage laying around, and the presence of passeurs who operated outside of the law to facilitate the passage of the camp’s residents to the United Kingdom. Key stakeholders informed us that some migrants decided, just before the eviction in March 2016, to deconstruct or move their shelters to the northern side, keeping control over their shelters. After the clearance and evictions of the southern part of the Jungle in March 2016, half of the informal camp was destroyed, leading to a significantly higher density and strain on the population and aid organisations in the remaining area. While the idea was to disperse migrants in France, most moved into the remaining part of the Jungle.27 The lack of space, alongside the uncertainty about the presence and the future, led to increased tension among residents of the camp.28 In response, local authorities and police radically increased spatial expressions of control.29 This was visible during our observations in the ostentation of security around the port and highways. From March 2016, the camp had three areas with different characteristics: (1) The Jungle itself with various informal neighbourhoods, (2) the formal container camp and (3) the formal women and children’s camp. The contrast between the containers and informal camp is shown in Figure 1. In the informal part of the camp, the urban structure was densified, and creative solutions were found to the threat of new evictions. Shelters were constructed in a way that was easy to dismantle and transport to a new location, as was seen during the evictions in March 2016.30 The inhabitants found themselves in survival mode, ready to take action when needed. During the last major eviction of the informal part, in October 2016, makeshift shelters were burned down. In interviews prior to this eviction, migrants indicated that they preferred to maintain control over their shelters to having them destroyed by the police.31 The remaining northern part of the informal camp was eventually

Figure 1 (opposite): Map of the formal and informal parts of the migrant camp in Calais in August 2016, based on Openstreetmap and the maps in the camp created by L’Auberge des Migrants. Eefje Hendriks, 2018.

26 Presstv, ‘French police routinely use excessive force against refugees in Calais: HRW’, Presstv, 26 July 2016 <> [accessed 19 August 2017] 27 Le Monde, ‘Calais : le démantèlement de la zone sud de la « jungle » est terminé’, Le, 16 March 2016 < article/2016/03/16/calais-le-demantelement-de-la-zone-sud-de-la-jungle-esttermine_4884090_1654200.html> [accessed 22 March 2018] 28 Le Monde, ‘Calais : le démantèlement de la zone sud de la « jungle » est terminé’. 29 BBC, ‘Calais migrants: How is the UK-France border policed?’ 30 Perou-Paris, ‘Urban Renewal Zones’, pp. 2-3. 31 Kelly Lynn Lunde and Samuel Nacar, ‘French government finally moves to clear camp and declares operation a success, despite many refugees returning.’, Aljazeera, 27 October 2016. <> [accessed 19 August 2017]



evicted and destroyed in October 2016 with the plan to relocate all remaining migrants to different reception centres in France in order to apply for asylum. The container camp was taken away in February 2017, four months later.32 Our last visit, in November 2017, showed that migrants were living hidden in the forest around Calais with limited and controlled aid; violent police evictions had hindered the development of a new camp.33 These evictions have shown that informal housing has not decreased, even with formal alternatives provided. THE INFLUENCE OF DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGES

The urban structure of the Jungle was directly influenced by necessities of the population, with ‘living spaces’ formally acknowledged in court: [The Jungle of Calais] is characterised by the presence, in essence, of both dense and diffuse housing made up of precarious shelters and, moreover, of collective spaces whose purpose is to provide services of a social, cultural, medical or legal nature. Whereas these places have been carefully arranged, and that they correspond, by their nature and their functioning to a real need to the exiled (and that they therefore prove themselves to be) ‘living spaces’.34

Migrants were leaving and arriving at the camp on a daily basis. To obtain a spot in an (abandoned) shelter, one’s social network was crucial. Many interviewees explained they acquired their shelter through friends. The place of their shelter within the camp depended on ethnicity, status within the community and the availability of land or abandoned shelters. Social networks were spatially established though the formation of compounds, with multiple shelters sharing a common courtyard and facilities. One door or gate would make these compounds informal gated communities, only allowing familiar faces access and thereby providing a certain level of protection for inhabitants. As one resident described: By living close to my community, we can help and protect each other. We cook and eat together and we talk a lot. Sometimes I forget we are in the Jungle. At night I would not go to some parts of the Jungle, but in the compound I feel safe. My wife is afraid to go to the washrooms, especially at night, as they are far.35

People created a temporary roof over their head to respond to the physical 32 Laura Lévy, ‘Calais: de démontage des conteneurs qui abritaient des migrants près de la “Jungle”’, France3Info, 7 February 2017, < hauts-de-france/nord-pas-calais/pas-calais/calais/calais-demontage-conteneurs-quiabritaient-migrants-pres-jungle-1192685.html>[accessed 24 March 2018] 33 Mark Townsend, ‘French police ‘use beating, tear gas and confiscation’ against Calais refugees’, The Guardian, 29 October 2017, < world/2017/oct/29/calais-child-refugees-police-beatings-harassment> [accessed 4 April 2018] 34 Quemener, ‘Ordonnance du 25 février 2016,’ Tribunal Administratif de Lille numéro 1601386. Trans. and interpretation in Perou-Paris, ‘Urban Renewal Zones’, p. 2. 35 Interview Somali resident Calais Jungle by author, August 2016.



Figure 2 (top): A compound around a communal courtyard. Hanne Vrebos, 2016. Figure 3 (bottom): Shelters made within abandoned structures with address codes. Hanne Vrebos, 2016.

need for shelter. It was a place to receive guests as well as to be protected from the harsh climate conditions in the area of Calais. A young man staying in a camping tent explained that ‘this was the only place left to stay in when I arrived, all the good spots were taken’. Another resident noted that he ‘could move in with a friend after his housemate left as his asylum claim was approved’. A shelter is also a place of privacy, safety and belonging. A Sudanese migrant indicated that his shelter was where he could receive guests, ‘which made him feel more than just a refugee’. Another Sudanese interviewee did not want to show us his shelter, as he felt embarrassed ‘since he did not succeed to acquire a better shelter that is suitable to invite guests’. Our empirical observations and walks with inhabitants have made it clear that parts of the Jungle were divided into neighbourhoods, largely based on nationalities. Neighbourhoods in the camp showed different levels of development and some had a thoughtful, although formally unplanned, site layout, and gave place to economic and social interaction. Shelters faced rudimentary roads, each other, or semi-private spaces in organised community compounds as presented in Figure 2. This layout was based on traditional settlement arrangements, and introduced a certain level of privacy and safety. Some order was created by demarcated and named streets, wherein each shelter was allocated a unique address code visible in Figure 3.36 36 Boyle, ‘Shelter provision and state sovereignty in Calais?’, pp. 30-32.



In response to the felt need for a place of comfort and belonging, residents of the Jungle created complex shelter configurations and neighbourhoods based on cultural roots. The various origins found expression in the architecture of houses, community spaces, and houses of worship, shops and restaurants. Representations of different continents were only steps away from one another. Sudanese compounds grouped shelters around communal cooking and eating spaces. These compounds sometimes even included small community gardens. Iranian families lived in a separate area that consisted of donated caravans that were grouped together around a semi-private space with a playground and school. The Afghan community lived more individually and developed a commercial strip. As a last example, the shelters of the Eritrean community were a remarkable example of the expression of cultural identity, with structures that resembled the typical modernist architecture of Asmara, as can be seen in Figure 4. The majority of camp residents spoke about a balance of social order and multicultural coexistence, despite the presence of certain difficulties between different ethnic groups.37 One resident explained: ‘We live next to each other without many problems, and we are here for the same reasons. We play football together.’38 THE INFLUENCE OF SOCIO-ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES

The variance in socio-economic opportunities in the Jungle impacted its spatial development and shelter conditions. Migrants stayed in the camp due to a lack of alternative opportunities, or because they used this context of chaos to create opportunities. For some of the residents of the camp, the chaos formed the economic opportunity to open a restaurant, barber shop or small business, to save the necessary money to pay for the crossing, to pay for daily expenses in the camp and to create a certain level of normality.39 These economic fluxes developed many of the community services, like schools and churches. While the poorest among the residents depended on the distribution points for dried or prepared food run by charities within the camp or the Jules Ferry centre, residents with more financial means could make use of the small stores or restaurants that were set up by residents in the camp. A ‘main street’ developed within the camp, where significant investments were made to construct stores and restaurants to accommodate camp residents, mostly by Afghan entrepreneurs, as shown in Figure 5. One of the restaurant owners proudly showed us the remarkable terrace he constructed at the back of his restaurant, only weeks before the final eviction. In the evening, this commercial heart transformed into a bazaar when a more kinetic street market took over. An interview with a resident, who became the ‘guardian of Jungle Books’, indicated that in some cases, those migrants with strong language and social skills became involved in running or protecting community facilities such as the library or school, and through this work, acquired shelter. 37 Singh and others, Humans of Calais: Migration from the Perspective of Migrants. 38 Interview Sudan resident Calais Jungle by author, August 2016. 39 Singh and others, Humans of Calais: Migration from the Perspective of Migrants.



Figure 4 (top): Shelters from Eritrean migrants inspired by the typical modernist architecture of Asmara. Hanne Vrebos, 2016. Figure 5 (bottom): The main street of the camp on a rainy day. Hanne Vrebos, 2016.

The dedication and strong network in the Jungle of this resident received recognition by the University of Lille (after the evictions), where he was accepted as a student together with fifty others. Communal responsibility, and the resulting social network and accompanying opportunities, afforded this resident emancipatory decisions beyond those related to housing. The flux of information also played an important role in the development of the Jungle. Social media, personal networks, volunteers and the presence of passeurs, those who organised the crossings, played an important role in this information-sharing.40 These information flows were important for residents to stay in touch with their home base and family, to find out about the whereabouts, arrivals and departures of relatives and friends and to plan their own trips. Collective spaces and ‘info’ points provided by NGOs for social, cultural, medical or legal services became strategic locations. The charity-run info bus that provided Wi-Fi attracted a significant crowd each time it arrived to the camp; the presence of these services prompted the settlement to grow and develop. THE INFLUENCE OF INFORMAL SHELTER ASSISTANCE

The informal section was the largest part of the migrant camp in Calais. Here different grassroots humanitarian organisations and volunteers provided assistance in the form of materials, labour or prefabricated shelters. However, this was not at a scale that all migrants could benefit from, which 40 Stephen Shankland, ’Refugees cling to Wi-Fi in the Jungle of Calais’, CNet, 24 October 2016, <> [accessed 27 December 2017]



Figure 6: Overview of the variety of shelter material distributed. Hanne Vrebos, 2016.

led to different spatial outcomes and various levels of hardship. Figure 6 gives insight into the great variety being distributed. When working with an aid organisation, we learned that the prohibition on construction materials on site in the summer of 2016 impeded development. In the Jungle, shelter construction depended on individual construction skills, improvisation skills and available materials that camp residents could gather themselves, or collect via distributions. Camping tents were not suitable for long-term use nor to the wet, windy and cold conditions of the site. Freely fabricated shelters had the advantage that they could be upgraded and adapted to changing conditions, by adding layers to keep the heat in or the rain out, as shown in Figure 7. Like in a kinetic city, the ephemeral nature of the shelters strove for functionality and allowed solutions to be fine-tuned through iterations over time. This could be seen in the improvement of the shelters and facilities, and the adaptation of the spatial layout in the camp. More static shelter solutions, such as the containers or humanitarian tents, did not allow for these adaptations. Over time the structures also became more carefully crafted. While remaining simple, imaginative solutions for recurring issues were introduced, such as the use of bottle-caps to prevent nails from pulling through tarp. Other functional details were added to the structures in this ongoing process of improvement to adapt to changing needs, such as drainage, urban gardens, clothes-hangers, floors and shoe storage in front of the shelters.41 This ongoing process is typical for the kinetic city and is much harder in a static city. On a refugee’s journey through Europe and during the waiting process at Calais, it is likely that one lacks any sense of control. Appropriating space and constructing a house is expected to stimulate feelings of competence.42 41 Oliver Wainwright, ‘We built this city: how the refugees of Calais became the camp’s architects’, The Guardian, 3 June 2016, < artanddesign/2016/jun/08/refugees-calais-jungle-camp-architecture-festivalbarbican> [accessed 28 December 2017] 42 Karin Peters, Monika Stodolska and Anna Horolets, ‘The role of natural environments in developing a sense of belonging: a comparative study of immigrants in the U.S., Poland, the Netherlands and Germany’, Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 17 (2016) 63-70.



Figure 7: Self-built housing made out of scrap material. Hanne Vrebos, 2016.

Therefore, a physiological motivator, also found by Turner in The Freedom to Build,43 was the need to feel competent and to take control of oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own environments instead of passively waiting: I have built my shelter within this compound as this was all I could do now. In the Jungle I am always waiting, in line for socks, for food distribution or to get on a truck to the UK, but at least this is my place where I can do what I want.44 THE INFLUENCE OF FORMAL SHELTER ASSISTANCE

As mentioned earlier, two official parts of the camp were set up: the women and childrenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s camp with 400 places and the container camp with 1500 beds.45 The facilities offered in the Jules Ferry centre were located outside of the camp and access to this centre was controlled. This meant that camp residents had to walk relatively far to access services such as showers, clean toilets and food distribution, resulting in a constant flow between the shelters and Jules Ferry and allowing easier control. The container camp was planned according to international standards and managed on behalf of the French government with a great level of security. The highly organised area had controlled communal facilities, but did not offer opportunities for small businesses or facilities to cook. These containers provided a certain level of comfort for their inhabitants, with heated bedrooms shared by twelve people, proper sanitation units, water provision and a place to lock personal belongings; these conditions are in sharp contrast with the living conditions and the community presence in the informal part of the camp, as seen in Figure 8. One resident explains the social trade-offs for residing in the container camp: It was warm here during the night, but we are many people in one room. I cannot bring in my friends here. We have a meeting room but you cannot do what you want, they look at you. During the day I 43 Turner and Fichter, Freedom to Build. 44 Interview Somali migrant living in shared compound shelter by author, July 2016. 45 Singh and others, Humans of Calais: Migration from the Perspective of Migrants.



Figure 8: The contrast between order and disorder shown in temporary shelter solutions. Hanne Vrebos, 2016.

go back to my friends in the Jungle. There we can cook together and talk. We can leave whenever we want, we have a code and they scan our hand to come in.46

The informal part of the camp illustrated a continuous response by the migrants to the constant state of flux, which was made impossible in the formal part of the camp. Individuals or groups of women, children and other vulnerable ethnic or religious groups chose to stay in the formal area because of the provision of safety and protection from other camp inhabitants and improved living conditions. However, in return, the residents of the containers suffered a significant loss of control. Entrance to the fenced-off container area was provided with a biometric hand scan and a personal code.47 Most migrants intended to stay only temporarily in Calais and start a new life outside the camp. The lack of trust in the French government— especially after earlier evictions—made migrants fear that their personal data might be used against them during asylum applications, in light of the Dublin Regulation.48 The use of this personal information was questioned by both migrants and volunteers.49 An Afghan interviewee in the informal camp indicated that he feared that his options to go to the UK would be reduced if they took shelter in the container camp. Our interviews with camp residents demonstrated that autonomy was a main psychological driver to remain in the informal part of the camp. In both of these gated areas inhabitants complained that they were not allowed to receive non-resident guests or cook for themselves and thus solely depended on food distributions. For some, their decision to stay in 46 Interview of Afghan migrant living in container camp by author, September 2016. 47 Ibid. 48 The Dublin Regulation (Regulation No. 604/2013; sometimes called the Dublin III Regulation; previously the Dublin II Regulation and Dublin Convention) is the cornerstone of the Dublin System, which aims to ‘determine rapidly the Member State responsible [for an asylum claim]’ and provides for the transfer of an asylum seeker to that Member State. Usually, the responsible Member State will be the state through which the asylum seeker first entered the EU. -Wikipedia contributors, ‘Dublin Regulation’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 22 November 2017, <https://> [accessed 26 December 2017]. 49 Singh and others, Humans of Calais: Migration from the Perspective of Migrants.



the container camp related to their choice to try and stay in France.50 Nico Stevens, coordinator of the container camp, explained the psychological challenges of the container camp: ‘They’re so displaced already and it’s important psychologically to have their own space. So moving into a container that houses from twelve to fourteen people is very unsettling.’51 CONCLUSION

