Descrizione: 9780262515795

























Titolo originale:  The possibility of an absolute architecture




Argomento e tematiche affrontate

Descrizione: 9780262515795


In this book, Pier Vittorio Aureli proposes that a sharpened formal consciousness in architecture is a precondition for political, cultural, and social engagement with the city. Aureli uses the term absolute not in the conventional sense of “pure,” but to denote something that is resolutely itself after being separated from its other. In the pursuit of the possibility of an absolute architecture, the other is the space of the city, its extensive organization, and its government. Politics is agonism through separation and confrontation; the very condition of architectural form is to separate and be separated. Through its act of separation and being separated, architecture reveals at once the essence of the city and the essence of itself as political form: the city as the composition of (separate) parts. Aureli revisits the work of four architects whose projects were advanced through the making of architectural form but whose concern was the city at large: Andrea Palladio, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Étienne Louis-Boullée, and Oswald Mathias Ungers. The work of these architects, Aureli argues, addressed the transformations of the modern city and its urban implications through the elaboration of specific and strategic architectural forms. Their projects for the city do not take the form of an overall plan but are expressed as an “archipelago” of site-specific interventions.


Giudizio Complessivo: 8 (scala 1-10)

Scheda compilata da: Maddalena Riboni

Corso di Architettura e Composizione Architettonica 3 a.a.2014/2015




Descrizione: Pier-Vittorio-Aureli1











Pier Vittorio Aureli studied at the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia and later at the Berlage Institute in Rottedam. Aureli currently teaches at the AA School of Architecture in London and is visiting professor at Yale University. He is the author of many essays and several books, including The Project of Autonomy (2008) and The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture (2011).


Dogma was founded in 2002 is led by Pier Vittorio Aureli and Martino Tattara. From the beginning of its activities, Dogma has worked on the relationship between architecture and the city by focusing mostly on urban design and large-scale projects. Parallel to the design projects, the members of Dogma have intensely engaged with teaching, writing, and research, activities that have been an integral part of the office’s engagement with architecture. Dogma is also active in offering consultancies to municipalities and agencies concerned with urban planning and architectural issues. Dogma’s work has been widely published and exhibited. In 2006, Dogma has won the 1st Iakov Chernikhov Prize for the best emerging architectural practice and in 2013, on the occasion of the exhibition ‘Dogma. 11 Projects’the first monograph on the work of the office was published by the AA Publications.

Pier Vittorio Aureli



Chapter I - TOWARD  THE ARCHIPELAGO: defining the political and the formal in architecture

In the first chapter the author attempt to reconstruct the possibility of an architecture of the city that is no longer situated only in the autonomous realm of its disciplinary status, but must directly confront urbanization. This possibility is put forward in two ways: by critically understanding the essential difference between the concept of the city and the concept of urbanization, and by looking at how urbanization has historically come to prevail over the city.

The author starts difining the differences between the Greek polis and the Roman concept of civitas and urbs. Then, he argues that with the rebirth of the Western city after the dissolution of Roman civilization, the "economic impetus" of urbs gradually took over the political idea of civitas. Unlike the Greek polis or the Roman civitas, the origins of which were essentially political, the rebirth of the Western city at the turn of the first millennium was propelled by the role of economics. The gradual rise of the bourgeoisie defined the very identity of the contemporary city.

Then, with the advent of the idustrialization and the rise of the capitalism, the role of the urbs absorbed the idea of civitas to the point that over the last three centuries we have witnessed the triumph of a new form of human association based entirely on the mastery of the urbs:  urbanization.

Here Aureli analyzes the work of some urbanists and architects: Ildefons Cerdŕ, Ludwig Hilberseimer, Le Corbusier, Archizoom Associati, Rem Koolhaas.


Descrizione: immagini cap 1 urbanizz

Like Cerdŕ's idea of urbanization, Hilberseimer's principle of the plan, and Archizoom's No-Stop City, Rem Koolhaas's City of the Captive Globe is based on an isotropic principle and the potential for infinite development, but unlike these models it has a center (the square of the Captive Globe itself).

