The Forest-Gnome School in the Factory Hall
On the edge of Bielefeld, right next to the huge university complex, there is an unassuming, low, dark-red building with a sawtooth roof. What looks from the outside like a factory hall, houses, on the inside, one of the most important experiments in German “progressive education” of the 1960s and 70s—the “Laborschule” and the “Oberstufenkolleg” as conceived by the educationist Hartmut von Hentig. The building is on the one hand a product of its age while on the other representing its outstanding exception. Back then, reforms in the education system, ideas on comprehensive schooling, flexible system-building, open-plan solutions and radical teaching experiments were understood as the means towards progressive social reforms, and, in rapid succession, discussed, implemented and tried out. In this highly charged field between architectural debates and educational policy, the Berlin architect Ludwig Leo designed an ambitious building for the “de-schooled school” conceived by von Hentig.
Visualization, Embodiment, Translation: Remarks on Ethnographic Representation in Architecture
In the course of the twentieth century, a number of modern architects developed a form of empirical research that qualified as quasi-ethnographic by mid-century and has since, due to progressively greater scientific rigor, become genuinely ethnographic. In this essay, Sascha Roesler distinguishes between three forms of architectural-ethnographic representation and argues that we need to acknowledge the epistemological specificities of this research. In contrast to the widespread notion that ethnographic research in architecture is tantamount to conducting building surveys, Roesler proposes a representational model that sees buildings as cultural “systems of inscription.” He discusses this model with reference to the work of Dorothy Pelzer, Trevor Marchand, and Hassan Fathy.
The Efficiency of Capitalist Housing Construction in Switzerland:
This essay considers the relative roles of urban development policies, the construction industry, and architectural discourse in the large-scale production of housing in Switzerland. It focuses on the efforts of the Ernst Göhner AG corporation to develop standardized systems of construction of housing in Greater Zurich between 1920 and 1973. The company, named after its founder, was first set up as a modest window maker, and went on to become one of Switzerland’s biggest players in real estate development. It did this by continually improving its technologies and business strategies, and by taking advantage of political opportunities. Starting in the 1960s, the company began to take on planning functions typically performed by the public sector in order to implement its comprehensive system of standardized prefabricated concrete construction. In so doing, Ernst Göhner AG significantly contributed to Switzerland’s expanding urban agglomerations. By 1972, however, the public became increasingly critical of these practices. Many blamed Ernst Göhner AG for the failure of Switzerland’s free-market housing policies and the bland functionalism of residential construction.
The McAppy Project:
The reputation of the British architect Cedric Price as a radical innovator within his discipline remains largely based on the Fun Palace project (ca. 1963–1965). Drawing on as yet unpublished archival material, this article explores the further development of Price’s work in the McAppy project (1973–1975). Therein he employed concepts drawn from systems theory and cybernetics in order to develop a user-oriented architecture. He interpreted the city as a social and built system that is continually being reshaped by the activities of its inhabitants, by artifacts, and by technologies. The aim of the McAppy project and many of his subsequent projects was to deploy organizational instruments and spatial interventions in order to offer opportunities such that people could shape their environment independently. Price expanded the discipline of architecture by introducing a new approach to design, which was based on viewing the city as a cultural product shaped by the interdependencies of its inhabitants and technical artifacts.
From Legible Form to Memorable Image.
Juxtaposing the work and effect of the architectural historian Rudolf Wittkower and the critic Reyner Banham, Claire Zimmerman identifies a shift of focus in architectural knowledge in Britain between the early 1940s and the late 1950s. During the Second World War and in its aftermath, architectural historian Wittkower proffered “legibility of form” in architecture as the way to an immanent and coherent order, linking form to social identity and giving it the status of truthful representation. By 1955, however, Banham put forward a different kind of architectural knowledge. Banham discarded the phrase “legibility of form” in favor of “memorable image.” Truth-value receded, but memory-value became decisive. Banham registered a change in architecture culture; the relationship between visible appearance and form was superseded by the notion of forms to remember—forms that might, or might not, relate to other aspects of building. To introduce Banham through a discussion of Wittkower’s writing is to approach the space of postmodernism—where the identity of an image inheres in how it looks the way it looks, not whether it means what it says. The story of this transition is connected to photography, which performed a similar delamination of appearance from concrete objects in twentieth-century architecture.
The article is accompanied by the first German translation of Reyner Banham’s 1955 essay “The New Brutalism.”
In this article, Michael Guggenheim analyzes architectural writing on the change of use of buildings published since the early 1970s. He shows that, in its sum, this literature fails its object because the process of change of use cannot be grasped in established architectural categories, categories that refer to fixed states. Guggenheim looks in detail at the metaphors and other figures of speech used to compensate this theoretical shortcoming. He concludes that architectural discourse needs to develop a processual view of buildings to more clearly differentiate between the three relevant perspectives—technological, semiotic, and sociological—in understanding the relationship between buildings and society.
Family Portrait with House.
In the essay on Edvard Heiberg’s House at Ådalsvej in the suburbs of Copenhagen, designed in 1939 for the architect and his family, Robert Gassner considers particular and partly related situations of inhabitation. Gassner uses “agency” as an analytical tool while endeavoring to establish a view of the house that both encompasses its life span and relates a possible understanding of the architect’s relationship to the house to that of successive generations of inhabitants. While tracing this processual nature of the house into particular biographical situations, Gassner compares his findings to ways “agency” has been observed, deployed, and theorized in other fields.
Encountering the List.
Archives, lists, and taxonomies are central to the narrative structure of French writer and filmmaker Georges Perec’s writing.Transcending the impetus to impose spatial order, for Perec they are the locus of literary invention.Through an analysis of the spatial narratives of Perec’s texts and, in particular, the transition from taxonomy to archive embodied in his works Species of Spaces (1974) and Life: A User’s Manual (1978), Kulper describes three strategies that the discipline of architecture can learn from Perec’s approach.Through Perec’s example, architects can tap into the generative capacity of classification by activating the situation of the category (both its locus and the practices it engenders), by recognizing the creative potential inherent in the act of naming, and by allowing the multitude of empirical observations to yield to the figures that emerge from them.
Ut rhetorica architectura. Leon Battista Alberti’s Technique of Architectural Collage.
Leon Battista Alberti, probably the most innovative architect of early Renaissance Italy, has always fascinated scholars by virtue of the striking interpenetration of theory and practice manifest in his work. As an architect, Alberti was an autodidact. Without the benefit of the formative influence of a master or design education, the roots of his conception of architecture lie in his intellectual formation through humanistic rhetoric. The present study demonstrates with reference to a specific project — the Tempietto of the Holy Sepulchre in Florence — how Alberti’s humanist approach conditioned his method of architectural design.