This empirical study recognises a continuous migration flux in the camp of Calais, where actors continuously redefine spatial boundaries. The constant arrival and departure of inhabitants changes social networks and changes the inhabitants’ motivations to stay or leave. In Calais this has been extreme, with spatial segregation from the city increasing while migrants continued to use some of the facilities in the city for needs that could not be met in the camp. Spatial opportunities could change on a daily basis under the influence of different factors, including the supply and demand for land, residents leaving, evictions, donations of materials, and cost of materials. Additionally, people’s ability to construct and invest in the housing depended on changing financial resources. In this analysis examples have been described of the continuous instability that have influenced the spatial development of the camp. The way in which continuous flux in an ephemeral city catalyses spatial development has earlier been described by Mehrotra.52 When the Jungle emerged, it started as a free land, supposedly not bound by French regulations and rules. Even undocumented migrants, or those with no prospects of receiving legal asylum in Europe, had the possibility to settle and start small businesses within the camp. The unregulated initiatives of migrants in Calais contributed to the formation of a city-resembling structure with a high complexity. From an initially unorganised situation, orderly neighbourhoods with roads and small businesses and other facilities were created, which proved impossible in the formal parts of the camp. The informal area showcased a certain architectural and urban quality,53 which translated into a feeling of belonging,54 which was not found in the formal camps. Reductive characterisations are often used for migrants or refugees, as well as for their circumstances in general. The camp of Calais has shown clearly that migrants are not all the same and do not want identical settlement morphologies and housing typologies. Reductionist attitudes could hinder further exploration and investigation into the particularities involved in different situations. Although improvised camps may not be preferred solutions by policy makers, their existence should not be ignored. Statistics state that refugees and internally displaced persons are at an all-time high, and state aid providers cannot provide shelter assistance at 50 The prefect of the Pas-de-Calais region defined it as a ‘a stop-off point leading to integration’ into the French society, as quoted in Singh and others, Humans of Calais: Migration from the Perspective of Migrants, p. 13. 51 Singh and others, Humans of Calais: Migration from the Perspective of Migrants. 52 Mehrotra, Vera, and Mayoral, Ephemeral Urbanism. 53 Wainwright, ‘We built this city’. 54 Singh and others, Humans of Calais: Migration from the Perspective of Migrants.



that scale. 55 Therefore, an understanding of the factors that drive autoconstruction can allow aid to scale up and improve the quality, effectiveness and appropriateness of shelter and settlement support. This paper has analysed examples of how people were able to create liveable conditions within the informal camp near Calais, from which we should learn. Recognising the spatial qualities of the informal neighbourhoods in Calais and comparing them with the government policies of the formal camp, one can question which shelter strategies have been most desirable. The informal camp contained many more facilities and, like in cities, people had choices to make. Admirable efforts have been made by people in situations of utter deprivation. The residents, through the creation of the informal shelters, strove to live in dignified, humane conditions, and arguably were successful, but the broader circumstances are without a doubt insufficient. Many of the living conditions were far below shelter standards, and involved, among other factors, overcrowding, insufficient protection against the cold, and lack of water, sanitation and safety. The formal camp responded to these conditions but in so doing took away many personal rights; some people chose their freedom even if it meant living in the dire conditions of the informal camp. A desire to control the entirety of camp facilities may well reduce the freedom of residents and their motivation to act for themselves. More research into the relationship between facilities offered and the presence or absence of residents’ initiatives may help to improve the quality of aid strategies. When comparing the Jungle of Calais with formalised camps, the former illustrates the potential of resident initiatives. The realisation of auto-construction has shown that refugees are able to create, with minimal resources, a neighbourhood that resembles home and provides them with a social network, which is crucial for mental recovery.56 Providing the materials for shelter, instead of the completed built object, gives an opportunity to camp residents to create spatial quality. In that light, this article argues against the treatment of all camps according to the same, singular template. NGOs and governments often make decisions at an abstract level, which might cause discrepancies between the measures taken and the needs of the people involved. Rather, case-specific situations should be investigated, and it is upon these investigations that decisions should be made on the type of shelter strategy best for camp inhabitants. In itself, the freedom that the informal camp offers to its inhabitants and its city-like structure with all its facilities and opportunities is desirable for many refugee camps around the world. NGO and government officials confronted with improvised camps are urged to take into account the internal dynamics of camps. Measures taken by these authorities normally affect the level of the opportunities. Interventions can result in a mismatch between intentions and spatial or social needs of camp residents. 55 UNHCR ‘Statistical Yearbook, UNHCR, 19 June 2017, < figures-at-a-glance.html> [Accessed: 27 December 2017] 56 Richard A. Bryant, ‘Social attachments and traumatic stress’, European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 7:1 (2016), 1-7. <>




Urban-Think Tank/ A. Brillembourg & H. Klumpner


Figure 1: Insitu development. Prototypes 2.2 (completed 2015), U-TT ETHZ. Jan Ras, 2016.

Figure 2: Indoor-outdoor living spaces. Prototypes 3.0 (under construction), U-TT ETHZ. Dave Southwood, 2018.

Figure 3: Shared courtyards facing the main street. Prototypes 3.0 (under construction), U-TT ETHZ. Dave Southwood, 2018.

Figure 4 (opposite): BT North phase 1.1 & 1.2, ground floor plan showing the 6 different unit sizes. Original at 1:200. U-TT ETHZ, 2017.

































Empower aims to reshape the approach to housing in South Africa by offering an innovative and inclusive land readjustment methodology, a range of affordable core-and-shell housing typologies, formalised pathways for individual land title, and flexible spaces for new economic and social possibilities.



Listed Buildings in Decay: The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of Athensâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Urban Heritage Christos-Georgios Kritikos

This article interprets the conditions which have led to a vast number of listed buildings decaying in Athens. It presents a chronological review of the way urban conservation ideals were incorporated on institutional and social levels. Researching new approaches to a more socio-centric urban heritage, the example of 82 Acharnon Street is considered in detail. A new building typology has emerged in the capital of Greece. These â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;listed buildings in decayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; are in no condition to host activities, cannot be torn down due to urban conservation regulations, and cannot be restored due to the lack of public or private funding, yet, they are supposed to function as pieces of heritage in the urban fabric (Figure 1). Among the urban crises that have been unfolding in the city of Athens during the past ten years, listed buildings in decay may have caused the current mobilisation of individuals to re-appreciate listed buildings on a personal level and even actively demand their protection. However, these buildings are not products of the economic crisis but are the result of a much longer process taking place in the Athenian urban fabric. Exploring the chronology and context in which the urban conservation framework


took shape might reveal that heritage policies have almost always been problematic in Athens, mainly due to the lack of expected social engagement that would support the organic development of a conservation movement. Thus, listed buildings in decay may reflect the unsuccessful combination of an institutional framework that has ensured their preservation with the absence of an unquestionable social demand. This paper first interprets the conditions which have led to this emerging subject of listed buildings in decay. A chronological review of the way urban conservation ideals were incorporated on institutional and social levels during and after the Reconstruction Era of Athens is offered and illuminates the creation of a ‘heritage dipole’ during the 1980s. Second, in search of a different way of viewing listed buildings in decay, the contemporary role of heritage fabric in Athens will be examined. I then explore the possibility of these buildings to serve as a thinking ground for new approaches to a more socio-centric and flexible urban heritage, considering the example of a listed building with an irregular history, No. 82 Acharnon Street. Through this example, I question the efficiency of Athens’ urban conservation standard

Figure 1: Abandoned listed building in Metaxourgio, Athens. Author, 2018.



of top-down approaches and, finally, propose a new way of viewing listed buildings in decay. It is hoped that that this ‘new view’ may begin to bridge the ideological gaps that are apparent on matters of heritage in Athens. THE DEVELOPMENT OF A ‘HERITAGE DIPOLE’ IN ATHENS

The year 1950 proved to be a pivotal time for the future of listed buildings in Athens, Greece. A new legislation act (No. 1469) expanded the eligibility of buildings to be formally listed. Prior to the act, only those buildings erected before the ethnogenesis of the Greek nation in 1830 were considered for listing. The passing of this legislation paved the way for the preservation of more recently erected buildings, relevant to social groups as a part of their remembrance of historic times or cultural heritage, and led to the creation of the new category: ‘recent monuments’. However, actual listings of buildings belonging to that category were almost non-existent until 1979, when the number of ‘recent monuments’ abruptly began to rise. Alongside the large-scale landmarks built in the Otto era (1832-1862), the category started including numerous common houses as well. Over 2000 buildings that had been erected after 1830 were listed between 1979 and 1993, defining the future of the Athenian architectural heritage landscape.1 Given the fact that a large percentage of these listed buildings are today not ‘properly’ preserved or promoted as examples of cultural heritage, it is interesting to consider whether the tendency to preserve these relatively recently constructed pieces of the built environment was a desire that emerged effortlessly out of a particular regional and chronological context, or whether it was a case of cultural mimetism on an institutional level that did not achieve the expected results. A brief presentation of the factors that redefined the urban fabric of Athens during those decades, observed in correspondence with the development of ideologies of urban conservation, might illuminate the conditions that led to the large number of ‘listed buildings in decay’ in the Greek capital. The Reconstruction Era of post-war Greece (roughly placed between the end of the Greek Civil War in 1949 and the 1973-1975 economic recession) changed the Athenian urban landscape outstandingly, most notably through a system called antiparochi. According to the legal framework of antiparochi, landowners could turn over their properties to building contractors; the properties were either empty plots or, in most cases, smallscale residences that would be demolished. The contractors, usually small construction companies, would then build multi-story apartment blocks and the original owners would, in exchange, receive an agreed number of apartments in the finished building.2 Apart from being an answer to the continuous growth of the Athenian population, the demolition of smallscale, poor-quality buildings and the erection of modern high-rise buildings 1 Panagiotis Tournikiotis (Research Supervisor), Mutating Characters and Policies in the Centers of Athens and Piraeus, research project led by the National Technical University of Athens in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Energy, (Athens: 2011). 2 Yannis Aesopos and Yorgos Simeoforidis, ‘The contemporary Greek city’, in The Contemporary (Greek) City, ed. by Yannis Aesopos and Yorgos Simeoforidis (Athens: Metapolis Press, 2001), pp. 32-60.



(which would house a higher standard of living), was part of another set of urban fantasies: the idea that Athens would be ‘modern’. Indeed the Reconstruction Era of this European capital—a quasi-metropolis—could be seen as a means of claiming its place in what was considered as the Occident or the West. During the late 1960s and the early 1970s, the latest form of the conservation value system was taking shape in Europe. The Second International Congress of Architects and Technicians of Historic Monuments led to the famous Venice Charter (1964), adopted by ICOMOS in 1965. Notable in Greece was the lack of consideration for conservation of nineteenth-century neoclassical architecture; only a few voices of renowned artists and academics, such as the famous painter Yannis Tsarouchis, called for the cessation of the unstoppable reconstruction that had replaced almost everything they considered ‘their city’.3 The idea of neoclassical architecture as valuable heritage was disseminated only through very few publications, such as the Commercial Bank’s Neoclassical Architecture in Greece (1967), featuring photographs of many buildings that had already been demolished and promoting neoclassical architecture as representative of the original character of Athens.4 At the same time, both the upper and middle class—especially those who had moved to Athens from provincial areas—appreciated their newly built dwellings. In her article ‘Athens in the Second Half of the 20th Century’, professor emeritus of Athens University Eleni Fessa-Emmanuil recalls advertisements from the time stating that ‘a modern flat with all types of furniture and appliances, combined with a good marriage, is the dream of every unmarried girl’, supporting the popular idea that older buildings were considered incapable of keeping up with the desired standard of living.5 To many Greeks living in the 1970s, particularly those who had lived through the German occupation and the subsequent civil war (1946-1949), modern buildings were a symbol of prosperity, the apparent result of the booming economy of the 1960s. Old buildings, on the other hand, symbolised recent times of deprivation. Additionally, the socio-political circumstances that Greece faced throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s were unique. Between the years 1967 and 1974, Greece was under the right-wing military dictatorship known as the Junta. During that period, the government commissioned buildings that would function as emblematic landmarks, strictly following the modern movement’s large-scale paradigms. Through acts of legislation that aimed at gaining the public’s favour, such as the increase of the maximum heights for housing blocks, the dictatorship boosted the late stages of Athens’ reconstruction.6 The Junta also incorporated many ways 3 Maria Karavia, The thinker of Maroussi: Memories and discussions with Yannis Tsarouchis (Athens: Kapon, 2009). 4 During the 1960s, Greek institutions of economic power, such as banks, started influencing the Greek cultural landscape in many ways, including the funding of research and the publication of several books. 5 Eleni Fessa-Emmanuil, ‘Athens in the Second Half of the 20th Century’, column Architectural Gazes, (8 April, 2010) [accessed 29-12-2017] 6 Lila Leontidou, The Mediterranean city in transition: Social change and urban development (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).



of promoting nationalistic ideas, especially through representations of what was considered the country’s ‘glorious past’, with a particular focus on either traditional traits that commemorated the nineteenth century Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire, or iconographies of Ancient Greece. Given the totalitarian state’s significant control on the built environment in general, the fact that the Junta did not address Greece’s recent urban past did not favour the conservation of ‘recent monuments’.7 In his book The Conservation Movement, Miles Glendinning considers how the emergence of the architectural participation movement in Europe throughout the 1960s and 1970s accompanied, enhanced, and enriched the practice of architectural preservation. The importance of these two decades for heritage practices lies within the fact that the ‘user-participation’ movement fostered a connection between the values of architectural heritage and a wider audience, practically rendering preservation a social issue.8 Under the Junta regime, however, any movement that involved ‘bottom-up’ processes and social engagement could not develop. Thus, not only did the political circumstances define what kind of cultural heritage was preferred, but they also defined a particular interpretation of urban conservation in Greece, which did not favour the ideological merging of heritage and the contemporary public. While for the rest of Europe this period is marked by a resonance of that ideological merge with overtones of the Venice Charter, something that seemingly organically resulted in the European Architectural Heritage Year of 1975, in Greece this period arguably drove the public further away from potential social engagement with heritage. The international framework for the conservation and restoration of historic buildings was institutionally assimilated shortly after the collapse of the Junta in 1974, leading to a constitutional change in 1975.9 The European Architectural Heritage Year 197510 instigated ideas that several architects, artists, academics, journalists, and political figures embraced, leading to the dissemination of a certain nostalgia towards an Athens of the

7 ‘The cultural crime of Junta’, Documentary, ERT (National Greek Television), 1997, from Online ERT Archive, [accessed on 30 December 2017] 8 Miles Glendinning, The Conservation Movement: A History of Architectural Preservation: Antiquity to Modernity (London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2013), p. 326. 9 The revision of Article 24 of the Constitution of Greece pronounced the preservation of the cultural environment a ‘constitutional right’, ensuring that the State would be obligated to interfere to guarantee it. Until then, the phrasing allowed interpretations that resulted in less strict measures. 10 ‘The European Architectural Heritage Year was devised as a means to make Europeans conscious of their shared treasures: centuries and centuries of great buildings which are not only visible but often very usable. The hope is that the people who live in landmark cities and towns will become aware of the dangers which threaten the monuments they often take for granted, and will be ready and willing to take action to preserve them.’ from H.R.L., ‘European Architectural Heritage Year’, The New York Times, (2 November 1975), [accessed 1 April 2018]



past.11 However, evidence that will be presented later in this paper suggests that this was not the case for all the social strata; many had not had the chance to properly form the desire to preserve recent architectural heritage. The ideological framework was imported like many other modern cultural products; one could suggest that it was sent straight to the legislators’ offices. The processes that led to the formation of a common ground, where the 1970s conservation movement flourished, were not even described in the manual. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why it is so easy to detect such a divergence of ideological stances in those social and chronological contexts. No meeting of minds was required to form a legal system that would supposedly address everyone, and no social fermentation took place to create a homogenous ideological context; listed buildings just began to appear, with the expectation of the public’s appreciation. As noted earlier, Athens entered the 1980s with a sudden increase in the amount of listed buildings from the post-Ottoman era. According to the research project Mutating Characters and Policies in the Centers of Athens and Piraeus (2011), led by the National Technical University of Athens in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Energy, the annual listings of ‘recent immovable monuments’ showed an average increase of 350% during the 1980s.12 Melina Mercouri, a renowned actress who served as Cultural Minister during that period, was one of the main catalysts of this increase13 and her impact on matters of urban heritage is still remembered as most significant.14 However, when opening files from the 1980s in the archive of the Ministry of Environment and Energy, responsible for the majority of listings of buildings in Greece, one encounters extremely different points of view. Accompanying a significant amount of official expository reports proposing the listing of buildings, there are letters from owners demanding that their properties not be listed—a legal right that can be exercised before the finalisation of any listing, despite the fact that it has rarely yielded results. It is true that the listing of a building in Greece has always rendered a 11 This tendency was expressed in the academic and architectural/cultural environment in different ways, including the 1975 publication of a very popular architectural magazine called ‘Architecture in Greece’ which was focused almost entirely on the issue of heritage as well as a 1980 production of a short film called ‘Αιδ’ Εις Αθήναι …η πριν πόλις’ (Here is Athens…the city of before’) including video recordings of demolitions and pictures of decaying neoclassical buildings in Athens, as well as recitations of relevant nostalgic texts by the Greek renowned painter Yannis Tsarouchis. 12 Panagiotis Tournikiotis (Research Supervisor), Mutating Characters and Policies in the Centers of Athens and Piraeus, research project led by the National Technical University of Athens in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Energy, (Athens: 2011), p.53. 13 Helena Smith, ‘Forget the Parthenon: how austerity is laying waste to Athens’ modern heritage’, The Guardian, 12 September 2017 <> [accessed 23 December 2017] 14 In this recent article, her brother, who acted as her advisor, states that she assisted in listing 182 buildings ‘on the verge of collapsing’ in a neighborhood called ‘Plaka’, but many claim that this was a step in the process of gentrifying the area. However, the number of the listings is indicative of the way ‘recent immovable monuments’ rapidly increased during that period.



