<body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\x3d13215318\x26blogName\x3dezio@gsapp\x26publishMode\x3dPUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT\x26navbarType\x3dBLACK\x26layoutType\x3dCLASSIC\x26searchRoot\x3dhttp://ezioatcolumbia.blogspot.com/search\x26blogLocale\x3den_US\x26v\x3d2\x26homepageUrl\x3dhttp://ezioatcolumbia.blogspot.com/\x26vt\x3d-9099282204773819064', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>

This is my blog while at the MSAAD program of the GSAPP of Columbia University. 1st post came with my arrival at NYC. e-mail: eb2283@columbia.edu, ezio@otn.gr, ezioblasetti@gmail.com 

Friday, August 26, 2005

7:47 PM - metropolis and after final paper

attached as a comment

Blogger ezio said...

From unity to complexity; the story of a(n) (r)evolution?

New city versus old city
two approaches:
delete versus encounter

One of the early oppositions to the effects of the modern metropolis mandates a return to the roots of modernism. The return entails a new proposal for the city, as a contradiction to the existing metropolis and its problems; utopian, pure, modern. A new proposal, total, autonomous and closed that engages neither its past nor its future. The old metropolis wasn’t functioning and therefore it should be left to die; in its place, a new metropolis would be placed, with the dominant idea of the network in the throne of the advanced technologies' temporal regime. The “City Planning and Electronics” of Takis Ch. Zenetos is one of the examples in which a new city was imagined for the re-naturalization of the citizen from the shock of modernity. An ideal society is also implied as the final aim to be reached by rationalizing our needs and our very social structures. The idea of total automatization was to liberate humans from the need of work and to lead to a society of productive play. The main argument was how to be prepared for this society to come; how to construct it.

After may 1968, the ideologies that led to it and its after-effects, we find a shift to that perspective. A new strategy with a different political agenda can be found in Bernard Tschumi’s work that will eventually lead to the first prize in the architectural competition for the park of the 21st century- “Park de la Villette”. The approach that was proposed here was to superimpose the new “city” to the old one, to combine the new system produced for the park with the existing system of the city in a symbiotic relationship. This new system was meant to effect and shift the way we look at our existing structures: Not to delete the old city but to re-encounter it in an unexpected way. Looking at the original drawings, even the park itself was supposed to meet the rest of the city by superimposing folies outside of it. The city was to be seen as a complex and interactive web of events.

Unity – fragmentation/event
Rationality/functionalism – folie/disprogramming
Madness and irrationality as a medium of unexpected results, encounters.

In order to deal with the shock produced from the industrial revolution, modern architects tried to replace conditions like irrationality and chaos with rationality and order. The objectivity and the efficiency of the machine had to be balanced with the subjectivity of man. That is the root of the estrangement of the modern metropolis. These conflicts were to be absorbed as natural and good. This effect re-empowered after the war with the notion of the network produced an even more totalizing unity. The city is described through city planning and electronics was the city of unity: everyone is connected with everything, nothing was to escape the net; in the background sounds of birds and trees from the forest was literally under the control of this modern construction. Every aspect of this society was designed in order to work; there were many modes of work, some of them playful, but even this mode suggests another notion of naturalization to modern shock. Zenetos’ city planning although not directly stated was based on the idea that new technologies were supposed to make functionalism work. The apparent model of the modern architect is the one of the form-giver, creator of hierarchical structures that are described by their unity of parts and by the transparency of form to meaning.

Tschumi goes further and tries to oppose the basic principles of architecture. Architecture should be totally negative in order to undermine the foundations of capitalism. Tschumi’s utopia contains the empowerment of the occupation as a means of revolution and opposition to the traditional role of architecture. His architecture is addressed to a fragmented body of a schizophrenic society. At the Park de la Villette, his folies contain mechanical elements, yet these machines do not function.

“The body has finally recognized itself as a text, not a work, whose finitude is ever in question and whose powers are in doubtful play, always to be tested by the infiltration of other discourses, other texts.”

