Search results for "Ludwig Hilberseimer"

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Superblock Supercharge

Detroit's Lafayette Park to get five new developments
Twelve-hundred new residential units and a variety of commercial and retail offerings are slated for Detroit’s Lafayette Park neighborhood, the Detroit Free Press reports. Delivered within five separate projects, the developments will capitalize primarily on the use of vacant land in the neighborhood, but will also require the demolition of a former Quaker school and Shapero Hall, the previous home of Wayne State University’s pharmacy school. Known for its superblock residential buildings, Lafayette Park is the home of the Lafayette Park National Historic Landmark District, a 78-acre complex anchored by the work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and landscape architect Alfred Caldwell, lead by Chicago developer Harold Greenwald and planner Ludwig Hilberseimer. Completed in 1967, the three high-rise towers, twenty-one low-rise townhouses, elementary school and retail block represented a new approach in midcentury American architecture, one that used residential density to leverage open space. The site was anchored by the 13-acre Lafayette Plaisance as well as a number of semi-private and private outdoor spaces for residents. Open space in the neighborhood was increased in 2009 when a below-grade rail line on the east side of Lafayette Park was transformed into a linear greenway. The original Dequindre Cut’s 1.2 miles were augmented in 2016 with an additional half mile. Each of the five projects are spearheaded by a separate development company and projected to fit alongside the existing built fabric of the neighborhood. Following an overall trend in new residential construction in Detroit, over half of the proposed units are studios or one-bedroom apartments. While the projects are currently in varying stages of design, three out of the five are projected to be mixed-use, with one including a small-format Meijer grocery store, the third of its kind in Detroit. The first of the five projects, Pullman Parc, will break ground in late 2018. Other developments include Above the Cut, a 160 to 180 unit residential building with flexible commercial space along the Dequindre Cut, with approximately 35 units slated to be affordable housing. A mixed-use development connecting Lafayette Park to neighboring Eastern Market will offer multiple blocks of residential and retail space. A new superblock development, Lafayette West, will offer 374 residential units.  The Meijer store is a component of a plan to deliver a total of 213 residential units.
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block by block

Experimental glass block tower by MOS debuts at Chicago Architecture Biennial
Brought to you with support from
AN caught up with co-founders of MOS Architects, Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample, and Seattle-based artist and designer John Hogan. The group collaborated with structural engineer Nat Oppenheimer of Silman Engineering to develop a prototype of an interlocking structural glass block. The work is part of Vertical City, a central installation at the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial, where sixteen "towers" respond to one of architectural history's most significant competitions: the 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower. Curated by Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, the towers will remain on exhibit in the Sidney R. Yates Hall of the Chicago Cultural Center through January 7, 2018.
  • Facade Manufacturer John Hogan Designs
  • Architects MOS Architects (Project Team: Michael Meredith, Hilary Sample, John Yurchyk, Nile Greenberg, Mark Acciari, Michael Abel, Paul Ruppert, Fancheng Fei.)
  • Additional Project Support Columbia University GSAPP, Princeton University School of Architecture, and College for Creative Studies Detroit
  • Facade Consultants Nat Oppenheimer, Silman Engineering (structural engineering)
  • Location Chicago, IL
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System load bearing glass block w/ aluminum support
  • Products soda-lime-silica glass hot-cast in custom manufactured graphite formwork
Called “& Another (Chicago Tribune Tower),” the project is an orderly stack of three types of modular block units rising to approximately sixteen feet tall. A custom-milled aluminum plate system interfaces with the glass block wall every two courses, providing lateral bracing. The assembly creates a translucent effect, blurring the legibility of the tower’s structural core. "We would like this to be a real building," said Michael Meredith. "This is a full-scale mockup of a 16-foot-tall glass wall. We didn't know what we were going to get at first. It was all a big experiment." The office tapped into technical Ph.D. papers and engineering research utilized in MVRDV's recent glass block project and looked into precedents from offices like Renzo Piano Building Workshop. Michael Meredith said the aesthetic qualities of the glass are what pique most visitors’ interest, but expects the work will spark a deeper conversation about architectural history. The installation pairs the repetitive, rational, and modular thinking of Ludwig Hilberseimer, best known for his ties to the Bauhaus and to Mies van der Rohe, with “one-liner” tectonic jokes—tower as a fluted column, a skyscraper with crenellation, etc.—in the manner of Adolf Loos who submitted a “joke” entry to the original 1922 competition. The tower sits just shy of sixteen feet, remaining "unfinished," with a final course of blocks scattered on the ground below. The glass blocks were handmade, so ensuring the assembly stayed vertically true was a primary concern to the project team. A "peg registration" system—precisely located bumps and divets—was incorporated into the formwork to assist in stacking the modular units. Despite this planning, Hogan said the group was not sure how much tolerance the individual units would have. The solution was to incorporate CNC-milled aluminum plates to provide a rigid template for the glass walls. "Engineering a system that basically gives you a reset every two courses was the best way for us to be confident the tower would stand straight." The glass block manufacturing process lasted only six days and resulting in 750 blocks from three distinct forms. The team used soda-lime glass, one of the most prevalent types of glass available, accounting for about 90% of manufactured glass today. For Hogan, the project is a continuation of techniques picked up at Alfred University in Western New York, a top-notch casting facility with what he calls “an incredible collection of scrap graphite” (an ideal material for hot-casting glass). Hot-casting is a process that involves pouring molten glass into a form. Graphite is an ideal form material as it can be removed almost immediately after the pour, whereas other materials require the glass to cool completely prior to removal—a lengthier process that is inherently more labor intensive.
Hogan said despite the fast timeframe and limited budget, the creative process was fluid and not predetermined from the start. "The lack of pressure MOS put on themselves to have a predetermined idea of where this thing is going and what it might become is something that aligns well with how I work." So what’s next now that the "mock-up" is complete? Hogan continues to “scale up” his efforts and will be completing a rooftop exterior screen installation later this year in Seattle. He credits this repetitive modular design approach as a way to continue working at a larger architectural scale. MOS Architects and Hogan plan to collaborate on future projects as well. "For me, this is just the beginning of a conversation," said Hogan. "The potential for building larger structures or any number of facade systems with this approach is something we are very excited about. Everything is automated and precise today, so the handmade qualities of building materials have become increasingly relevant.”
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A Little More