Figure 2: The last page of a letter from an owner demanding that his property not be listed, signed 15 January 1987. File No. 1169/1987, Archives of the Ministry of Environment and Energy.

possible restoration more expensive, binding the owner from making any significant alterations, let alone demolishing the building to make room for new investment. The lack of governmental funding has always left the financially weak owners of listed buildings with an economic burden, forcing them either to sell their properties to anyone willing and able to restore them, or simply to abandon them when they stop providing a certain standard of living. Although these parameters would be enough to discuss how the inconveniences created by the legal framework distanced the population from desiring urban heritage, these letters feature something much more interesting. Not surprisingly, most of the owners deny acknowledging the ‘artistic, historical and/or cultural value’ of their properties, to the point that they unknowingly present the relativity of the legislation surrounding heritage. In a translated excerpt of a rather illuminating example (Figure 2), one may read: These [buildings] to be listed as traditional, legally, must necessarily be of a special urban, aesthetic, historical, folklorist, architectural character. A simple, grammatical and only, inspection of the legal document shows us that the law requires that the building needs to feature the characteristics mentioned in a high degree (‘special’ means something very unusual, not common, specialised, excellent, out of the ordinary forms etc.) […] The building discussed in this report does not display anything at all regarding all five of these aspects. Truly, it displays nothing excellent, neither on an urban, nor on an aesthetic, historical, folklorist or architectural level. It is apparent that it is a common building in the urban fabric of Athens. Aesthetically, it is a very common house, there is no feature that even deserves mentioning. […] The Report includes general and vague statements, or words whose meaning apply to every house, in a way that no ‘special’ characteristics can be presented, characteristics that, as is the law, would impose its ‘conservation and promotion’.15 15 Stergios Antoniadis to Ministry of Environment and Energy, January 15, 1987. Letter from Ministry of Environment Archives, folder No1169. This letter concerns the building on 64 Patission Avenue. Translation by author.



Archival research has brought many similar letters to the surface, and while they do not count as representative of a general public opinion, they are evident of something very simple: an ideology of urban heritage conservation as a positive act had not been effectively cultivated in the Athenian social environment, at least not to the point of prioritising the preservation of a building over personal welfare. Even the Greek Society of Listed Building Owners, founded in 1985, spent the first two decades of its existence mainly fighting for its members’ right to be able to de-list their properties.16 The idea that a common house might be worth preserving could be viewed as a shift in the concept of the ‘monument’. This equated central landmarks with specimens of small-scale urban or folk architecture, thus granting the heirs of this heritage with one to which broader parts of the population could relate. Instead, what emerged was a ‘heritage NIMBY’ stance of sorts, where individuals would not take a position for or against urban conservation, unless affected directly. Large-scale institutional actions, such as the listing of 555 buildings in 1985, might have been promoted as the result of a social desire to preserve Athens’s heritage.17 Instead, this slowly transformed the act of listing a building into an institutional curse for its heirs. This condition gave birth to a very interesting phenomenon that still survives today. In what came to be perceived as the ‘threat’ of an imminent listing, property owners would rush to destroy any part of the building that could be considered culturally valuable. Irini Gratsia, founding member of Monumenta, a non-profit organisation for the protection of the natural and architectural heritage of Greece and Cyprus, has witnessed many cases of sudden demolitions, which she believes to have only occurred under suspicion of a possible listing.18 What we can discern from all of the above is that within the 1980s the formation of a dipole took place, consisting of pro-heritage subjects who would justifiably support the institutional tools that protected their beliefs, and non-believers who would justifiably react to what they saw as an arbitrary set of regulations. LISTED BUILDING IN DECAY: A NEW TYPOLOGY

In what could be deemed an ironic twist in many cases of listed buildings, the strict regulations concerning any restoration process, combined with a complete lack of governmental funding, is what led to their abandonment. One cannot avoid discerning a classic case of a self-fulfilling prophecy, where the fear of losing something creates the conditions for losing it in another way. Maybe many listed buildings would be better appreciated if the effort to ensure their preservation at all costs had not resulted to turning a great proportion of Athenian property owners against it, or maybe it was just a matter of analogy. The fact remains that a new typology of ‘listed 16 In 2012, after almost a decade of inactivity, the Society started conducting meetings again. Since then, it is interesting to observe how most of its members’ activities still revolve around improving legislation that binds them from exploiting their properties. 17 Athens, Ministry of Environment and Energy Archives, Database Manuscript of 1985. 18 This information was provided during informal conversations with Irini Gratsia.



buildings in decay’ is now part of the Athenian reality. The work of James Scott in his book Seeing like a State is very relevant. His take on the twentieth century’s great utopian social engineering schemes and their apparent failure can render ‘listed buildings in decay’ as evidence of the unsuccessful centralised effort to create what was supposed to arise organically in the Athenian social context. He writes: ‘Designed or planned social order is necessarily schematic; it always ignores essential features of any real, functioning social order.’19 This may lead to a certain view of what happened during the 1980s, where the state, in trying to make an ‘order’ of these buildings, created a new problem for future generations instead. Such buildings exist as disorder in a system of conservation where social and institutional forces are supposed to intersect, but instead are found in opposition. Interpreting the origins of listed buildings in decay only covers a small selection of their rich history. This is particularly true given the fact that these buildings, even if abandoned, even if neglected, even if seemingly in a conceptual hiatus, have actually been absorbing, reflecting and/or possibly deflecting significations as crystallised parts of the urban fabric. In an ironic development, the permanence they were granted, in an attempt to secure their cultural function, has resulted in their demise and neglect by a public that, at some point, had turned against them. The number of listed buildings in decay has been high since the 1990s, but only in recent years have they been accepted as a large-scale problematic urban phenomenon. After ten years of economic crisis, these buildings have stopped bearing the promise of forthcoming restorations and instead are viewed by heritage enthusiasts as ‘permanent beacons of hopelessness’.20 In a convenient attempt to pin all the problems of Athens on the past few years of austerity, articles such as the recent ‘Forget the Parthenon: How Austerity is Laying Waste to Athens’ Modern Heritage’ in The Guardian, have assisted in ignoring the fact that urban heritage in Greece has almost always been problematic.21 In reality, most of these buildings have been abandoned for more than a decade and the crisis has only contributed to postponing the expected next step of an imminent restoration. However, the fact that these buildings are part of the contemporary public discourse can be productive in revisiting the way they are viewed, now and in the future. Indeed, the Athenian listed buildings in decay are ‘paradoxes’ in the urban fabric, gradually losing their ability to reflect the values that granted them permanence in the first place (Figure 3). If one decides to defer criticism and accept the argumentation behind the legal framework, these 19 James C. Scott, Seeing like a State: How certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), p. 6. 20 In Facebook groups such as ‘Athenian Modernism’ or ‘Old pictures of Greece’, a great percentage of the posts are accompanied by comments that express frustration about the current condition of the depicted buildings, as well as nostalgia for the past. 21 Helena Smith, ‘Forget the Parthenon: how austerity is laying waste to Athens’ modern heritage’, The Guardian, 12 September 2017 <https://www.theguardian. com/cities/2017/sep/12/athens-modern-heritage-austerity-neoclassical-architectureacropolis-greece> [accessed 23 December 2017]



Figure 3: Abandoned listed building in Athens. Author, 2018.

buildings are simply not functioning as they were intended to as urban fabric heritage. Their â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;officialâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; trajectory as carriers of memories, cultural values, and so on, is put on pause. Nonetheless, these buildings still affect their social surroundings, only in different ways. A first hypothesis is that the current condition of these buildings may be functioning to reinforce the ideology of conservation. In The Art of Forgetting, Adrian Forty suggests that buildings as mnemonic devices are equally connected to the action of forgetting. A building whose eternal presence is ensured does not require active commemorating, whereas a building on the verge of disappearing might motivate subjects to immortalise it in their memories. Forty also presents the ideas of the art historian Alois Riegl, arguing that age-value is better displayed and appreciated through letting the forces of nature affect monuments and lead them to their inevitable dissolution.22 Maybe the conspicuous threat of perishing is a key element in forging 22 Adrian Forty and KĂźchler Susanne, The Art of Forgetting (Oxford: Berg, 2001), p. 5.



the ideology of preservation, and the decaying listed buildings are part of a historical cycle that will lead to a rethinking of the values of heritage preservation. Even if that is a possible scenario, a quick look in the contemporary Greek press suggests that the situation might be different in the case of Athens. In the contemporary Athenian context, the condition of decaying listed buildings might have generated the mobilisation of a few individuals to appreciate listed buildings on a personal level, but in most cases it has induced disappointment towards the dysfunctional system that produced them. This could potentially work towards a process of taking action and demanding changes, provided that the citizens accept a share of the responsibility. Instead, the abundance of urban decay has reinforced the convenient idea that if heritage was managed ‘properly’ by the State, the citizens of Athens would be much more considerate in matters of conservation, an idea that is constantly reinforcing an allegedly justified lack of large-scale public engagement in matters of conservation.23 Thus, any questioning of the expected ‘proper’ way in which the heritage system is supposed to be working is prevented, while the ‘value’ of conservation receives an almost transcendental character of something that exists per se, unaffected by its social context. It can easily remind us of something mentioned in Jean Baudrillard’s The Precession of Simulacra: It is always a question of proving the real by the imaginary, proving truth by scandal, proving the law by transgression, proving work by the strike, proving the system by crisis and capital by revolution, as for that matter proving ethnology by the dispossession of its object (the Tasaday) – without counting: - proving theatre by anti-theatre - proving art by anti-art - proving pedagogy by anti-pedagogy - proving psychiatry by anti-psychiatry, etc. etc.24

The idea that conservation is proven by ‘anti-conservation’ makes a lot of sense on many levels, as it prevents the current heritage system from actually being tested, allowing it to preserve an idealised form on a theoretical level. Unfortunately, if such an assumption is accurate, any possibility of bridging the ideological gaps discussed in this article is bound to be lost in a vicious cycle of avoiding responsibilities. In an effort to move towards a different approach, we will take a look into Aldo Rossi’s The Architecture of the City, a book that examined the conditions of urban heritage in depth. Rossi does not sanctify permanence, promoting that uncritical preservation can be harmful to the organic development of any city.25 Have these buildings in decay proven to be examples not of what Rossi called the ‘historical or propelling permanence’, 23 This kind of thinking is apparent in Facebook groups such as ‘Athenian Modernism’ or ‘Old pictures of Greece’. 24 Jean Baudrillard, Simulations (New York: Semiotext(e), 1983), p. 26. 25 Aldo Rossi, The architecture of the city (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press for the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts and the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, 1982), p. 32.



but rather what he called ‘pathological permanence’?26 Has their function as ‘urban artefacts’ been compromised? When revisiting the term ‘urban artefact’ a different conclusion is possible. Rossi describes the architecture of the city through two different approaches; the city as a gigantic man-made object, growing over time, but also as a combination of many urban artefacts characterised by their own history and form. Rossi considers urban artefacts—which can be buildings, streets, squares etc.—as works of art, the manifestations of social and religious life. Since he considers architecture to be inseparable from life and society, ‘urban artefacts’ are the carriers of that connection, projecting the unique reality of each city.27 Interestingly, this actually describes listed buildings in decay more than ‘properly preserved’ buildings that may have been listed only due to cultural mimetism, as institutionally exercised in the 1980s. These decaying buildings are products of a city, proof of the ideological discontinuities that developed within it and results of a chronological sequence of events that shaped its present form. This puts them in a unique position to function as a thinking ground to create new possibilities. A few cases, where such buildings were ‘informally’ pushed towards a different way of becoming active parts of the urban fabric again, might indicate methods in which listed buildings in decay can escape their incoherent condition. 82 ACHARNON STREET

In search of an example of a listed building whose abandonment provided leeway for the emergence of new methods of engaging with urban heritage, Athens’s very recent history provides an example that might open up a different approach to urban heritage: the abandoned neoclassical mansion that came to be a socially vibrant squat for twenty-three years, situated at 82 Acharnon Street. What makes this example unique is its complex chronological trajectory.28 The exact date of the building’s erection is unknown; however, it is estimated to be in the late nineteenth century. It was built to be the mansion of the upper class Argiropoulos family, and there is no hard evidence concerning the architect of the building.29 In 1932, the Second Male Gymnasium was transferred to 82 Acharnon Street. The building was rented to the state by the widow of former 26 In Rossi’s opinion, a historical or propelling permanence in a city is defined as tangible structures of the past that are still being used in some way, that are experienced by the citizens, proving that they are still relevant. On the other hand, he denounces pathological permanence as structures that are ‘isolated and abberant’. 27 Rossi, The Architecture of the City, p. 32. 28 The description of the historical trajectory of 82 Acharnon St. draws from: Christos G. Kritikos, ‘Afterglows, overtones and aftertastes: an irregular history of occupation of 82 Acharnon Street, Athens, 1944-2013’ (unpublished MA Architectural History Dissertation, University College London, Bartlett School of Architecture, 2015), pp. 18-20. 29 Similarly to many neoclassical buildings in Athens whose architects are not known, it is rumoured that 82 and 80 Acharnon Street were both built based on design drafts by the renowned Ernst Moritz Theodor Ziller. However, this is a common tactic used to bestow value upon neoclassical buildings of unknown origins. Interestingly, another name has come up in one of the many articles, also in the form of a ‘rumour’, that being ‘Ilias Miniatis’, an Athenian craftsman of that era.



ambassador Periklis Argiropoulos. The school functioned there until 1940, when the building was requisitioned â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;under the Greek Military Authorityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;.30 In April 1941, Athens was occupied by the German army and the building was used as a base for German soldiers. The school returned to 82 Acharnon Street in May 1944, as the building had survived the German military appropriation with minor damages. The Second Male Gymnasium remained there until the end of the seven years of dictatorship in 1974. During its final school year (1973-74) the building is said to have reached a point of physical decay that rendered it unsuitable to host the activities of a high school. Interestingly, after the transfer, the Organisation of School Buildings decided to expropriate the edifices on 80 and 82 Acharnon Street. Despite belonging to a government agency, the building was abandoned in a decaying state, with no documented plans regarding its demolition or restoration. Thirteen years later, it was officially listed along with twentyseven other buildings of the same area through a ministerial act dated 20 November 1987. After the listing, much changed, but only on a theoretical level. The building remained abandoned, inactive and in decay (Figures 4, 5). The situation changed in an abrupt way three years later when, on 2 February 1990, a group of young students and employees who belonged

Figure 4: Photographs on the expository report card of 82 Acharnon Street. Archive of the Ministry of Environment, 1987 (accessed 15 July 2016).

30 According to the surviving archives of the Second Male Gymnasium of Athens, G.Papamichael-Mitakidi & partners.



Figure 5: Photograph of 82 Acharnon Street. Archive of Ministry of Environment, 1987 (accessed 15 July 2016).

to the anti-authoritarian movement squatted the building. Apart from the need to solve their housing problem, their action was charged with the desire to create a space of expression, creativity, and culture, free from the prevailing models of that era. The squat served as a residence, housed a coffee place, a lending library and a music studio, and hosted many social activities, such as film projections, concerts, etc. The squatters named the building ‘Villa Amalias’ and within a few years this was ‘formalised’; many Athenians referred to the building by this name, rendering it an unofficial landmark of sorts. After twenty-three years, during which the squat had become an active part of the neighbourhood’s social environment, on 20 December 2012 police authorities forcefully entered the building and detained the residents. The mayor’s suggestions for a new use came just a day after the squat was finally sealed off, with its windows and doors cemented in and its yard surrounded with barbed wire, to avert any attempt to reoccupy the building.31 It was officially announced that 82 Acharnon Street would be re-used as a high school. The restoration that followed the building’s re-appropriation by the state was considered brutal and insensitive by the press alongside many architects and neighbourhood residents (Figure 6).32 The interior of the building was completely demolished while the exterior’s reconstruction was criticised for not being architecturally sensitive (Figure 7). A few even reached the conclusion that the building’s fate was in better hands as a squat.33

Figure 6 (opposite, top): Banner depicting the 3D rendering of the post-restoration building on 82 Acharnon Street. Author, 2016. Figure 7 (opposite, bottom): The re-appropriated and restored 82 Acharnon Street. Author, 2018.


31 Pavlos Georgiou, ‘G.Kaminis, Villa Amalia will become a school again, naftemporiki. gr column ‘Society’, (9 January, 2013) <> [accessed 29 December 2017] 32 Christos Demetis, ‘What is left of Villa Amalias’, News247, 25 September 2014 < 3046337.html> [accessed on 30 June 2016]. 33 Such opinions can be found in the following sources: Polivios Kolovos, ‘Villa Amalias : The squatters were protecting the building and Kaminis DEMOLISHED it!’, 25 September 2014, <https://ereunitiko.blogspot. gr/2014/09/villaamalias.html?m=0> [accessed 31 December 2017]; ‘Update: The 150 years old (1860) 2nd Male Gymnasium of Athens, “Villa Amalias”, was demolished under the responsibility of Kaminis and the School Building Organisation. They name a new unrelated building as a restoration. The destruction of the interiors of yet another building in the center of Athens is disseminated as pleasant news!’, 23 September 2014, < html#eiGGq3klhCqZhRKU.99> [accessed 31 December 2017]




Figure 8: The collectively restored façade vs the top-down restoration result. Author, 2013 (top), 2018 (bottom).

