Postdoctoral Research Projects & PhD Dissertation

Postdoctoral Research Project at ETH Zürich (supervised by Prof. Tom Avermaete)

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The Travelling Architect’s Eye: Photography and Automobile Vision
This research project aims to investigate the status of the photographs that architects take during their travels by car. It is based on the hypothesis that the view from the car has established a new epistemology of the urban landscape and the territory at large. Focusing on the views from the car produced by the architects under study will help us to better understand how this epistemological shift influenced architectural thinking and practice. The automobile, since its invention, has reshaped our conceptions of space, revolutionizing the way architects perceive the city and contributing significantly to the transformation of the relationship between architecture and the city. One must not forget the importance of the car itself: indeed, no other factor changed the city so drastically during the twentieth century as the pervasive presence of the automobile, which had a very important impact not only on the ways one accesses the city, but also on the city’s own relation to its territory. The project will focus on the close examination of photographs taken by architects John Lautner (1911 – 1994), Alison and Peter Smithson (1928 – 1993 & 1923 – 2003) and Aldo Rossi (1931 – 1997), which will contribute to a broader understanding of the process of viewing and photographing scenes from the car, and of its elaboration of a “snapshot aesthetics” to capture contemporary urban life in its ordinariness and banality. A point of convergence between these architects’ approach is the attention they paid to the role played by automobile transport in the reorientation of how we perceive urban landscapes and territories. This project is based upon the conviction that a development of taxonomies of the photographs of these architects, according to scenography and subject matter, for instance, would permit to discern patterns in their approach to urban design, as well as in their conceptions of urban fabric. In parallel, it would help us comprehend how they categorized the elements of the landscapes that captured their attention.

The View from the Car: Autopia as a New Perceptual Regime

Marianna Charitonidou

This exhibition project entitled “The View from the Car: Autopia as a New Perceptual Regime” is based on the hypothesis that, through the visual juxtaposition of various photographs taken by several important architects of the 20th and 21st century from the car while travelling, the exhibition will make aware people about the impact of the car on the way we perceive the city. The exhibition will examine the status of the photographs that architects take during their travels by car and is based on the hypothesis that the view from the car has established a new epistemology of the urban landscape and the territory at large. The curatorship of the display of these photographs will offer the possibility to show visually the key hypotheses on which my research is based, and its key arguments and outcomes. Bringing together and juxtapose photographs and drawings from various archives conserved in several prestigious institutes and museums in both Europe and the United States, the exhibition aims to establish a transnational dialogue among scholars and architects regarding the epistemological mutations related to the new perceptual regimes that emerged thanks to the increasing role of the automobile in our quotidian experience of the cities. It will provide an overview of the role that photographing through the car played for the reinvention of the architectural and urban design strategies during the 20th and 21st century. This project aims to produce an exhibition and a catalogue that will focus on the architects’ automobile vision, bringing the results of my project to a broader international public, which should be informed about this important epistemological shift vis-à-vis the urban landscape.

Through the display of clusters of photographs that share the same epistemological concerns and their juxtaposition with drawings of projects on which the architects were working during the same periods they took the photographs that will be displayed in the exhibition it will become possible to render explicit visually the influence that the automobile vision had on the understanding of architecture and urban design as practice. The main objective of the exhibition is to communicate in a tangible and concrete way how the epistemological shifts related to the car are apparent in the ways the architects and urban designers conceived their projects. The exhibition, instead of including exclusively photographs by John Lautner, Alison and Peter Smithson, and Aldo Rossi – which are the main material resources under study in my postdoctoral project – will also include photographs taken during travelling by car by architects such as Le Corbusier, and Alvar Aalto, educators such as Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and art historians such as Sigfried Giedion in the framework of their travels for the well- known CIAM (Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne), conserved at the gta archives at ETH Zürich, and also an ensemble of photographs taken during travelling by car by certain architects of the Team 10, such as Jaap Bakema and Aldo van Eyck, also conserved at the gta archives at ETH Zürich. The possibility to include in the exhibition photographs by other architects as well apart from the three cases on which my postdoctoral research project is focused will render explicit the epistemological shifts related to the intensified impact of the car on the perception of the city and on the ways one transverses the city.