Mies's Lafayette Park gets first new project in 40 years
For the first time in 40 years, Detroit’s famed Lafayette Park has a new addition. Designed by Detroit-based McIntosh Poris Associates, DuCharme Place is a 185-unit apartment community comprised of four midrise buildings. Adding to the Mies van der Rohe–designed historic district, the new development plays liberally with many of Mies’s original concepts. The long history of Lafayette Park includes the “slum” clearing urban renewal of postwar urban centers, the rise of modernist housing blocks in the U.S., and the realization of one of Mies’s largest housing projects. The first projects to be completed in the development were the Mies-designed Pavilion Apartments and a series of townhouses that are most often associated with the neighborhood. After those initial buildings, a handful of architects, including Gunnar Birkerts and John Macsai, added a school, shopping center, and more housing, with the last major project finishing in 1967. Ludwig Hilberseimer, Alfred Caldwell, and Joseph Fujikawa played an important role on Mies’s planning and design team for the project from the beginning. McIntosh Poris’s contribution, entitled DuCharme Place, draws on many of the modernist ideas designed into the historic portions of the district. Starting with the material palette of brick, metal, and glass, the project also makes larger formal moves that echo Mies’s master plan and design. The four buildings define three large courtyard terraces reminiscent of the iconic courts of Mies’s townhomes. Residents also have access to additional outdoor spaces including private balconies and private green roof terraces, which include a pool and a zen garden. The project’s green roof is the largest in Detroit. “DuCharme Place builds upon the vision of the park’s original development team by creating a community integrated with nature to support the existing historic district,” explained Michael Poris, principal of McIntosh Poris Associates, upon the project’s completion. “To respect the site, we wanted the relationship with nature to be a driving factor behind the design. We organized the buildings around landscaped courtyards, while also creating street walls on Lafayette Street, Orleans Street, and DuCharme. Every unit has great views and abundant natural light.” Hoping to attract young professionals, couples, and empty nesters, the projects is filled with one- and two-bedroom units ranging from 500 to 1,100 square feet. Located a walking distance from downtown, the units provide an alternative to the quickly rising rent in the city center. Lafayette Park also has direct access to the Dequindre Cut, a two-mile greenway built on along a former rail line leading to the waterfront. In 2015 Lafayette Park was designated a National Historic Landmark District. Yet, it is not a neighborhood locked in time. Instead, as it was designed to be from the beginning, it is a living, growing neighborhood.
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From Broadacre to Agronica

