Our House: Urban Dwelling and the Contemporary Paradigm-shift _ Jorge Alberto
In his 1971 book The Rational Dwelling the architect Carlo Aymonino analyzed the urban housing programs discussed at two CIAM meetings, and came up with an extremely interesting hypothesis.
Until the early 1970s at least, the residential models of the 1920s and 30s remained in full use and basically unchallenged by newer or more innovative propositions.
Today, new approaches tend to acknowledge architecture’s status as one full of intensity and permanent change. More than the monologues that characterized mainstream modernism, we can now speak of architecture as an informal discourse. On the other hand, beyond the causal relation between an individual creator and his design, we can speak of the built environment as an artifact that materializes collective aims, challenging the idea of creative control.
Times have certainly changed since the second and third CIAM meetings. But, how has the dwelling program that constitutes the vast majority of the built environment reflected this change?
Dissected into practical solutions within architecture’s simplest tools, a selection of ten urban housing projects can be read as the epitome of the principles that generate architecture in our time, and thus provide us with useful insight into the future. A critical shift in the reassessment of architectural paradigms should allow the professional debate to delve into uncharted and very promising discussions, while testing the validity of Aymonino’s claims of the seventies in our time.
Serving the City
Serving the City _ Aldo Vanini
A growing distrust for large, distant power centers has rekindled a desire for local identity and occasioned a reconciliation of citizens and local institutions. For this reason, especially in such non-“classical” times as these, the very image of monumentality has shifted from the traditional, built on solid icons and symbols of power, to the idea of an integration into the urban fabric in which the community can more easily recognize itself—its own history, its own memory. In this sense, the new sites of local institutions “serve the city” not only by exercising their bureaucratic functions, but by enhancing urban spatial quality. As Aldo Rossi has posited, history tells us that it is a public building’s aptitude in interpreting community needs that determines its actual monumental character—a character enhanced by the progressive sedimentation of functions and integration into the urban context. Typically, the process of upgrading the premises of local institutions occurs in close proximity with ancient public buildings, with respect to which various dialectical forms and levels and means of integration can be assayed. In most cases the role of an institution’s representativeness is left to what remains of the ancient forms, as designers establish a spatial continuity between the old and the new, but some examples of a search for a traditional monumentality persist, albeit articulated in a contemporary vocabulary. Along the way, in an evident intention to avoid any form of rhetoric, the architecture for new city halls tends to speak a language of transparencies and plain stony surfaces, in which public accessibility and the significance of paths assume more importance than any formal extravagance.