Koolhaas called his model an "archipelago"; but the space of the building in Koolhaas's City in not really that of an island, where the relationship between inside (terra firma) and outside (the sea) is vital and open to different approaches, but is more like an enclave. The enclave is a restricted space that makes the urban territory uneven.

The social discrimination dictated by the selective space of the enclave is based not on politics but on the total sovereignty  of economy in the form of urban management. Bound to the regime of the economy, this logic of inclusion/exclusion dissolves the potential dialectical conflict among the parts of the city, and transforms confrontation and its solution into the indifference of cohabitation, which indeed is the way of living in urbanization.

To understand the real meaning of the term urbanization Aureli introduces and analizes two different concepts : political and formal.

Both the concept of the political and the concept of the formal indicate the possibility of the composition of difference by assuming the limits of parts as their constituency. Consequently, both the political and the formal contain the idea of the whole per via negativa, by virtue of being absolute parts.

To reply the question about what could be a form of reference for a renewed political and formal understanding of the city and its architecture, the author introduces Mies van der Rohe's work; while the urban theories of Cerdŕ, Hilberseimer, Archizoom, and Rem Koolhaas are seen as the most extreme paradigmatic projects of urbanization, the late work of Mies is interpreted as demonstrating the possibility of an absolute architecture. Mies's late projects absorbed the reifying forces of urbanization, but presented them not as ubiquitous but as finite and clearly separated in patrs.

The idea of separated parts links the possibility of an absolute architecture to the idea of the archipelago as a form for the city. The concept of the archipelago describes a condition where parts are separated yet united by the common ground of their juxtaposition. In contrast to the integrative  apparatus of urabanization, the archipelago envisions the city as the agonistic struggle of parts whose forms are finite and yet are in constant relationship both with each other and with the "sea" that frames and delimits them. The islands of the archipelago describe the role of architectural form within a space more and more dominated by the "sea" of urbanization. In this way, each architectural invention is bound to a conceptual  continuity that transform the episodic nature of each intervention into islands of the archipelago.


Chapter II-THE GEOPOLITICS OF THE IDEAL VILLA: Andrea Palladio and the project of an anti-ideal city.

If the villa is one of the most radically ideological architectures because it hides its economic dependency on the city by claiming self-sufficiency within the countryside, then Palladio's palace-plus-barchesse composition openly signals the villa's relation with its regional and agricultural economic context. However we have an alternative interpretation of Palladio's architecture : reads the villa as one element within a larger, latent project. Rather than taking Palladio's "ideal" as a model for an equally ideal urban configuration, it views the geography and politics of the villa as a framework for rethinking and retheorizing the significance of Palladio's work as a project for an anti-ideal city.

Palladio's approach to the city is based not on an overall urban plan but on the strong formal continuity and universalism evoked by his classical references. Yet, in contrast with the Roman city model, Palladio's universalism is defined by the concrete figure of architecture as a clearly circumscribed artifact , distinct from the ground of the city spaces surrounding it. The variety of contexts in which he operated offered an array of urban situations of various scales in which he could test the seamlessness of an architectural language  against the inexorably fragmented nature of the city.

More than his bridges and palazzos, the villas in the Veneto region are the most celebrated of Palladio's work. What is impressive about these buildings is not so much their architectural quality but their quantity; no other architects has offered a portfolio filled with designs of such impressive continuity. Palladio assigned the villa a position of exceptional importance in his Quattro Libri: five chapters of the second book are devoted to the architectural principles of this type, which is treated with the same attention to detail as other crucial city types such as palaces and religious buildings.

Palladio's villas are not simply objects enclosed within a reconstructed context, but are specific objects that frame and redefine the existing landscape as an economic, cultural and political counter to the city. The Villa Emo in Farzolo(1556) perhaps best shows the radicalism of Palladio's approach to the relationship between the villa and its immediate landscape. With the Villa Emo we see the classic Palladian paradox of a building that has been designed according to its own compositional logic ( typically based on symmetry), yet at the same time is also inflected so as to react to its specific site condition. This paradox is further radicalized in Palladio's most famous building, the Villa Capra, or La Rotonda (1567); in this building the unity of city and countryside is further radicalized, as if the building were a kind of manifesto.

