Rational Architecture – A Review

The small book, Rational Architecture: The Reconstruction of the European City, (AAM Editions – Archives d’Architecture Moderne, Bruxelles,1978)  was the statement of a city planning movement that celebrated historic urban cores focused around viable urban spaces (not parking lots) and encouraged contextual architectural design in renewal efforts, not the creation of a “Zoo of Architecture” by “starchitects” or of ruinous “landmark” edifices that corrupted the urban fabric.

Some “showcase” projects were constructed, that unfortunately  DID creating a “Zoo of Architecture” by the developer-invited starchitects of the movement.  Beware of falling for the “Hero from out-of-town on the white horse” approach to addressing design and vitality issues facing YOUR city!

Still the great themes of the movement and key design concepts were sound, caught on with a goodly number of architects and urban designers who avoided hubristic kant often found in a manifesto, and instead spread the better ideas into physical reality through incremental steps. 

After more than thirty years, although the prose is dated and the designs now perceived either as seminal works or early experiments on the way to architectural success, this hard to find edition is a good Recapitulation of how a group of very creative designers can find a common matrix upon which to sculpt their very individualistic interpretations of architecture within the city.

The Great Themes of the Movement:

(from the book)

  1. The physical & social conservation of the historic centers as desirable models of collective life;
  2. The conception of urban space as the primary organizing element of the urban morphology;
  3. The typological & morphological studies are the basis for a new architectural discipline;
  4. The growing conscience that the history of the City delivers precise facts, which permit to engage an immediate & precise action, in the reconstruction of the street, the square, the quarter.
  5. The transformation of housing zones (dormitory cities) into complex parts OF the city, into cities WITHIN the city, into quarters which integrate all the functions of urban life;
  6. The rediscovery of the primary elements of Architecture, the column, the wall, the roof, etc……

Keys:   

“The city must be designed TO BE WALKED THROUGH.” (Robert L. Delevoy)

“The Reconstruction of the City” (Leon Krier)

People:

Leon Krier, Massimo Scolari (Painting), Aldo Rossi, Bernard Huet (Small Manifesto), Rob Krier,

Carlo Aymonino, O.M. Ungers, Miguel Garay & Jose I. Linazasoro, Jorge Velasquez Gomez,

Fernando Montes, Rem Koolhaas (OMA), Rita Wolff, Mario Botta, Werner Kreis, Giorgio Grassi,

Aldo Van Eyck & Theo Bosch (no relation!)

The book is available through a number of sources, including Amazon (NOT an affiliated link!!) at http://www.amazon.com/Rational-Architecture-Reconstruction-Rationnelle-Europeenne/dp/2871430071 .

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About randysrules

From a professional background in architecture, community and regional planning, urban design, leadership, and fine arts, this blog provides insights on ethics, leadership, architecture/planning/urban design, Venice, and whatever intrigues me at the time. Enjoy!
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One Response to Rational Architecture – A Review

  1. ntomlinson says:

    Thanks for the list breakdown!

    My favorite point:

    The transformation of housing zones (dormitory cities) into complex parts OF the city, into cities WITHIN the city, into quarters which integrate all the functions of urban life.

    A striking example of zoning gone awry is the Corviale in Rome. This one-kilometre-long social housing monolith “exemplifies the established Corbusian tradition of treating human beings as battery chickens,” says an an urbanist and architectural theorist who’s pushing to have it torn down: http://tiny.cc/b858b

    Not to mention housing clusters increase the need for transportation – more carbon pillaging!

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