Charles Waldheim on the "profound implications" on urban farming for cities today
The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) has partnered with urbanNext to share articles on common topics every two weeks. This week, we’re pairing the urbanNext article below with AN’sTravel through space-time with the NYPL’s new map tool.”
The agrarian and the urban are two categories of thought that have more often than not been opposed to one another. Across many disciplines, and for many centuries, the city and the country have been called upon to define one other through binary opposition. Contemporary design culture and discourse on cities are, by contrast, awash in claims of the potential for urban agriculture. Enthusiasm for agricultural production in and around cities has grown through an increased environmental literacy on behalf of designers and scholars. Equally this renewed interest in the relation of food production to urban form has been made possible by increased public literacy about food and the forms of industrial food production and distribution that characterize globalization. This renewed interest in food production and consumption has been shaped by a variety of authors and interests, but has been most forcefully felt as a call for more renewable or sustainable agricultural practices associated with local food production, reduced carbon footprint, increased public health, and the associated benefits of pre-industrial farming techniques including increased biodiversity and ecological health. These tendencies have been most clearly articulated through the so-called ‘slow food’ and ‘locavore’ movements. While much has been written on the implications of these tendencies for agricultural production, public policy, and food as an element of culture, little has been written on the potentially profound implications of these transformations for the shape and structure of the city itself. Much of the enthusiasm for slow and local food in the context of urban populations has been predicated on the assumption that abandoned or underused brownfield sites could be remediated and repurposed with productive potential. Equally, this enthusiasm for urban agriculture has been based on the rededication of greenfield sites peripheral to the city, focusing valuable ecological assets on food production rather than suburban sprawl. While both of these remain viable and laudable goals, they shed little light on the implications of such transformations on the shape and the structure of urban form. For those interested in the city as an object of study and subject of design, this suggests the need for further inquiry into the possibilities for an agricultural urbanism. This essay proposes a history of urban form conceived through the spatial, ecological, and infrastructural implications of agricultural production. In the projects that form this tentative counter-history, agricultural production is conceived as a formative element of the city’s structure, rather than being considered adjunct to, outside of, or inserted within traditional urban forms. While this may remain an alternative or even marginal counter- history, it may be useful as architects and urbanists grapple with the implications for urban form attendant to their renewed interest in the agricultural. This alternative history of the city seeks to construct a useful past from three urban projects organized explicitly around agricultural production as inherent to the economic, ecological, and spatial order of the city. Much of the enthusiasm for slow and local food in the context of urban populations has been predicated on the assumption that abandoned or underused brownfield sites could be remediated and repurposed with productive potential. Equally, this enthusiasm for urban agriculture has been based on the rededication of greenfield sites peripheral to the city, focusing valuable ecological assets on food production rather than suburban sprawl. While both of these remain viable and laudable goals, they shed little light on the implications of such transformations on the shape and the structure of urban form. For those interested in the city as an object of study and subject of design, this suggests the need for further inquiry into the possibilities for an agricultural urbanism. This essay proposes a history of urban form conceived through the spatial, ecological, and infrastructural implications of agricultural production. In the projects that form this tentative counter-history, agricultural production is conceived as a formative element of the city’s structure, rather than being considered adjunct to, outside of, or inserted within traditional urban forms. While this may remain an alternative or even marginal counter- history, it may be useful as architects and urbanists grapple with the implications for urban form attendant to their renewed interest in the agricultural. This alternative history of the city seeks to construct a useful past from three urban projects organized explicitly around agricultural production as inherent to the economic, ecological, and spatial order of the city.
Many projects of 20th-century urban planning explicitly aspired to construct an agrarian urbanism. Often these agrarian aspirations were an attempt to reconcile the seemingly contradictory impulses of the industrial metropolis with the social and cultural conditions of agrarian settlement. In many of these projects, agrarianism offered an alternative to the dense metropolitan form of industrial arrangement that grew from the great migrations from farm village to industrial city in the 19th- and early 20th-century cities of Western Europe and North America. The agrarian aspirations of many modernist urban planning proposals originate in the relatively decentralized model of industrial order favored by Henry Ford and other industrialists as early as the 1910s and 20s. Following Ford’s organizational preference for spatial decentralization, industrial organizations tended to spread horizontally and abandon the traditional industrial city. In part as a response to the social conditions of the Depression era, agrarianism came to be seen as a form of continuity between formerly agrarian populations based on subsistence farming and the relatively vulnerable industrial workforce of the modern metropolis.By mixing industry with agriculture, many modernist urban planners imagined a rotational labor system in which workers alternated between factory jobs and collective farms. Most of- ten these new spatial orders were understood as vast regional landscapes, and their representation conflated aerial view and orthographic map. The emergence of these tendencies in the twentieth century might be read through three unbuilt projects advocating a decentralized agrarian urbanism: Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Broadacre City” (1934-35), Ludwig Hilberseimer’s “New Regional Pattern” (1945-49), and Andrea Branzi’s “Agronica” (1993-94) or “Territory for the New Economy” (1999). [1] While these projects were produced decades apart by three very different authors, taken collectively they illustrate the implications for urban form of agricultural production as inherent to the structure of the city. These projects also form a coherent genealogy of thought on the subject of agricultural urbanism as Branzi explicitly references Hilberseimer’s urban proposals, and Hilberseimer’s work was informed by familiarity with Wright’s urban project. Each of the projects presented their audiences with a profound reconceptualization of the city, proposing radical decentralization and dissolution of the urban figure into a productive landscape. The dissolution of figure into field rendered the classical distinction between city and countryside irrelevant in favor of a conflated condition of suburbanized regionalism. From the perspective of contemporary interests in urban agriculture, both tendencies offer equally compelling alternatives to the canonical history of urban form. Implicit in the work of these three urbanists was the assumption of an ongoing process of urban decentralization led by an industrial economy. For Wright, Hilberseimer, and Branzi, the decreased density produced through the new industrial logic of decentralization came to depend upon landscape as the primary medium of urban form. These suburban landscapes were embodied and fleshed out with agricultural lands, farms, and fields. These projects proposed large territorial or regional networks of urban infrastructure bringing existing natural environments into relationship with new agricultural and industrial landscapes. Broadacres / Usonia In the depths of the Depression, lacking reasonable prospects for a recovery of his once-towering stature as the dean of American architects, Frank Lloyd Wright persuaded his lone remaining patron to fund a traveling exhibition of Wright’s conception of an organic American urbanism. Broadacre City, as it was referred to, consisted of a large model and supporting materials produced by student apprentices at Taliesin in the winter of 1934-35. While the premises underpinning the project were evident in Wright’s lectures as early as the 1920s and fully informed Wright’s 1932 publication The Disappearing City, the Broadacre model and drawings were not debuted until a 1935 New York City exhibition. Subsequently, the traveling exhibition toured extensively and the remarkably durable project was further disseminated in subsequent publications including When Democracy Builds (1945) and The Living City (1958). [2] Broadacre City offered American audiences the clearest crystallization of Wright’s damning critique of the modern industrial city, positing Broadacre as an autochthonous organic model for North American settlement across an essentially boundless carpet of cultivated landscape. Eschewing traditional European distinctions between city and countryside, Broadacre proposed a network of transportation and communication infrastructures using the Jeffersonian grid as its principal ordering system. Within this nearly undifferentiated field, the county government (headed by the county architect) replaced other levels of government administering a population of landowning citizen-farmers. Wright was clearly conversant with and sympathetic to Henry Ford’s notion of a decentralized settlement pattern for North America and the closest built parallel for Wright’s work on Broadacre can be found in Ford’s instigation of what would become the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). As an autonomous public agency, TVA was charged with the construction of hydro-electric dams and highways along the Tennessee River in the electrification of an entire region as a seeding process for future urbanization. [3] Enjoying ownership of one acre of land per person as a birthright, residents of Broadacre (or Usonia, as Wright would come to refer to it) were to enjoy modern houses set in relation to ample subsistence gardens and small-scale farms. This basic pattern of variously scaled housing and landscape types was interspersed with light industry, small commercial centers and markets, civic buildings, and of course the ubiquitous highway. In spite of the project’s extremely low density, most of the ground was cleared and cultivated. Occasionally this constructed and maintained landscape relented in favor of extant waterways, topographic features, or other pre-existing ecologies. Presumably the extrapolation of Broadacre City from its chiefly middle-western origins to the margins of the continent would have been accomplished with varying degrees of accommodation to local climate, geography, and geology, if not cultural or material history. The status of previously urbanized areas existing outside of Wright’s Broadacre remained an open question; presumably these would be abandoned in place, again