Emphasis should be placed on fragmentation / superposition / combination as a method which triggers heterogeneous forces while suggesting a new definition. The final result was to be fragmented; with no apparent unity. His contemporary, mad condition inevitably implied new and unforeseen reorganization of fragments.

“Striking a match for no other reason that to see it aflame, you get a good idea of the gratuitous aspect of good architecture. You must distinguish such an act from its productive aspect”

nature as an artifact,
familiarization and de-familiarize.
Natural environment – park for the 21st century

The very notion of nature is approached in totally different ways by the two projects. While Zenetos is referring to a natural environment almost untouched by humans, the natural element for the Park de la Villette is consciously perceived only as an artifact.

The re-introduction of the immediate/direct contact of the citizen with the natural environment is of great importance in Zenetos’ work. Machines are driven away from the cities in order to establish this kind of contact. His demand of re-unification of the interior with the outdoors space can be traced within all his designs. The ground level, left void, was to be the opportunity of reintroduction of pure natural environment in our cities, yet a primary question is not asked: Is it possible to introduce “pure” – “intact” nature in our cities, or does introducing it produce an artefact? Zenetos’ floating megastructure grid could ony leave its shadow beneath.

The only case we can see a grid floating superimposed to natural elements in Tschumi’s la Villette is in its exploded axonometrics. Nature was perceived as elements in different layers and related to them almost like a material. By doing so Tschumi transforms it to spectacle; the produced effect was not aiming to naturalization or to be familiar- instead water, trees and all natural elements of the park were to be organized in order to generate events.


In Zenetos’ town of total information flow, privacy is achieved by minimum means. Here, a misunderstanding is usually made: The information bubble hubs – are NOT the future houses; instead they are only indicative of skins protecting the various organs of everyday life, envisioned here to be constructed of a double membrane and a liquid material in-between. This structure will have the ability to manage sunlight and transparency according to the individual’s real time desires. The urban environment is controlled by air screens containing reflection particles of adjustable density in order to define the degree of insulation from sun radiation. Inside this controlled environment citizens wander naked, needing clothes only for the occasional outdoor visit and only when the weather conditions enforce it. People’s need for insulation – the house – will be addressed to their senses: Special earphones and eye spectacles. The need of privacy in terms of “not to be seen” doesn’t exist in the future, nor does shame; the citizens will be living in the manner of ancient societies. Therefore the house becomes just the ability to switch off.

The principal idea of the house unit in this unitary inhabited network has apparently disappeared; Zenetos was imagining a society so unified that eventualy privacy was no longer needed in a spacial context. His reference to the sensory system and to the ability to switch off from this total communication’s network is contradictory to his assumptions if not adressed to the only condition of physical rest: In his texts there is no implied reason why a person would consiously choose to be outside the network. The estia has burned out. The same implications we find in this early work concerned with the idea of the public entering the core of the domestic space, we also find some decates later in the un-private house exhibition of MoMA; Bernard Tschumi’s entry in that exhibition, “the Hague Villa” tries to reassemble the boundaries between the private and the public given the fact that in our mediated society of information flow the battle is uneven.

“the house is to be seen as an extension of city events and a momentary pause in the digital transfer of information. The borders of the living room and work place, devoid of the camouflage of ornament, expand beyond the property lines just as they (the property lines) are undermined by the electronic devices of everyday use”

In The Hague Villa project there is a conscious distinction of public and private spaces in order to produce the space “in-between”. The public sector, a glass enclosure both transparent and translucent, is leaning away form the rest of the house which consists of a concrete frame. What is interesting here, even given the strategy for the “in-between,” is the clear distinction of the private realm from the public as a design decision.

The primary unit of architecture
its claims and its implications;
modernism – situationists

It could be argued that every movement in architecture has its primary unit; once engaged with the design of that unit all its ideologies and intentions are revealed. The situationists’ shift from the problem of the domestic space (modernism) to the space where the event occurs can show the difference in the perspective: The imagined individual and its needs was no longer the main argument; its drift and the potential outcomes of it were expected to lead to a different aspect of utopian paradigm.