It is important to note that turning the building into a high school was not the desire of the surrounding residents. After it was clear that the building would not be reoccupied, there were counterproposals by the neighbourhood committee to turn the building into a social space for the neighbourhood. These were denied instantly, despite the fact that turning a neoclassical mansion into a school with the proper infrastructure would be much more expensive, in order for it to comply with the school building regulations of Greece.34 Although the building had assumed many different roles over the last century, only one was deemed proper by institutional power. The chance for the building to be a carrier of micro-historiographical narratives disappeared along with its previous connection to its social environment. A new building was practically erected, representing only a few parts of the history of 82 Acharnon Street, and mainly carrying the narrative of the re-appropriation of a squat that did not fit the state’s description of the building’s social role. 34 Mary Adamopoulou, a resident of a neighbouring building whose brother actually attended the Second Male Gymnasium, was interviewed by the writer in 2015. At the time she was also a member of a local neighbourhood committee and revealed that their proposals had been denied.



In the building’s years as part of Athens’s heritage, there is a moment that may offer a different conservation paradigm. Before their eviction, its occupants had managed to restore one of the façades with help from civil engineers and architects, in collaboration with the surrounding residents. The façade was painted in its original colours but still seemed to emit the desired age-value that most Athenian restored buildings lack. The façade also featured pieces of street art, but in a way that was not considered disrespectful by the surrounding residents.35 It is interesting to observe that after the re-appropriation and restoration by the state, any writing on its wall symbolised something completely different (Figure 8). The example of 82 Acharnon Street indicates that the usual, contemporary top-down approaches in heritage management may, in fact, obstruct social engagement as the most suitable way of rendering heritage a common social issue. For a brief moment in history, this listed building served as a different paradigm of urban conservation. Members of an ideological enclave forced this building out of a conceptual limbo and, according to interviewed neighbourhood residents, opened up the building to society, instead of simply using it privately.36 At the same time, the former residents had decided to restore the façade, abiding to a value system which addressed the social context that the squat’s residents had seemingly denounced. The openness of the squat and the ‘collective’ façade restoration were gestures indicating a desire to co-exist and to share the urban environment. If such an approach was applied in cases of listed buildings in general, it could result in a synthesis of ideologies that could indicate new methods of connecting urban heritage to its heirs. LISTED BUILDINGS IN DECAY AS SOCIAL INTERSTICES

In the first section, we presented a dipole, consisting of pro-heritage subjects and non-believers who would react to the institutional framework of conservation. An iconolatric approach of restoring decaying buildings to an ‘appropriate’ condition would certainly please pro-heritage subjects, but it would not relate to individuals that consider the management of heritage a non-social issue. On the other hand, an iconoclastic approach of de-listing and demolishing would benefit some non-believers and risk the wrath of heritage enthusiasts, who would again blame the system and not the social environment for their ‘loss’. In both kinds of ‘solution’, the ideological gaps that have survived since the 1980s would not be bridged. A third approach seems to be possible and perhaps the case of the irregular occupation and restoration of 82 Acharnon Street may serve as an example. Instead of searching for a new way to regulate listed buildings in decay, to establish some kind of order, they could be viewed as what Nicolas Bourriaud refers to as ‘social interstices’, which are spaces where 35 Maria Topalian, resident of the neighbourhood, interviewed by author on 17 July 2016 at her residence in Athens, Greece; Constantinos Kiriakakis, owner of hand-made frame shop neighbouring 82 Acharnon Street, interviewed by author on 17 July 2016 at his shop in Athens, Greece; Mary Adamopoulou, neighbour of 82 Acharnon Street, interviewed by author on 19 July 2016 at her residence in Athens, Greece. 36 Kritikos, ‘Afterglows, overtones and aftertastes’, pp. 37-43.



different value systems may collide to produce new approaches. In his text ‘Relational Aesthetics’, wherein he explores the development of referential art, he proposes the production of social interstices through the following: The term interstice was used by Karl Marx to describe trading communities that escaped the framework of the capitalist economy: barter, selling at a loss, autarkic forms of production, and so on. An interstice is a space in social relations which, although it fits more or less harmoniously and openly into the overall system, suggests possibilities for exchanges other than those that prevail within the system.37

We can see that ‘social interstices’ are spaces where new possibilities of social relations may be produced. They can be seen as zones where common social constructs and ideologies can be challenged by different ones with no restriction, resulting in new and possibly more inclusive conceptual forms. Their proposed function is even more evident later in the same text: We no longer try to make progress thanks to conflict and clashes, but by discovering new assemblages, possible relations between distinct units, and by building alliances between different partners.38

Viewing listed buildings in decay as possible social interstices might finally result in the creation of a common ground for discussion. ‘Order’, as suggested by the urban conservation legal framework, and ‘disorder’, as in new methods of preserving formerly neglected urban heritage, might blend in results that may render the ideological dipole irrelevant, the same way that neighbourhood residents and squatters cooperated to restore 82 Acharnon Street’s façade in a unique way. This could practically lead to the emergence of many unorthodox and incoherent conservation methods, but at the same time it could make urban heritage what it is supposed to be: a way to connect all social subjects with the time-place continuum that is their city or region. Fostering an acceptance of these decaying buildings for what they actually are, the mark of the coexistence of different points of view imprinted on the urban fabric, could eventually lead to a reformation of the legal framework concerning conservation in Athens. Adopting more socio-centric and flexible preservation regulations could be the key to connecting heritage to its heirs in a more interactive and sustainable way. After all, new waves of the conservation movement are already demanding the immortalisation of later post-war architectural artefacts, and an uncritical approach towards such matters could result in new waves of unwilling heirs.39 37 Nicolas Bourriaud, ‘Relational Aesthetics’, in Participation, ed. by Claire Bishop (London: Whitechapel, 2010), p. 160. 38 Ibid., p. 163. 39 Research projects in the environment of National Technical University of Athens are currently being initiated to propose both the listing and possible conservation methods of Greece’ industrial heritage, alongside with many buildings belonging to the modernist movement.




Yannick Scott and Rachel Smillie


Figure 1 (left): Axonometric view of the ‘Big Forehead’ typology. Figure 2 (right): Elevation of the ‘Big Forehead’ typology.

Figure 3: Uncanny Valley 2.

Figure 4: ‘Kawaii’ Noodle Restaurant. Edited from Google Maps, 2017.

Figure 5 (opposite): Uncanny Valley. The aesthetic dimension of the phenomenon of subdivurbanism is that, as buildings become smaller, whilst retaining their original features, they become more ‘cute’ and more ‘scary’.




Subdivurbanism refers to the process of subdividing residential plots into strips, cul-de-sacs, and flagpole lots, as a means to combat both a lack of space and exponential land values in Tokyo. The project explores the accidental aesthetics of this metabolic process, whereby subdivided dwellings contort themselves according to local regulations as a means to maximise available space.



Graffiti, Street Art, Advertising, and Contested Visual Space in New York City Sam Holleran

Graffiti is a subculture steeped in self promotion and given to graphic excess; its emergence shook New Yorkers and politicized urban visual space. The fight to eradicate it and restore ‘order’ to the streetscape and subways reoriented the way we look at the city. STREET LEGENDS

As a practice, graffiti has been around for thousands of years; Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia has a ninth century Viking’s name scratched into its secondfloor marble balcony. The art genre, as we know it today, emerged in the late 1960s aided by new technological innovations—cheap spray cans for hobbyists and do-it-yourselfers—and by youth looking for an outlet in frustrating times. It arrived as the U.S. social order was cracking: ‘ghetto uprisings’, the subsequent emptying of cities by ‘white flight’, and the Vietnam War returned many young men physically and psychologically scarred. Graffiti was a corporeal representation of societal fissures and, simultaneously, a way for youth of distressed urban cores to assert their right to their own culture and self-determination. Graffiti’s subcultural roots can be difficult to place. Early on, it was rooted in the hip-hop and breakdancing revolution born in South Bronx


public housing, but, as it evolved, its cultural influences grew more diffuse. Street art clearly came out of graffiti, but the point at which it broke off, or, depending on your perspective, subsumed graffiti, is unclear. While graffiti is almost always illegal by definition, street art is sometimes commissioned by building owners. Street art can be a way for graffiti writers to ‘go straight’, allowing them to seek remuneration for their work. Some view it as a natural progression for a graffiti practice hobbled by intense police intervention: a way for practitioners to reach greater audiences, experiment in different media, and extend their freewheeling style into a more ‘respectable’ field.1 To others, it is the professionalisation and commodification of an organic art form developed by low-income men of colour. In the late 1960s, early scrawling took the form of offbeat phrases, like ‘bird lives’ (commemorating Charlie Parker) or ‘eat the rich’. By the beginning of the 1970s a template had been worked out in New York: your graffiti name would be your given name (or one of your choosing) plus your street number. The first mention of graffiti in an American newspaper is probably the article ‘“Taki 183” Spawns Pen Pals’ which appeared in The New York Times on July 21, 1971.2 Taki, a 17-year-old working class Greek immigrant from Northern Manhattan, notes that graffiti is ‘not something you do for the girls […] You do it for yourself.’ At the time of the article, New York City’s laws were being revised to more severely punish graffitists (before that, writing on walls was considered too low a priority to appear in some criminal codes, and minors like Taki were difficult to prosecute). Taki asks why the police should ‘go after the little guy’ instead of going after ‘the campaign organisations that put stickers all over the subways at election time?’.3 In these birthing moments one already sees a tension: graffiti is, above all, a fight for control of the city’s visual space, pitting the moneyed forces of advertising against scrappy youth—but this would be the last time that the distinction would be so clear-cut. The rise of graffiti as a subculture, its subsequent transformation into the visual style of street art, and then its evolution into an ethos conveying a vague ‘rebel spirit’, helps us to understand the role of visual space in cities. When we examine the shift from graffiti’s unstructured mischief to street art’s commodification, we can start to understand how subcultures are brought back into mass culture and flows of capital. Today, the tactics of early graffiti writing have been taken up by an unlikely set of actors: advertisers and marketing professionals, who are increasingly looking for new fields for their industry. With provocative moves picked up from the world of illegal art, executives in the advertising industry encourage client firms to ‘think more like vandals’.4 In very real ways, urban surfaces have 1 In many U.S. states, ‘three-strike policies’ instituted in the 1980s can result in huge fines or even prison terms for graffiti repeat offenders. Susan A. Phillips, Wallbangin’: Graffiti and Gangs in L.A. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), p. 69. 2 ‘“Taki 183” Spawns Pen Pals’, The New York Times, 21 July 1971, p. 37. 3 Ibid. 4 Jeff Goodby, co-chairman and partner of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, said ‘Like good advertising, good vandalism is funny, loud and still there the next day […] Vandals are people who chase results, not rewards. That’s how things get famous.’ Lindsay Stein, ‘Jeff Goodby Encourages Industry to Think More Like Vandals’, Advertising Age, 22 March 2016.



Figure 1: Stay High’s iconic figure ‘locks up’ with his name to form a complete identity system that follows corporate design principles. Flickr user Chris Messley, 2007.

become space to enforce and upend the ‘brands’ of cities vying for high tax bases, companies hunting for customers, and artists (both outsiders and savvy professionals) looking to make their mark. By the early 1970s, big companies were experimenting with advertisements targeted at minority communities, and the visual space of urban neighbourhoods was becoming increasingly overlaid with billboards and branded signage.5 The Mad Men era that extended mass marketing campaigns into secondary urban markets had helped prime the pump for graffiti writers. Low-income communities were inundated with largescale advertising, often for ‘vice’ products like cigarettes and alcohol that promised escape from declining neighbourhoods. The mechanics of successful advertising campaigns were visible to the young men who would become the first generation of graffiti writers (Figure 1). 5 This was true after the late-1960s ghetto uprisings, particularly because ‘mom and pop’ shops retreated to suburban locales leaving major companies to fill in their market space. Chin Jou, Supersizing Urban America: How Inner Cities Got Fast Food with Government Help (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017).



An early innovator who expanded on the letterforms of Taki and his peers was ‘Stay High 149’, a calligrapher who stylised his name like a corporate ‘wordmark’. His brand, Stay High, is ‘locked up’ in several configurations with a joint-smoking angel, his version of the Lacoste alligator or Ralph Lauren’s polo player. Stay High’s importing of branding culture helped to make him one of the most recognisable writers in New York City. This fluid exchange between the language of advertising and graffiti would continue for him as an adult when, experiencing financial troubles, he came out of ‘retirement’ to do live paint at fashion shows. The emergence of graffiti as a cultural phenomenon occurred as advertising and branding were growing to the extent in which they entered American life. The idea that successful corporations primarily produce brands (as opposed to products) is hardly contested today, but was radical when it emerged in the late 1970s.6 We have grown to expect that things are marketed as much as they are made. The original impetus of graffiti as a cultural phenomenon comes from a similar place—a marketing of the self for Black and Latino men who went unseen as individuals (while their bodies were problematised, patrolled, and singled out for maltreatment by authorities). Early graffiti occurred on spaces traditionally reserved for advertising and civic messaging: billboards, building sides, utility poles, and telephone booths. It also made use of spaces typical of an increasingly dysfunctional city: vacant lots, boarded-up buildings, and illegally dumped furniture. Like advertisement, which both contributes to the creation of the city’s culture (hence the push to preserve iconic neon signs even after the firms they advertise have collapsed) and is seen as inherently detrimental to existing beauty, graffiti contributes to the vitality of public space yet also threatens the coherence of shared spaces. However, unlike outdoor advertising, which is bounded by a highly specific regulatory framework, graffiti is not burdened by ‘disturbing the discourse of the city’; in fact, its aim was to disrupt.7 Early texts on graffiti focus on deviance in marginalised communities, with the post-WWII wave of Puerto Rican migrants frequently singled out. In later texts, the ‘deviant’ became the ‘counterhegemonic’ groups who, although still perceived as being outside the dominant culture, were valiantly challenging the oppressive system. Norman Mailer’s 1974 ‘The Faith of Graffiti’ for Esquire brought a national focus on graffiti as a symptom of a broken society. He deemed it: the expression of a ghetto which is near to the plague, for civilization is now inimical to the ghetto. Too huge are the obstacles now to any natural development of a poor man into a civilized man. In the ghetto it is almost impossible to find some quiet location for your identity. No, in the environment of the slum, the courage to display yourself is your only capital […].8

6 Naomi Klein, No Logo (New York: Picador, 2000), pp. 4-5. 7 R. Gulay Ozturk, Handbook of Research on the Impact of Culture and Society on the Entertainment Industry (Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2014), pp. 523-24. 8 Norman Mailer, ‘The Faith of Graffiti’, Esquire, May 1974, p.157.



Figure 2: A heavily-tagged NYC subway car in the 1970s. The U.S. National Archives/Flickr, 1973.

Mailer finds the writers’ motivation not in deviance but in the spirit of self-promotion, an extension of marketing from the company to the individual. In his 1988 article ‘Graffiti as Career and Ideology’, Richard Lachmann famously challenges the idea that graffiti is deviant or part of the ‘counterhegemonic’ subcultures identified by theorists like Dick Hebdige and Stuart Hall.9 He viewed it as another form of advertising, not for a product, but for the existence of a part of the population previously ignored. Early graffiti writers were primarily from low-income neighbourhoods. Despite their position as social ‘others’, it is disputable whether the pioneers of graffiti had in mind ‘culture jamming’ (a tactic used to subvert media culture and corporate advertising often with an anti-consumerist ethos).10 Far less stigmatised at its birth in the early 1970s than today, the practice presented an opportunity for disadvantaged youths to assert themselves in a city that failed to recognise them. With few tools to engage in the media and art world, graffiti gave them access to the economy of images and name-brand recognition. Simple tags on billboards and mailboxes soon gave way to ‘bombing the system’.11 The subway network allowed writers to broadcast their existence across the city with advertisement space that was highly visible, mobile, and free (Figure 2). ON THE TRACKS

In the 1970s, aerosol writings began appearing on New York City’s subway cars. Writers jumped fences into scantly guarded train yards, often spending hours there exploring, painting, and critiquing. It was not uncommon for writers to ‘break night’ in the train yards, so they could photograph their pieces in daylight.12 Graffiti evolved significantly: writers began experimenting with different nozzles, inks, and paints and formed ‘crews’ to safely enter train yards and paint larger, more ambitious, works. 9 Richard Lachmann, ‘Graffiti as Career and Ideology’, The American Journal of Sociology, 94 (1988), 229-250 (p. 232). 10 Klein, No Logo, pp. 280-87. 11 Craig Castleman, Getting Up: Subway Graffiti in New York (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1982), p. 111. 12 Ibid., p. 49.



Figure 3: A subway car painted by Dondi during the late-1970s heydays of exterior murals on subway cars. Source: Wikimedia Commons, 1979.