Postdoctoral research project at the National Technical University of Athens (supervised by Prof. Georgios Parmenidis)

The Fictional Addressee of Architecture as a Device for Exploring Post-colonial Culture: The Transformations of the Helleno-centric Approaches

This postdoctoral research project examines the relationships between architecture’s epistemology within the Greek and international contexts, scrutinizing their interdependences. It is focused on the analysis of three case studies: the travels to Greece of the Villa Medici pensionnaires in the 19th century, the trajectories of the architects of Mataroa, and the different approaches of bridging Helleno-centricism and modernism within the Greek context. The study aims to examine the following hypothesis: in periods of crisis what appears as the main domain of attraction regarding the ‘image’ of Greece is nature and its archetypal character, while in periods of normalization the ancient monuments constitute the main point of reference of the ‘image’ of Greece. Through the juxtaposition of the different ‘images’ of Greece and the way its antiquities and the travel to Greece are conceived as part of the ‘Grand Tour’ by the French, English, Italian and German architects and archaeologists, the project will trace a genealogy of the different conceptions of philhellenism within a transnational context. The understanding of how the conception of philhellenism has been transformed throughout time in relation with the politics corresponding to each era under study will be useful for understanding the different forms that the Helleno-centricism has been taking. Since the exchanges regarding the conception of the ‘image’ of Greece by the Greeks and the non-Greeks are interrelated, the method employed aims to understand both parts in a dynamic way. This methodological choice will offer us the opportunity to better conceive how the addressee of architecture changes throughout time in Greece and how its transformations are related to the different expressions that takes the Helleno-centric approach, which, despite its hybrid nature, can inform us regarding what is at stake at each historical time regarding the relationship of Greece with the exogenous models.

Postdoctoral research project at the Athens School of Fine Arts (supervised by Prof. Andreas Giacumacatos)

Constantinos A. Doxiadis and Adriano Olivetti’s Post-war Reconstruction Agendas in Greece and in Italy: Centralising and Decentralising the Political Apparatus

This project could be placed within a network of studies that aim to shed light on the complex relationships between the Cold War policies including the European Recovery Program (ERP), known as Marshall Plan, on the one hand, and architecture and urbanism, on the other hand. Its main objective is to provide a precise and deep understanding of how architecture and urban planning, which are related to the Marshall plan politics, contributed to the formation of national identity in both Greece and Italy. Within this context, the study places much importance on the interplay between urban planning and politics. In other words, this research is built upon the general understanding that the Marshall Plan played a crucial role in the reconstruction of Europe after the Second World War. Architecture and urbanism were very important in this respect. A starting point for the project is the identification of certain key players regarding the connection between the politics of the Marshall Plan and agendas for urban design, such as the Greek architect and town planner Constantinos A. Doxiadis (1913-1975) and the Italian industrialist Adriano Olivetti (1901-1960). In parallel, the project springs from the observation that a couple of monographic studies related to similar research topics have been conducted, but that there are as yet no comparative studies providing a clear understanding of how certain key players in both politics and urban planning, like Doxiadis and Olivetti, contributed to the formation of national identity in different national contexts. Both Doxiadis and Olivetti were agents within the Cold War and Marshall Plan policies and contributed to the different respective trajectories in which Greece and Italy respectively ended up, while using the Marshall Plan for their reconstruction after the Second World War.

Here you can read. an article (in Greek) related to this project

Doctoral Degree awarded unanimously on 13 September 2018 for my dissertation entitled “The Relationship between Interpretation and Elaboration of Architectural Form: Investigating the Mutations of Architecture’s Scope”

Marianna Charitonidou

Advisors: George Parmenidis (Professor NTUA), Jean-Louis Cohen (Sheldon H. Solow Professor in the History of Architecture Institute of Fine Arts of New York University) and Panayotis Tournikiotis (Professor NTUA)
Examiners and readers: George Parmenidis (Professor NTUA), Jean-Louis Cohen (Sheldon H. Solow Professor in the History of Architecture Institute of Fine Arts of New York University) and Panayotis Tournikiotis (Professor NTUA), Pippo Ciorra (Professor School of Architecture of Ascoli Piceno, University of Camerino, MAXXI), Constantinos Moraitis (Professor NTUA), Bernard Tschumi (Professor GSAPP Columbia University of New York) and Kostas Tsiambaos (Assistant Professor NTUA))

