(Opposite, left) Plan of ftve children's units

(Opposite, right) Mezzanine plan (Above) Conceptual drawing

(Right) Views of the facade and the interior open area

were also developed independently, rather like a quasi-autonomous essay on space and its cognition.

The front of the new building is a pushed-in and broken version of the well-ordered, reserved, frontal classicist Amsterdam facade typical of its street. The front door is set back, to create an open porch behind the building line and at the same time a kind of bay window, assvell as a light well right on the street. An additional light well lies immediately behind the entrance, while the bay-window motif is taken up at the back of the building. This fragmentation has the effect of producing a sense of intimacy. Equally unconventional is the organization of the interior space, which does not. however, completely abandon the traditional orthogonal grid plan. There is also a wonderful transparency and spatial depth typical of the domestic architecture so often featured in Dutch 17th-century paintings. The new design uses a number of van Eyck's characteristic motifs: the unexpected syncopation which cheerfully subverts the composition's tripartite system of taxis, the chopped-off corners creating a 45-degree angle, the over-emphasized doorsteps and stair, the mixing of the square and the circle.

Many of these devices are drawn from the thesaurus of precedents of world architecture, ranging from African homesteads to Guarini churches and Santorini streets, to complexes by Johannes Duiker and, most definitely, projects by Le Corbusier. But none of them is employed for cognitive reasons alone, separate from meaning and use. In all their eccentri city and iconoclasm, they can be seen to be delivering, in sticks and stones, a critique of the conformist and routine obedience of order. But they also serve to celebrate a child's sense of place, in the manner of another van Eyck project, his famous Municipal Orphanage in Amsterdam (1960). Hubertus, by the use of colour, forms a total contrast to the sombre, generally uneventful facades around it. A polychromic 'rainbow bouquet', it is in van Eyck's words an icon of joy, affection and optimism. In the last analysis, his contribution is deeply human. It lies in creating what he calls a sense of 'homecoming' through a paradox: by making us feel momentarily like strangers in a new world.

Structuralism Participatory Architecture

Giancarlo De Carlo Architetto MAZZORBO HOUSING PROJECT

(Venice, Italy) 1980-85

Mazzorbo Project Giancarlo Carlo

A housing project for just eighty dwellings would have normally passed unremarked in most cases, as Giancarlo De Carlo has observed. Eighty dwellings on the Venetian Lagoon, however, are a different matter and have a significant impact. De Carlo claims that his greatest concern has been the delicate, almost imperceptible structure of a 'myriad of minute signs' which, for him, has always had a 'clear meaning', indicating the movement of the various types of boats, the niches where fish gather, the topography of mooring. Observing the project, on the island of Mazzorbo, across from the islands of Burano and Torcello and only a few minutes from Venice itself, makes it immediately obvious that historical considerations, the 'gentle invasion' of new houses in a landscape charged with a cultural past, were of paramount importance.

In a passage quoted by Richard MacCormac in his inaugural address as the RIBA's new president, on 2 July 1991. he summarized De Carlo's life-long efforts to build within highly constrained cultural contexts: 'De Carlo says: "To design in a historic place, one should first of all read its layers of architectural strata and try to understand the significance of each layer before superimposing a new one. This does not mean indulging in imitation, as this would be a mean-spirited approach, saying nothing about the present and spreading confusion over the past. What is called for is the invention of new architectural images that are authentic and at the same time reciprocal with images already existing.'"

De Carlo's most important inventions are not, however, limited to coping with problems of historical context. His architecture embraces history as part of the design process towards broader cultural and social objectives. Since the design of his early housing project in Matera of the mid-1950s, in the south of Italy, De Carlo has asserted that historical knowledge is a means through which architecture can bring about what he considers emancipa-tion-a participatory ratherthan a hierarchical, regimented society. Historical knowledge can be achieved, according to De Carlo, very effectively through participatory methods aimed at stimulating and re-activating the memory of the inhabitants of a place. It is this sense of historical and hermeneutical dimension that makes De Carlo's design, through participation, so distinct from other, more

(Above) General plan of the Mazzorbo housing project

(Opposite) Two studies for individual units

(Opposite, above) The housing development seen from the lagoon

positivistic', user-oriented approaches, from André Lurçat's first attempt, after World War II. to that of the more current practitioners, such as Lucien Kroll (pp. 44-47) and Herman Hertzberger (pp. 48-51).