The modern metropolis consists of housing units; even if the modern shock has now turned into an distinct image of the capital and the efficiency of functionalism can be described through office buildings, it was the idea of the housing unit that was leading the discourse about architecture. Even the city was conceived as a domesticity consisted by functions that should work.

The city is the most perfect creation of man’s effort to better his life through a system of social interrelations.

The city here was met as the ultimate cultural product; the good that aims to serve the individual’s desires and needs. This social invention, this form of collective had to be re-invented and re-imagined after the industrial revolution and still to this day has to constantly re-constructed to adapt to its primary goals and the best usage from its citizens. In Zenetos’ work, even if the boundaries of the house are no longer apparent,; even if the house itself no longer exists, as claimed, the city plays that role of the domestic space and maybe that is the reason why it was always imagined familiarized and naturalised.

Our project start from the following thesis: there are building-generators of event. As much through their programs as through their spatial potential, they accelerate a cultural or social transformation that is already in progress.

Architecture should function as a catalyst for social encounters; it should produce unexpected encounters that are believed to be productive and advancing for society. Tschumi was not building for the situation, he was designing the situation. For him architecture is empowered with the element of occupation a tool that works as an agent for social change. The movement inside the Park de la Villette was conceptualised around the situationists’ drift and was meant to improve accidents through the name of sophisticated events. Tschumi’s primary unit, the folie, also unfolds its political implications:

“the word folie does not refer directly to the 18th century constructions of the same name, but it takes on new significance in this context. In the specific case of the park, there are certain things which interest us in methodological terms: the relationship with madness or insanity, the real “folie” in the sense that when we speak of dissociation, we are expressing certain questions that are typical of the end of the 20th century”

Tschumi’s folies were anchor points; they aimed to become reference of new social content by crossprogramming; they were designed to capture the event. Folies were meant to interpolate the relations between objects, events and individuals. Once deconstructed, reality can never be reconstructed as before, nor can the program. Their emptiness, their void, revealed their criticality: A revolutionary criticality that worked from within. Their in-between state of being was once again a machine and a reference to our post-industrial society. Once constructed, though, did they keep their utopian aspect intact?

“My memory of the park is one of pensive emptiness. Out of habit, I sought out each individual folie, expecting a unique experience and photographic opportunity. Yet even the photographs reveal empty objects. Looking across the park, I felt a sense of expectant waiting, not unlike the feeling one has in a ruined building – that you missed the event, the tragedy.”

Design process and construction;
Construction details for a utopian project versus Superimposition of autonomous systems in order to reproduce complexity for the construction of a park; sections versus diagrams-layers

Modernist plans were to be accurate; the mass production was directing the uniqueness of the work of art towards the materiality of the design (the product of mass production was only a replica). The same is true for the design process: the plans and sections were to be detailed before the construction. In the City of Planning and Electronics half of the images are construction details and, apart from the obvious anxiety for immediate construction that this fact implies, there is also another aspect revealed: the design process holds the ultimate truth; the construction was only to follow the instructed specificity. How bizarre is it to have such a clear tectonic utopian vision self-referenced as the total solution? It stands with the same totality as the one of total unity inside the grid; as the idea of the network.

Park de la Villette was to be constructed in a period of 15 years; it was a work in-progress. Tschumi directly opposes himself to the idea of ready-made representations down to the last detail: the competition was won with the design of a set of principles, a set of rules. These principles were to construct a system of superimposition of autonomous diagrams in layers; once superimposed in situ the final result emerged. The claim though was even more interesting. The system was quasi-open; the park was never to meet completion, like the city, was to stay inside an open discourse. There was also a notion of entropy in this system: the reconstruction of space was never to meet the original object.

Distant Future in City Planning and Electronics (now?)

