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ORDER AND DISORDER IN THE CONTEMPORARY CITY

Starting from the topics of order/disorder in urban planning, focused by the Berlin ''Daidalos'' review as a possible answer to postmodern pluralism, the advantages and limits of order are considered as the principle of city construction. In relation to planned interventions of the European city and their reflection in the practice of contemporary architects, are here considered which elements of history are persisting in the design process. The resumption of concepts such as strategies of order, resistance, continuity, permanence, seems to indicate a common effort to resist the ongoing dissolution of city and architecture. Where this effort for the common good must agree not only on the idea of city to follow, but confront itself with the real city, which is always an implicit compromise between different urban ideas. The analysis of recent urban experiences related to the model of the historic city becomes reference for a design exercise of a new residential district in Milan.

Keywords: Order, Desorder, City.

ORDER AND DISORDER IN THE CONTEMPORARY CITY

Michele Caja

Politecnico di Milano Scuola AUIC Dipartimento ABC

 

On Order and Disorder, a monographic issue of the Berlin architectural review «Daidalos» (March 1983), dedicated to the topics of order in urban planning, dealt with case studies of urban parts realized according to a unified plan. But also of the limits of this order, when it reveals itself as imposed ordering will, or is transformed into disorder by overlapping and collision between different orders, succeeded in time, corresponding to different ideas of city and architecture. The image that accompanied the review’s editorial was already in itself emblematic: a sketch of Aldo Rossi's Changing Cabins of Elba, whose settlement rules, based on reiteration and serial juxtaposition, is put in crisis by some of them that seem to collapse on the ground or come out of the lines, as if to question the limits of every rational principle in the building of a (however small) city, as well expressed by the caption that accompanied it: Manifest disorder or covered order? (1).

Among the various historical-critical contributions, on which the review’s index was built, ranging from emblematic moments of urban planning such as the Rue de Rivoli in Paris or other examples of new urban foundations in France, up to the milestones of German neoclassicist city (von Klenze’s Munich, Schinkel's Berlin), a text by Giorgio Grassi, with a significant title: Form liberated, Never Sought. On the Problem of Architectural Design (in Italian, Questioni di progettazione) stood out as a partially out of place intervention, in which the author wondered about the foundations on which to base design choices starting from historical references, able to reveal formal solutions without the need to research or invent new ones.

History and its forms, assumed as a principle for finding the most intrinsic raison d'etre of design process, became in this sense a basic moment to resist to novelty at all costs, to obligation of originality and plurality urgently required to contemporary architecture (2).

Precisely in this unveiling of a rediscovered order, in the careful and precise analysis of historical examples, studied on the morphological scale, in their typological structure, as well as in their constructive choices, through which the architecture of the past was understood as a possible shared model of reference to the present, the position traced by the author became unique and exemplary, when compared to the pluralism of postmodern architecture of the time. The unitarity of the typological choice, as for example in the project for a new residential block in Pavia based on a square grid, seemed to find reference here in the order of large historical artifacts for collective residence, from the Lombard farms to the great conventual complexes of the Charterhouses, re-interpreted as alternatives to the speculative and privatized city of Nineteenth century.

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