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5,0 von 5 Sternen
5,0 von 5 Sternen
The Architecture of the City (Oppositions Books)
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am 11. Januar 2013
Explaining the main ideas of typology and morphology in architectural context the book The Architecture of the City from Aldo Rossi is still of great importance for the development of urban design theories today. It is a unique summarization of urban design theories developed at the time the book was published. The interconnection between the different theories is made obvious and proven on various examples in city development.
While defining the main vocabulary of modern urbanism the author describes the city as a network of different elements characterizing the city by their interaction. Indicating the importance of the historical and cultural context the creational force of the population is demonstrated.
The main issue of urban design as postulated by the author is structural organisation in a superior order as far as hierarchy, grid and connections between the primary elements of the city are concerned. He opposes the strict functionalism that was invented during the modernism taking into account that the city is far more than a structure that only serves functional needs of the population.
Defining the city as a man-made object is the core hypothesis that draws a line through the whole publication. As a work of art the city implies social, cultural and economic values that are constituted by the society which creates the city continuously. Considering the idea of cities functioning as collective memory they determine the development of the societies they accommodate as well. This idea of interaction between the individual and the collective memory was first published by Maurice Halbwachs in La mémoire collective as a new approach of explaining human interaction in society.1
The main providers of the cultural information are the primary elements of the city as which for example monuments, plan and geography of the city can be defined. They play a major role in the interaction of the population with the public urban space and influence the future development of the city in a very intense way.
Looking at the postulate of the city as a man-made object from another perspective it astonishes that Aldo Rossi didn`t take into account that particularly fear is a driving force in city development as Gerd de Bruyn explains in his recent book 5 Codes.2 The range of paranoia driven formations in architecture reaches from the walls of the ancient and medieval cities over the Haussmann`s Boulevards in Paris that were designed to get control over the street mobs to the gated communities in the presence.
Focussing at the interconnection between the several theories the book never gets as deep into detail as the theories it references like the ones Kevin Lynch summarized in his book The Image of the City describing a wide range of analytical methods.3 Examining the historical development of cities it also lacks direct advices for transferring the conclusions drawn in the book to the present evolution of cities compared to other books like Good City Form that was published one year earlier by Kevin Lynch creating a composition of concepts and rules to create a city with certain spatial qualities.4
The arrangement is divided in four major parts dealing with the issues of architectural typology, structures of cities and their essential elements, architecture of the city and the locus as a defining context as well as urban dynamics and politics.
Taking the total city form into focus as the essential scale that summarizes the city as a whole the principle of morphology describing the formal differences gets essential in the analysis of human settlements. By zooming in to the scale of districts the question of typology arises out of the task to classify parts of the city in coherency. Denying a simple division into functional zones Aldo Rossi insists on a common historical and typological context to constitute districts.
Another point of critique concerning modernist ideas is the attempt of several modernists to replace grown city structures with functional driven grid structures that would diminish the city as a place of collective memory. With his criticism of the modernism as the reduction of architecture into diagram Aldo Rossi goes one step further than Robert Venturi in his book Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture that scathes the sterility and the loss of stylistic details in modern architecture.5
Besides the classification of buildings considering their building types the capitalist influence on residential buildings leading to different housing types is also taken into account. Here the major influence of capitalism on the development of society as stated in Fernand Braudel`s book Civilization and Capitalism is already transferred to architectural theory and the development of cities.6
Taking the problem of classification to the scale of the city a primary element is defined as a major artefact accelerating the urban development. Special attention is paid to the monuments defining the character of the city and acting as attractors in public life. The plan of the city is another important primary element showing the intention of the dwellers of having an ordered development of the city. The physical structure of the city is given by the interaction between primary elements and the area creating a common relief of cultural landscape.
The persistence of urban artefacts emerge the dynamics of the city that is always changing. Using morphological methods the conclusion is drawn that the dwelling zones have a much faster reconstruction process than the other areas of the city. Amorphous zones created by “groups of buildings that outlived the dynamics of their surroundings” are witnesses of the transformation process.7
Referencing the book Entretiens sur l'architecture written by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc the author emphasizes the locus of a place as a unique and physical space having a singular history and meaning.8 Extending this definition by the creational moment of the locus invented by the event launching the development of the space the author connects it with the theory of collective memory. The genius loci described as the divinity of space is at the same time starting point and product of the development of the locus and implies also the sum of events the site experienced. The city itself is the locus of collective memory and the primary elements are its memory structure.
Evolving over the time of their existence urban artefacts often show a change in function that in certain cases is also expressed by a transformation of structure or shape. Therefore they are indispensable elements in city development respected by the public recognising their cultural value. On an urban scale there are three main phases of transformation changing the functionality of the city as a whole. In the first phase the ending medieval society disbanded the absolute identity of working place and habitation.
Later the expansion of the city during the phase of industrialization separated the different functions of the city in great parts by the invention of collective work and specialisation on parts of a production process. That change in the working behaviour of the society dismantled the absolute knowledge of production processes from the working class.
Establishing a public transport system loosened the dependence between the employment and the residence of the population. This process lead to an exceeding use of spatial resources during suburbanisation process and disintegrated a part of the public life by individualisation of the masses. Also the revolutionary potential of the urban mob was referring to Gerd de Bruyn decreased by the separation of people implied in the transformation of the dwelling area to a low-density suburban zone.9
The reviewed book is a comprehensive collection of essential contemporary urban design thesis explaining the aims and thoughts of the author in an explicit way. Neglecting the translation of essential terms the loss of meaning implied in this process was minimized. A stronger cross link to contemporary cities and their development referencing to the specific problems of city extension and intensification of density in the contemporary city could be designated. Nevertheless the abundance of historical examples shows the necessity of historical research to use the possibility to utilise former experiences as a basis for the actual interaction in urban design process and city development.
Showing the importance of a discussion about historical experience in different societies The Architecture of the City leads to the main question Jared Diamond asked in his recent book bearing the title Collapse. It is the question of sustainability in a globalized context.10 We can learn from historical developments in a smaller scale and transfer the knowledge it produced to a bigger scale to avoid the fall of our cities respective civilisations and to improve the structure of our society and the interaction with the environment. By studying examples in a closed focus context we can learn very much about the specific interaction between certain elements. As a starting point for this analysis there is a need for a scope theoretical basis. A Basis that can only be provided by collective works like The Architecture of the City.
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am 3. Juli 1998
i liked it and would recommend it to a friends family
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