As mentioned earlier, the temperament of the man of the future will make it possible to use immaterial systems for the creation of his environment. In the distant future, apart from a very simplified “carrier” (possibly suspended from “motionless” satellites), and from wave-generating units, the application of such systems will cover all components of the living sector, the “simulated situations” sector etc. The desired environmental conditions will materialise through the achievement of a precise separation between the various wave areas, magnetic fields etc.
The next generation of “carriers” (to follow the ones already mentioned) could, depending on popular pressures, be “continent-satellites” stabilised over parts of the oceans. Subsequently, a comparative cost/benefit study would show whether it would be better to extend systems near the nucleus earth and beyond the atmosphere, or whether it would be preferable to move on to other celestial bodies.

In any case, practical as well as psychological considerations (small distances, easy travel with “conventional” means of transportation) indicate that the first alternative is more probable. Even the exploitation of resources on other planets is unlikely to require on-the-spot human presence. The desired situations will “materialise” instantly by means of thought telemission, with no intermediate steps-actions. Naturally, it will be possible to create hallucinatory situations without hallucinogens etc. Finally, the “conventional” robots, along with the “intelligent” animals of A. C. Clarke, will be completely useless, because technological developments in the immaterial fields will proceed at a much faster pace (and will be more effective) than what we usually expect them to be.

Zenetos’ “City Planning and Electronics” project had the same fate as all other visions of the period: Although never realised directly, it stands as an early illustration of some aspects of the world we live in today. Apart from his other projects that can be seen as extensions within the same framework, the interface he kept designing inside his urban drawings, that is the body carrier, or otherwise stated as the multi-purpose furniture participated in the “Interdesign 2000” competition for the best furniture designs of the future and was actually constructed. A sketch published in 1969 is probably the only one that actually contains the form of a man operating in it; all his other designs contain human shadows rather than persons.

So, where were the people? Were they trapped inside their media devices rather than walking on to this world-wide grid holding hands as best described by Superstudio drawings? But of course the citizens inside Zenetos structures did not have reasons to walk that much; they were not nomads; rather they are self-organized small groups of people, and that is a notion we have to hold from that project. Although Zenetos stated that his town plans could be used from any kind of state structure his drawings and texts have a direct political position. Another popular idea of that time that we also find in this project was the idea of floating planes in the horizontal; an opposition to the idea of the skyscraper. In the case of Zenetos drawings, the continuous monument was eventually inhabited, because this is what the city of Urbanisme Electronique implies: the city as the monument. The important distinction between the two projects was that Zenetos was pointing to a kind of flexibility almost without motion. In the same time he had a deep belief that this was the only path to follow and that is why all his drawings directly imply construction; they were meant to be constructed immediately.

By the time he started publishing his work, the Delians had already began their conferences. Zenetos’ thoughts were very close to theirs, yet he tried to oppose himself to the Doxiadis’ idea of the linear growth of the city because he believed that it would have the same implications as his contemporary cities had. The important distinction here is that Zenetos proposed to literally inhabit the net rather than to make it work and although the genealogy of his spaces can be traced to Buckminister Fuller’s idea of the house as an apparatus for receiving and broadcasting, yet houses did not exist with the traditional sense of space inside his town. The “Urbanisme Electronique” and the “Ecumenopolis” have such similarities, as differences: Political, economical, ecological, spatial(?): What has not been clearly stated is the notion of optimum size, an idea whose origin was an article of Athelstan Spilhaus in the science magazine called “ecolibrium”(18 feb 1972), but as Zenetos’ grid grew and began to take over the entire planet, ideas started to dissolve into one another and distinctions can no longer been made.

