The Green IBA – A history of renewal, ecology and solidarity.

In architectural and urban history, the 1984/87 Internationale Bauausstellung Berlin (International Building Exhibition Berlin, or short IBA) with its numerous buildings by architects later celebrated as stars and its associated postmodern paradigm shift in urban planning towards the European city has long been the subject of historical consideration. Critical scholarship in recent years, primarily by international authors, has addressed the social problems of the time, such as the liberalization of the housing market, migration and integration, renovation of old buildings and participation. 1 However, little attention has been paid to the fact that the IBA, with its primary mission of making West Berlin’s city center, ruined by a failed urban development and housing policy, a place worth living in once more, at the same time sought to create or upgrade living space not only on socially acceptable, but also radically ecological conditions.

Architecture Wrestling the Social: The “Live” Project as Site of Contestation

Whether thriving on genuine enthusiasm or fatalistic skepticism, social responsibility in architecture is often theorized in terms of dichotomist pairs that are placed in opposition to one another: designer vs. user; top-down vs. bottom-up; politics vs. aesthetics; power vs. emancipation; layperson vs. expert; high vs. low culture. In practice, architecture and cities do not operate through polarizing pairs, but rather through processes of negotiation and contestation between stakes, actors, and interests, contestation is an intrinsic rather than exceptional part of architecture. This is heightened in the context of social responsibility; namely when architecture aims to contribute to a better world and imagine the future in closer dialogue with the users of space. This paper will study social responsibility through contestation by unpacking the networks of engagement surrounding the AD/AA/Polyark project: in the early 1970s architectural students of the Architectural Associations toured across the United Kingdom on a converted bus with the aim to set up a dialogue between students and the world “out there”.

Ambulatory Therapy: Psychologies of Pedestrianization in New York and Copenhagen

How have projects for pedestrian streets created atmospheres of convivial­ity while failing to contribute to a real expansion of citizenship? A historical review of pedestrian projects in New York City and Copenhagen reveals the critical role of psychology in the production and experience of the public realm. Psychological theories and experimental techniques lie behind projects of temporary street closures in 1970s’ New York to Copenhagen’s Superkilen and the fictional city of Bricksburg today, as they transform the public realm in the service of self-actualization and happiness. Yet the promotion of feelings of wellbeing in urban space has largely been in the service of economic develop­ment and competition, rather than citizenship. Historicizing the “happy city” calls for a reexamination of the claims of psychologists, planners, and design­ers in remaking city streets.

Continually Renewed Contemporaneity: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe through the Lens of Different Ages

The work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, more so than that of most architects, has been subject to a process of continuous reinterpretation. During his lifetime, this could have been explained by the fact that the work itself changed profoundly, responding to the extreme transforma­tions of western civilization that occurred between the period before World War I and the end of high modernity. But even today, Mies’s oeuvre possesses qualities that keep it compatible and relevant. In this essay, Christoph Asendorf reflects on the notion of contemporaneity from the perspective of cultural studies. He pays particular attention to the way in which Mies walks a fine line between seem­ingly contradicting options: between order and freedom, modernity and tra­dition, and, in more architectural terms, between delimitation and permeability, solidity and fluidity.

People and Buildings:

In this essay, Ignaz Strebel and Jane M. Jacobs investigate the attempt to deliver a scientific description of life in mass housing in Great Britain during the postwar period, particularly in its flagship, the residential high-rise block. They focus on Pearl Jephcott’s study of Glasgow’s high-rise housing, published as Homes in High Flats: Some of the Human Problems Involved in Multi-Storey Housing (1971). Largely ignored both then and now, Jephcott’s research is helpful in highlighting the difficulties of using standardized quantitative methods to examine the relationship between architecture and the behavior of its inhabitants. At the same time, the innovative ad hoc methodology developed by Jephcott and her team, to give equal weight to residents’ statements and to descriptions of their environment, provides elements of an alternative to the paradigm of market-oriented satisfaction surveys, which have dominated housing research in the social sciences up to the present.

Acoustics, Appropriated and Applied:

How has the modeling of space in modern science been reflected in the theoretical discourse of architecture? Comparing texts by the architects Adolf Loos, Herman Sörgel, and Siegfried Ebeling, Sabine von Fischer investigates the influence of architectural acoustics on architectural theory around 1920. Aesthetic concepts such as harmony and proportion were no longer sufficient to relate sound and space. Rather, models of natural science now explained the ways in which sound waves moved within built spaces. The transfer of the new scientific knowledge of acoustics from physics to architectural discourse did not remain without contradictions. Loos’s “The Mystery of Acoustics” of 1912, Sörgel’s issue of Baukunst on music and architecture of 1925, and Ebeling’s Space as Membrane of 1926 show that, at times, inherited models of explanation for musical effects and modern knowledge of architectural acoustics entered into a peculiar coexistence.

Four Micro-Essays.

Scheuer: Computational Writing — The dream of a brave new world of an evolution without apes.


Schrijver: Synthesis and Consolation — An important feature of architecture’s thinking-in-making is the synthesis of “knowing how” and “knowing that.”


Loukissas: Knowledge Under Fire — Professionals are using new technologies for simulation to challenge long-standing ways of knowing.


Carpo: Leibniz – Elegy for the Cookie in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility

The Architect as Bricoleur.

Facing up to the existential confusion in architecture, Irénée Scalbert revisits the notion of the architect-bricoleur. In the 1970s, inspired by Claude Lévi-Strauss, critics including Charles Jencks and Colin Rowe imagined the architect sifting through the debris of culture. In our own time, buoyed by the rise of ecology, the architect is more Robinson Crusoe than scholar, salvaging what he can from the shipwreck of culture and making the most of nature. He works as if for himself and with the means that are at hand. The architect-bricoleur, Scalbert argues, shall be neither modern, working for the amelioration of the greater number, nor postmodern, seeking to create a sensation. He shall be, after Bruno Latour, premodern, making the best of both new and old techniques and embracing circumstance and accident in his craft.


De Architectura.

The Ten Books on Architecture is the oldest surviving architectural treatise. In this essay, Bernard Cache re­examines Vitruvius’s text, interpreting the work’s table of contents as a table of materials. On the basis of the structure of Vitruvius’s work, Cache develops a reading that reaches from amorphous materials to detailed building assembly. In so doing, Cache highlights the engineering feats of antiquity and outlines the mathematical knowledge required to calculate machines of war and sundials.

A Machine Epistemology in Architecture.

Contemporary architecture is preoccupied with radical formal experimentation, enabled in particular by the computer and computer-controlled machines. Such ambitious architectural form-making requires a virtuosic mastery of spatial geometry, a specific kind of design knowledge that is often specialized and difficult to deploy. Machines, including computers, provide a way of encapsulating this knowledge in a more usable and repeatable way. Such machines raise certain epistemic challenges: they abstract systems and detach the user from operative logic, requiring more instrumental and less design knowledge from the user. While contemporary architects are increasingly testing the relationship of design knowledge to instrumental knowledge, we may draw lessons from the broad use of mechanical drawing instruments for design and design-based computation in the nineteenth century. In this historical context we can see key relationships between instrumental knowledge and design knowledge that are fundamental to understanding our own increasingly mechanized approach to contemporary design.