Collage City was expanded and published as a book in And all these would seem to summarize much of architectural post modernism. This system is established on autonomous grid and heterogeneous fragments. He graduated from Liverpool School of Architecture. This essay is important for his career and his ideas about architecture.
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Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter: Collage City Reviewed by David Chandler Like a thriller this book opens with a crime; the world of architecture and urban planning is in crisis. The two authors will need to uncover motives, retrace the routes taken by the protagonists, apportion blame and finally seek redress. The judges will sum up and the built environment will emerge a better place eventually. Before the force of their architectural proposal can be fully grasped, the American cultural context in which this book was constructed must be considered.
Many large scale municipal urban projects were now signally beginning to fail. Someone had to diagnose the ills and suggest a remedy. The graphic apparatus of Collage City also needs a note before the arguments are considered in detail. There is a complex subtext of images that runs through the book until the final torrent of the last 30 picture pages.
The semiological possibilities of the photographs can occasionally generate complex readings. The publishers, unusually, do not use figure references within the text so the correlation between argument and visual evidence is sometimes vague.
For example, the title page has a wonderful image of the oculus of the Roman Pantheon casting its light in an elliptical sunbeam onto the textured coffers of its interior concrete vault.
Is this to be read as the contrast between surface and void or a plea for historical architectural precedent? The authors just let it challenge and stimulate us. By identifying ideological binaries they will endeavour to find a middle way to rescue 20th century architecture from the blight of dogmatists and extremists. We suspect that pictorial collage is related to the core argument of the book but it is not for another pages does that particular work of art get put into the context of urban theory.
This is useful as it reveals the power of the grip that the current architectural orthodoxy had on the profession. Planners would need to break the spell of the accepted high church of utopian scripture. The authors will require the space of the first two chapters to tackle the chimera of an architectural utopia and its pernicious grip on the 20th century city. These early exegeses are important contributions to the history of utopias.
From their observations of recent urbanist developments the authors summarise the polarised positions of the two dominant architectural camps in Neither faction will be left untarnished by the end of the book. Modernism and its inexhaustible sense of regeneration and novelty had evidently become a dogma to be feared.
They have abrogated powers to themselves that they just do not possess. Do not expect supernatural powers from these professional designers. The cultural reach of these authors is brought into focus by a debunking of the slightly religious tones of those who believed that a Utopia might be possible. We soon learn that this book is a liberal nose that will be used to sniff out the faintest hint of fascist poison amongst misguided contemporary utopianists.
Rowe and Koetter turn the spotlight onto the sacred cows of 20th century modernist orthodoxy. So we have the first suspects in our investigation into the urbanist offenders. The eighteenth century is given close examination as the root cause of modern enthusiasms for utopia. Henri de Saint-Simon dreamt of a meritocracy of the learned as a world government who might make politics a branch of physics where all knowledge would act in concert.
Man could rebuild the universe; Ledoux was planning communities for the salt workers of Chaux in and Boullee constructed gargantuan theme park monuments on the spherical principle of the Pantheon in his famous Isaac Newton project. Politically, it centres on the elevation of working people by housing them in the palatial simulacra of the recently overthrown French aristocracy. If the physical planning of utopia had its limitations then the 19th century also started considering anthropological avenues into the society and citizens who might inhabit these new buildings.
Maybe mankind would itself evolve to be worthy of the new city? The space age designs coming from post world war two drawing desks are contrasted with the homely folksy townscapes of Gordon Cullen. The authors continue to draw out the ideologies in their rhetorical question concerning the Paris Opera and its sewers. Which one has priority? The servant or the served? This is a succinct way of discussing the functionalist approach to the city against the beauty of its objects which continued to divide architects.
Then follows a very surprising evaluation of the methodologies and contributions of almost all of the progressive studios of the post war period, including Superstudio and Archigram.
The authors are preparing the ground to argue for a much more genuine dialogue with tradition without losing the best of the gains made by modernism.
The authors pose 3 questions which provide the foundations of their programme. The book here adopts a clearer format as manifesto. It cannot escape the irony that Athens, CIAM and other conferences had also adopted this bullet point methodology in an attempt to cleanse the world of unhygienic buildings.
They lament the loss of the traditional street and consider the significant De Stijl contribution to the textures of the city block. Which would we prefer as an index of the future city? These are the vanity projects of urban failure and by implication the thinking behind the recently trashed Pruitt-Igoe projects. The Paris project is illustrated several times in Collage City to hint at the real identity of the mastermind urban antagonist.