following Ford’s lead in this regard. Wright’s critique of private ownership, conspicuous consumption, and accumulation of wealth associated with cities was no small part of the explicit social critique offered by Broadacre, as the worst of the Depression forced bankrupt family farmers to flee their mortgaged farms in the midwest for protest in the east or California in the west. Ironically, given his anxiety over the corrosive effects of accumulated wealth and speculative capital, Wright found in Ford’s notion of regional infrastructure the basis for an American pattern of organic urban development. Wright’s Broadacre provided a respite from the relentless demands of profit associated with the industrial city, even as the American city was well on a course toward decentralization, driven by the tendencies of Fordist production. The New Regional Pattern / The New City Another modernist architect/urbanist grappling with the impacts of decentralization on urban form was Ludwig Hilberseimer. Born and educated in Karlsruhe, Germany, Hilberseimer worked with Mies van der Rohe at the Bauhaus until the rise of fascism precipitated their emigration to Chicago and the Armour Institute of Technology (later IIT) in 1938. While Hilberseimer is most notoriously known for his earlier studies for totalizing rationally-planned schemes of modern urbanism from the 1920s such as Hochhausstadt (Highrise City, 1924), Hilberseimer quickly abandoned those schemes in favor of projects that explored decentralization and land- scape as remedies to the ills of the industrial city. This was evident as early as 1927 in a sketch titled “The Metropolis as a Garden-City.” [4] Hilberseimer’s work over the course of the 1930s was clearly influenced by European precedents for the garden-city and evidenced a strategy for the use of landscape and mixed-height housing in a low-density pattern. This is a pattern that would continue to appear in his work in the U.S. over the ensuing decades. Particularly formative in this regard was Hilberseimer’s project for Mischbebauung (Mixed-height Housing, c. 1930), the principles of which would inform the balance of his career. Hilberseimer during this period was committed to the inevitable decentralization of the traditional city as the resultant of industrial policy. This tendency was evident to Hilberseimer as early as the 1920s in Henry Ford’s decision to relocate industrial production outside the city of Detroit in the previous decade. By the 1940s, Hilberseimer’s notion of the “settlement unit” took clearer form through anticipating the development of an interstate highway system and articulating precise relation- ships between transportation networks, settlement units, and the regional landscape. Hilberseimer’s interest in an organic urbanism for North America was further fueled by civil defense imperatives encouraging decentralization in the years following the war. [5] In the wake of Hiroshima, Hilberseimer adapted his proposals to anticipate the construction of the interstate high- way system as a civil defense infrastructure and an extension of Fordist production logics. In this context —– and conversant with Wright’s Broadacre City as well as the progressive TVA project and its proponents in the Regional Planning Association of America —– Hilberseimer developed his “New Regional Pattern” as a strategy for the urbanization of a low-density North American settlement pattern based on regional highway systems and natural environmental conditions. Hilberseimer disseminated his proposals through a publication: The New Regional Pattern: Industries and Gardens, Workshops and Farms (1949). The principles and analysis informing Hilberseimer’s project was published prior to the project itself in The New City: Principles of Planning (1944) and was disseminated a decade later in The Nature of Cities (1955). [6] As with Broadacre, the “New Regional Pattern” was organized around the distribution of transportation and communication networks across an essentially horizontal field of landscape. Within this extensive horizontal territory, housing, farms, light industry, commercial buildings, and civic spaces formed vari- ously scaled networks across a field of decentralized distribution. The organizational pattern of “New Regional Pattern” did not defer to the abstraction of the grid, but was informed by the natural environment; topography, hydrology, vegetation, wind patterns, among others. It conflated infrastructural systems with built landscapes and found environmental conditions to produce a radically reconceived settlement pattern for North America. While Hilberseimer’s exquisite drawings (many are the uncredited work of IIT colleague Alfred Caldwell) did not make an explicit case for the kind of ecological awareness apparent in contemporary landscape urbanism, they clearly inflected urban infrastructure to ambient environmental conditions. [7] In this regard, the project offers a profound critique of traditional nineteenth-century urban form, as well as the architectural and urban practices associated with that that persisted into the twentieth century. Agronica / Territory for the New Economy The work of the Italian architect and urbanist Andrea Branzi might be found equally relevant to the emergent discourse on agrarian urbanism. Branzi’s work reanimates a long tradition of using the urban project as a social and cultural critique. This form of urban projection deploys a project not simply as an illustration or ‘vision,’ but rather as a demystified distillation and description of our present urban predicaments. In this sense, Branzi’s urban projects can be read less as a utopian future possible world, and more as a critically engaged and politically literate delineation of the power structures, forces, and flows shaping the contemporary urban condition. Over the past four decades Branzi’s work has articulated a remarkably consistent critique of the social, cultural, and intellectual poverty of laissez-faire urban development and the realpolitik assumptions of much urban design and planning. As an alternative, Branzi’s projects propose urbanism in the form of an environmental, economic, and aesthetic critique of the failings of the contemporary city. Born and educated in Florence, Branzi studied architecture in the cultural milieu of the Operaists and the scholarly tradition of Marxist critique. Branzi first came to international visibility as a member of the collective Archizoom Associati (mid-1960s) based in Milano but associated with the Florentine Architettura Radicale movement. Archizoom’s project and texts for “No-Stop City” (1968-71) illustrate an urbanism of continuous mobility, fluidity, and flux. While “No-Stop City” was received on one level as a satire of the British technophile of Archigram, on another level it was an illustration of an urbanism without qualities, a representation of the ‘degree- zero’ conditions for urbanization. [8] Archizoom’s use of typewriter keystrokes on A4 paper to represent a non-figural planning study for “No-Stop City” anticipated contemporary interest in indexical and parametric formulations of the city. Their work prefigured the current interest in describing the relentlessly horizontal field conditions of the modern metropolis as a surface shaped by the strong forces of economic and ecological flows. Equally, these drawings and their texts anticipate current interest in infrastructure and ecology as non-figurative drivers of urban form. As such, a generation of contemporary urbanists has drawn from Branzi’s intellectual commitments. This diverse list of influence ranges from Stan Allen and James Corner’s interest in field conditions to Alex Wall and Alejandro Zaera-Polo’s interest in logistics. [9] More recently Pier Vittorio Aureli and Martino Tattara’s project “Stop-City” directly references Branzi’s use of non-figurative urban projection as a form of social and political critique. [10] Branzi’s urban projects are equally available to inform contemporary interests within architectural culture and urbanism on a wide array of topics as diverse as animalia, indeterminacy, and genericity, among others. Branzi’s “No-Stop City” proposed an explicitly nonfigurative urbanism. In so doing, it renewed a longstanding tradition of non-figurative urban projects as a form of social critique. In this regard, Branzi’s “No-Stop City” draws upon the urban planning projects and theories of Ludwig Hilberseimer, particularly Hilberseimer’s “New Regional Pattern” and that project’s illustration of a proto-ecological urbanism. [11] Not coincidentally, both Branzi and Hilberseimer chose to illustrate the city as a continuous system of relational forces and flows, as opposed to a collection of objects. In this sense, the ongoing recuperation of Hilberseimer, and Branzi’s renewed relevance for discussions of contemporary urbanism render them particularly relevant to discussions of ecological urbanism. Andrea Branzi occupies a singular historical position as a hinge figure between the social and environmental aspirations of modernist planning of the post-war era and the politics of 1968 in which his work first emerged for English language audiences. As such, his work is particularly well suited to shed light on the emergent discussion around ecological urbanism. Branzi’s “Agronica” project (1993-94) illustrated the relentlessly horizontal spread of capital across thin tissues of territory, and the resultant ‘weak urbanization’ that the neoliberal economic paradigm affords. Agronica embodies the potential parallels between agricultural and energy production, new modalities of post-Fordist industrial economy, and the cultures of consumption that they construct. [12] More recently in 1999, Branzi (with the Domus Academy, a post-graduate research institute founded in the 1980s) executed a project for Philips in Eindhoven. These projects returned to the recurring themes in Branzi’s oeuvre with typical wit and pith, illustrating a “Territory for the New Economy” in which agricultural production was instrumental in deriving urban form. [13] Branzi’s ‘weak work’ maintains its critical and projective relevance for a new generation of urbanists interested in the economic and agricultural drivers of urban form. His longstanding call for the development of weak urban forms and non-figural fields has already influenced the thinking of those who articulated landscape urbanism over a decade ago and promises to reanimate emergent discussions of ecological urbanism. [14] Equally, Branzi’s projective and polemic urban propositions promise to shed light on agrarian urbanism, and its potential for shaping the contemporary city and the disciplines that describe it. While this brief pre-history of agricultural urbanism raises more questions than it answers, and may do little to convince contemporary readers of the efficacy of organizing the city in this way, it seems a useful (if not necessary) exercise in understanding the broader implications of contemporary food culture for the design disciplines. In this regard, it is significant that each of the three architect/urbanists presented here as pursuing an explicitly agricultural urbanism did so as part of a broader critical position engaged with economic inequality, social justice, and environmental health. Wright, Hilberseimer, and Branzi, each in their own way, embodied a longstanding tradition of using the urban project as a form of social critique in which the production and consumption of the city, its economy and ecology, are available as tools of analysis and critique. While Wright, Hilberseimer, and Branzi were responding to different economic and ecological contexts, each of them found the urban project an effective vehicle for critiquing the form of their contemporary cities, and the economic, social, and political orders that produced them.