The collective painting environments of the yards helped incubate an explosion of new styles. Typographic legibility declined, as writers opted for increasingly abstract letterforms: ‘Wild Style’. In some sense this was an early exercise in target marketing. While these pieces were visible to all riders they were only legible to a special ‘in-group’ of co-creators and die-hard enthusiasts. What had appeared to be a mischievous youth phenomenon (writing on the walls) had become more mature, and, to many, more unnerving in its aggressive application and unintelligible letters. The fact that the subway system was already flagging under austerity measures made graffiti the perfect metaphor for the city’s descent. Colourfullytiled stations that had opened during the City Beautiful Movement were blanketed by drip marks and multi-coloured tags. The city’s heritage was tested as once-hallowed sites—like Grant’s Tomb and Belvedere Castle in Central Park—disappeared under an aerosol film. For many middle-aged New Yorkers from the Greatest Generation (those who had experienced the Depression and WWII), the illegible markings on streets and in subways embodied everything that had gone wrong with their city (Figure 3). The works of the 1970s heydays have little in common with the crude scratchings of barrooms, territorial demarcation of gang cliques, esoteric markings of ‘hobos’, or even the work of writers from just a few years before. The subway system became a ‘rolling MoMA’ for young writers’ giant artworks.13 The ‘pieces’ (originally short for ‘masterpieces’) on the outside of the train cars were far more ambitious than graffiti had been up to that point. Preserved in films like Style Wars (1983) and Wild Style (1983), as well as Henry Chalfant and Martha Cooper’s seminal photograph collection Subway Art (1984), the massive murals on the train cars helped acquaint America far beyond New York City with the visual language of graffiti, and the exciting lives of its creators. For New Yorkers, particularly older and more ‘law and order’ voting residents, graffiti was a sign that the old social bonds had been irreparably broken; to them it represented further evidence of the great unwinding 13 Jeff Chang, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2007), p. 123.



of the city’s public democratic institutions.14 In the city’s worst-hit neighbourhoods, graffiti and hip-hop culture came out to fill the gaps between citizens and retreating public institutions. The MC-organized block parties, B-Boy dance-offs, and graffiti murals provided a sense of identity for an urban poor left behind in the wake of ‘white flight’, arson, and abandonment.15 Yet, many did not see graffiti as a community tool, and the harsh prosecution of graffiti was one of the first elements in the policing of quality-of-life offenses that would become hallmarks of what Neil Smith labelled the ‘revanchist city’—a form of urban governance based on neoliberal logic and punitive strategies to deal with ‘unruly’ citizens.16 Subway graffiti grew into a political issue and became increasingly dangerous for its practitioners. New York’s Mayor Ed Koch suggested that if he had his way they ‘wouldn’t put in dogs, but wolves’ guarding the city’s train yards. In the 1980s, Koch and the City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority led an offensive for ‘clean trains’.17 This generation-long struggle mobilised police to guard train yards, changed laws, enlisted scientists to develop new chemical washes, and would ultimately succeed in ridding the subway system of painted trains. This was framed as a victory against disorder and a blow against the city’s ‘fallen’ image; Mayor Koch explained that ‘in this period of intense competition between cities and regions for corporate investment, we simply cannot allow this type of vandalism to continue to label New York City as a blighted town’.18 Graffiti removal was one of the marquee programs in the ‘quality of life’ push that Smith and others associate with the move towards neoliberalism and a new focus on ‘culprits’ in public life (whether taggers or ‘welfare queens’).19 This ideological reordering changed the allocation of the City’s resources and the interaction of departments with communities. The Department of Sanitation and Economic Development Corporation pushed funding dollars into anti-blight programs, with a specific focus on scrubbing tags from public view. Street-by-street graffiti eradication (begun in Business Improvement Districts, and taken citywide in 1999) was expensive, but promoters noted that these programs would ‘increase property values’ and ‘generate goodwill’ with business communities. Removal services, like Graffiti-Free NYC, also suggested new employment relations by partnering with social service organisations to offer low-level jobs that would help ‘rehabilitate segments of the City’s population’.20 Graffiti removal, prioritised in the ambition for economic survival, soon began to alter relations in the city. 14 William Julius Wilson, The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1987). 15 Kim Phillips-Fein, New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics (New York: Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company, 2017), p. 301. 16 Neil Smith, The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City (New York: Routledge, 1996). 17 Ronald Smothers, ‘Koch Calls for Dogs in Fight on Graffiti’, The New York Times, 27 August 1980, p. 27. 18 Joe Austin, How Graffiti Art Became an Urban Crisis in New York City (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), p. 165. 19 Smith, The New Urban Frontier, p. 26. 20 ‘Graffiti-Free NYC’, NYCEDC Additional Services < program/graffiti-free-nyc> [accessed 27 March 2018]



Ironically, some of the actors who fought hardest to wipe out graffiti would soon evangelise street art based on financial gain (Figure 4). In the years that followed the return of order to New York City’s subways, the ‘creative class’ exploded, bringing thousands of affluent newcomers to previously downtrodden neighbourhoods: a new interest in graffiti was born. The ‘signs of blight’ Koch once bemoaned became the city’s calling card to professionals looking for ‘stimulating’ urbanism. As much of North America grew eerily similar with big-box stores, malls, and cookie-cutter townhouses, New York City retained (for some time) an interesting, gritty, and vital street scene. The hard-to-read words sprayed on walls around the city became one of the things that made the City a hot destination. A hint of disorder was itself a selling point in an era characterised by the ‘unprecedented commodification of art’ and culture.21 A NEW PALETTE

With the closing of the subways as a canvas, graffiti writers grew more creative in their techniques for ‘getting up’. In the early 1990s, they began to experiment with new tactics for getting into the city’s nooks and crannies: climbing higher (sometimes with the help of professional rock-climbing equipment), creating more ‘reach downs’ from rooftops onto the building’s side, and using mass-produced stickers and wheat-pasted posters to cover more square footage. It was during this period that writers began to use guerrilla tagging techniques that made use of glass-etching fluid (to indelibly mark subway windows) and refilled fire extinguishers to crudely cover surfaces high above the ground (Figure 5). The myth-making world of subway whole-car ‘burners’ and teamwork in the yards was distinctly over. The composition of graffiti writers was also changing: a new generation of middle-class and affluent writers was emerging, often inspired by now-venerated tracts like the Style Wars documentary and the Subway Art book (both were painted into murals as homage to their role in disseminating the art form). Many of these new writers had, or would go on to, attend art school. There, they would learn more techniques for creating street-based public works. Their works were often in a graffiti style but did not always take the form of name-based typographic works, as most graffiti works had up until this point. The shift to ‘street art’ occurs when the delivery of graffiti’s signature aesthetic properties (drips, overspray, bubble letters) trumps the delivery of a writer’s individual name or crew. Many early graffiti writers were employed in professions not dissimilar from their illegal hobby. This allowed them to earn money, steal supplies, and, often, import visual styles and techniques from auto-pinstriping, signmaking, mural painting, and graphic design.22 The street artist known as ‘REVS’—who cuts the letters of his name from sheet metal in order to weld them onto loading docks, fences, and signposts—works as a union welder. Numerous other artists have worked as car detailers, designers, and 21 Smith, The New Urban Frontier, p. 17. 22 Ibid., pp. 172-77.



Figure 4 (top): New York Cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s stridently anti-graffiti mayor, Ed Koch. Wikimedia Commons, 1981. Figure 5 (bottom): A tag created with a paint-filled fire extinguisher. Author, 2017.



illustrators.23 For street artists, a double life is no longer necessary, largely because much of their work consists of legal commissions. An illustrious career painting in the streets often provides graffiti writers with a steppingstone into the world of alternative graphic design, indie illustration, and for the select few, gallery shows. However, illegal graffiti painting is not a prerequisite for becoming a street artist: a route directly from art school to street art is not atypical. Street art is primarily an artistic genre, often selected from a smorgasbord of others, and does not constitute a subculture in the way graffiti does. What is important is that street art appears in highprofile urban locations. While the stencils, wheat-paste posters, mosaics, and murals of street artists appear on the sides of buildings, dumpsters, and telephone booths—with and without permission—their geographic placement is not haphazard. Furthermore, unlike early graffiti writers who vied to go ‘all city’ or become ‘king’ of an entire subway line, their work is often limited in geographic scope to locations where it will be seen, and photographed, by other art and cultural tastemakers. Street artists like Swoon, who started out by creating meticulous wheat-pasted cut-outs, were able to gain acclaim with far fewer works than graffiti writers from years past. This is, in part, due to changes in media and culture dissemination. Previously, graffiti and street art enthusiasts had to go to specialty magazine stores to buy ’zines and independent publications. By the beginning of the 2000s there were hundreds of community-run blogs, websites, and photo sharing sites for exchanging both imagery and technical know-how. Graffiti has thrived on the internet. Early forums, like 12ozProphet. com, helped to jump-start scenes in smaller cities and rural areas, providing writers with a way to gain fame even in sparsely populated places. The painting of freight trains grew especially popular—like a new metro system that crisscrossed the country. Freight-specific forums and chat rooms allowed writers along the same line to virtually make acquaintance, connecting Boise to Buffalo, Amarillo to Toronto. This spawned dozens of new graffiti crews with members from cities and towns scattered over thousands of miles. The shift to freights allowed more graffiti writers from suburban and rural areas to make rolling works. The painting of freights (particularly in the first ‘golden age’ of the mid-1990s) was more mannerly than the street ‘bombing’ going on at the same time. Eager not to ‘burn’ a yard (that is, expose it to new scrutiny from railroad police and others), writers often enforced a loose set of rules: no painting in daylight, and no leaving trash, playing music, or behaving recklessly. Additionally, many writers would tape the numbers and other insignia of freights while they painted, as keeping these markings made it far more likely that the freight company would let a piece run.24 The move to freight yards represents both a scaling up and standardisation of graffiti as practiced in cities. Freight 23 Stephen Powers, The Art of Getting Over: Graffiti at the Millennium (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999). 24 Robert Donald Weide, ‘The History of Freight Train Graffiti in North America,’ in Routledge Handbook of Graffiti and Street Art, ed. by Jeffrey Ian Ross (New York: Routledge, 2016), pp. 35-37.



Figure 6: The Wynwood Walls project in Miami has been praised for helping to put a vibrant art district on the map, but it has also been criticized as a catalyst for gentrification, property speculation, and displacement of low-income residents. Flickr user wallyg, 2011.

graffiti shows the growth and transformation of graffiti subculture as it spread through infrastructural systems and the web. Street art has now taken the mantle of the urban art form. One of the key publications in launching it into the mainstream was Juxtapose, a magazine of ‘unconventional’ art that brought together the ‘alt[ernative]’ cultures of skateboarding, hot-rodding, tattoo, and graffiti. The magazine began to refer to all of its street-based content as ‘street art’ in 2009, almost entirely dropping the ‘graffiti’ label in the following years.25 Early articles focused on individual street artists like Banksy, Os Gemeos, Space Invader, and more political and folk-inspired muralists like Ron English. Later editions would devote articles to ‘scenes’ in neighbourhoods that were becoming known as hotspots for graffiti. Street art has often sought to speak for a neighbourhood, creating interesting tensions particularly when it is called upon to help revitalise formerly industrial or low-income neighbourhoods. ‘Representing’ happens with both social justice and profit-seeking motives. In low-income areas of South Brooklyn, the non-profit Groundswell works hand-in-hand with street artists to create large, multilingual murals that often address issues of environmental justice. On the other side of the spectrum, property owners in industrial areas have commissioned street art with the hopes of creating a scene that draws ‘tastemakers’ and partiers to their areas. Well-known murals in neighbourhoods like Brooklyn’s Bushwick have sped up the departure of manufacturing industries, and spurred the rapid creation of new galleries, coffee shops, nightclubs, and condos. These areas sometimes become arts districts in their own right, but nearby low-income residents often experience a housing squeeze as wealthier residents move in (Figure 6). The sociologist Gary Alan Fine studied outsider artists and ‘oddball’ groups (authoring books on both Dungeons & Dragons players and 25 ‘’ via the Internet Archive: Wayback Machine, < web/> [accessed 2 September 2017]



mushroom hunters) as a way of understanding broader swaths of society. He sees such specialist groups affecting society at what he calls the ‘mezzo’ level: hanging between micro-interactions and larger societal trends. The field of the ‘mezzo’ helps us to understand the patterns of recognition and interaction occurring between street art, graffiti, the fine arts world, and advertising. Fine defines ways of influence as: ‘arenas’ (spaces of interaction), ‘loops’ (ongoing interactions within the group), ‘tracks’ (linear routes in which the group progresses), ‘junctions’ (points of contestation) and ‘markers’ (signifiers of collective importance). The sites where wellknown street artists put their work become both markers and arenas for other street artists and connoisseurs.26 Space Invader, the celebrated French artist who uses illegally applied tiles to create pixelated images from arcade video games, is a good example. Often, the arrival of Invader’s epoxyapplied mosaics will create a significant site to which other street artists are drawn; what was previously an unblemished wall will suddenly host numerous wheat-pastings, tags, and stencils. The spot will then become a site of interest, and a place of pilgrimage for urban art connoisseurs (Figure 7). These sites have moved away from the specialist groups described by Fine towards broader audiences, thanks in part to the rise of social media and GIS mapping. Posed photos in front of well-known pieces have become something of a trope on Instagram, while Google Maps now notes distinctive street art locations and has started up its own Google Street Art project to ‘explore the stories behind the art’.27 In this aspect of street art we see a renewed sense of investment and excitement concerning one’s urban surroundings. However, this often occurs only in areas that sociologist Richard Lloyd has labelled ‘neo-bohemian’ enclaves: neighbourhoods occupied by those involved in creative production, and self-defined as ‘authentic’ examples of unspoiled urbanity. As these neighbourhoods become more homogenised, the search for authenticity turns residents into urban pioneers who ‘use their own city “as if tourists” aggressively pursuing [new] urban consumption opportunities’.28 Street art provides a way for residents of these neighbourhoods to connect with the artistic fringe in their day-to-day routines and movements throughout the city, even if only through the process of recognition. A major question is: What kind of neighbourhood change does street art facilitate? Cities like Melbourne have attempted to harness their semilegal art scenes and use them as economic drivers. The City Council notes on their website that the un-permitted laneway works have become a major ‘attraction for local and overseas visitors experiencing Melbourne’s creative ambience’.29 The city makes a clear distinction between stencils, murals, 26 Gary Alan Fine, Everyday Genius: Self-Taught Art and the Culture of Authenticity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), p. 175. 27 ‘Google Art Project: Street Art’, Google Cultural Institute <https://streetart.> [accessed 2 September 2017] 28 Richard Lloyd, Neo-Bohemia: Art and Commerce in the Postindustrial City (New York: Routledge, 2006), p. 126. 29 Ryan Jopp, ‘Melbourne’s Love-Hate Relationship with being Australia’s “Street Art Capital”’, The Conversation, 7 June 2017 <> [accessed 13 December 2017]



and wheat-pastes, which are legal, and letter-based graffiti and tags, which remain illegal.30 As cities struggle to differentiate themselves and bring in high-income tourists, street art tours and subcultural clout are being increasingly marketed. In places with long histories of left-wing activism like Berlin, artists have not been keen on helping anyone capitalise on their work. When a new condominium development in Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighbourhood posted renderings highlighting the building’s relationship to an iconic block-long mural by the artist Blu, the artist arrived at night with a team to black out the work rather than let new condo-dwellers enjoy it from their roof deck.31 In New York, street art and graffiti sites have met different fates. Developers have let some character-rich street art remain intact, realising that traces of the grittiness can be important in marketing a building. Graffiti, which still carries unwholesome undertones for a large segment of the public, almost never meets the same fate—even when the spirit of graffiti culture is key to branding an area. 5Pointz, a graffiti-covered warehouse in the Queens neighbourhood of Long Island City, was an informal outdoor gallery at the intersection of two above-ground subway lines and across from the MoMA’s Queens outpost, PS1. Pieces on the exterior were distinct in their Wild Style letterforms: they read clearly as graffiti, not street art. 5Pointz became the ‘U.N. of graffiti’ and a destination for tourists, art lovers, and graffiti enthusiasts from around the world.32 Nevertheless, it

Figure 7: Google Maps notes the placement of a tile-based piece by the high-profile French street artist, Invader (right). Author, 2016.

