Thursday, 10 December 2015

Ivan Léonidov, Competition entry for the socialist city of Magnitogorsk

‘A socialist settlement is a properly thought out organisation of industry and agriculture, culture and leisure:  of everything that informs human consciousness and life. It is a settlement constructed on the basis of the foremost socialist technology.’

Ivan Leonidov, Explanatory notes on the OSA team’s project

Leonidov like many of his contemporaries of Modernism had a social vision apart from a purely architectural drive. In the competition entry for the socialist settlement at Magnitogorsk, he tests new social patterns of living within strictly organised functional zoning.

Magnitogorsk is an industrial city located in Russia on the eastern side of the
Ural Mountains and surrounded by many lakes

The design comprises a linear development located between chemical and metallurgical combine and a giant collective farm. The city starts from an industrial node and its development is possible in two or four orthogonal directions. The Linear City consists of a strip of residential complexes and two strips of ancillary functions on both sides of the housing zone.

A part of the Linear City

Each housing complex is intended for 250 people living in eight separate housing units, each for 32 people. Units could be allocated both individually and stacked in towers. The children’s sector is located in the green zone between two residential complexes. Ancillary functions are represented by public buildings and places such as the community hall, sports facilities, parks, zoological and botanical gardens. The highway on one side is for transport and also serves as border and stimulus for further development. 

Hierarchy of rooms

The housing unit is the main component in this scheme which is repeated throughout the city on a chequerboard pattern in order to create each separate complex. Each unit is intended as a small community. It consists of sixteen small private rooms located in the corners of the units on two levels with communal space in the centre of the unit. Leonidov and his group propose an idea of dis-urbanisation where living and social activities take place in proximity to nature. Linear city is ‘a new form of human settlement which eliminates rural backwardness and isolation from the world, and the anti- human concentration of vast masses of people into large cities.’ It embodies many ‘ideals’ of modern living – spaciousness, unobscured views and green surroundings where labour, leisure and socialisation could occur.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

'The Architecture of the City' by Aldo Rossi

'Whereas the humanist conception attempted an integration of subject and object, the modernist conception polemically attempted their separation. The problematic nature of the practice of modern architecture with respect to the theory of modernism has to do precisely with its inability to effect this separation and thus its contamination with imperatives from the humanist conception.'  p.5

'Rather, history becomes analogous to a "skeleton" whose condition serves as a measure of time and, in turn, is measure by time. It is skeleton which bears the imprint of the actions that have taken place and will take a place in the city.' p.5

'The two main permanences in the city are housing and monuments. With respect to the first, Rossi distinguishes between housing and individual houses. Housing is a permanence in the city while individual houses are not; thus, a residential district in the city may persist as such over many centuries, while individual houses within a district will tend to change. With respect to monuments, the relationship is the opposite, for here it is the individual artifact that persists in the city.' p.6

'Urban studies never attribute sufficient importance to research dealing with singular urban artifacts. By ignoring them - precisely those aspects of reality that are most individual, particular, irregular, and also most interesting - we end up constructing theories as artificial as they are useless.' p.21

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

'Le Corbusier; Ideas and forms' by William J R Curtis

Le Corbusier certainly is a key figure in 20th Century Architecture. He was a visionary whose ideas and projects left deep traces in the history and had a long lasting yet controversial impact on the future development of architecture and the society it was created for.
"Le Corbusier: ideas and forms" is an extensive documentary on his philosophy, urban visions and realised architecture. Here are some interesting quotes from this book.

'Although he never constructed his ideal city in toto, he did treat individual buildings as demonstrations of urbanistic ideas.' p.8 

'He tried to abstract principles from tradition, and to distil these into a formal system with its own rules of appropriateness.' p.8

'Le Corbusier worked from general to particular and from particular to general when solving problems.' p.11


About Carthusian monastery near Galluzo he wrote:
'Yesterday I went to see Chartreuse... there I found a unique solution to workers' housing. But it will be difficult to duplicate the landscape. oh those monks, what lucky fellows.' p. 22

'Many of the ideas were derived from Camillo Sitte's Der Stadtbau of 1889, which had stressed the need for intimate complexity in the placement of buildings, squares and streets, and which had been heavily illustrated with examples from medieval Italy.' p.30

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

'The Uses of Disorder. Personal Identity and City Life' by Richard Sennet

I discovered distinctive sociologist and urbanist Richard Sennett by clicking phrase "Open city" in Google. Where this phrase came from I do not remember but it was the name of a lecture given by him at the Harvard GSD which grasped my attention. I found his ideas explicitly simple and persuasive. They are rooted in Humanistic thinking and address such fundamental issues of humankind as craftsmanship, cooperation and urban environment.
"The Uses of Disorder" is one of his earliest works which casts doubts on the ideals of rigid, excessively ordered society. 
Richard Sennett denies purified community where the development of its members is locked into framed identity. Instead, he proposes an alternative environment where otherness, diversity and ambiguity are allowed.
Further are some interesting quotes feeding my concepts and leading deeper into serendipity.

'One technique of planning large human settlements developed in the past hundred years has been the device of establishing "projective needs". This means guessing the future physical and social requirements  of a community or city and then basing present spending and energy so as to achieve a readiness for the projected future state.' p.6


Tuesday, 18 August 2015

The most isolated London's suburbia

No cafe, no pub, no doctor in London's most isolated suburb

Here is a vivid example of how single function development created to serve housing needs becomes limiting and burden. By not providing decent social and transport infrastructure council together with the developer has created another gated community which struggles with isolation and loneliness.