“The Heart of the City.”
In the unpublished version of Sert’s CIAM 8 opening address, which differs from the more well- known published version, he observed that “the majority of people in the cities have gone suburban,”
corresponding to “the trend of decentralization in cities.” Therefore,
“if we want to do something with our cities we have again to
talk in civic and urban terms.” For Sert, the only “real advantage of
living in a city” is “to get man together with man, and to get people
to exchange ideas and be able to discuss them freely.” In the emerging
suburbs, “news, or information, or vision, or images” comes from
television (which had just become widely available in 1950) or radio;
therefore “one sees what one is shown and hears what one is told.”
Sert found this “terribly dangerous,” since in the future “the people
in the suburbs would only see and hear” what those in control of
Boston architect Jean- Paul Carlhian
taught a Design of Cities course, and Constructivist sculptor Naum
Gabo taught Design Research with Sert associate Joseph Zalewski.
In 1954–55, Italian CIAM member Ernesto Rogers taught a studio
and Theory of Architectural Composition as a visitor. In remarks
in a CIAM 8 discussion on “Visual Expression at the Core,” Rogers
had rejected a distinction between “eternal art and temporary art,”
saying, “each time we draw a line we should do it as though it were
He had elaborated this position in his famous Casabella
manifesto, “Continuity,” in which he stated,
“No work is truly modern which is not genuinely rooted in tradition,”refl ecting the strongly “contextual” direction of much postwar Italian Modernism.
This position of the Italian CIAM group would be harshly challenged by the Smithsons at CIAM ’59 in Otterlo, and the rejection of it was one of the main reasons for the demise of CIAM. At Harvard at this time, on the other hand, one can see Sert and Rogers defining a conservative Modernist position in which the cultural and political importance of pedestrian central cities becomes a central value for Modern architecture. At the same time, they and Giedion revalued
“history” within this new framework of urban design, offering the
models of historic urban spaces to students in the same context as
the latest urbanistic works of Le Corbusier, Lúcio Costa and Oscar
Niemeyer, Sert, and Bakema.
“Architecture and Urban Design are but a single profession. Design is at the heart of these efforts.” Indeed, it certainly seems that Chermayeff and Soltan precisely articulate the emerging trajectory of urban design’s development within the school and perhaps in practice as well— as an extension of architecture,
not something inherently different. Interestingly, Willo von Moltke, chairman of the Department of Urban Design at the GSD, in a move away from the other architectural defi nitions, stated that “Urban Design is not architecture. The function of urban design, its purpose and objective, is to give form and order to the future. As with the master plan, urban design provides a master program and master form for urban growth. It is primarily a collaborative effort involving
other professions.” It seems to me that in these two statements
we see clearly the issue that urban design has yet to resolve, for while
Chermayeff and Soltan clearly claim urban design as an extension of
architecture, they fail to say how it is, and while von Moltke rejects
their assertions, his own defi nition is likewise insuffi cient.
Ten of those replying refused to commit themselves to a defi nition.
Four “noes” were due to busyness— Paul Rudolph was in this category.
Three “noes” asserted that defi ning urban design was impossible.
Robert Moses response was short, “I am unable to comply with
your request,” as was Frank Lloyd Wright’s, “I am not interested.” But
Le Corbusier asserted, albeit quite generally, the form urban design
should take: “Urbanism is the most vital expression of a society. The
task of urbanism is to organize the use of the land to suit the works of
man, which fall into three categories:
1. The unit of agricultural production;
2. The linear industrial city;
3. The radio- concentric city of exchange (ideas, government, commerce). Urbanism is a science with three dimensions. Height is as important to it as the horizontal expanse.”
Richard Neutra wrote, “Giving shape to a community and moulding its activities is urban design. It deals with the dynamic features in space, but in time as well.” Walter Gropius wrote, “Good urban design represents that consistent effort to create imaginatively the living spaces of our urban surroundings.
“The Heart of the City.”