The impact of advanced communication media over the space-time general apparatus was also a versatile subject at the time, but why should all places look the same? When we look at it from some distance it is hard to make an argument wherever it was the apparatus’ shift that produced this notion of uniformity we have now or rather the actual projects that were supposedly produced from this shift. What made people believe that Heidegger’s distancelessness would result to the death of all travels? If we take a close look at the everyday life in Zenetos’ city we find the first trace of a virtual socialization, yet we are not instructed: How do people socialize inside the virtual space? In this place of everywhere/nowhere why do people need to virtually meet with others in great distances? How do they first meet? This adoption of the advanced technologies is presented as the most natural thing, and framed by “pure” nature at the ground level, yet is not so evident even today. People still feel more conformable with a strike of estrangement in their cities and certainly even when they operate all the time inside the net they still enjoy travelling and meeting each other in person; maybe there is the “optimum” size yet to be met.

The media event as a strategy for design
response to the questions arisen from the total mediated in one network society proposed by utopian architects after the war.

Maybe Zenetos was hoping for the birth of an electronically mediated homo ludens to be born; maybe there is a space for virtual events. If we cannot escape from it maybe we can advance the strategies developed for the society of the spectacle to reinhabit the net with a shifted perspective: towards virtual drifts? Should we concentrate to design the situations, the events? Is the state of our cities an “in-between” virtual and physical state ready to unfold major unpredictability?

Emergence, bottom up, real – time diagrams, open systems, responsive architecture

“the project (park de la Villette) is more like a kind of architectural DNA: all of the information necessary for the generation of a fully functioning programmatic-spatial organism is present in its geometric encoding, but none of the substance.”

It can be argued that in the genealogy of the process of design the perspective was since always leaning towards greater amounts of complexity. Contemporary discourse about emergence can be seen as a following step of superimposition of autonomous systems. Our simulations run scripts fro real-time diagrams, our systems aim to be more and more open, yet did the strategy change? We again design a set of rules and hit play; we intend to have “in-between” control of our design in order to deal with the desirable complexity. Is it because we see a new perception of democracy in those processes?

The late twentieth-century biology shifted our perspective in the understanding of the organism: An informational matrix is capable of processing great quantities of data. We ourselves are self-regulating systems. The network that once was everywhere, apparently now also shifts scales and has gained a specific density that allows to be read as an organism. We pursue in our architecture to capture an organic totality that will operate in all scales, from the material to the conceptual.

“We may have stumbled into new grounds to see democracy, stumbling governmental mode of an increasing fraction of the globe, as utterly natural.”

This idea presupposes the good as natural. Again, our primary concern is to provide an interiority which opposes noise and will provide order and meaning. If we are to again describe our architecture though naturalization the question becomes: Who are we working for?



• Aesopos Yannis & Simeoforidis Yorgos “Landscapes of modernisation : Greek architecture, 1960s and 1990s” Athens : Metapolis Press, 1999
• Clarke A. C. “Profiles of the Future” London: Pan Books 1964
• Costanzo, Michele “Bernard Tschumi : l’architettura della disgiunzione” Universale di architettura ; 119. Gli architetti, Torino : Testo & immagine, 2002
• Fourastie Jean “Idees Majeures”, Paris: Gouthier 1966
• Giovanni Damiani “Tschumi” New York, NY : Universe Pub., a division of Rizzoli International Pub., 2003
• Lefebvre Henri “Everyday Life in the Modern World” New York: Harper & Row 1971
• Lefebvre, Henri “La Vie quotidienne dans le monde moderne”, Paris: Gallimard 1968
• Loyer F. “Architecture de la Grece contemporaine” diss., U. Paris III, 1966
• McLuhan Marshall “Understanding Media: The extensions of Man” NY 1965
• Meier Richard L. “A Communications Theory of Urban Growth” – Published for The Joint Centre for Urban Studies of M.I.T. and Harvard University by the M.I.T. Press 1962
• Orlandini, Alain “Le parc de la Villette de Bernard Tschumi” ; Un architecte/une œuvre; Paris : Somogy, c2001
• Philippides Dimitris “Modern Architecture in Greece” Athens: Melissa 2002
• Takis Ch. Zenetos, 1926–1977 (Architecture in Greece Editions, Athens 1978)
• Tschumi, Bernard “architecture in/of motion” Rotterdam, Netherlands : Netherlands Architecture Institute, c1997
• Tschumi, Bernard “Disjunctions” Berlin : Aedes, c1987
• Tschumi, Bernard “Event-cities : praxis” Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, c1994
• Tschumi, Bernard “Event-cities 2” Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, c2000
• Tschumi, Bernard “Event-cities 3 : concept vs. context vs. content” Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, c2004
• Tschumi, Bernard “La case vide, La Villette, 1985”; Folio ; 8 London : Architectural Association, c1986
• Tschumi, Bernard “Praxis : villes-événements” Tourcoing : Fresnoy ; Paris : M. Riposati, 1993
• Tschumi, Bernard “The Manhattan transcripts” London : Academy Editions ; New York, N.Y. : St. Martin’s Press, 1981
• Tschumi, Bernard “Virtuæl : Expo 2004 image = images” [S.l.] : Bernard Tschumi Architects, 2002.
• Wigley, Mark “Constant's New Babylon : the hyper-architecture of desire”, Rotterdam: Center for Contemporary Art : 010 Publishers, 1998
• Yukio Futagawa “Bernard Tschumi” GA document. Extra; 10, Tokyo: A.D.A. Edita: 1997.
• Zenetos Takis Ch. “Urbanisme Electronique – Structures Paralleles” Architecture in Greece Editions, Athens 1969