The remedies start to appear in quick succession. Disgraced tenet of modern architecture; why must all outdoor space be in public ownership? We will be required to learn a new anthropologically derived term, bricolage, in chapter four to be equipped to grasp the next step in the Rowe and Keoetter prognosis.
The authors advocate this city case study deploying a persuasive thirteen illustrations of Roman city plans to underscore their points. The authors were profoundly disturbed by the urban impact of the politics of racial segregation in parts of the USA. The last part of the chapter positions and advocates illustrated examples of organic city growth in planning and the visual allure of bricolage in the completed work of architects past and present.
The act of assembling the various components is a time based activity and requires an understanding of change as part of the process. The authors question why fellow architects have failed to read the past like a textbook for fear of producing excessively referenced or derivative architectural styles.
There is nothing to fear from these textbook examples of the past. They then produce a hero of the modernist movement; Pablo Picasso. It has the integrity of image and object but also has meaning. It is artless yet somehow descriptive, it is styleless but yet it is a talisman. It is well positioned for all urban designers to reflect upon and emulate. Then the authors extend their arguments to expound on the eponymous Picasso collage illustrated on the title page.
This in effect is the panacea for all city planners. From this point the authors seek out examples of good practice in the adoption of a collage inspired later called Contextualist approach to planning. At this point the metaphors return again with the mandala board being illustrated to remind planners of the closeness of the illusion of utopia to this mystical object of magical but essentially unrealistic functions.
The utopian thread finally disappears into the Platonic body of theory from which it emerged. The apparatus of this book culminates in an excursus upon what must have been produced as some by products of the editing process; a chapter devoted to photographs of many half page plates illustrating specifically what animates the writers as outstanding achievements.
The writers reveal themselves as possibly a little less structured than their text would have indicated had they concluded the book at the end of chapter five. Their illustrations of plan and building examples are intended to be read as a canon of iconic examples or are they more subjective?
It was odd to see a repeat illustration of the Plaza Mayor in Vittoria, Spain when it had so brilliantly triumphed over the dreadful Plan Voisin in a comparison earlier in the text. This book, at times, seems to have confounded the editorial process altogether. The authors use section headings in the excursus when these would have also been effective apparatus inside the main body of the text for reference purposes. We are also left with an uncomfortable sensation that the two authors have opened a car boot sale of loved objects many of which have connotations that required a separate volume with amplified captions as all the examples are significant and challenging, especially the oil rig platform which predicts the vogue for exo-skeletal projects.
Their initiative seems to have synergised with a sea change in architecture into the s. Contextualist theory certainly did find its adherents chief amongst them James Stirling for example whose eclectic approach to architectural sources in his Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart is of note. The book is emancipatory; many architects had felt restrained by the pre-scripted methodologies that later modernism had seemed to demand. Within the next 10 years the advent of new digital technologies and changed cultural and political contexts would mandate a far less bombastic version of later 20th century modernism and invite architecture and planning professions to seek to regain the trust of their audience and to rediscover the social gratifications to be derived from a well planned beautiful city.
Rowe was a clever child, winning scholarships to the local Grammar School and, later, to the University of Liverpool to study architecture. He was called up in December and was enlisted in the British Royal Airforce. He badly injured his spine in a practice jump and was left hospitalised for more than six months. Although like his MA thesis, this proposal was impossible to support with any evidence, as a speculation it enabled Rowe to elaborate an astonishingly fresh and provocative trans-historical critique of both Palladio and Le Corbusier, in which the architecture of both was assessed not in chronological time, but side by side in the present moment. The originality of this approach had the effect of re-situating the assessment of modern architecture within history and acknowledged history as an active influence. Between the s and his death, Rowe published a number of widely influential papers that influenced architecture by further developing the theory that there is a conceptual relationship between modernity and tradition, specifically Classicism in its various manifestations, and Modern Movement "white architecture" of the s - a viewpoint first put forward by Emil Kaufmann in his classic book "Von Ledoux bis Le Courbusier" Although he remained an admirer of the achievements of the s modernists, chiefly in the work of Le Corbusier , Rowe also subjected the modern movement, which he considered a failure, to subversive modes of criticism and interpretation.
File:Rowe Colin Koetter Fred Collage City 1978.pdf