In the case of the housing project presented here, there were hardly any existing structures on the site, and the only identifiable topographical element was the canal - or rather the memory of it, as the canal bed had been filled in. Given, however, the proximity of the Maz-zorbo site to other small towns, not least Venice itself, 'the enemy, yet dreamed capital', and given also the strong architectural identity of these towns and the fact that most of the inhabitants of the new housing complex were to move there from them - physical images and also past ways of living deeply engraved on their minds - De Carlo acknowledged such contextual constraints.

Through systematic observation, structured interviews and informal meetings. De Carlo and his collaborators began to gather the information needed. The initial phase of research did not just involve people expressing their needs while the architects passively transcribed them. The reconstruction of history they were attempting was not only on the level of constructing a narrative 'truth'. It was, rather, a reciprocal, interactive process. Participation was an attempt at mutual de-alienation. engaging not only the users but the architects themselves, who also suffered from exclusion and isolation. Moreover, even though the contribution of the future 'unskilled* users who lacked specialized knowledge was considered fundamental in tackling the problem at hand, the knowledge of the skilled architects was equally significant in attempting 'to invent and modify the space at hand'.

The initial observational and historical study followed procedures similar to previous studies by De Carlo, especially his acclaimed work on Urbino of the 1960s. In these studies he had developed a number of fundamental characteristic criteria used to analyse urban fabric and through which he could guide his interviews and observations of the users' lifestyle. It was these criteria which later helped to prescribe the results of his research into architecture. In their investigation, De Carlo and his collaborators dug deep into time, revealing layer upon layer of the underlying organization of space patterns, and the activities which took place within them, which finally determined the built forms.

Materials used for edges, steps and moorings are in white Istria stone, the same as in Venice. The layouts of the houses are based on carefully identified patterns of rooms and room relations, windows and window groupings, doors and thresholds, found in the area. In a similar manner, the colours of the facades are derived from the 'chromatic structures' (rather than using isolated colours) that exist in Burano and Mazzorbo. The preservation of all such contextual architectural elements reveals an emphasis on maintaining contact and community, echoing De Carlo's affiliation with the 1960s Team X. The historicism of the resulting forms of the houses does not reflects sense of nostalgia or regression, nor have suffi historical norms been imposed by the authority of the architect in this respect. There is no similarity in De Carlo's approach to the useol memory that, for instance. Aldo Rossi makes (pp. 56-63). What is unique in De Carlo's method is masterfully revealed in the Mazzorbo housing, a blend of historical socio-analysis', fundamental architectural structuralist conceptions and, most importantly, the belief that neither meaning nor quality in architecture are autonomous values. For De Carlo, meaning is the result of the transaction between human beings and the quality of the organization of physical space, which depends on the way space is peopled and forms are inhabited, on the manner which allows ever, human being' to be 'a potential protagonist. This is an architecture of human dignity.

(Above) Houses along the canal

(Opposite, left) Disembarking from a boat on the canal

(Opposite, right) The central spine between housing rows


(Richmond, England) 1985-88

'Richmond Riverside is best approached from the river. This is the way the Queen arrived when she opened it in October 1988, on the same day that the Prince of Wales gave his remarkable attack on modern architecture.' This opening to the British architectural historian David Watkin's commentary on Quinlan Terry's project, written in a tone which echoes old guide books to important national monuments, encapsulates perfectly the union intended by the architect between architectural form, event and institution. It is the search for such a union that led to the explicit references, if not a direct revival of classicism, and an uncompromising continuity with historical setting that underlie this project of the classical revival movement of the 1980s.