30 Nina Rousseau, ‘Paste Modernism’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 January 2012 <> [accessed 1 December 2017] 31 Lutz Henke, ‘Why We Painted Over Berlin’s Most Famous Graffiti’, The Guardian, 19 December 2014 <> [accessed 2 September 2017] 32 Ameena Walker, ‘Long Island City’s 5Pointz-replacing Rental Towers Reveal Interior’, Curbed <> [accessed 2 September 2017]



was destroyed to make way for a new condominium development. The developers did not preserve anything from the original warehouse, but they did understand that the name ‘5Pointz’ and its counterculture cache had value. After wriggling the name away from the organisers of the graffiti walls, the developers applied it to their 48-floor tower. Renderings show walls hung with street art pieces that pay homage to their graffiti-forbearers with overspray and colour fades but that can also be read as more traditional works on canvas (Figure 8).33 Advertisers have been inspired by street art and graffiti for years. They borrowed Wild Style motifs, twisting arrows, drips, and stylised lens flairs for products directed first at an ‘urban’ audience (a shorthand for Black and Latino men and a subcategory in the literature of market segmentation) and then for a wider audience. In some ways, graffiti’s entry into the mainstream popular culture parallels the rise of hip-hop; once relegated to the autonomous regions of MTV Raps and 106 & Park, the music form grew in popularity throughout the 1990s and, by the early 2000s, almost all of the old-guard institutions had merged music categories. Today one can find graffiti-inspired typography on all manner of products, pointing towards a brand’s hipness (Figure 9). Street artists, some of whom aimed to critique consumer culture, ended up alerting purveyors of ad culture to alternative tactics. ‘Guerrilla advertising’ represents a blurring of the lines between advertising space and street art, legality and illegality, and is often contracted out to semiautonomous groups for liability reasons. Some of these new advertisements are transient, such as commercial messages projected from moving trucks or onto the sidewalk; others are permanent (and illegal), often carried out by unauthorised street teams.34 These groups have long been employed to put up posters on construction sites with wheat paste, and they sometimes consist of current or former graffiti writers. Other contraband methods of exposure include sidewalk stencils, stickers—often strategically placed on other advertisements—and ‘snipes’ (small vinyl posters held up with static electricity). While street teams can be arrested and charged for graffiti crimes, it appears that most police departments turn a blind eye towards the companies that (unofficially) commission the advertising.35 The relationship between advertisers and street teams is often based on a ‘see33 At the time of writing, in a landmark decision in the Federal District Court, $6.7 million was awarded to 21 ‘writers’ whose works were destroyed at 5Pointz. The decision is likely to be appealed by the developer, and many fear that it will have a chilling effect, dissuading property owners who would otherwise give graffiti artists permission to paint their buildings. Alan Feuer, ‘Graffiti Artists Awarded $6.7 Million for Destroyed 5Pointz Murals’, The New York Times, 12 February 2018. <https://www.nytimes. com/2018/02/12/nyregion/5pointz-graffiti-judgment.html> [accessed 30 March 2018] 34 Klein, No Logo, p. 280. 35 One example of guerrilla marketing gone wrong is the fiasco surrounding Turner Broadcasting’s light boards, originally intended to promote the cartoon ‘Aqua Teen Hunger Force’, which set off a terrorist alarm in metropolitan Boston. When securityconscious commuters spotted the boards attached to bridges and road signs they alerted the police, who called in the bomb squad. Both Turner Broadcasting and their street team, Renegade Marketing Group, were held accountable for over two million dollars in damages. Louise Story, ‘A Boston Marketing Stunt That Bombed, or Did It?’, The New York Times, 2 February 2007, p. 2, Column 1.



Figure 8 (top): 5Pointz, the graffiti-covered warehouse in Queens was leveled to make way for a condominium tower. The new development (pictured in the rendering below) will be named '5Pointz' and will feature graffiti-inspired art in the lobby. Wikimedia Commons, 2013. Figure 9 (bottom): The luxury mineral water brand, Perrier, released a graffiti-inspired line of sparkling beverages in 2015. Author, 2015.



Figure 10: Urban palimpsest: an illegally-sprayed stencil advertises a shoe company and sits on top on a construction fence advertisement for a German bank. Author, 2017.

no-evil, hear-no-evil’ understanding that they will get the word out about brands in ‘innovative ways’, the specifics of which are left intentionally vague (Figure 10). The prime example of an insider street artist is Shepard Fairey, a graduate of the prototypical art school, RISD, and creator of a distinctive red-and-black graphic style inspired partially by Cuban OSPAAAL posters and the newspaper of the Black Panther Party. Fairey started his franchise in the 1990s with the ‘Obey Giant’ project, a global advertisement campaign for an anti-product. In what started as a prank, participants could order a do-it-yourself street art kit complete with ‘Obey’ stickers and stencils to celebrate the has-been wrestler, André ‘the Giant’ Roussimoff.36 The ‘post-graffiti’ project that started as ‘culture-jamming’ turned lucrative as Fairey spun sub-cultural notoriety into market-niche monetisation. The Obey™ brand now produces sweatshirts, caps, wallets, and other clothing items that are sold at high-end retailers. Fairey famously went on to design the ‘Hope’ poster of Barack Obama that was ubiquitous during the 2008 U.S. presidential election. The self-conscious idealised image of the young Senator from Illinois winkingly points at propaganda, primarily via Fairey’s style, but also worked as such, solidifying the Obama movement by offering an image of pure charismatic authority. It was successful in that it takes the graphic forms of the past (high-contrast ‘Che style’ photos, Constructivist typographic confidence, and street art halftones) to create an image that shifts the future-imaginary. Fairey’s journey from punk-inspired stickering to styling a key element in a presidential campaign is unprecedented, but it speaks to how politics and power enter into the streetscape. The city contains layers of visual information regarding who wields power in specific areas. Much of this 36 In 2000, the U.S.-government sponsored ‘Truth’ anti-tobacco campaign took a page from Fairey’s playbook, distributing DIY stencils in youth magazines like Rolling Stone.



goes unnoticed: few in New York City stop to think about the layers of local, state, and federal government that place business improvement stickers, restaurant grades, and lottery signs on store windows. Nor do we consider the functional markings that designate the pathway of high-pressure steam systems, flood evacuation routes, or garbage hauling, but all of these elements are clearly marked out on our urban surfaces. It is not uncommon for elected officials in New York City to ‘sign’ their capital improvements, with City Council Members prominently placing their name on the garbage cans, playgrounds, and park benches they fund. Simultaneously, street furniture bears the name of the department responsible for maintaining it and, increasingly, advertisements to help support the cost of that maintenance. We have become adept at ordering urban visual information. The discrete parcels of parking signage, post drop boxes, and electric car plugins are related in their own graphic language that stands side by side with more attention-grabbing visuals from the worlds of politics, commerce, and free expression. Even children can differentiate between the visual language of advertising and the staid work of the city. There is surprisingly little room for ambiguity. The visual culture of American cities was not always so neatly held in place. The use of street art in advertising campaigns brings a fluidity that we have seen before. It reopens a frontier closed off at the end of the nineteenth century when advertisements for hosiery, Red Star Line tickets, and detachable collars were painted directly onto the side of buildings by artists unencumbered by ordinance or modern notions of taste. Victorianera advertising culture was maximalist at its core, deploying metre-high wavy letterforms, fluorescent paints, and the explosion forms known colloquially in the industry as ‘violators’. Many of the outlandish typefaces associated with San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury ‘acid tests’ of the 1960s were actually reissues of woodcut typefaces produced for handbills and posters in the exploding cities of the late Victorian period. Contemporary accounts often complain of the excessive garishness of these ‘interruptions’ in the public realm; reformers in the early twentieth century pushed back on the scale and size of painted advertisements.37 Today we see an odd replaying of history as advertisers, catalysed by graffiti and street art, let loose of previously-respected restraints on where and how advertisements can be applied to buildings and other public spaces. WHO OWNS VISUAL SPACE?

The mutation of graffiti into street art, and street art into co-branded advertising, raises interesting questions about visual order in our cities. What amount of visual noise and dissonance give a city its particular character? When do we need to tame a city’s visual culture and when does it turn into visual pollution? We live with many dissonant elements in our visual-cultural sphere, 37 Thomas Richards, The Commodity Culture of Victorian England: Advertising and Spectacle, 1851-1914 (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990).



Figure 11: Pichação, a graffiti hand style born in Brazil in the 1980s, uses letterforms inspired by black metal albums, and is known for the daring of its practitioners. Marco Gomes, 2017.

and only occasionally does one emerge that we simply cannot tolerate. This is highly contextual: many affluent communities ban billboard advertising, while other communities celebrate graffiti as a badge of counterculture belonging, even if artists do not intend it to be a counter-hegemonic statement. Graffiti keeps a neighbourhood’s ‘edgy’ feeling—and, some hope, resistance to gentrification—but is simultaneously viewed as a way to ‘prime the pump’ for the real estate speculation that can precipitate gentrification. Ten years ago, the city of São Paulo launched a battle against the garish advertising that had obscured many of its historic façades. The initiative, known as the Lei Cidade Limpa (Clean City Law), was something of a ‘nuclear option’. Within ninety days after it took effect, in January 2007, landlords and businesses were to remove outdoor advertising or face stiff fines—that same spring, New York City, following the lead of dozens of other municipalities, began to levy fines for property owners who did not promptly remove graffiti. The Lei Cidade Limpa banned billboards, LEDilluminated displays, and even taxi ads in the name of order and cleanliness. The result was that Paulistas could once again get a look at their Beaux Arts downtown, but the program also exposed the hidden-in-plain-sight markers of Brazilian inequality: micro-favelas behind billboards, homeless sleeping spots, and sex workers.38 At the same time the Brazilian police also pushed anti-graffiti crackdowns, particularly against the city’s pichação artists who had become famous for writing their cryptic alphabets using the narrowest of ledges on apartment high-rises and skyscrapers (Figure 11). While the authorities did not see the policing of pichação artists as a direct part of the Lei Cidade Limpa, they frequently drew parallels between advertising and graffiti. 38 Kurt Kohlstedt, ‘Clean City Law: Secrets of São Paulo Uncovered by Outdoor Advertising Ban’, 99 Percent Invisible, 2 May 2016. <http://99percentinvisible. org/article/clean-city-law-secrets-sao-paulo-uncovered-outdoor-advertising-ban/> [accessed 2 September 2017]



Figure 12: A fence that has been ‘buffed’ (painted over). Wikimedia Commons, 2015.

Pichação is widely reviled because of its brute style (almost always painted in black, and, sometimes, with rollers of street tar when paint is hard to come by) and its practitioners are frequently beaten, and, in at least one case, shot (Figure 12).39 Street art—especially the colourful Carnival-inspired works painted by the brothers Os Gemeos—has been more accepted and was even permitted in special zones, in what constituted a major relaxing of the Lei Cidade Limpa in 2012. Advertisers were quick to take notice, sneaking back into the city by providing corporate sponsorship for large-scale murals. One creative director, who commissioned two art collectives to create a nine-storey tall mural for GE noted: ‘We thought about GE giving a gift for the people, turning a grey and cold city like São Paulo, into a more colorful, happier and fun city.’40 While the mural looks to be an abstract field of brightly-coloured imagery, it is divided into thirds—energy, health, and transportation—to represent the fields in which GE works. At the bottom, the company’s signature blue-and-white mark is worked into the composition along with its slogan, translated into Portuguese as ‘If you can imagine it, it can be done’.41 The fight over street art speaks directly to the changing visual spaces of cities, and the transformation of one of the world’s most loved and loathed subcultures. New actors in the field, particularly advertisers, have helped to legitimise graffiti via the ‘street art’ label and co-branded murals. Advertisers and tastemakers have attempted to profit from the ‘street cred’—deep reserves of cultural capital—that accompanies urban aerosol art, but in so doing they have placed artists in a sharply contradictory position: a practice that once challenged the elements that order visual 39 Simon Romero, ‘At War with São Paulo’s Establishment, Black Paint in Hand’, The New York Times, 28 January 2012. 40 Teressa Iezzi, ‘Advertising Comes Back to São Paulo Streets–Via Graffiti’, Fast Company, 2 August 2012. 41 Laurel Wentz and Claudia Penteado, ‘GE Gallery Launches in Billboard-Free São Paulo’, Ad Age, 30 July 2012.



Figure 13: The implements of tagging, once improvised, have been branded and can now be purchased from art supply stores, though explicitly for ‘legal street art’ use. Graffiti Markers—Tutorials Blog via


space in the neoliberal city has been assimilated into it. Street-based works have moved from marginal to mainstream. In style, they still hold up the visual heterogeneity that is a celebrated part of New York City’s cultural cache, but in substance they have diverged significantly. Graffiti, as a visual style, no longer asserts the presence of low-income men of colour in the world of outdoor advertising; it is simply another graphic device to be employed in building brands (Figure 13). The visual culture of New York City is still freewheeling: buzzing neon signage, subway mosaics, and scrolling LEDs make for a vibrant streetscape, but almost all of this is sanctioned by the City. The tumult of the 1970s and 1980s has been reigned in, and the 40-year war of attrition launched against subway graffiti and street tagging seems to have ended. Now, in peacetime, the ordnance has been redistributed. The power to occupy visual space is primarily in the hands of city agencies and private companies, who are increasingly active in funding public services (like public toilets, Wi-Fi hubs, buses, and bicycle shares) by coating them in advertisements. Unsanctioned interruptions in the public realm have subsided, and the visual space of the city, once up for grabs, appears to be increasingly locked down.


Sketching with Mathematics VARIATIONS OF A PAVILION

Joseph Choma


Figure 1: The following records the mathematical form-making process. The process begins with a torus. { (u,v) | 0 ≤ u ≤ 2π, 0 ≤ v ≤ 2π } x = ((3/2)+sin(u))cos(v) y = ((3/2)+sin(u))sin(v) z = cos(u) Texturing is applied to the torus. { (u,v) | 0 ≤ u ≤ 2π, 0 ≤ v ≤ 2π } x = ((3/2)+sin(u))(cos(v)+cos(2v)/10) y = ((3/2)+sin(u))(sin(v)+sin(2v)/10) z = cos(u)+cos(6u)/6 Twisting is applied to the textured torus. { (u,v) | 0 ≤ u ≤ 2π, 0 ≤ v ≤ 2π } x = ((3/2)+sin(u+v))(cos(v)+cos(2v)/10) y = ((3/2)+sin(u+v))(sin(v)+sin(2v)/10) z = cos(u+v)+cos(6u)/6 Flattening is applied to the twisted, textured torus. { (u,v) | 0 ≤ u ≤ 2π, 0 ≤ v ≤ 2π } x = ((3/2)+sin(u+v))(cos(v)+cos(2v)/10) y = ((3/2)+sin(u+v))(sin(v)+sin(2v)/10) z = sin(sin(cos(u+v)+cos(6u)/6)) Cutting is applied to the flattened, twisted, textured torus. { (u,v) | π/2 ≤ u ≤ (3/2)π, 0 ≤ v ≤ 2π } x = ((3/2)+sin(u+v))(cos(v)+cos(2v)/10) y = ((3/2)+sin(u+v))(sin(v)+sin(2v)/10) z = sin(sin(cos(u+v)+cos(6u)/6)) Doubling the twisting operation and increasing the frequency of the texturing in the z-coordinate. { (u,v) | π/2 ≤ u ≤ (3/2)π, 0 ≤ v ≤ 2π } x = ((3/2)+sin(u+2v))(cos(v)+cos(2v)/10) y = ((3/2)+sin(u+2v))(sin(v)+sin(2v)/10) z = sin(sin(cos(u+2v)+cos(12u)/12)) Figure 2 (opposite): Two design variations of a pavilion, based on twisting a torus.




Sketching is usually a conversation between a hand, pen or pencil, paper and your eyes. It is a back and forth feedback loop between making a mark and actively searching for opportunities. These sketches are made through a similar dialogue with mathematics as the primary instrument to play.



Cosmos out of Chaos: An Episode in the Rise and Fall of Proportion Following the Second World War (With a Brief Historical Sketch of its Development from the Seventh Century BC to the Present)

Jeffery Roberson

This article explores this return of proportional discourse in the post-war era, noting its major historical inflections in Europe. It focuses its investigation on the particular teleological narrative and ontological claims posited by Wittkower in Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism, and in contrast to those of his oftassociated peer, Le Corbusier. Studies on the problem of proportions are generally received with scepticism or, at most, with little interest.1 Erwin Panofsky, ‘Die Entwicklung der Proportionslehre als Abbild der Stilentwicklung’ (1921) I hope to stimulate discussion about a problem [i.e. proportion] that to-day is perhaps more on artists’ and architects’ minds than at any time during the last 150 years.2 Rudolf Wittkower, ‘Systems of Proportion’ (1953) 1 Erwin Panofsky, ‘The History of the Theory of Human Proportions as a Reflection of the History of Styles’, in Meaning in the Visual Arts: Papers in and on Art History, ed. by Erwin Panofsky (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1955), pp. 55-107 (p. 55). 2 Rudolf Wittkower, ‘Systems of Proportion’, Architects’ Year Book, 5 (1953), 9-19 (p. 9).