This article appeared as "Notes Towards a History of Agrarian Urbanism" in urbanNext, and was first published in Bracket 1 [on Farming], 2010.
[1] Frank Lloyd Wright, The Living City (New York: Horizon Press, 1958); Ludwig Hilberseimer, The New Regional Pattern: Industries and Gardens, Workshops and Farms (Chicago: Paul Theobald & Co., 1949); Andrea Branzi, D. Donegani, A. Petrillo, and C. Raimondo, “Symbiotic Metropolis: Agronica” The Solid Side, ed. Ezio Manzini and Marco Susani (Netherlands: V+K Publishing / Philips, 1995), 101-120; and Andrea Branzi, “Preliminary Notes for a Master Plan,” and “Master Plan Strijp Philips, Eindhoven 1999.” Lotus, no. 107 (2000): 110-123. [2] The principles underpinning Wright’s Broadacre project were published in 1932 in Frank Lloyd Wright, Disappearing City (New York: W. F. Payson, 1932); and subsequently reformulated as When Democracy Builds (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1945). For an historical overview of Broadacre’s influ- ences and contemporary reception, see Peter Hall, Cities of Tomorrow (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996), 285-90. [3] For an overview of the Tennessee Valley Authority, see Walter Creese, TVA’s Public Planning (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1990); and Peter Hall, Cities of Tomorrow, 161-3. [4] For an overview of the origins of Hilberseimer’s interpretation of the garden city, see David Spaeth, “Ludwig Hilberseimer’s Settlement Unit: Origins and Applications,” In the Shadow of Mies: Ludwig Hilberseimer, Architect, Educator, and Urban Planner, ed. Richard Pommer, David Spaeth, and Kevin Harrington (New York/Chicago: Rizzoli/Art Institute of Chicago, 1988), 54-68. [5] Hilberseimer and Caldwell advocated for decentralization as a civil defense strategy in the wake of Hiroshima. See Caldwell, “Atomic Bombs and City Planning,” Journal of the American Institute of Architects, vol. 4 (1945: 289-299); and also Hilberseimer, “Cities and Defense,” (c. 1945) reprinted in: In the Shadow of Mies: Ludwig Hilberseimer, Architect, Educator, and Urban Planner, ed. Richard Pommer, David Spaeth, and Kevin Harrington (New York/Chicago: Rizzoli/Art Institute of Chicago, 1988), 89-93. [6] Ludwig Hilberseimer, The New City: Principles of Planning (Chicago: Paul Theobald & Co., 1944); The Nature of Cities: Origin, Growth, and Decline, Pattern and Form, Planning Problems (Chicago: Paul Theobald & Co., 1955). [7] For a detailed account of Hilberseimer’s professional relationship with Caldwell, see Caroline Constant, “Hilberseimer and Caldwell: Merging Ideologies in the Lafayette Park Landscape,” CASE: Lafayette Park Detroit, ed. Charles Waldheim (Cambridge/Munich: Harvard/Prestel, 2004), 95-111. On Caldwell’s life and work, see Dennis Domer, Alfred Caldwell: The Life and Work of a Prairie School Landscape Architect (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997). [8] Archizoom Associates, “No-Stop City. Residential Parkings. Climatic Universal Sistem,” Domus 496 (March 1971): 49-55. For Branzi’s reflections on the project, see Andrea Branzi, “Notes on No-Stop City: Archizoom Associates 1969-1972,” Exit Utopia: Architectural Provocations 1956-1976, ed. Martin van Schaik and Otakar Macel, (Munich: Prestel, 2005), 177-182. For more recent scholarship on the project and its relations to contemporary architectural culture and urban theory, see Kazys Varnelis, “Programming After Program: Archizoom’s No-Stop City,” Praxis, no. 8 (May 2006): 82-91. [9] On field conditions and contemporary urbanism, see James Corner “The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention,” Mappings ed. Denis Cosgrove (London: Reaktion Books, 1999), 213-300; and Stan Allen, “Mat Urbanism: The Thick 2-D,”CASE: Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital and the Mat Building Revival, ed. Hashim Sarkis (Munich: Prestel, 2001), 118-126. On logistics and contemporary urbanism, see Susan Nigra Snyder and Alex Wall, “Emerging Landscape of Movement and Logistics,” Architectural Design Profile, no.134 (1998): 16-21; and Alejandro Zaera Polo, “Order out of Chaos: The Material Organization of Advanced Capitalism,” Architec- tural Design Profile, no. 108 (1994): 24-29. [10] See Pier Vittorio Aureli and Martino Tattara, “Architecture as Framework: The Project of the City and the Crisis of Neoliberal- ism,” New Geographies, no. 1 (September 2008): 38-51. [11] Ludwig Hilberseimer, The New Regional Pattern: Industries and Gardens, Workshops and Farms (Chicago: Paul Theobald, 1949). [12] Andrea Branzi, D. Donegani, A. Petrillo, and C. Raimondo, “Symbiotic Metropolis: Agronica” The Solid Side, ed. Ezio Manzini and Marco Susani (Netherlands: V+K Publishing / Philips, 1995), 101-120. [13] Andrea Branzi, “Preliminary Notes for a Master Plan,” and “Master Plan Strijp Philips, Eindhoven 1999” Lotus, no. 107 (2000): 110-123. [14] Andrea Branzi, “The Weak Metropolis,” Ecological Urbanism Conference, Harvard Graduate School of Design, April 4, 2009.
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Reinier De Graaf
Minoru Yamasaki's Pruitt-Igoe housing complex in St. Louis. Its demolition on March 16, 1972 was called
Courtesy HUD

If Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is correct, the twentieth century will have been no more than an anomaly: a brief interruption in the systemic logic of capitalism, where the inherent accretion of capital through capital remains an unbreakable cycle. Piketty’s analysis is exceedingly simple. He identifies two basic economic categories: income and wealth. He then proceeds to define social (in)equality as a function of the relation between the two over time, concluding that as soon as the return on wealth exceeds the return on labor, social inequality inevitably increases. Those who acquire wealth through work fall ever further behind those who accumulate wealth simply by owning it. Only during the twentieth century—under the pressure of two world wars, social unrest, revolutions, labor unions, and the daunting presence of a global alternative to the capitalist system in the form of a (former) communist world—was capital briefly surpassed by labor as the prime means to accumulate wealth. Piketty’s theory may have social and cultural implications beyond our wildest imagination. In the twenty-first century, inherited wealth could become the defining factor of class distinction once more, reducing any notion of social mobility to a remote possibility at best.

Reinier De Graaf.
Ekaterina Izmestieva / Courtesy Strelka Institute

Although my training as an architect makes me utterly unqualified to comment on Piketty’s economic theories, I cannot help but notice the resonance between Piketty’s narrative of economic history and the story of my own profession. If one studies the history of architecture, and particularly that of the last century, a striking confluence emerges between what Piketty identifies as the period of the great social mobility and the emergence of the modern movement in architecture. From Le Corbusier to Ludwig Hilberseimer, from the Smithsons to Jaap Bakema: after reading Piketty, it becomes difficult to view the ideologies of modern architecture as anything other than the dream of social mobility captured in concrete.

The resonance of Piketty’s historic analysis of capital with the progression of architectural history is eerie. The first intersection, economic output exceeding the returns on capital just prior to World War I, clearly coincides with the emergence of the avant-garde, but the resonance even applies at a more subtle level within the twentieth century itself. From the early to mid-1970s, for the first time in the twentieth century, the lead of economic output over the returns on capital begins to diminish. And towards the end of the 1970s, a different political wind begins to blow. The conservative revolution first sweeps America and later Europe, forcing an agenda of economic liberalization and the slashing of government spending. The size of the public sector is steadily reduced and large public housing projects become a thing of the past.

This period essentially and concurrently marks the end of an unfettered belief in the merits of modern architecture. In 1972, the Pruitt-Igoe public housing complex in St. Louis is demolished, an event that is generally heralded by critics as the end of modern architecture and, on a larger scale, the end of modern utopian visions for the city. After the demolition of Pruitt-Igoe, the confidence in the architectural profession is severely shaken. The mood becomes pensive and the major seminal works of architecture are no longer plans but books, no longer visions but reflections. It is telling that the most noteworthy architectural manifesto of 1989, the year of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the onset of an uncontested global rule of capitalism, is A Vision of Britain by Prince Charles. The modern age prefigured in The Futurist Manifesto, at the tail end of the ottocento with its hereditary hegemonies, ironically concludes with an anti-modern manifesto written by a member of the British Royal Family.

If the egalitarian climate of the 1960s and ‘70s had made modern architecture generally unpopular, the neoliberal policies of the ‘80s and ‘90s made it obsolete. The initiative to construct the city comes to reside increasingly with the private sector. “Thought production” by the architectural profession, in the form of theoretical manifestoes or wholesale urban visions, gradually comes to a standstill. The very grain through which the city is constructed changes. Large interventions in the city, using public housing projects as the texture from which to compose a new and alternative urban fabric, become virtually impossible. As part of a wholesale privatization program, public housing associations are privatized and home ownership takes a dramatic rise. By transforming large sections of society from tenants into homeowners, the prevailing powers also hope to garner political sway. As soon as people own their homes, a mortgage will give them a vested interest in keeping interest rates and inflation down. Locked into an inescapable financial reality, they will have little alternative but to sympathize with the economic agenda of the right.

In the 1980s, the built environment and particularly housing start to acquire a fundamentally different role, from a means to provide shelter to a means to generate financial return. A building is no longer something to use, but to own (with the hope of increased asset-value, rather than use-value, over time). Buildings become part of an economic exchange cycle: conceived for the lowest possible cost, traded for the highest possible sum. In this context, modern architecture’s original mission, an affordable living standard for all, largely proves counterproductive. From here on, modern architecture can only survive when stripped of its ideological dimension; only once it relinquishes its emancipatory pretentions can its aesthetics of reduction be used to the full advantage of the economic system. Under the imperatives of the market economy (maximizing profit), the contemporary home must be cheap to build, but should never be cheap to buy. Modernism evolves into a style because, as in the fashion industry, it is above all the idea of style that suspends (almost like a state of hypnosis) any awareness of a relation between production cost and selling price.

