Domestic Italy After World War II: Collecting Stories from Middle-Class Houses

The article discusses a research project on 23 residential buildings developed for the middle classes in the postwar period in Milan, Rome, and Turin, a proj­ect which has opened a new perspective in the history of mass housing in Italy. Of critical importance are the methods employed by the more than 20 schol­ars who, based on an expansive corpus of oral and textual sources, developed the micro-histories of everyday architecture into an experimental comparative study. This “serial history” not only relates the house biographies from the perspective of various actors involved in these buildings over the course of several decades. It also reveals the multiple interdependencies of institutional networks and the buildings’ siting, resulting in a new understanding of the urban growth during the Italian economic boom. In the following essay, two of the lead researchers, Gaia Caramellino and Filippo de Pieri, explain their methods on the basis of selected case studies, and frame three questions for future research.

Ossification and Plasticization: The Embodiment of an Iconography of Security in Japanese Clay-Walled Storehouses

This essay and accompanying design research has devel­oped symbiotically as a response to the complex underly­ing structure of risk perception present in the obsolete Japanese storehouse building type. This body of work reconsiders the material and cultural associations of this historical building type through a creative typological analysis that uses the material characteristics of plastici­zation and ossification inherent in the unfired clay used in their construction. A new understanding of the exchange of knowledge of Japan’s culture of safety is applied to the design of a self-storage and emergency evacuation facil­ity for Kyoto, Japan. The design posits the contemporary use of unfired clay to provide an environmentally respon­sive and culturally relevant form of protection for the city.

Housing as Discursive Void:

After the debacle over his participation in Märkisches Viertel, the large-scale housing development in West Berlin, Oswald Mathias Ungers retreated from practice to academia at Cornell University. From 1968 on, he witnessed the socioeconomic challenges to housing and urban development in the United States while reflecting on the changed expectations for architecture in face of the restructuring of the welfare state on both sides of the Atlantic. As André Bideau shows in this essay, Ungers’s “American” research hardly gives any indication of his later discourse on the autonomy of architecture; housing remained of central interest to him much longer than has been thought to date. However, with the discrediting of subsidized mass housing, the differentiation of postmodern urban society gained a conceptual relevance that Ungers tried to activate with his research on the Urban Villa. The summer academies with which he sought to reposition himself from 1977 on marked a turning point in a new, defining relationship between identity and urbanity.

Authentic Architecture.

Andres Lepik challenges architect Anna Heringer to reflect upon the role of knowledge generation and
knowledge transfer in her work. Precisely because the architect’s social responsibility plays a critical role in Heringer’s approach to design and construction, the question is how she is able to develop, via single projects built in earth construction, models and strategies that are replicable. Heringer advocates knowledge based on practical experience, both for students in industrialized nations as well as for construction workers in developing countries. The conversation was conducted at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in the spring of 2012, where both Heringer and Lepik held a Loeb Fellowship in 2011/12.

The Housing Prototype of The Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies.

Marcus Garvey Park Village is a low-income housing project that was built between 1973 and 1976 by the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in Brooklyn, New York, as an implementation of a low-rise high-density prototype commissioned by the New York State Urban Development Corporation. The Museum of Modern Art was a project partner and exhibited the prototype in a dedicated exhibit titled “Another Chance for Housing.” The housing project constitutes the only building ever realized by the Institute, active from 1967 to 1985 in New York and known mainly as a center of architectural debate. Kim Förster looks at the building and exhibition project in order to consider the relationship between metropolitan culture, the architectural profession, and public relations. The interviews conducted by Förster give a voice to the protagonists of this unique architectural and cultural production, among them Kenneth Frampton and Peter Eisenman. As oral history, the edited version of these conversations affords insights into the particular interests of the project partners and into the role of the Institute as an architectural practice, before it affirmed its position as an educational and cultural institution.

Compliant Architecture.

„Compliant Architecture“ is a project that combines three strands: historical research into the emergence of building regulations; design research illustrating the limits they pose for practitioners; and teaching-led research exploring the architectural potential of these limits. In this paper, Liam Ross offers a digest of this project, conducted at the University of Edinburgh since 2009. Ross inverts the ubiquitous critique of regulation among architects, suggesting that the disciplinary challenge posed by regulation is not the limits it sets, but the freedoms it offers. Ross advocates an architectural practice that works with and through regulatory limits to dramatize, rather than negate, the inherent risk of building, since it is only through exposure to risk that we develop subjectivity. The author makes this argument through a detailed study of a specific regulation, British Standard 8213-1: 2004. Windows, doors and rooflights, accompanied by diagrammatic studies and speculative window designs. Several student projects supervised by Ross explore the design potential of additional regulations.


Hiltonculuk and Beyond.

The spread of the International Style in 1950s Turkey is often interpreted as an inevitable outcome of the so-called Americanization of modernism. A closer look at the conditions of practice and knowledge production in architecture, however, shows that the appropriation of modernism was problematic. Referring to therepeated imitation of Istanbul’s Hilton Hotel, one of Turkey’s first modernist buildings, the critic Şevki Vanlı at the time coined the term “Hiltonculuk” (Hiltonism) to mock an uncritically and widely accepted architectural ideology. Kaçel, in contrast, speaks of “common-sense modernism” to denote in the affirmative the values shared by Turkish architects.With reference to Antonio Gramsci’s critique of intellectuals and Karl Mannheim’s sociology of knowledge, Kaçel depicts architects not as creative, autonomous figures but as intellectuals whose practices need to be analyzed in relation to the social relations in which they are embedded.

Model and Event.

An architecture competition is more than simply a vehicle for awarding commissions. Particularly in controversial cases, it can also function as an instrument of debate and as a site for more fundamental contention. The participation in the 2007 competition involving the reconstruction of Berlin’s historic city palace raises an exemplary question: How can one find correct answers to a question that has been falsely posed? Using examples from twentieth-century art and architectural practice, Wilfried Kuehn explores notions of the original and the replica in light of Kuehn Malvezzi’s award-winning competition proposal.

The Socialist Perspective of the XV Triennale di Milano.

For architectural historians, it is clear that the name Aldo Rossi stands for overcoming postwar modernism, because it was through his theory of Architettura Razionale that attention was directed back to traditional architectural forms and types that had survived the test of time. However, this is only one aspect of Rossi’s theory. As a Marxist, Rossi felt that he had a duty to a historical model that explains architecture as the product of specific social contradictions. His theoretical texts therefore articulate different influences, which at times conflicted. When the 1973 Triennale di Milano was held, Rossi was obviously influenced by Hans Schmidt and the idea of the socialist city. This was entirely evident from his introduction to the exhibition catalog, but almost no one took any notice of it. This essay analyzes their relationship — seldom researched until now — with the aid of Rossi’s introduction and the writings of Hans Schmidt, which cast new light onto Rossi’s concept of type.