Pier Vittorio Aureli: Theory & ethos (January 23, 2013)

Pier Vittorio Aureli warns the audience that his lecture will be the first presentation of his introduction to an upcoming book on the history of the architectural project.

He begins by defining architectural form as a representation of ethos, in the sense of character but also in the sense of shared habits and beliefs. The earliest concept of the architectural project–a mediation between the designer and the builder–can be seen in Vitruvius. Aureli describes the rebirth of European cities in the 10th-12th centuries in terms of their significance shifting from military to economic functions, and describes perspective, as developed by Alberti and Brunelleschi, as a technique of measuring and ordering space.

Aureli identifies Sebastiano Serlio’s early 16th century book on domestic architecture as an illustration of the moment when the architectural plan became the central organizational device for buildings and the city, and see it applied in Paris at the Place des Vosges (1605) and Place Vendôme (1699), and the Nolli map of Rome (1748). Aureli points out how Pierre Patte’s late 18th century drawings of Paris employ the section view to reveal infrastructure services such as sewers. Aureli discusses Nicholas de La Mare, whose 1707 Traité de la Police extends the concept of controlling and organizing the city from construction to services.

He goes on to discuss Ildefons Cerdà’s 1859 plan for the extension of Barcelona as the first plan based on data, designed to maximize circulation. Aureli notes that Corbusier’s 1923 Towards an Architecture was originally titled Architecture or Revolution. He describes Corbusier’s Dom-ino plan of a basic building unit as a single pixel in an urban screen. Aureli describes post-World War II Athens as “a lava flow” created by multiplication of a Dom-ino-like polykatoikia basic building type, which was encouraged by municipal building codes. In contemporary Athens Aureli sees a realization of Archizoom’s infrastructural grid, stripped of utopianism. Aureli concludes that design is not enough, and that it might be necessary for architects to abandon the idea of the project in order to engage the urban totality.

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