Item description for The Functional City: CIAM and the Legacy of Van Eesteren by Kees Somer...
Dutch architect and planner Cornelis van Eesteren served as president of CIAM, the Congres International d'Architecture Moderne, from 1930 to 1947. His tenure there was steady and influential, but has been little studied, as the rise of Team 10 and then CIAM itself as a global force in the 1950s have obscured the organization's roots as a cooperative that was first embraced by its Dutch and Swiss members. The city analyses that CIAM members conducted for their 1933 congress, chaired by van Eesteren, made an important contribution to what they called "comparative town planning." The Functional City focuses on that legendary fourth congress, held in the summer of 1933; examines van Esteren's legacy; and traces CIAM's early evolution through an abundance of little-known archival material. The leitmotif in this narrative is the principle of collectivity: the avant-garde ideal of concerted action as the basis for the creation of a thoroughly contemporary human habitat.
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Studio: NAi Publishers
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 1.25" Width: 9.75" Height: 11.5" Weight: 3.62 lbs.
Release Date Jul 1, 2007
Publisher NAi Publishers
ISBN 9056625764 ISBN13 9789056625764
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First Study of van Eesteren's contribution to CIAM Nov 23, 2007
The Functional City: CIAM and the Legacy of Van Eesteren Remarkably enough, Van Eesteren's contribution to the CIAM has never been the object of study. In the late 1970s, Alfred Roth, who ioined the Swiss group in 1931, both combated the widespread notion that Le Corbusier had fully dominated the organization and mentioned several members whose great services had not received due attention so far. The first he mentioned was Van Eesteren, who had fulfilled the duty of chairman for 17 years 'in a prudent and self-sacrificing way' Roth's observation was correct, and even today Van Eesteren's role within the CIAM has still received hardly any attention - in spite of the prominent position that he held for many years. This is largely due to the reticent and mild-mannered way in which Van Eesteren led the work of the association. This style of working was, however, also a deliberate and therefore revealing contribution to the achievement of a shared ideal. For Van Eesteren was convinced that a shared vision that had general validity could only arise on the basis of a collective way of working. To stimulate this process, he did not want to impose his own views on the congress and generally behaved as a reticent chairman. In this study of the contribution of Van Eesteren to the CIAM, the principle of collective cooperation is an important theme, as is the relation with Giedion that runs like a thread through the account. Analogously to the way in which Nancy Troy described the history of De Stijl in her The Still Environment (1983) on the basis of attempts to cooperate on spatial design, in this book the development of the CIAM is analyzed on the basis of this collective goal. The central topic is the CIAM's search for a position, organizational form and way of working of its own: how did the CIAM regard itself as an avant-garde organization, did its actions supply content for this, what did this mean for the activities and results of the congresses, and what was Van Eesteren's contribution to this in terms of content and process? This formulation of the question raises a methodological problem, for the official CIAM documents and publications provide little information about internal discussions, procedural matters and ioint congress preparations. Not until 1951 did Giedion explain at length how they slowly and organically arrived at common congress themes through teamwork-they had never wanted to bother the outside world with details about their methods. Nor is it easy to determine the role of Van Eesteren in all this. As a result of his principled view on cooperation, combined with a closed and quiet character, he seldom expressed his intentions explicitly. 'Van Eesteren is a somewhat dry and quiet character, as you know, who lacks dynamic actions, but I believe that he has a strong sense of responsibility,' Gropius wrote to Giedion in the mid-1930s. Paradoxically enough, Van Eesteren came more into the open as the collectivity that he was aiming for decreased; above all after the war, he was to air his views on the development of the CIAM and his contribution to it- ex negativo and in retroaction - more and more openly. In order to answer the questions raised, it has therefore been necessary not only to consult the primary and secondary literature, but also to conduct extensive research in the archives. The basis for this is the large CIAM collection and the related documents in the Van Eesteren archive, which is housed in the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAI) in Rotterdam. Additional research was carried out in the archives of other members of the Dutch CIAM group in the same institute, the Giedion papers in the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zurich, the Fondation Le Corbusier in Paris, and the archive of Fred Forbat in the Architecture Museum in Stockholm. Work documents, minutes, personal notes and correspondence proved to be valuable sources of information for telling the story of the CIAM as a construction collective; a story that unfolds, as it were, beneath the surface of the 'official' history and is hidden from sight in the more propagandist congress publications. To aid legibility, the German, French and Dutch citations have been translated, except in the notes.
This book consists of five chapters. The first deals with the early years of the CIAM, from its foundation in 1928 to the third congress in 1930. The central question is that of how th CIAM positioned itself as an international avant-garde organization, which obiectives and working methods it developed in order to play its role as flywheel of the Modern Movement, and to what extent this matched the high expectations of those involved. Of course, these debates were determined by internal cultural and ideological differences, but also by a common orientation towards the broader professional field to which the modern architects belonged. The choice of public housing as the main focus of attention forced the CIAM to adopt a position vis-à-vis the other associations, some of which had already been occupied with this issue for decades.
Chapter II goes into the collective cooperation with which the CIAM wanted to distinguish itself from other organizations in the field of architecture and urban planning. It covers the principles that lay behind this avant garde ideal, the extent to which it was shared within the CIAM, the difficulty of implementing it in the preparations for the first congresses, and the pioneering role of the Swiss and Dutch groups in this respect. The principle of collectivity was particularly personified by Giedion and Van Eesteren, who in their roles as secretary and chairman respectively were to make this the foundation of the activities of the CIAM from 1930 on. This chapter is thus an essential basis for the rest of the book, which describes the development of the CIAM as a working group of architects and the contribution of Van Eesteren to it. Chapter III deals with the preparations for the fourth CIAM congress, which was originally to be held in Moscow in 1932. It investigates how the collective style of work took shape under the leadership of Van Eesteren in the treatmen of the theme 'The Functional City'. The chapter investigate: the preparations by the Dutch group and the background to the ideas that it developed, the reactions to the Dutch programme proposals, and their incorporation in definitive guidelines for the envisaged urban-planning analyses. The chapter concludes with an analysis of the architectural and urban-planning developments in the Soviet Union and the deepening ideological rift with the West, which forced the CIAM to hold its fourth congress in 1933 in a different location. Chapter IV considers the work on 'The Functional City in the light of scientific urban planning at the beginning of the twentieth century. The main question here is that of the contribution that the CIAM analyses for the fourth congress made to the development of a 'comparative urban planning' in Western Europe. The chapter deals with the question of cartography and forms of presentation, the discussion of the analyses during the congress and the affirmations formulated on the basis of it, the editing of the material for the 1935 exhibition, and Van Eesteren's prolonged but ultimately unsuccessful attempts to achieve a congress Publication of 'The Functional City' as a contribution to a comparative science of urban planning. The final chapter picks up the thread immediately after the fourth congress and follows it down to the dissolution of the CIAM in 1959. It investigates how the collective method of working was developed in the second stage of 'The Functional City', only to disappear into the background after climaxing in 1936. By the late 1930s the CIAM was in the grip of a profound crisis. The first post-war congress in 1947 brought about a revival and also meant the end of Van Eesteren's chairmanship. The later history is outlined from the perspective of Van Eesteren, who saw his collective ideal crushed in the institutionalization of an internationally growing organization. He was therefore the first to advocate the dissolution of the CIAM so that the younger generation could have the opportunity to make a new start. Seven years later that younger generation decided to liquidate the association. It continued under the name Team 10 and still met on an irregular basis until the 1970s. But no new avant-garde was to emerge.