• American Association for the Advancement of Science: “Athelstan Spilhaus: Ecolibrium” Science Magazine (1972) pp. 771
• American Association for the Advancement of Science: “Editorial: Old Cities, New Cities, No Cities” Science Magazine (1972)
• Architecture in Greece Press: “Zenetos, Takis Ch.: City Planning and Electronics”, Archit. Themata, iii (1969), pp. 114–25
• Architecture in Greece Press: “Zenetos, Takis Ch.: City Planning and Electronics” Archit. Themata, iv (1970), pp. 59–60
• Architecture in Greece Press: “Zenetos, Takis Ch.: Furniture for Living and Working in the Year 2000 – All-purpose Furniture” Archit. Themata, iii (1969), pp. 294–295
• Architecture in Greece Press: “Zenetos, Takis Ch.: Problems of construction in Greece – The City of the Future” Archit. Themata, i (1967), pp. 88–93
• Architecture in Greece Press: “Zenetos, Takis Ch.: Town Planning and Electronics”, Archit. Themata, vii (1973), pp. 112–119
• Architecture in Greece Press: “Zenetos, Takis Ch.: Town Planning and Electronics”, Archit. Themata, viii (1974), pp. 122–135
• Barcelona : Promedia, S.A.; Libreria Internacional “Quaderns 223: Loops Elastic Time, Flexible Time”
• London : Published by E. & F.N. Spon for the Royal Institute of British Architects “Tara Short: of mice and madness: questions of occupation interpreted through Disneyland and parc de la Villette” summer 1998
• London : Published by E. & F.N. Spon for the Royal Institute of British Architects “Reinhold Martin: Complexities” autumn 1998
• London : Studio Vista “World Architecture”: “Doumanis Orestis: Architecture in Greece” 1,3,4 -1964-66-67
• Munchen : Callwey Topos 2000
• Tokyo : A.D.A. EDITA Tokyo Co: GA houses March 1993
• Tokyo-to : Kabushiki Kaisha E ando Yu: Kenchiku to toshi = Architecture and urbanism : A + U March 1994


• http://www.groveart.com/shared/views/article.html?section=art.034223.2.3&authstatuscode=200 Greece, §II: Architecture After 1945.
• http://www.paradigmata.gr/talkers.php?ID=19 Yorghos Tzirtzilakis :1973 - 1975: Information on the psychosis of the landscape
• http://www.ntua.gr/vdsforum/zen1.htm urbanisme electronique T Ch ZENETOS 1969
• http://www.archsign.gr/projects/e_urb/e_urb_01.htm Electronic Urbanism Virtual Model
• http://www.jstor.org The Journal Storage – The Scholarly Journal Archive  

Post a Comment