Terry's gateway-building to the complex employs Burlingtonian details. The archway that leads to the townscape cites Palladio's Basilica at Vicenza. Once inside the complex, one encounters the 'Anglo-Dutch flavour of houses like Pratt's Coleshill of c. 1650', Watkin writes. Hotham House has eleven-bay piles and a balustraded belvedere; its external staircase 'recalls that of Poole Guildhall'. In the same vein, Watkin informs us, the Gothic of Venetian back-street houses is used in Bridge Street, along with 'further details recalling Ammanati's work at the Pitti Palace, and the Palazzo Venezia in Rome".

Despite the excessive load of historical references, and the consequent amount of strict programme constraints, Terry incorporates facilities which make use of modern technology to serve the twenty-eight apartments, in what is predominantly a commercial development of about 9,850 square metres of offices and about 1,000 square metres of shops. There are throughways for lorries and fire-engines, air conditioning for all but Whit-taker House, and parking for 135 cars. All basic provisions for users with physical disabilities are made in accordance with the humanistic principles of the architect, whose intention is to create a quality of humanity and care. The architectural organization of the buildings is contextually harmonious with the adjacent London riverside of Georgian Richmond, Kew and Twickenham and is related to their urban character. The scheme is adapted to the major landscape element, the river, through a skilful but simple use of terraces and lawns, ramps and stairs. The relation between river and project is so simple and successful one wonders, with David Watkin, why such obvious and intelligent solutions were not applied to projects of the recent past like the Hayward Gallery and the National Theatre complex. Richmond Riverside is one of the best projects of the last two decades in its fit to the site.

The project has been criticized for its inconsistency in using up-to-date technology at the same time as the spatial grammar of the past. One may argue, however, that this is in fact one of its most successful features: the independent pursuit of different systems that together make up an architectural whole, whether these systems are technological, functional or cultural, and the rational pursuit of each aspect independently and with the minimum of conflict. In this respect, the project appears particularly successful in terms of its contemporaneity - paradoxically because of, and not despite, its use of historical precedents coupled with avant-garde technology used for domestic comfort.

Perhaps it is not enough, however, simply to identify with intelligence and treat separately only in intellectual terms these distinct aspects, as Terry does. The architect, as producer of culture, has to provide deeper justification of the consequences of such discoveries on our life, and to comment critically upon them, to go beyond a mechanistic exposition of a system's complexity. More needs to be said on a higher level of abstrac tion as well as in architectural terms. Yet this project seems to turn its back to such questions, as non-existent.

Terry is undoubtedly a highly knowledge able, conscientious and pragmatic architect He is also opposed to what he considers to De 'progressive charlatanism and demagog:», current among many architects. Terry has most wittily expressed his views, for instancer. a recent interview when he said, 'I wouldn't have a qualified architect in the office. They're just argumentative. They've got lots of political ideas which aren't of interest to me; they want a partnership, they're quarrelsome, they're lazy, they arrive late, they don't shave.'He clearly sees projects like Richmond Riverside despite the business-like manner in which the* are carried out, despite their Wettability' and their popularity (the Richmond project wontbe

{Opposite) General plan

{Right) The development seen from the river

(Below) The South Gate iBelow right) Detail of the capital of a Corinthian pilaster

Johnnie Walker Award for 'being popular with the man in the street', and the Prince of Wales likes it too), as being on the same frontier where Kroll, Rossi or Rogers see themselves working. Terry perceives himself as part of an avant-garde, only one that is even more persecuted and excluded as a professional establishment than its 'radical' members. His campaign for a return to the traditional, classical values is carried out with as much intolerance and consistency as that of the radical avant gardists he seems to deplore so much. In the same interview quoted above, he confesses how much he dislikes Grieg and Rach-maninov. how much he adores the classical music of Mozart and Purcell, and with what extreme devotion he traces and proportions the profiles of his classical orders. And yet his own work rarely succeeds in comparison to the genuine classical compositions. It is almost as if he could read correctly the individual notes and chords of Mozart without being able to produce the phrases, to perceive the thematic structures, or to understand that the classical edifice as culture has more to do with cognition and drama than simply with the parade of capitals and cornices.

Pl i e h m. o n i K i v I r s i J c pi luster- t ji \ T A I to 1 he.

Gregotti Associati International

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