In the early 1960s in the Soviet Union, when all state funds and collective energy of the nation were thrown into the Cold War competition with the US, a group of architectural students, ahead of the official Soviet authorities, had developed a proposal for the communist City of the Future, for a different, fair society. A film rediscovers the work of the unique Soviet architecture group NER (the New Element of Settlement) through a close look into the present lives of its surviving members. Focusing on each character in a unique way, the film reveals how these architects still believe in their early ideas while coping with post-socialist reality of contemporary Moscow. The trailer is available here
Excerpt from Radical Pedagogies
The concept of NER was first developed in 1957 as a diploma project by graduates of the Moscow Institute of Architecture (MArkhI). As students, NER members studied the elements of the city, its quantitative and qualitative characteristics, eventually dismissing traditional planning principles in favor of a new approach to urban development as a dynamic process. Drawing on Marxism, they sought to provide a spatial agenda for the communist ideology, representing the younger generation of thinkers in the radical split of the Soviet architectural profession following de-Stalinization. They actively criticized the state of Soviet urban planning, arguing that “today, the city is not fulfilling its primary purpose to be an organic living environment.”
NER’s new city was based on creative communication in a classless society, in which the city was no longer dependent on its industrial center but instead formed around a center of communication, independent from the economic characteristics of the city. The major shift brought in by this new urban wave—later implemented by one of its members, Alexei Gutnov, within the curriculum of MArkhI—was to see the city as a living organism, in which cells would be born and eventually die. This led to a change in the status of architectural form: it was conceived as temporary and mobile—its birth implied the process of its imminent destruction. This approach anticipated the later understanding of architecture as an activity or as environment—form was no longer relevant because it hindered the organic processes within the dying city. The system emphasized the correspondence between urban structures and social relationships in communism, based on the reading of the urban plan as “simultaneously a symbol of the idea and a program for its realization.”
SULP: Synergetic Urban Landscape Planning
This is an integrated approach that allows us to explore, imagine and plan synergies so as to accelerate the transition to a liveable, low carbon city. During the research process, SULP has continuously been reinforced by incorporating the results of the separate studies on water, climate, energy, urban agriculture and nutrients. Synergetic urban landscape planning forms the bridge between CO2 and livability goals on the one hand, and principles for sustainable urban development on the other.
More on SULP here
A statistical indicator called the Storefront Index measures the number and concentration of customer-facing businesses in the nation’s large metropolitan areas. A series of maps represent location, size and intensity of neighbourhood business clusters down to the street level for 51 metropolitan areas. The Storefront Index, claims the writer, is one indicator of the relative size and robustness of the active streetscape in and around city centers. The index material is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license and it is openly available for further investigation to researchers. around the globe
- Joe Cortright, 2018. Quantifying Jane Jacobs. In City Commentary, full article and image available here
The workshop is one of the oldest institutions of human society. like farming, the artisan workshop terminated the wandering way of life. Much of this also depended on the scale of their tools. In China and Greece it was the most important institution anchoring civic life which practiced the division of labor. The workshop spawned an idea of justice, artisans were allowed to choose freely how to practice their craft. Craftsmen, both Confucius and Plato believed, make good citizens. The urban craftsman in the medieval period began producing surplus: from covering the intra-city needs to inter-city needs. Guilds managed conflict
The European roots of the American workshops can be traced to Robert Owen. He originally founded New Lanark in Scotland as a prototype of a modern industry. He later formulated his plans for an autonomous village and tried to diffuse that model first in England (Orbiston) and then in the US (Harmony). He formulated a set of precepts, the otherwise known as 6 Rochdale Principles: workshops open to anyone, one person one vote, distribution of surplus in relation to trade, cash trading, political and religious neutrality and promotion of education. Owen’s idea of workshop is of an institution which combines long-term mutual benefit and loyalty with short-term flexibility and openness. Factory-style science was for him a mechanical testing of hypotheses; a more innovative laboratory engages from experiment, open to surprise discovery.
On the opposite of Owen lay Charles Fourrier version of workshop: its aim was greatest good for greatest number. He created the phalansteries (big hotels) where he crowded the deserving poor. This was top-down planning that inspired the Soviet industrial planning. People in phalansteries worked and lived in the same building.
These workshops lay the foundation for the Settlement Houses and the Hampton and Tuskegee Institutions founded in the US at the second half of the 19th century.
Excerpts from Richard Sennett’s book, Together: The Rituals & Politics of Cooperation, 2012, London: Penguin Books and Leonardo Benevolo’s, Storia dell’ architettura moderna, 1990, Bari: Edizioni Laterza
Image available here
The WeMakeThe.City Festival will be hosted in Pakhuis de Zwijger between 20-24 June.
I am delighted to be part of Architecture of Connection: Design Solutions for Urban Loneliness on Thursday 21st of June in Amsterdam with Α10 collaborators Anna Yudina, Omer Kanipak and Joakim Skajaa along with Stefanie Heublein and Peter van Asche.
Twitter Chat with Roberto Rocco/ Tuesday 30.01, 14:00-15:00 (GMT +3). Extract from the brief:
The way in which planning and design are generally taught does not cater for the need to create sustainable, fair and inclusive cities. Many planning and design schools follow an old paradigm of architectural education that privileges individual genius and design creativity and do not prepare students to understand the implications of social, economic and environmental sustainability, spatial justice and the right to the city (…) This poses the question: what can spatial planning and design schools actually DO in order to help deliver the city we need? What do we need to teach, and how, in order to be able to deliver enlightened professionals who are able to work in a transdisciplinary way, incorporating grassroots participation and multiple stakeholders in planning and design processes that embrace complexity and are embedded in local social, political, economic and cultural landscapes?
Organization: The World Urban Campaign/ Image available here
It presents a shared vision/ a paradigm shift based on the science of cities (…) The following articles are indicative of the document’s content:
- 10. culture and cultural diversity are sources of enrichment for humankind and provide an important contribution to the sustainable development of cities, human settlements and citizens, empowering them to play an active and unique role in development initiatives.
- 11. equal use of cities/ promotion of inclusivity/ no discriminations
- 13. toward cities that: a. fulfill their social function/ b. promote civic engagement/ c. achieve gender equality/ d. meet the challenges of economic growth/ e. fulfill their territorial functions. f. promote age and gender responsive planning/ g. adopt and implement disaster risk reduction/ h. protect, conserve, restore and promote their ecosystems
- 14. Leave no one behind/ ensure sustainable economies/ environmental sustainability
- 15. readdress the way we plan/ recognize the leading role of local governments/ adopt sustainable, people-centered integrated approaches to urban development
New Urban Agenda, 2017. United Nations, Habitat III Secretariat
The Habitat III Conference and the city of Quito welcomed 30,000 participants from 167 countries, with online platforms and tools that enabled people all over the world to follow principal events online
Image available here