Descrizione: 284840569_2e307094fbDescrizione: villaemo

Ultimately, it was in Venice that Palladio finally seemed able to satisfy his project of the city. His building constructed there, which are mostly churches, can all be seen against the backdrop of Venice's economic, geographic and political crises, but more immediately they relate to two significant proposals for restructuring and preserving the city in the wake of the Serenissima's demise. The first was a project by Cristoforo Sabbadino: develop the borders of the city in the form of a ring of waterfront fondamenta ( large embankments that would enclose and define Venice's forma urbis); the second visionary project, culturally more complex and sophisticated, was an elaboration by Alvise Cornaro of the concept of the theatre he had constructed in his garden in Padua.

The shames of both Sabbadino and Cornaro were designed to expand the city beyond the limits of its traditional monumental spaces, which until then had been iconographically controlled by the Piazza San Marco.

The difference between Sabbadino's urban project and Cornaro's vision is that while Sabbadino aimed at the consolidation of the existing city, Cornaro imagined a new Venice that radically invested architecture by stressing the analogy between the singularity of the architectural artifact and the insularity of the city form. Both project, however, were united in introducing an urban theme that is key to Palladio's monumental interventions in Venice: the idea of the urban edge not just as city form but also as a new monumental space linking the city to its territorial context; in other words, there is a link between the idea of the edge( as introduced by the project of both Sabbadino and Cornaro) and the physical location of all Palladio's Venetian buildings.

In order to fully understand Palladio's analogical Venice, we need to go back to his earliest failed assault on the city and the first of two proposals he made for a new Rialto Bridge(1556). In this project Palladio programmatically established an approach to the city that is anything but classical: the bridge is conceived as a civic hub made up of two parallel rows of shops spanning the Grand Canal; in the second vision of the project Palladio focused only on the bridge, at its centre he placed a classical square.

Palladio's unique architectural approach sought to establish a characteristically modern dialectic between the absoluteness of architecture and the openness of the city; using forms and typologies to effect contextual relationships and political visions, he fundamentally reimagined not only the physical manifestation of the city but its very idea.

Palladio looked to the ancient monuments of Rome not simply as sources for the correct interpretation of the orders, but as complex organisms that reproduced the rich architectural qualities of a city. It was for this reason that he studied the model of the roman bath; Palladio viewed the bathhouse as a unique public structure because it grouped together multiple programs and activities. The same spatiality is evoked in Palladio's building by introducing a ground-floor portico ; by incorporating public spaces, Palladio's buildings were not simply outstanding examples of architecture, but exemplars of an architectural relationship to the city.

It is this explicit will to idealize that made Palladio's collective series of buildings the absolute embodiment of a project for the city.


CHAPTER III - INSTAURATIO URBIS: Piranesi's Campo Marzio versus Nolli's Nuova pianta di Roma.

Within the history of project for cities, no image for a "new city" is as radical as the Scenographia Campi Martii, engraved by Giovanni Battista Piranesi. In the Scenographia, Piranesi presents an image of Rome in which several existing ruins from its imperial past stand in a desolate landscape. This engraving simply depicts the few surviving ruins of Piranesi's day: the ruins are not restored but are represented in their current condition. Here the ruins can be read both as what have survived the subsequent development of the city and as the conceptual guide for the reconstruction of a new city. His Scenographia thus condenses three seemingly conflicting action( destruction, restoration and reconstruction of the city) into one representation.

Descrizione: PIRAN

Here the author introduces the concept of Instauratio urbis: the attempts to restore the form of ancient Rome, beginning in the fifteenth century. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the city contracted in size to the area of the Campo Marzio along the bend of the Tiber river.

Most of the ancient Mirabilia in the eastern part of the city were abandoned; for centuries the ruins of this monuments were depicted as objects floating in open fields. This situation was still visible in Leonardo Bufalini's map of Rome; the map depicts a dialectical city whose form is made by the juxtaposition of two conditions: the modern city, with its figure-ground relationship between monuments and the organic fabric of the city, and the ancient city with its monument completely liberated from their urban framework. This urban composition is unique.

