This project investigate historical artifacts that acted “in support of the city” (also the title of the seminar). The students/researchers consulted archives, conducted interviews, constructed diagrams, and produced films in order to narrate the findings. Acting as architectural detectives, the researchers interviewed Denise Scott Brown on the phone, spent time at the Art Institute’s Hilberseimer Archive, discussed Banham with the BBC, and recalled memories on the Transcripts with Bernard Tschumi.
A screening of the sixteen videos took place on April 30 at UIC’s School of Architecture. Special thanks to the critics Penelope Dean, Jayne Kelly, Bob Bruegmann, and Geoffrey Goldberg.
Urban Spielräume exist at the threshold between the building volume and public space, where the city is inhaled into architecture and where architecture extends into the city —where one is infused by the other. It’s the space where architecture opens up to the city and invites alternative inhabitations. A catalog of these spaces from across the centuries became the basis for the drawing of a City of Spielräume, an urban scroll that thematizes the different spatial conditions. Each drawing highlights four precedents and combines these spaces into one urban condition. The first drawing, for examples, blends London’s Lowther Arcade, Paris’s Galerie d’Orleans, Berlin’s Friedrichstrassen Passagen, and Trieste’s Palazzo del Tergesteo–essentially generating an arcade urbanism. Since each example comes with its surrounding buildings, each drawings is also a composite of those cities.
In order to effectively engage the city, the VC studio takes the position that architecture has to move beyond itself, i.e. beyond the one-off building form and towards an architecture of the city. To develop this new kind of urban practice, we studied the existing megalopolis, the largest cities in the world, where urban tensions and inventions are plentiful. And, where best to find illustrations, inspirations, and explanations of such conditions than in one of the most intense metropolises in the world. The studio traveled to the Mexico City, conducted field research on particular urban conditions, learned from these and extrapolate scenarios that can lead to new forms of an urban architecture. The project not only question the individuality of architecture but ask if one could think of architecture as a city-extension, a kind of architectural urbanism that makes the city an offer it cannot refuse.
Mexico City’s dramatic historical evolution, rapid urban expansion, unprecedented population growth, exuberant modernist ambitions, and ever-renewing spatial inventions catalyzed a city that constantly hovers between the forces of the city, the ambitions of architecture, and the ingenuities of the everyday. The original city of Tenochtitlan, built on an island at Lake Texcoco by the Aztecs in the 14th century, was the largest city of the Pre-Colonial Americas before it was occupied by Spanish colonial rule in the 16th century. Subsequently, a new city was built on top of the existing one, effectively doubling the urban network, covering its rivers to become streets, building Catholic churches above Aztec temples, and converting the ceremonial center into the seat of colonial power. Adapting an existing context and inventing a new one seems to be in the ether of the city. After all, today’s Greater Mexico City counts 22 million inhabitants and occupies over 3,700 square miles with half of its architecture built without regulations or permits yet filled with spatial, programmatic, and material ingenuity. The field trip sought to understand this tension: the tension between the formal and the informal, between planned avenues and makeshift markets, between geometric plazas and sinking houses, between colonial churches and ancient ruins.
Eisenschmidt curated “Felix Candela’s Concrete Shells: An Engineered Architecture for Mexico and Chicago” at Gallery 400, Chicago, January 19 – March 3, 2018. For more information, see project page and Gallery 400.
“This great city of Tenochtitlán is built on the salt lake, and no matter by what road you travel there are two leagues from the main body of the city to the mainland. There are four artificial causeways leading to it, and each is as wide as two cavalry lances. The city itself is as big as Seville or Córdoba. The main streets are very wide and very straight; some of these are on the land, but the rest and all the smaller ones are half on land, half canals where they paddle their canoes. All the streets have openings in places so that the water may pass from one canal to another. Over all these openings, and some of them are very wide, there are bridges. . . . There are, in all districts of this great city, many temples or houses for their idols. They are all very beautiful buildings.” — Hernando Cortés, Tenochtitlán, 1521.
“[Mexico City] is the ultimate world city: ultimate size, ultimate in population, ultimate in threat of paralysis and disintegration, ultimate in the problems it presents …” — Peter Geoffrey Hall, The World Cities Series, 1984.
In Search for an Architectural Urbanism juxtaposes two large-scale panorama drawings of visionary cities in search for new forms of architectural urbanism that are able to navigate the contested but highly productive realms of contemporary urbanization. One drawing, “City of Architectural Fictions,” represents unbuilt but architecturally significant proposals while the other, “City of Urban Facts,” shows built innovations that are largely unknown. In addition, each drawing is supplemented by a catalog that documents the examples that can be found in the drawings — a 400-page catalog on the history of visionary projects on the city and a 250-page catalog on the breath of urban innovation. Continue Reading →
Collective City, explores spatial, organizational, and material ingenuities born out of the forces and pressures of the contemporary city, answered by the architectural amateur, and used by everyone. As such, the exhibition foregrounds an essential terrain instructive for architecture. The examples highlighted here are important to the way the world is built, influential in its capacities to mobilize, and mesmerizing in its strangeness, yet outside the architectural radar. The exhibition documents, organizes, and projects a catalog of existing inventions and tactics found across the globe (often outrageous, sometimes humorous, but always embedded in the here and now) with the ambition to establish a dictionary of ideas that can act simultaneously as a reality-check and sourcebook. We are interested in how the dynamics of global urbanization effectively influence architecture; or to put it more bluntly, how the intelligences of the existing city can be engaged by architecture. From a street-runway intersection in Gibraltar, via the Osaka baseball stadium-turned-model village, to stilt houses in international waters at Biscayne Bay, these examples form a new city that in the exhibition creates a massive urban panorama, describing different forms of architectural urbanism.