It is not just newly built projects that are affected by this trend. The recent fire sale of council property in Central London boroughs is indicative of the same process. After the first generation of tenants is offered to purchase their rental apartments at subsidized rates, the next round of sales quickly conforms to market rates, generally making the apartments unaffordable for the income groups for whom they were originally intended. Where previously inner city modernist projects were primarily reserved for low and middle incomes—cheap to build, cheap to rent—we currently see the opposite trend, where they are increasingly the domain of the rich. Trellick Tower, a 31-story building with 217 flats in North Kensington, built in 1972 and very familiar to architects, long had a reputation for anti-social behavior and crime. Following the introduction of the “right to buy” council homes in the mid-1980s, many of the flats were bought by the tenants. A new residents’ association was formed and several security improvements were undertaken, including the employment of a concierge. After the building’s Grade II* listing in 1998, property prices rose sharply and flats in the tower came to be regarded as highly desirable residences. Despite serious technical problems within the building, properties in the tower have sold for between £250,000 for a small one bedroom flat to £480,000 for a fully refurbished three bedroom flat. The maximum obtainable mortgage on an average annual gross income of £32,188 in the UK in 2014 was £152,000.

Central London is not the only place affected by this phenomenon. Park Hill, a council estate built in 1957 in Sheffield, North Yorkshire, went into decay in the 1970s. In 1998 the complex was Grade II* listed. Following this, English Heritage in collaboration with a private developer launched a renovation scheme to turn the flats into upmarket apartments and business units. The renovation was one of the six shortlisted projects for the 2013 RIBA Stirling Prize. According to Sheffield’s own website, the city has “the lowest annual average salary of UK’s core cities” at around £24,000, allowing a maximum mortgage of around £115,000. Outside the UK, the original units of Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation are currently being sold for: €151,000 (for a 31-square-meter studio); €350,000 (for a three bedroom flat) and €418,000 (for a four bedroom flat). The average annual wage in France is €30,300, allowing a maximum mortgage just shy of €120,000.

If we are to believe Piketty, we may well be on the way back to a patrimonial form of capitalism. With that, modern architecture’s social mission—the effort to establish a decent standard of living for all—seems a thing of the past. The existenzminimum: the establishment of a universally acceptable minimum standard of living in the twentieth century seems to have become a privileged condition in the twenty-first. Architecture is perhaps more than ever a tool of capital, complicit in a purpose antithetical to its erstwhile ideological endeavor. Fifteen years into the new millennium, it is as though the previous century never happened. For Trellick Tower, Park Hill, l’Unité d’Habitation, the same architecture that once embodied social mobility in béton brut now helps to prevent it. The twentieth century taught us that utopian thinking can have precarious consequences, but if the course of history is dialectic, what follows? Will the twenty-first century mark the absence of utopias? And if so, what are the dangers of that?

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Donna Robertson
McCormick Tribune Campus Center designed by OMA in 2003.
Courtesy IIT

After more than 15 years as dean at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s (IIT) College of Architecture, Donna Robertson is stepping down at the end of this year. AN’s Midwest editor, Alan G. Brake, asked Robertson to look back on her accomplishments at the school, as well as the changes in Chicago’s architecture culture and built environment over the last decade and a half. After this year, she intends to continue teaching at IIT as well as focus on her practice, Robertson McAnulty Architects, and take an active role in Chicago’s civic affairs, including historic preservation, an issue of particular interest to her.

Donna Robertson.

Why did you decide to step down now?

I had completed 15 years and that seemed like a good number. I also didn’t want to challenge Mies, who was dean for 20 years.

What do you consider to be your most significant accomplishments as dean?

The whole topic of Mies and beyond, which was an architectural question, played out in the continued dialogue of updating the campus. It was also a pedagogical question. I wanted to take the best ideas of the curriculum but not be bound by it. The big ongoing project was building a stellar faculty to execute that.

How did you go about building the faculty?

When I came in there were two main generations of faculty: people who had been taught by Mies and those who were brought in under Gene Summer’s deanship. There was some antipathy in the beginning, but we quickly discovered a lot of commonalities. It took some time to bring people together; my first effort was really leading the dialogue among the faculty to make us an academic community. Once that was underway, I then brought in the new generation: Jeanne Gang, John Ronan, Mark Schendel, Martin Felsen, and others.

We wrote up the undergraduate curriculum in my first year. That solidified the undergraduate degree, particularly the studio sequence. The graduate sequence was only updated recently. Now studio classes and the other courses support each other.

What were some other highlights of your tenure?

At the end-of-year show in my first year, some wag moved the bust of Mies into the center court—where I had thought the best work should be shown—and then tied a blindfold over Mies’ eyes to show that he would be ashamed of the work the school was producing, which of course he wouldn’t have been. That was pretty fun.

We’ve had other moments of excitement, such as when our students won the Art Institute’s Schiff Fellowship.

Another highlight was starting the landscape program, which was accredited the first year it went up for review.

Why did you decide to start a landscape program?

There was an appreciation for landscape among the Miesians. Ludwig Hilberseimer and Alfred Caldwell both taught in the school.

We’re still the only landscape architecture program in Chicago. This is a city that is so enamored with landscape. Not only is landscape design highly valued here, but there aren’t enough landscape architects in this city to fill the need.

How has the experience of working on the campus been?

It’s been fantastic. We’ve been working on how to rehabilitate the campus, building the first new buildings in 30 years and demonstrating that the university is still building important new architecture.

If you hadn’t known the campus in 1996, you’d have had a hard time imagining the difference. Today, the campus is livelier and the students are more engaged. The Koolhaas Student Center has transformed the quality of student life. That building got them to lift up their gaze and find each other.

We wanted to announce that IIT is going to build the buildings you want to watch, with both the OMA building and the Helmut Jahn dormitory. We had to build the Jahn building really fast, as enrollment was climbing. So we conducted a limited, local competition, and I think the result is really wonderful.

Crown Hall restored.

What are the challenges the new dean will likely face?

With a new dean, the main challenge will be defining the next era for the discipline. We as a school haven’t suffered yet from the continued unemployment in our discipline, but that is something rumbling on the horizon. I’m interested in how architectural education can be applied more broadly, expanding employment opportunity beyond just building buildings.