In comparison, in the Campo Marzio, Piranesi displaces the urban fabric that for centuries characterized the eastern part of the city to the site of the modern city: the Campo Marzio. In the Scenographia, he envisions the destruction of modern Rome as a precondiotion for a new Rome, designed throw the restoration of its ancient form. The link between this two Romes is the few extant ruins, which Piranesi selected for the introduction to his topographical reconstruction of the Campo Marzio. Piranesi's Campo Marzio can be considered the summa of a vision of the city that developed between the fifteenth and the eighteenth centuries: Instauratio urbis, which literally means "the installment of the city" and in practice involved the reconstruction of the ancient form of the city. The implicit project of many Instaurationes urbis was the liberation of the ancient ruins from the modern city that had developed around them.

One of the most impressive attempts in Instauratio urbis is Pirro Ligorio's Antiquae Urbis Imago(1561).His reconstruction of ancient Rome is the most direct precedent for Piranesi's Campo Marzio. In Ligorio's Imago, Rome appears as a city almost without streets and crowned by objects. The Imago is the most radical representation of a city whose form is embodied in the composition of its buildings rather than dictated by an overall plan.

Descrizione: ligorio


Because ancient Rome was an accumulation of individual complexes without an overall plan, any attempt at Instauratio Urbis began with careful topographic siting of the ancient ruins.

Why did the ancient form become such a topical drive in the development of the city for at least three centuries? Interest in ancient ruins was motivated not by an abstract respect for heritage but rather by its political instrumentality, which often coincided with the desire to refound and reconstruct the city. The motivation of Instauratio Urbis reveals the ideological ground zero for the revival of antiquity that has been called the Renaissance.

A fundamental architectural aspect of the sixteenth-century Roman surveys was the analysis of monuments within their topographic locations, just as the Mirabilia Urbis Romae guidebook envisioned ancient buildings as related to their positions in the space of the city. Instauratio Urbis offered an interpretation of architectural form radically different from the one inherited from architectural treatises. Especially in treatises made in the sixteenth-century, the understanding of the ancient architecture focused on the use of the five orders. Yet in the several phases of Instauratio Urbis the knowledge of architectural form was defined more by the individual form of each artifact in relationship to its topographical position in the city than the use of orders. Moreover, the survey of ancient monuments made clear to architects that the variety of compositional orders was irreducible to Vitruvius's rules.

The Instauratio Urbis was often depicted in the form of city map in which the form of the city was represented as an archipelago of monuments.

By the seventeenth century Instauratio Urbis was no longer in vogue as an urban strategy. In the difficult geopolitical situation in Europe (conflict between Lutheran and Catholic) work on antiquity survived mostly as field of study rather than a political tool but the seventeenth century was also when Rome assumed its definitive form: as its number of inhabitants increased it saw its residential areas grow, causing the city to develop a more dense urban fabric.

In the mid eighteenth century, the cultural prestige of Rome suffered a further blow as a result of its depiction in Diderot e D'Alambert's Encyclopedie.

The culture of Enlightenment challenged antiquarian erudition with the idea of archaeological knowledge. Ancient ruins were not simply evidence of a past to be preserved, but were also formal examples to be recomposed according to the narrative of power. Distinct from this analogical reconstruction of the past, archaeology was embraced by the Enlightenment as a scientific reconstruction of the past; cartography arose as a fundamental manifestation of scientific knowledge in the urban culture of seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Within the evolution of cartographic knowledge archaeology advanced as the principal mode of scientific investigation of the ancient world. For this reason, the Instauratio Urbis was now begun in the name of scientific accuracy. The new cartographic surveys and the new wave of interest in antiquity were now perceived not only within the framework of humanist erudition but also within the new scientific ethos of cartographic research.

Nolli's Nuova Pianta di Roma must be considered in this context. This map was the first rigorous scientific survey of Rome.