Wittkower’s opening statement in his seminal essay ‘Systems of Proportion’ marks a distinct shift from his position eight years prior, where he, echoing his mentor Panofsky, stated that scepticism and indifference towards proportion ‘is the attitude to which most architects as well as the public unconsciously subscribed right down to our own days’.3 By 1953, however, the tide appeared to be turning, with Wittkower’s victorious proclamation ‘that the era opposed to “systems of proportion” is approaching its end.’4 This paper explores this return of proportional discourse in the postwar era, noting its major historical inflections in Europe. It focuses its investigation on the particular teleological narrative and ontological claims posited by Wittkower in Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism (1949)5 in contrast to those of his oft-associated peer, Le Corbusier. THE RETURN OF PROPORTION IN ARCHITECTURE FOLLOWING THE SECOND WORLD WAR

In the decade following the Second World War, at the seeming height of modernist orthodoxy, proportion, an arcane subject steeped in classicism and mysticism, returned to architectural discourse with great force in the United Kingdom. In 1957, for instance, while reflecting back upon the decade, the British architect Peter Smithson recalled that ‘proportion was important to architects, as a matter of tooth and claw debate’.6 This sentiment had in fact already been expressed as early as 1949 by the editors of the RIBA Journal, who in response to the impassioned debates unfolding in the correspondence pages, commented that ‘few subjects arouse more ferocious arguments among architects’.7 Perhaps equally unexpected was that the two publications at the centre of such ‘ferocious’ debates were issued from a German-Jewish historian on the one hand, and a SwissFrench architect on the other, and that both seized upon the attention of two groups in the United Kingdom at a moment when the relationship between history and practice8—as well as that of British and non-British (particularly German and Jewish)9—was tenuous at best, if not wholly antagonistic. The first of these publications was Rudolf Wittkower’s 1949 Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism—a collection of essays that sought to replace the then prevailing ‘subjectivist’ interpretation of

3 Rudolf Wittkower, ‘Principles of Palladio’s Architecture: II’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 8 (1945), 68-108 (p. 102). 4 Wittkower, ‘Systems of Proportion’, p. 18. 5 Rudolf Wittkower, Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism, 1st edn. (London: Warburg Institute, 1949). 6 As quoted in Nikolaus Pevsner, ‘Report on a Debate of the Motion “that Systems of Proportion Make Good Design Easier and Bad Design More Difficult”’, RIBA Journal, 64:11 (1957), 456-463 (p. 461). 7 Eva-Marie Neumann, ‘Architectural Proportion in Britain 1945-1957’, Architectural History, 39 (1996), 197-221 (p. 200). 8 Alina A. Payne, ‘Rudolf Wittkower and Architectural Principles in the Age of Modernism’, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 53:3 (1994), 322-42. 9 Christy Anderson, ‘War Work: English Art and the Warburg Institute’, Common Knowledge, 18:1 (2012), 149-59.



Figure 1 (left): Cover image of second printing of first edition of Wittkower’s Architectural Principles (1952) showing Leonardo Da Vinci’s cosmological diagram of the Vitruvian Man superimposed over a centrally planned church. The church, Santa Maria della Consolazione (begun in 1508), is based on the same square and circle into which the Vitruvian figure is inscribed making explicit the link between microcosm (body), macrocosm (universe) and building.

Renaissance architecture with an ‘objectivist’ one.10 The former position was paradigmatically represented by Geoffrey Scott’s 1914 publication The Architecture of Humanism: A Study in the History of Taste, from which Wittkower’s text polemically borrowed its title, replacing ‘taste’ with ‘principles’.11 Whereas Scott’s ‘taste’ concerned individual and subjective judgment, Wittkower’s ‘principles’ advocated for universal and objective criteria that transcended individual subjectivity. Scott’s error, according to Wittkower, was that he projected nineteenth-century post-Kantian conceptions of aesthetics onto the past, thus arriving to the conclusion that Renaissance architecture was guided by the intuition and feeling of their respective makers.12 To provide a corrective to Scott’s ‘hedonistic’ interpretation, Wittkower firmly situated Renaissance architecture within its specific historical and cultural context, and in turn, revealed it to be ‘aimed at the mind rather than the senses’.13 In this sense, Architectural Principles was an inversion of Scott’s claims that Renaissance architects ‘produced no theory of architecture’, that ‘[t]hey give us rules, but not principles’, and that they ‘had no need of theory, for they addressed themselves to taste’.14 Architectural Principles was soon followed in 1950 by Le Corbusier’s Le Modulor (published in English as The Modulor in 1954).15 According to Le Corbusier, the ‘only thing’ The Modulor claims to do is ‘to retrace, step by step, the course of a search running like a thread through the life of one man’.16 The search is guided by a single question: ‘What is the rule

Figure 2 (right): Cover of first English edition of Le Corbusier’s Le Modulor (1954) superimposed over an array of the Modulor Man with scale. The Modulor array is indicative of the universal applicability and aspirations of Le Corbusier’s all-encompassing system of measure. Collage by author, images of The Modulor book cover and Modulor Man © F.L.C. / ADAGP, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 2018.

10 Branko Mitrovic and Ivana Djordjevic, ‘Objectively Speaking’, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 52:1 (1993), 59-67. 11 Geoffrey Scott, The Architecture of Humanism: A Study in the History of Taste (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1914). 12 Payne, ‘Rudolf Wittkower and Architectural Principles in the Age of Modernism’. 13 Ibid., p. 325. 14 Scott, The Architecture of Humanism, p. 37. 15 Le Corbusier, The Modulor: A Harmonious Measure to the Human Scale Universally Applicable to Architecture and Mechanics, trans. by Peter de Francia and Anna Bostock (Basel, Switzerland: Birkhauser, 2000). 16 Ibid, p. 9.



that orders, that connects all things?’17 For Le Corbusier, the answer was mathematics. To lend credibility to this claim, Le Corbusier offered the following quote by the Swiss mathematician Andreas Speiser: ‘Nature is ruled by mathematics, and the masterpieces of art are in consonance with nature: they express the laws of nature and themselves proceed from those laws.’18 Upon this mathematical foundation, the rest of the book retraces a meandering course marked by various attempts at addressing two primary problems: first, to establish objective criteria, or universal laws, for the ordering of form, and second, as stated in the book’s subtitle, to provide ‘a harmonious measure to the human scale universally applicable to architecture and mechanics’. To this, Le Corbusier’s response was the ‘Modulor Man’, an anthropocentric heir to the Vitruvian Man, which according to its author ‘is a measuring tool based on the human body and on mathematics’19 with two roles: ‘(a) Internal role: to bring harmony into the work; (b) external role: to unite, harmonise, mutually adapt the work of men which is now in a state of disunity, if not rivalry.’20 While each book represented a pole relative to the theory and practice of proportion in architecture—Architectural Principles looking towards the past with ‘analytical goals’, and Le Modular looking towards the future with ‘creative purposes’—neither was conceived with the other in mind.21 There is no evidence to suggest that Wittkower and Le Corbusier had ever sustained correspondence or even met in-person prior to their respective publications, and their individual personas presented them as complete opposites. Not soon after their texts were published, however, they entered quickly, and to some extent unwillingly, into a symbiotic relationship through which proportion was salvaged, albeit temporarily, from the ash heap of history. In an oft-cited passage from their 1954 article, ‘Form and Mathematics’, published in Architectural Review, art historian Ruth Olitsky and British architect John Voelcker astutely summarised the Wittkower-Corbusier phenomenon as follows: It is seldom that chance timing in the publication of two books has been so fortunate as in the case of Dr Wittkower’s Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism and Le Corbusier’s Le Modulor. Both books are concerned, broadly speaking, with interpretations of man’s place within the universe. The first explicitly, through historical documentation, the second implicitly, through the development of mind and idea. Each book illuminates the other, and through them it becomes possible to see the origins of many issues that are very much alive amongst architects at the present time.22

17 Ibid., p. 26. 18 Ibid., p. 29. 19 Ibid., p. 55. 20 Ibid., p. 184. 21 Francesco Benelli, ‘Rudolf Wittkower versus Le Corbusier: A Matter of Proportion’, Architectural Histories, 3:8 (2015), 1-11 (p. 1). 22 Ruth Olitsky and John Voelcker, ‘Form and Mathematics’, Architectural Design, 24 (1954), 306-07 (p. 306).



Stated otherwise, despite their differences in aim and approach, both were united in their recasting of architecture as a kind of cosmic science, in which proportion played a fundamental role. Olitsky and Voelcker’s observation also hints at what was ultimately at stake in the two authors’ respective texts, as well as in the subsequent debates that they informed. Likewise, it suggests why these debates were so contentious. Despite the differences in their particular methods of deploying proportion—serving for Wittkower as an analytical device for studying patterns, and for Le Corbusier, as an aesthetic expedient for the design and construction of buildings—engaging with proportion was ultimately about far more for both. It implicated fundamental claims about the nature of reality, the mind’s relationship to this reality, and the ethical and formal consequences of such claims. It is in this larger discursive realm that a sizeable chasm exists between the ontological and epistemological claims established in each text. Where Le Corbusier is ultimately attempting to resuscitate the Vitruvian body and therefore an epistemology which posits a direct connection between the subject (mind) and object (nature), albeit, in the words of Wittkower, ‘newly dressed up by him and his team’, Wittkower, on the other hand, ontologically grounds his theory of proportion in neo-Kantian epistemology and gestalt psychology, which dispenses with the possibility that the mind can know nature directly.23 He posits instead that systems of order are symbolising schema that mediate between the subject (mind) and object (nature), and that ordering structures are reflective of our cognitive apparatus rather than reality itself. THE PYTHAGOREAN-PLATONIC ORIGINS OF ARCHITECTURAL PROPORTION

The most explicit historical and ontological origin point for proportion in Western art and architecture was to be found, for Wittkower, in the sixth century BC with the anecdotal discovery of musical harmony by the IonianGreek philosopher Pythagoras. Pythagoras posited that sonic harmony was achieved between the sounds of certain blacksmiths’ hammers, due the correspondence of ratios that existed between each hammer-weight. Pythagoras likewise noted that the harmony produced by the strings of a lyre was due to the same kind of ratio correspondence, or proportion, that existed between the lengths of each string. His great insight was ultimately that these proportional relationships, despite differences of medium or instrument, could all be expressed through whole number ratios derived from the first four integers of 1:2:3:4—in other words, that harmony had a fundamentally mathematical basis, and this system became later codified into the Greek musical scale.24 But for Pythagoras, this was evidence of a greater, more encompassing celestial harmony, of which the musical scale of ‘nature’ was simply one register, and that this system of correct proportional relationships should serve for relationships in space as well. 23 Rudolf Wittkower, ‘The Changing Concept of Proportion’, Daedalus, 89:1 (1960), 199-215 (p. 212). 24 Wittkower, ‘Systems of Proportion’, p. 10.



He thus extended this harmonic principle into realms beyond musical production, bringing together several seemingly disparate and unrelated phenomena into a unification of sound, space, and number, thereby activating the meaning of proportion as something reflective and defining of the universe. In the words of Wittkower, this discovery ‘left Pythagoras and his associates bewildered and fascinated, for they seemed to hold the key which opened the door to the unexplored regions of universal harmony’.25 While not taken up explicitly by Wittkower, it is perhaps worth noting that Pythagoras is often credited as the first known figure to use the term cosmos in the modern sense, i.e. to ‘signify the world or universe as a whole’.26 As a compound of the terms cosmos and –logy, ‘cosmology’ has its origins in the ancient Greek terms kosmos, which meant ‘good order’ or ‘orderly arrangement’, and logy, which derived from logos, and while generally associated with ‘speaking’ or ‘discourse’, also synonymously meant ‘ratio’ and ‘proportion’, as well as ‘reason’. When considered in relation to its origin point in ancient Greece with Pythagoras, cosmology thus reveals itself to be intimately bound up with proportion—and as a reflection of the constitutive structure of the cosmos—even ‘reason’ itself; it finds its expression through celestial and terrestrial harmony. Plato extended Pythagoras’s line of philosophical inquiry by proposing that mathematics is the fundamental basis for absolute truth. This was an unpopular belief during his time, as the very concept of absolute truth was generally negated by the dominant intellectuals, the Sophists, who held that knowledge was subjective.27 Plato’s mathematics provided a counterpoint to the Sophists’ relativism. Mathematics was eternal, imperishable, and constitutive of utmost reality—to the extent that even if the material world which humans inhabit were to vanish, mathematics would still persist. And while such autonomously occurring mathematical prototypes, or eidos (‘Forms’), exist separately from the realm of matter, they nevertheless are interrelated such that an imperfect registration or ‘copy’ of eidos is still to recognise that which is eternal and true. The obvious epistemological dilemma for Plato was thus how the human body, delimited through the ‘imperfection’ of its senses, could possibly come to apprehend Forms, and he ultimately proposed that the human soul is the mediator between realms. Caught in-between obscured memories and the physical body, the soul can, if on rare occasions, recall original Forms and thereby attain true knowledge.28 Assuming this formula, mathematics is then not a construction invented by humans, but rather a discovery.29 This sharp metaphysical delineation is the foundation of Platonism, the registration of which in the arts was Beauty—an accepted moral virtue that transcended physical appearance, manifesting rather in the soul. Furthermore, as proportion 25 Ibid., p. 10. 26 Alexander von Humboldt, Cosmos: A Sketch of a Physical Description of the Universe, Volume 1 (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1860), p. 372. 27 Plato: Complete Works, ed. by John M. Cooper and D.S. Hutchinson (Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett Publishing, 1997), pp. 235-93. 28 Ibid., pp. 506-56. 29 Ibid., pp. 870-97.



was found to be in harmony with nature’s laws, however illusive it was to the senses, it was knowable still by human reason. As such, the concept of proportion was associated directly with beauty, and imbuing the practice of proportion therein as a kind of divine rite. This disposition served the basis of dominant architectural discourses of proportion in the Western tradition until at least the eighteenth century.30 Despite its later demise, remnants of this metaphysical belief in harmonious order can still be found in prosaic lexicon today; ‘I’m out of step’, ‘My rhythm is off’, or ‘My life is out of balance’ suggest a correlation between proportion, order, and the ‘good life’. THE RISE OF NEWTONIAN SCIENCE AND THE FALL OF PROPORTION

Wittkower addresses the demise of proportion in the eighteenth century, situating it against the unravelling cosmological paradigm of Ptolemy that followed the Copernican discovery of a heliocentric universe. The resulting catastrophic blows upon prior understandings of cosmology thus eroded the notion that the universe is a product of divine authorship, or even that it is inherently good. Eventually, the universe came to be understood as neutral and indifferent to human affairs, unsympathetic of whether ‘we’ exist or not. Rather than being a kosmos-logy (i.e. a ‘good orderly arrangement’), proportion came to be understood merely as a brute and mechanical enforcement of simply ‘orderly arrangement’ stripped of any moral value. This was, according to Wittkower, ‘a universe of mechanical laws, of iron necessity with no ulterior plan, a universe in which the artist had to find his bearings by substituting subjective standards for the old super-personal ones’.31 The radical subjectivity that emerged in this time also undermined the idea of objective beauty, a condition captured in Kant’s claim in 1790 that the ‘judgement of taste is therefore not a judgement of cognition, and is consequently not logical but aesthetical, by which we understand that whose determining ground can be no other than subjective.’32 Relative to architecture, the repercussions of the cosmological revolution manifested through the well-known public debates between Francois Blondel and Claude Perrault in the years spanning 1674 and 1686, after which proportion as a category of committed practice central to architecture was displaced, and was no longer commonly accepted as having a ‘fixed “natural” basis [...] verifiable by common observation’.33 The aforementioned Blondel–Perrault debate was part of a larger quarrel between French intellectuals over the authority of the ‘old order’ of the Ancients, who discouraged experimentation and instead favoured 30 Wittkower, Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism; Alberto PérezGómez, Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1983). 31 Wittkower, ‘Systems of Proportion’, p. 18. 32 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, trans. by J.H. Bernard (New York: Hafner, 1951), p. 37. 33 Anthony Gerbino, Francois Blondel: Architecture, Erudition, and the Scientific Revolution (London and New York: Routledge, 2010), p. 2.



engagement with the literary sources of Aristotle and his followers, versus that of the Moderns, who advocated for verifiable knowledge through the observation of nature. Perrault, a founding member of the Académie Royale des Sciences and a medical doctor by training, designed the controversial eastern façade of the Louvre in accordance with theories he was developing to replace those which had dominated architectural practice since Vitruvius. Perrault’s architecture was scientific rather than metaphysic, and this science was applied rather hermetically—a disposition visible in his 1667 commission to design the Paris Observatoire. In regard to architectural proportion, Perrault states ‘most...are arbitrary’ and ‘since there is nothing in these matters the has a positive or natural beauty, there is nothing to prevent us from altering established proportions or to stop us from investing others that appear to be beautiful’.34 Opposed to Perrault was Blondel, a mathematician and director of the competing Académie Royale d’Architecture, who took a moderate position towards Antiquity, claiming it to be a source of excellence that did not necessitate slavish adherence, while rejecting firmly Perrault’s claim that the observably diverse standards of beauty were purely the results of varying customs. By the end of the nineteenth century, and concurrent with the reign of Romanticism, Classical proportion was definitively no longer a central determinant in the production of architectural form. According to Wittkower, the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries were defined by a Romantic interpretation of art and architecture. At the broadest level, the Romantic aesthetic paradigm that had eclipsed the Classical one privileged individualism, subjectivity and feeling over universality, objectivity and reason. Rationalised systems and rules, such as ‘systems of proportion’ were shunned in favour of unfiltered and raw emotional expression. The spirit of the Romantic aesthetic is summarised by the German Romantic artist, Caspar David Friedrich, who proclaimed that ‘the artist’s feeling is the law’.35 The result was that proportion lost its claims of universal validity, and was no longer a guarantor of beauty nor a primary determinant in the ordering of form. No longer was beauty thought to emerge from establishing proportional harmony with the mathematical structure of the cosmos, but was instead believed to arise from irrational impulses, which could not be objectively quantified or measured. Hence was the long reign of the Pythagorean-Platonic tradition broken, and with it the idea that proportion was ‘a visible echo of a celestial and universally valid harmony’.36 THE RISE AFTER THE FALL

