Roma Interrotta

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Roma Interrotta: Sector IV / Urban Components

Amid this gamut of responses, that of Stirling stood out for its refusal to enter into any kind of utopian urbanism and in the distance it took from the other entries. And, despite Stirling's own reference to Rowe's "Collage City" model, his approach was anything but collagist, and owed as little to Rowe as it did to Krier[?]. Indeed, if an analogue might be found it would still be that of Rossi, with his belief in articulated typologies.
Anthony Vidler, James Frazer Stirling: Notes from the Archive (New Haven: 2010), p. 213.

James Stirling + Partner, Roma Interrotta: Sector IV (1978).
Megalomania is the privilege of a chosen few. Piranesi who made his plan in 1761 was surely a megalomaniac frustrated architect (MFA), as also Boullee, Vanbrugh, Soane, Sant'Elia, Le Corbusier, etc., and it is within this distinguished company as an MFA architect that we make our proposal. The megalomaniac architect is most frustrated with regard to projects designed but not built, so the initial decision was to revise Nolli's plan incorporating all our unbuilt works. Soon we were trying to incorporate the entire oeuvre, and in order to sustain a momentum a rigorous method was necessary. Therefore the selection of projects, is limited to those appropriate to aspects of context and association either to the circumstances of 1748, or to JS projects at the time they were designed--sometimes to both. ....
A selection had to be made of existing buildings and places essential to preserve/integrate/intensify, and this, along with contextual, associational, topographical, prototypical, typological, symbological, iconographical and archaeological considerations, has helped integrate JS projects.
This 'contextual - associational' way of planning is somewhat akin to the historic process (albeit timeless) by which the creation of built form is directly influenced by the visual setting and is a confirmation and a complement to that which exists. This process may be similar to that of 'Collage City' (and the teaching of Colin Rowe), and the working method of a few architects (e.g.: O M Ungers), and stands in comparison to the irrationality of most post-war planning--supposedly 'rational', but frequently achieving a reversal of natural priorities.
James Stirling, "Nolli Sector IV - James Stirling," Architectural Design (vol. 49, no. 3-4, 1979).

It is obvious that Stirling cared deeply for his unbuilt works, and he was no doubt well aware of the unfortunate dormancy of architectural designs destined to exist only as drawings. It is quite natural to ponder a "what if" world when looking at the plans and elevations of buildings that were never built. Similar to Michel Foucault's "archeological" methodology, which penetrates into the past seeking thoughts that are no more but perhaps once were, Stirling unearthed a "virtual city/museum" of his own architecture within the context of eighteenth-century Rome. The scheme is like a temporal inversion of Piranesi's Ichnographia of the Campo Marzio where, instead of a past Rome that never was, the plan presents a future Rome that will never be.
Stephen Lauf, Precedent XII (Quondam: seeking precedents... ...finding inspiration exhibit, 1997.03.20).

Leon Krier, Urban Components (In Plan and Silhouette) (1976).

The zoning of modern cities has resulted in the random distribution of both public and private buildings. The artificiality and wastefulness of zoning has destroyed our cities.
Leon Krier, "Leon Krier - Houses, Palaces, Cities," Architectural Design, vol. 54, no. 7-8, 1979.

In his effort to illustrate the ill effects of a modern zoning that caters largely to particular ends rather than acting in deference to a wider context, Krier chose to diagrammatically represent both the haphazard placement of buildings as well as the excessive pluralism of late-modern architectural design. Furthermore, the superimposition of a bold red "X" over the diagram makes it visually obvious that Krier wishes to negate this condition.

Although inauspicious, Krier's sketch, nonetheless, inadvertently provides what is essentially a rare pictorial interpretation of the real condition prevalent in today's built environment. Thus, when looked at in a slightly positive light, and without much further use of the imagination, Krier's simple sketch readily becomes what may best be described as a virtual museum of desultory late-twentieth-century architecture.
Stephen Lauf, Precedent XI (Quondam: seeking precedents... ...finding inspiration exhibit, 1997.03.20).

(Stirling's) Urban Components

Within Leon Krier's diagram of Urban Components of 1976 there are a few not so subtle references to the architecture of James Stirling, and, therefore, the overall negative tone of Krier's drawing is also an indirect critique of Stirling's modernist architectural style. Krier was once closely associated with Stirling's architectural practice, and indeed was the delineator of many Stirling designs. The association ended on less than positive terms, however, and therefore Krier's diagram may also be a reflection of that unfortunate occurrance. Stirling, on the other hand and not to be outdone, twelve years later takes one of the buildings within Krier's diagram and applies it to his Seville Stadium Development design of 1988, thereby adding an ambiguous symbioses between precedent and inspiration.
Stephen Lauf, Inspiration XI (Quondam: seeking precedents... ...finding inspiration revised exhibit, 1998.11.03).

2003.01.10 19:02
Re: the dead end of urbanism as we know it
Check out Le Corbusier's plan for rebuilding Berlin (1958, a few years before the wall) at the end of volume 7 of the Oeuvre Complete. In retrospect, it is almost bizarre in its intentions. Note the reenactment of Chandigarh's Great Assembly next to the Reichstag! And the gigantic pronged towers scattered in the east. Urbanism, architecturism and spacism all in one plan.

It's funny. I really like this plan, and would love to see it executed, but not at the cost of losing Berlin in the process. If Disney, for example, ever wants to (again) do a great thematic 'FutureTown' (they actually called it TomorrowLand, didn't they?) they should simply enact this plan, and maybe put a big wall around it. I think I'd even like to live there. A kind of beyond virtual Berlin, like a new double Berlin, again.
And here's something that's really interesting in its obscurity. Remember all those little sketches depicting bad modern building design that Leon Krier used to draw as contrast to his 'good' designs? I'm betting big money that Krier actually used the axonometric of Le Corbusier's Berlin plan (OC, vol. 7, p.234) as 'inspiration'. The 'lightening-bolt buildings just south of the Tiergarten are a dead give-a-way. Now I know why I always thought those sketches were actually the best buildings Krier ever designed.

2003.01.11 13:29
Re: the dead end of urbanism as we know it
Here are some digital snapshots of Le Corbusier's plan for Berlin, 1958, plus a sketch by Krier and a project by Stirling/Wilford.

Chandigarh and Reichstag

gigantic towers in the east

1988: Seville: Stadium Development lightening-bolt buildings

Roma Interrotta: Sector IV -- 1978

Urban Components (In Plan and Silhouette) -- 1976

International Planning Competition for Berlin -- 1958

New Not There City -- 2013



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