Descrizione: NOLLI

Nolli's map depicts not only the plans of the major monuments such as churches but also atria, stairs and courtyards of both major and minor buildings. Open spaces and the ruins ancient Rome are also mapped. Besides the topographic precision, the Nolli map is characterized by the figure-ground technique which distinguishes the architectural features from the rest of built space. While the plans of church interiors, palace atria and courtyards are drawn as pochč excavated within built mass, the remaining built mass is rendered as "building" footprints filled with a linear hatch. The figured ground distinction that Nolli introduced has often been discussed as symbolising the difference between public and private space, but such an interpretation is incorrect. In fact it symbolises the difference between architectural space and urban space. In Nolli's representation of the relationship between architectural space and urban space, the first one no longer appears to propel change in the city, but instead frames such change as an obstruction to the all-encompassing forces of urban space. Architectural space is defined by its internal logic, while urban space appears determined by the external constraints of the built mass and is thus not reducible to an univocal form like architecture.

Observing Nolli's representation of the city, and especially of architecture, one can argue that Piranesi's embrace of the Instauratio Urbis project was not motivated only by his desire to defend Roman architecture against claims for the superiority for the Greek architecture. Rather, the tenets of Piranesi's idea of Rome could be seen as a reaction to the idea of the city implied of Nolli's map. Piranesi's method of surveying the city and reconstructing its form can be read as a critique of the urban epistemology that the Nolli map exemplified. Piranesi recuperated the formal thinking of the Instauratio Urbis as an ideological reading of the city. It seems that Piranesi realised the unconscious project of Instauratio Urbis when he moved the ancient ruins from the empty landscape to the center of the modern city: the Campo Marzio.

Moreover inspired by the scientific methodology of topographic survey, Nolli had approached the reconstruction of ancient Rome as an archaeological problem based on found evidence and devoid of intuitive conjecture or any argumentative thesis other than the need to make the entire topographical form of ancient Rome scientifically legible. Piranesi radically contradicts this approach suggesting that the restoration of the true form of the ancient Rome is possible not by relying on mere evidence or by attempting an overall survey of all the topographic layers of the city, but by focusing on the remaining ruins and using them as points of entry for a conjecture about the form of the city.

The Nolli map illustrates the difference between architecture as finite form and a city as a totality of urban space, which he represented with a diagrammatic blackened mass. This demonstrated that architecture is simply an island within the city, whose urban form far exceeds the possibility of an architectural morphology to accommodate its scale.

The conjecture of Piranesi's forms confirms the unbridgeable discrepancy between architectural form and the totality of urban space.


Chapter IV- ARCHITECTURE AS STATE OF EXCEPTION: Etienne-Louis Boullče's project for a metropolis

Architecture, Essay on Art (written at the end of the eighteenth century by Etienne-Louis Boullče but unpublished until 1953) can be understood as an architectural treatise in the form of commentary of a series of public monuments that Buollče designed between the last years of the French Monarchy and the years immediately after the 1789 Revolution. All of the projects were characterized by austere composition of simple volumes.

Boulče's use of the term monument is important: before Boulče, monument were used to describe a commemorative building; after him, the monument also included any public building housing a public service, such as theatre, library or museum and potentially accessible to all. Boulče distinguish the monument from residential architecture which was defined as "private", or not accessible to all.

Boulče's monument addressed and celebrated its use by the anonymous and free individual; thus a library is a monument to the "science", a museum is a temple to the culture. Boulče's public monuments shared an architectural language based on the composition of anonymous and simple geometrical volumes. These volumes were characterized by two kinds of partitions: bare walls and densely arranged columns that seems to form walls.

Boulče's work is exceptional in its exclusive use of public monuments as a mean for a generally theory of architecture and because these monuments respond to specific site and technical condition.

He had established a few logical principles trough which it was possible to address any design problem; These principles were the idea of composition achieved through the paratactic juxtaposition of simple geometrical forms, the use of natural effects such as the play of light and shadow and the distributive clarity of a building.

Architecture, Essay on Art was based on the invention of a few exemplary architectural composition which, by repeating certain principles, had the potential to define a general approach to architecture.

Boulče's principles were a reflection on architecture not only as an autonomous discipline but also as a project on the city; his project was not a revolutionary negation of the existing architectural tradition, but rather a critical post revolutionary appropriation of this tradition for addressing public space.