As the economy comes back, we want to get back to building out the campus plan. Add a new recreation center, a new science lab building, restore the chapel, work on the main building, among other projects. There will be more landscape improvements. The business school is moving to campus. It’s going to occupy existing space, but it will be a great addition. The whole redevelopment of the 35th Street corridor. Most of that has been out of our hands, but we will participate in the planning.

There have been tremendous changes on the near South Side. Has IIT been active enough in the area?

It’s been the most active of any university I’ve ever worked with. Everyone has very serious intentions. We’ve partnered with Bronzeville. We have an associate vice president for community affairs and outreach. We always have studios that relate to the surrounding neighborhoods. We are doing a classroom for an urban agriculture program in the area. Our plan for Dunbar Park, to the immediate northwest of our campus, is being built out. We’ve built commercial housing on our acreage, which was opened to faculty and is helping to bring the population back.

IIT works closely with neighboring institutions, the White Sox, the churches, and the other educational institutions. We’re currently studying the commercial entities that impact both our students and the neighbors. We celebrated finally getting the Metra stop in. The university worked with the neighbors on that for decades.

You came to Chicago from New York and New Orleans. How has the city changed in the last decade and a half?

I love Chicago’s lively design culture. When I came here, it was in the doldrums. I’ve seen it grow and flourish. Chicago is a great place to start a practice. It’s a very supportive design culture. We want to see people succeed and find engagement with the community.

There’s also been a profound shift in architectural taste. It was all very New Urbanist/Pomo. The most visible first shot was the mayor embracing the Frank Gehry band shell and Soldier Field for all its controversy. Taste has shifted toward more abstract, more experimental forms. There’s an appreciation of the new and for the trajectory of modernism, as well as a growing interest in landscape design and preservation and rehabilitation.

The IIT campus is one of many modernist developments on the near South Side. Modernist buildings have met with a mix of fates in many of these areas, some of which have been restored while others have been destroyed. What does this say about the appreciation of modernism in Chicago?

It’s a really interesting question. Skidmore’s white towers, the Michael Reese campus… There was a lot built at a time of utopian euphoria—the scale of thinking and the scale of execution were so large. Some succeeded and others failed. It’s easy to argue that the commercially viable projects succeeded, but public housing did not. But that’s not universally true. The Chicago Housing Authority has beautifully restored the Bertrand Goldberg towers and spruced up others.

We’ll see how they go with the third-third-third program [the ratio of public, affordable, and market-rate housing that’s being used to rebuild on the tracts of land where public housing projects once stood]. It’s hard to comment yet on its degree of success.

What excites you about Chicago today?

One of the things that blew me away when I came here was to see how Chicago really is “The City That Works.” For example, they relocated Lakeshore Drive for the Museum Campus. It was very exciting to see the will, the drive, and the patience to engineer and execute large-scale projects. There’s a whole coalescing of civic energies to continuously improve the city. The Bloomingdale Trail and Millennium Park are possible here. Columbia College, for instance, has done a beautiful job with a major quadrant of the city. The recent attention to the boulevards—what to do with Northerly Island: these are very important questions. Our projects generally do get done. I really do think they’re going to pull off the Bloomingdale Trail.

Then there are the continued improvements to the Loop itself, where the pattern of its use has changed over time. Attention to the visitor community, as well as the commercial community, has really transformed people’s experience of the city. The developments that are happening in other neighborhoods—Bucktown ten years ago, now Pilsen and Bridgeport—this awareness that Chicagoans have in their built environment is really gratifying.

Being at IIT has been an enormous gift for me. I can’t think of a more interesting school, with students from around the world. It’s a laboratory, a place of inquiry. The city is such a place of design excellence—it’s been a very stimulating place to be.

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The Calligraphic City
When I first encountered the work of the architect and painter Anthony Candido, it was moving—or rather, the dancers whose costumes he had splashed with black paint were moving across the floor in a work choreographed by Nancy Meehan. The irregular black strokes and drips seemed to both follow and impel the dancer’s movement, melding abstract thought and nature through gesture. Candido’s current exhibition, The Great White Whale Is Black at Cooper Union in New York, more than fulfills the promise of the costume designs, for it offers a rich body of work spanning five decades of an extraordinary career. Included in the show, on view at the school’s Arthur A. Houghton Jr. Gallery, are Candido’s visionary cable cities. Executed in a manner that implies a quick thought—yet reflecting years of study and experience—the style recalls that of the New York school in its rapid execution, simultaneously implying a kind of personal handwriting, aerial plan, and rendering in an abstract yet universal language. Consistent with these works are the large-scale brush stroke paintings: linear, calligraphic ramblings across tall vertical panels that progressively fill the surface with near-absolute darkness. Exhibited for the first time in the U.S. are the Asahikawa Heads—again, a series of tall, thin panels covered with lines that coagulate into enormous heads seemingly stuck to the surface. Interestingly, the elusive sense of scale inherent in such abstractions is countered in the exquisite little sketches, which show a single seated or perambulating figure in the artist’s more overtly architectural drawings. The larger double images are motivated by what Candido describes as a “duality in man’s mind of nature and the abstract,” a duality that materializes as a divided canvas or page. Here figure and calligraphic mark are relegated to separate zones, and yet clearly inhabit the same surface, disintegrating any real barrier between nature and the abstract. Enhancing the show is a series of designs for urban farms by students in a course that Candido taught at Cooper Union, where he is on the faculty of the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture. In the concept for this student project, one detects Candido’s training in city planning under Ludwig Hilberseimer. Despite the enormous production of drawings and paintings, Candido has also had an important career as a designer. He made the first design for the longitudinal elevation of Konrad Wachsmann’s Air Force hangar, developed in the early 1950s, and was an architectural designer for I.M. Pei from 1954 to 1957. Noteworthy from that period was his design for a single-support, 180-foot diameter steel-and-glass structure at Roosevelt Field on Long Island. He also made a major contribution to the design of the U.S. Pavilion for Expo ’70 by Davis and Brody Architects. This show represents a fearless departure from exhibitions of traditional, often impersonal architectural renderings, and a bold venture into a way of uniting personal notions of representation to suggest large, abstract concepts. Ultimately, it charts the way the mind creates form and the individual understands the world.