When attempting to account for the re-emergence of interest in proportion following the Second World War, Wittkower asserted that, 34 Claude Perrault, Ordonnance for the Five Kinds of Columns after the Method of the Ancients, trans. by Indra Kagis McEwen (Santa Monica, CA: The Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1993), p. 154. 35 Elizabeth Gilmore Holt, From the Classicists to the Impressionists: Art and Architecture in the 19th Century (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1986), p. 85. 36 Wittkower, Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism, p. 8.



at the end of the last century, non-Euclidean geometry became the basis of the modern view of the universe, the break with the past was as fundamental, or even more fundamental, than the break between the scholastic hierarchy of the Middle Ages and the Euclidean mathematical universe of Leonardo, Copernicus and Newton.37

Therefore, such a re-emergence signalled that another cosmological revolution was underway, and that the effects of this revolution upon epistemology and aesthetics were already beginning to take shape. This condition presented Wittkower with a dilemma. On the one hand, he faced the challenge of ensuring that the re-emergence of proportional discourse was not merely a passing phase, but rather a substantive return and a continuation of a tradition that had persisted in architectural discourse in the West for over two millennia. On the other, there was the problem of carrying this thread forward in relation to the Einsteinian revolution. Wittkower explicitly poses this predicament in the form of a question: ‘What bearing on proportion in the arts has and will have the replacing of absolute measures of space and time by the new dynamic space-time relationship?’38 Several years later, he addresses this again in his essay ‘The Changing Concept of Proportion’, cautioning that ‘[a]s long as a broad foundation for a resurrection of universal values is lacking, one cannot easily predict how the present dilemma can be resolved’.39 This was, in part, a response to the ongoing dialogue that had formed between Wittkower and Le Corbusier in the previous decade. At a foundational level, both Architectural Principles and Le Modulor reveal a shared commitment between the two authors in reaffirming humanity’s place within a Pythagorean-Platonic conception of the cosmos, although the nature of their respective engagements diverge. In his 1950 inaugural lecture delivered at University College London, Wittkower stated: ‘I can see attempts, perhaps partly misdirected, at wedding inspiration to problems of a general order—such as […] Le Corbusier’s allembracing Modulor. It is not by chance that these and other attempts return in one form or another to the most comprehensive ideology of western mankind: Platonism.’40

Where Le Corbusier’s formulation of his Modulor was ‘misdirected’, due to epistemological and ontological missteps that were compounded by his idiosyncratic style of narrative and lack of coherent methodology, Wittkower intimated that Architectural Principles could provide a more pointed direction for setting proportion back on course.41 Such purported correctives were provided for in a series of essays addressed directly 37 Wittkower, ‘Systems of Proportion’, p. 18. 38 Ibid., p. 18. 39 Wittkower, ‘The Changing Concept of Proportion’, p. 210. 40 Rudolf Wittkower, The Artist & the Liberal Arts (London: H.K. Lewis & Co. Ltd., 1952), p. 19. 41 Christopher Hight, Architectural Principles in the Age of Cybernetics (London: Routledge, 2008), p. 58.



to architect practitioners, in the belief that by providing them with a teleological history of proportion, this would, by extension, trace a path for its future development.42 Wittkower had his first chance to address architects, including Le Corbusier, in person in 1951 at the Ninth Milan Triennale, the First International Congress on Proportion in the Arts.43 The enthusiasm surrounding proportion in the years following the war reached a crescendo with the Milan congress and its accompanying exhibit, Mostra di Studi sulle Proporzioni (‘Exhibition of Studies on Proportions’). The exhibit included canonical texts, photographs and reproductions of drawings beginning with Senmuth’s tomb in Luxor, running through Vitruvius, Leonardo Da Vinci and Dürer to name a few, and ending with Le Corbusier’s Modulor.44 The congress spanned three days and brought together prominent philosophers, artists, architects, music historians, art historians, engineers and scientists from across Europe and the United States around the issue of proportion. Delivering lectures, to name only a few, were Max Bill, Sigfried Gieidon, Matila Ghyka, Ernesto Rogers, Pier Luigi Nervi, and Bruno Zevi. The goal was no less than to achieve a synthesis between science and art, through disclosing a shared epistemological and ontological foundation across the disciplines.45 The post-war context, which had stripped much of Europe to its foundations, physically and psychologically, provided the ideal conditions for establishing new foundations upon which post-war Europe could be reconstructed. However, despite the best intentions, synthesis quickly devolved into fragmentation. In short, beyond the recurring theme of ‘space-time’ and ‘the fourth dimension’, there was little agreement about how these issues impacted proportion, or whether proportion was even an appropriate concern for architects in light of this new reality.46 In reflecting back upon the Milan Congress, what was initially described as ‘useful and fruitful’47 by Wittkower ‘fizzled out without making an appreciable impact on the younger generation.’48 It began to look as if Wittkower’s premonition of a return of a form of Platonism in the wake of Einstein’s cosmological revolution was mistaken, and by 1957 the debates on architectural proportion that emerged following WWII came to a head with the RIBA debate as to whether ‘systems of proportion make good design easier and bad design more difficult’49. The question was taken from 42 Wittkower, The Artist & the Liberal Arts; Wittkower, ‘Systems of Proportion’; Wittkower, ‘The Changing Concept of Proportion’; Wittkower, Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism. 43 Henry A. Millon, ‘Rudolf Wittkower, “Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism”: Its Influence on the Development and Interpretation of Modern Architecture’, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 31:2 (1972), 83-91 (p. 85). 44 Anna Chiara Cimoli, ‘Triennial 1951: Post-War Reconstruction and “Divine Proportion”’, Nexus Network Journal, 15:1 (2013), 3-14 (p. 6). 45 Ibid., p. 7. 46 Ibid., p. 9. 47 Wittkower, The Artist & the Liberal Arts, p. 55. 48 Wittkower, ‘The Changing Concept of Proportion’, p. 210. 49 Nikolaus Pevsner, ‘Report on a Debate of the Motion “that Systems of Proportion Make Good Design Easier and Bad Design More Difficult”’, RIBA Journal, 64:11 (1957), 456-63.



an encounter between Einstein and Le Corbusier in Princeton in 1946, in which Einstein remarked, in response to the Modulor, that it ‘makes the bad difficult and the good easy’.50 Einstein obviously had something in mind that was much more encompassing than design alone, whereas the question posed by the RIBA stripped away the moral and cosmological significance of proportion and reduced it to a matter of visual appearance. The result was a 60–48 vote against the motion ‘that systems of proportion make good design easier and bad design more difficult’, to which Bruno Zevi remarked that ‘no one really believes any longer in the proportional system’, thus signalling the end of a decade of discourses in architecture defined around issues of proportion.51 Ultimately, it appears that the reemergence of proportion will once again have to wait for a reaffirmation of a Platonic-Idealist epistemological paradigm. THE ‘VALUE’ OF PROPORTION

While Wittkower provides little by way of a personal biographical narrative, or even a serious or detailed assessment of the particular historical moment in which he lived, he was amongst the group of European intellectuals that were deeply and personally affected by a more recent and tangible collapse of social and cultural order—that which resulted from the devastation of World War II. Contending with the war’s aftermath, and prospects for the future, carried with it both the heavy burden of fear and the tenuous possibility of building towards a more stable and peaceful world. Situated within this context, the ontological stakes of proportional discourse can be understood well beyond architectural terms, and rather as formulations for the possibility of a harmoniously unified society. The dilemma, as Wittkower saw it, was to ensure that the sudden re-emergence of proportion following the Second World War was not merely a passing phase, but rather a substantive return and continuation of a tradition that had persisted and defined architectural discourse in the West for over two millennia. This was important not least because civilisation itself, by Wittkower’s account, was predicated upon the values of which proportion was both a result and cause.52 Wittkower emphatically proclaimed that ‘to interpret nature mathematically’ is what ‘made our western civilisation possible,’53 and correspondingly that ‘it is very worthy for individual architects to try to recapture some of the obvious values which scale, proportion, unity and all those things bring about’.54 If the logic of Wittkower’s formulation is extended, it can easily be reasoned that the demise of proportion, which was a consequence of the collapse of universal values, also provided the conditions for the emergence of nationalism in general, and in particular National Socialism, of whose innumerable victims Wittkower himself can be counted. This point is echoed by the Warburg art historian Elizabeth McGrath who claimed that ‘[b]ehind them [Wittkower and his colleagues 50 51 52 53 54

Le Corbusier, The Modulor, p. 5. Wittkower, ‘The Changing Concept of Proportion’, p. 210. Wittkower, ‘Systems of Proportion’, pp. 9-18. Ibid., p. 10. Pevsner, ‘Report on a Debate of the Motion’, p. 462.



from the Warburg Institute] is a vivid sense of the immediate threat posed by National Socialism to European civilisation’.55 In advancing proportion, it would appear that Wittkower was doing nothing less than promoting a set of values that were antithetical to nationalism, or any other kind of antiuniversal tendency. But as Wittkower noted, such efforts would be in vain if there was not a foundation that could hold up and support the universal values of which architectural proportion appeared to be an outward sign. In his final reflections upon the verdict of the RIBA debate, Wittkower solemnly remarked: I think that is typical of the situation today. We cannot find a position of belief as individuals because a broader foundation is lacking, and I suppose that as long as such a position cannot be won back again on a broader level, a level of universal belief, it is no good the individual architect fighting for a system of general values.56

55 Elizabeth McGrath, ‘A Short History of the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 1937-2002’, (2002) <> [accessed 2 May 2018]. 56 Pevsner, ‘Report on a Debate of the Motion’, p. 462.



Contributors Andy Bolnick is an urbanist and development practitioner who has a practical and theoretical base in architecture and urban planning, as well as a degree in sociology. Her greatest learning, however, has come by working, conceptualising and implementing catalytic projects with urban poor communities. She was awarded an International Ashoka Fellowship in 2011 for her innovative work on informal settlement upgrading. Alfredo Brillembourg co-founded the Urban-Think Tank with Hubert Klumpner in Caracas in 1998. Since 2010, he holds, with Klumpner, the chair for Architecture and Urban Design at the Swiss Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland. He received his Bachelor of Art and Architecture and Master of Science in Architectural Design from Columbia University. Georgios Chatzopoulos graduated from the School of Architecture of the National Technical University of Athens in 2016 and his thesis was presented at the UIA 2017 Seoul World Architecture Congress. He has worked for RCR Arquitectes in Olot, Spain, Kokkinou-Kourkoulas Architects & Associates and Manos Vordonarakis Design+Manufacturing, both in Athens, Greece. Next year, he will pursue a Master in Architecture II at Harvard GSD. Joseph Choma is a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge, where he is a Cambridge International Scholar. Additionally, he is an Assistant Professor of Architecture at Clemson University and the founder of the Design Topology Lab. He completed graduate studies in design and computation at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Vasiliki Christakou received a Master of Architecture from the National Technical University of Athens in July 2016 and her thesis was presented at the UIA 2017 Seoul World Architecture Congress. She has worked in the archaeological excavations of Tenea in Peloponnese, and is currently working for RCR Architects in Olot, Spain. In parallel, she works independently in competitions and research projects. Matthew Gandy is Professor of Geography at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Kingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s College. His research interests cover cultural, urban, and environmental geography with particular emphasis on landscape, infrastructure, and bio-diversity.


Ozana Gherman is an architectural designer and textile artist working out of Halifax, Canada. Recently graduating from the School of Architecture at Dalhousie University, she was the recipient of the Architecture Thesis Prize and Bruce & Dorothy Rossetti Scholarship travel grant in support of her work on monument architecture. Eefje Hendriks is a doctoral researcher in post-disaster self-recovery and lecturer at the Eindhoven University of Technology and Avans University. She holds two cum laude master’s degrees: Architecture and Building Technology. She works in shelter development for displaced people and has extensive field work experience in slums and post-disaster areas. Sam Holleran is an interdisciplinary artist, writer, and educator. He has worked with the Center for Architecture, the Design Trust for Public Space, and the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) in New York City, and at the Chair of Architecture and Urban Design at ETH-Zürich. Hubert Klumpner co-founded the Urban-Think Tank with Alfredo Brillembourg in Caracas in 1998. Since 2010, he holds, with Brillembourg, the chair for Architecture and Urban Design at the Swiss Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland. He graduated from the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and received a Master of Science in Architecture and Urban Design from Columbia University. Christos-Georgios Kritikos is a PhD student in the School of Architecture (NTUA), working as a researcher and occasionally as a teaching assistant in history and theory courses, persistently exploring intersections of historiography and architectural conservation. He received an MA in Architectural History (UCL) and an interdisciplinary MSc in Research in Architecture (NTUA) after obtaining his 5-year diploma in architecture (NTUA). Scott Lloyd coordinates the Empower Integrated Development project which was recently awarded the UN-Habitat Dubai International Award for Best Practice in the Built Environment. He works on architecture and urban design with focus on alternative urban environments. His work has been presented widely, including at the Venice Architecture Biennale, the Seoul Museum of Art, and the International Forum on Urbanism. Sol Pérez Martínez is an architect, educator and researcher. She was a lecturer in Architectural History and ran an architectural practice, where she and her firm partners developed projects for the Chilean government. Their last building was a public school that encouraged her research about civic engagement, architecture and education. Patricia Mato-Mora studied architecture at the Architectural Association, where she was spun off into the world of digital craft, sculpture and making. She then studied materials at the Royal College of Art, and now works alongside artists and architects to realise large-scale projects employing digital craftsmanship methods, while practicing independently as an artist.



Farshid Moussavi, OBE RA, is an architect, principal of Farshid Moussavi Architecture (FMA) and Professor in Practice of Architecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. She was educated at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, University College London and Dundee University. She has published three books, The Function of Ornament, The Function of Forms, and The Function of Style based on her research and teaching at Harvard. François Penz is an architect by training and Professor of Architecture and the Moving Image at the University of Cambridge. He is the Head of the Department of Architecture, a former Director of The Martin Centre for Architectural and Urban Studies and a Fellow of Darwin College. He has written widely on issues of cinema, architecture and the city. His monograph on Cinematic Aided Design: An Everyday Approach to Architecture was published by Routledge in 2017. Dena Qaddumi is a PhD candidate in Architecture at the University of Cambridge. Her dissertation focuses on the materialisation of revolution in the post Arab Spring city of Tunis. Previously, she has researched urban citizenship in Tel Aviv-Jaffa and planning policy in Doha. She holds an MSc in Urban Development Planning from University College London and a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Texas at Austin. Jeffery Roberson is an architectural designer and educator. His research explores relationships among cosmology, epistemology, theories of design, and architectural form. These interests are motivated by a deep personal concern about the nature of the cosmos, humanity, and humanity’s place within the cosmos. Yannick Scott has recently completed his master’s degree in architecture at the University of Edinburgh and is currently in the process of finding a position in a local architectural practice to further his professional experience. Alex Young-Il Seo is a PhD candidate and Cambridge Trust Scholar at the Centre for Urban Conflicts Research in the Department of Architecture at the University of Cambridge. He holds a Bachelor of Architectural Studies and a Master of Architecture (Hons) from the University of Auckland. Sofia Singler is an architect and Gates Cambridge Scholar from Jyväskylä, Finland. Her research interests lie in the history and theory of modern architecture, with particular focus on ecclesiastical architecture, Nordic modernism and Alvar Aalto. Her doctoral research looks at Aalto’s postwar religious projects. She holds an MA from the University of Cambridge and an MArch from the Yale School of Architecture.



Rachel Smillie has recently completed her masterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s degree in architecture at the University of Edinburgh and is about to start work as a Part 2 Architectural Assistant in a practice in Fife. Hanne Vrebos is an architectural engineer and urbanist specialised in community resilience, participatory urban development, informal settlements and complex urban environments. She is currently an Urban Technical Officer with Concern Worldwide in Port-au-Prince. Joop de Zwart is a lecturer and researcher at Avans University of Applied Sciences (Department for the Built Environment, in particular Spatial Development). After obtaining masterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s degrees in Business Administration and Philosophy, he finished his PhD thesis in 2016 (Corporate Social Responsibility, an Interpretative Practice).



Scroope Issues and Lectures

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Synthesis Power

Crisis Future Domestic Duplicity Apologia Order; Disorder


2017 2018

Anthony Vidler Farshid Moussavi

‘Theses and Design in the Age of Academia: Cambridge 1960-X’ ‘Architecture, Aesthetics and Micropolitics’






Andy Bolnick Alfredo Brillembourg Georgios Chatzopoulos Joseph Choma Vicky Christakou Matthew Gandy Ozana Gherman Eefje Hendriks Sam Holleran Hubert Klumpner Christos-Georgios Kritikos Scott Lloyd Sol Pérez Martínez Patricia Mato-Mora Farshid Moussavi François Penz Dena Qaddumi Jeffery Roberson Yannick Scott Alex Young-Il Seo Sofia Singler Rachel Smillie Hanne Vrebos Joop de Zwart

Profile for Scroope: Cambridge Architecture Journal

Issue 27: Order; Disorder  

This issue of Scroope, which includes both articles and projects, examines order and disorder in architecture and cities in different times...

Issue 27: Order; Disorder  

This issue of Scroope, which includes both articles and projects, examines order and disorder in architecture and cities in different times...