Architecturally, French classicism represent the rise of a systemic architecture and urban design that developed in parallel with the consolidation of the nation-state's sovereignty and the emergence of the noblesse de robe as the new ruling class. French classicism was a style of public representation based on the diffusion of canons and formal simplification; it designated an approach more inclined toward norms than exception, toward regularity rather than complexity.

Blondel's Cours d'architecture (1675) is an example of the systematic diffusion of architecture as an espirit de systčm based on strict rules and proportion. The same way of thinking is found in the theories of Claude Perraud. A fundamental political contribution to diffusion of this classical language was the creation in 1671 of the Acadčmie Royal d'Architecture by Louis XIV's minister of finance, Jean-Baptiste Colbert.

This evolution of architectural pedagogy based on attributes such as clarity, austerity and the combinatory logic of form would serve as the foundation of the Boulče's simple forms. Yet Boulče's monuments would transform this attributes from their normative control of the city into an archipelago of finite formal and spatial states of exception.

The three most powerful form of architecture and urbanity that were inspired by the systematic language of French classicism were the courtyard, the square and the axis; these took the respective forms of the hotel, place and boulevard.

It is precisely within the context of a new spatiality, born from the tradition and typologies of French classicist architecture and evolved through the urban transformation of the landscape as a site of production, that architects increasingly diminished the role of the classical orders and decorations in favour of the free composition of volumes in the landscape.

Boulče's formal vocabulary must be seen in this context. Here the composition of volumes in a landscape is not simply assumed and theorized as a necessity, but it emphasized as holding the possibility for architecture to emancipate itself from mere utility and to become a form of critical judgement.

The composition of simple volumetric forms is the central theme of Boulče's theory of architecture. If we understand Boullče's sequence of monumental public buildings as a "project for a metropolis", this project can be seen as an archipelago of architectural states of exception that counter a metropolitan space dominated by the extensive management of production.

When Boullče was working in Paris, before the Revolution, the metropolis was envisioned as a sequence of singular spaces; after the Revolution, the metropolis had become a vast complex of movement and transactions that exceeded any finite place. The metropolis could be represented as an open landscape, an extensive scene. This was precisely the setting of Boullče's metropolitan buildings.

The best example of Boullče's conception of architecture in terms of its public access and circulation is his project for a Coliseum. After the Revolution Boulče proposed the Coliseum as a place for public festivals at which an enormous mass of citizens could celebrate the "national well-being". The main form of the monument is its accessibility, any other aspects was redundant, because what matters architecturally in a coliseum is the movement of masses of citizens and the spectacle of these masses sited in the tribunes.

In its absolute formal symmetry and sameness the Coliseum sublimated its urban context. Indeed, Boulče strategically placed this gathering and exhibition of a crowd within the heart of the emerging territorial metropolis: the Etoile at the top of the Champs Elysčes.

Together with the bare walls, the assembling and staging of the crowd is thus the analogical figure par excellence in Boulče's metropolis, achieved through two fundamental architectural principles: symmetry and sameness of formal elements. Symmetry is used as a compositional logic that guaranties the building's maximum legibility.

Boulče developed the principles of symmetry and uniformity as states of exception in the form of singular monuments that strategically punctuated and thus opposed the endlessness of the emerging metropolis.

For this reason Boulče's architectural projects, like Pallodio's villas , can be seen as analogous cities that through their finite exemplary objects, stage and define the features of an emerging urban paradigm: the modern metropolis.

Chapter V– THE CITY WITHIN THE CITY: Oswald Mathias Ungers, OMA, and the project of the city as archipelago.

In 1977 a group of architects launched a rescue project called Berlin as an Green Archipelago. Led by Ungers, the group incuded Rem Koolhaas, Peter Riemenn, Hans Kollhof and Arthur Ovaska. To these architects, the problems of postwar West Berlin provided a potent model of city within th city, or in Ungerr's terms a city made by islands.

Berline fragmented reality provided Ungers with a basis for interpreting the city as an entity no longer reliant on large-scale urban planning but rather  composed of islands, each of which was conceived as a formally distinct micro-city.

Ungers developed his theory of the city as an archipelago, shrinking the city to points of urban density as a way to respond to the dramatic drop in West Berlin population.

Berlin as a green Archipelago in one of the very few projects in the history of city planning to address an urban crisis by radically shifting the focus from the problem of urbanization to that of shrinking the city. This project proposed a paradigm that went beyond modernist and postmodernist references and that even today is not fully appreciated for its provocative logic.

The intellectual exchange between Ungers and OMA  was one of the most interesting lines of research about the city in the 1970s. This exchange was based not only on the collaboration between Koolhaas and Ungers on key project, but also on their mutual interest in the development of the "third way" to address the project of the city. Both sought to move beyond the impasse represented by modernist city planning and the incipient postmodern deconstruction of any project of the city.

The central focus of this chapter is to reconstruct Ungers's project as an attempt to define the architecture of the city as invested in architectural form. In his projects, Ungers articulated the limits and finitude of architectural form as possible cities within the city, as a recovery of defining traits of the city, such as its inherent collective dimension, its dialectical nature, its being made of separate parts, its being a composition of different forms, within the urban crisis that was affecting may cities in the late 1960s e 1970s.

Two of the most exemplary flagship projects were the Stalinallee in the East, by Hermann Henselmann and the Hansa Viertel Interbau in the West, by key figures incuding Alvar Aalto, Walter Gropius and Oscar Niemeyer.

It may have been the search for a third way, beyond this two directions, that motivated Ungers's early attempts to outline his principles for the projects of the city. These principles was first formulated in series of urban projects (1960s): Colonie Neue Stadt, Colonie Grunzug Sud and Berlin Markisches Viertel. Ungers's approach in these projects was explicitly polemical. Their rational monumental form was intended as a critic of the late modernist praxis of designing the city through the generic application of given building standards. The main principle within these proposals was the conception of new housing complexes not as a generic extension of the city but as clearly formalized city parts.

Descrizione: ungers

Ungers defined his Neue Stadt project as the archetype for a city of negatives and positives (that is a city in which experience of form as a composition of built and void space became the main architectural motif).

He allied the same approach to the Markisches Viertel complex in Berlin. In both the buildings Ungers accepted the building technology and typological standards that were given for these housing complexes, but he altered their formal composition in order to recuperate the possibility of monumental form within the peripheral spaces in which they were inserted.

The articulation of simple architectural volumes to compose and frame complex sequences of spaces assumes a radical form in what can be considered Ungers's canonical urban design project: Colonie Grunzug Sud; this project can be seen as Ungers's critic of one of the most emblematic alternatives to late-modernist urban design: the megastructure.

Ungers conceived the project as a gradual transformation of the site based on a systematic morphological rereading of its somewhat ordinary form.

This approach did not rely on mimetic contextualism but adopted a vocabulary of abstract and austere architectural forms. What Ungers extrapolated from the existing city fabric were the most abstract architectural elements found in the sequence of open and close places. The rhythms of walls and the seriality of housing facades. These formal elements were transformed into austere composition of new housing, through which the  late urban text of the site was made legible.

Ungers's city within the city was not the creation of an idyllic village as opposed to the fragmentation of the city, but an attempt to reflect the splintering form of the city form within the architectural artifact itself. Between 1963 and 1969 Unrgers taught at the Technical University of Berlin; here Ungers introduced design experiments based on a systematic reading of the city.

Ungers saw Berlin in its most critical form: a divided city composed of irreducibly divergent parts and a state of permanent incompletion. Ungers found an archetype for this situation in Schinkel's project for the Havellandschaft, where he had proposed a landscape of architectural events that involved the entire area of the river without subsuming it within an overall geometrical composition. His interventions took the form of an archipelago in which architecture was juxtaposed with the natural setting. Schinkel developed his public work as point compositions of an autonomous block freely arranged within the space of the city.

Following this reading of the city and employing the method Ungers used for Grunzug Sud, his students produced systematic morphological and geographic surveys of Berlin in which the systematically analysed the infrastructure of the city. These layers of Berlin were viewed as disruptive forms that divided the city into parts. Rather than trying to solve the crisis of the city, the projects proposed with this method sought to exploit them as the thematic form of the project itself.

The common basis for all this projects was point interventions: instead of being made with an overall plan, the project for Berlin was made through the design of radical urban architectures that envisioned the development of the city as the eruption of radical forms of metropolitan living.

The best representation of this method came not from Berlin but from London. In the late 1960s, chafing against Archigram's dominant pedagogy at the Architectural Association, Elia Zenghelis, a teacher at the AA, introduced the students in his unit, among them Rem Koolhaas, to Ungers's work.

In 1971; Koolhaas decided to visit the Berlin wall. His description of the architecture of the wall is similar to Ungers's compositional logic for Grunzug Sud.

It was precisely the "ordinary" architecture of the Berlin wall that suggest to Koolhaas how even the most imposing artifact, once deployed in a real situation, loses its purity as a unitary form and becomes a sequence of very different situation. Koolhaas elevated the Berlin wall as a representation of how architecture was more likely to provoke discontinuity than unity.

Such an approach to the city become the conceptual bases for Koolhaas's Delirious New York, which uses the most critical urban condition as the bases for a city project. In following this link between Ungers and the early work of Koolhaas and Zenghelis, we can see the fundamental development of Ungers's city within the city concept as the germ of Koolhaas and Zenghelis's Exodus, or the Voluntary Prisoners of Architecture (1972).

Descrizione: exod

Ungers, after encountering Koolhaas, showed great admiration and interest. For Exodus amplified a theme already emergent in Ungers's work: the principle of turning the splintering forces of the metropolis into architectural form that addresses the collective dimension of the city.

Ungers had already begun to elaborate a more overtly political approach in the research topics he initiated upon moving to the United States in 1969. He became interest in historical examples of communal life in America. Ungers began to research these communities for possible social and political clues that would support his idea of the city as a field of delimited form.

These studies led Ungers to believe that developing an idea of the city as an archipelago of limited parts was more feasible than attempting to realize an overall project like those of modernist architects. This idea was confirmed by Ungers's research on the superblock (ex. Karl-Marks-Hoff, Vienna).

An increasingly political understanding of the city as an archipelago was triggered by two events: one, Ungers's encounter with Koolhaas and Zenghelis in 1972, and the other his confrontation with Colin Rowe's Collage City.

Rowe invited Ungers to Cornel because he assumed that Ungers idea in architecture and urban design were involving in a direction similar to his bricolage approach. But it was precisely Ungers's recognition of the fundamental difference between Rowe's project and his own that helped him to radicalize his approach to dialectic city.

In Rowe's idea of the city difference is reduced to a morphological exercise: the incremental accumulation of differences; it was precisely against of this idea of urban design that Ungers developed his own method. This method is elaborated in two urban design proposal Tiergarten Viertel and Lichterfelde. In these projects the design invention consists of the formation of city parts around the contemporary forms of public and collective spaces.

OMA's early work can be considered part of the development of ideas and projects that would lead Ungers toward Berlin as a Green Archipelago.

Koolhaas began his research for his book Delirious New York studying with Rowe and Ungers, but he immediately realised that his own position had much more affinity with Ungers explicit adherence to the reality of the city than with Rowe's nostalgic approach.

For both Ungers and OMA, the potential of the city is generated by its most critical urban forces. The starting point of Berlin as a Green Archipelago was the urban crisis of 1960. Ungers and his collaborators considered the crisis of a declining population not as a problem to solve but rather as the very engine of the project. Berlin as a Green Archipelago promoted the demolition of abandoned zones so that the project could focus only on the few selected part of the city where residents were staying. These parts of the city in the form of islands would composed a Green Archipelago. While the islands were imagined as the city, the area in between was intended to be opposite: a world in which any idea or form of the city was deliberately left to its dissolution.

Ungers's architectural islands in Berlin as a Green Archipelago can be considered both as self-referential entities and as city parts that frame what escapes legibility: the inescapable sea of urbanisation. Berlin as Green Archipelago postulates a city form that requires confrontation whit the opposite (urbanization) and with the most controversial aspects of the city, such as division, conflict and even destruction.

The city within the city is thus not only the literal staging of the lost form of the city within the limits of architectural artifacts; it is also the possibility of considering architectural forms as a point of entry toward the project of the city: architecture is not only the physical object; architecture is also what survives the idea of the city.