In my PhD dissertation, I examined how the concept of the addressee of architecture has transformed throughout the twentieth century, demonstrating how the mutations of the dominant means of representation in architecture are linked to the evolving significance of the city’s inhabitants. It presents the ways in which the reorientations regarding the dominant modes of representation depend on the transformations of architects’ conceptions of the notion of citizenship. Through the diagnosis of the epistemological debates corresponding to four successive generations – the modernists starting from the 1920s, the post-war era focusing on neorealist architecture and Team 10, the paradigm of autonomy and the reduction of architecture to its syntactics and to its visuality in the 1970s and the reinvention of the notion of the user and the architectural program through the event in the post-autonomy era – it identifies and analyses the mutations concerning the modes of representation that are at the heart of architectural practice and education in each generation under consideration. It traces the shifts from Le Corbusier and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s fascination with perspective to Alison and Peter Smithson’s Cluster City diagrams and Shadrach Woods’s “stem” and “web”, on to Peter Eisenman’s search for logical structures in architectural components’ formal relationships and his attraction to axonometric representation, and finally to the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) and Bernard Tschumi’s concern with uncovering the potentialities hidden in the architectural program. Special attention was paid to the concept of dispositif as understood by Michel Foucault. What interests me mostly regarding this concept is that it does not treat the heterogeneous systems – that is to say the object, subject, language, and so on – as homogeneous. In parallel, not only the different systems are characterised by heterogeneity, but the inside of each system is also understood as heterogeneous. In other words, the systems are composed by interacting forces that are at a continuous state of becoming, “always off balance”, to borrow Gilles Deleuze’s words. Such an understanding of the articulation of systems and of the relationships within each system implies that what is at the centre of the interest when an object of research is comprehended as dispositif are the relationships between all the parameters and the relationships between the interacting forces composing each parameter. My choice to place particular emphasis on the use of drawings as main means of evidence is based on the hypothesis that new conceptions of space and new modes of inhabitation are addressed through architectural design process before they have been theorised. These reinvented modes of assembling the real and the fictive dimension of architecture are addressed through written discourse much later than their concretisation though the establishment of specific dispositifs of architectural non-discursive signs. What I argued is that there is a time lag between the elaboration of new conceptions of fabrication of space assemblages and modes of inhabiting the constructed assemblages and their theorization. My research was based on the hypothesis that one can diagnose how the concept of architecture’s addressee is transformed through the study of how the modes of representation that are at the epicentre of the interest at each historical time change. The way the modes of representation change show how the conception of architecture’s addressee change. The realisation that at each historical era a certain mode of representation was privileged was pivotal. My strategy of interpreting how the architects conceive the notion of “architecture’s addressees” through the investigation of how they fabricate their drawings permitted me to examine conjointly two questions that in most cases are treated independently and in isolation one from the other: the question of the transformation of the modes of representation in architecture and the question of transformation of the concept of the addressee of architecture.

The methodological choice to use a means very specific to architecture, such as its very modes of representation, in order to diagnose the mutations of the way architecture incorporates or responds to situations that belong to different spheres, such as the social and political domains, reveals the articulations between architecture’s specificity and its social and institutional context. The PhD dissertation was based on a generational organisation and unfolded around four generations. For each generation, the research focused on certain emblematic architects that affected significantly the epistemology of architecture of the corresponding generation. Two aspects that are at the heart of the analysis are: how each of the architects under study conceive the “observers”, who interpret their architectural representations; how through the design of buildings they shape a model of “users”, who are to inhabit the spaces they conceive. In each representation, because of the fact that the conception of form in architecture addresses to a use, the construction of a “fictive user” takes necessarily place. The first generation, which includes Le Corbusier and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, is characterised by the tendency to define in a holistic and homogenised way the “fictive user”. The analysis shows how, during this period, the construction of the “fictive user” is focused on the assumption of the existence of a “universal user”. In the case of the second generation, which begins in 1945 and includes Ludovico Quaroni, Ernesto Nathan Rogers and Team 10, the concept of the “fictive user” is defined according to national contexts. In this period, we can discern the development of ethnocentric models not only in architecture but also in cinema as in the case of Neorealist Italian cinema. For the third generation, the analysis focuses on the modes of representation of John Hejduk, Peter Eisenman, Aldo Rossi and Oswald Mathias Ungers and shows how their approaches are related to the tension between the individual and the collective. An aspect that is also examined is how the architects under study corresponding to the third generation introduce the critique of functionalism in their design process. The fourth generation, which includes Rem Koolhaas and Bernard Tschumi, is characterised by the effort to reveal that within the same “fictive user” there are opposing trends and forces. The “fictive user”, therefore, is perceived as a fragmented and multidimensional subject. The thesis unfolds the reasons for which in each generation a mode of representation was privileged and shows how the primacy of specific modes of representation is linked to the way the “observers” of architectural drawings and the inhabitants or architectural artefacts are conceived.

Regarding the first generation, examined in the first part of the PhD dissertation entitled “The Homogeneous Aesthetes: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier’s Addressees”, I demonstrated that what was at the centre of interest during the modernist era was the individuality of architecture’s addressees and their bourgeois identity. Architecture, in this case, symbolized the property value. I examined the reasons for which Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier attached particular importance to the use of the perspective representation. The analysis of the particular features of these architects’ construction of perspective representations for their architectural projects was treated as a diagnostic mechanism. What my research diagnosed was how the above-mentioned architects conceived the relationship between universality and individuality, which was of particular importance not only to the above architects but also to the architectural modernist discourse in general. The second generation is examined in the second part of my PhD dissertation, entitled “Post-war Engaged Users as Activators of Change: Ludovico Quaroni, Ernesto Nathan Rogers and Team 10’s Addressees”. What was at the core of architectural epistemology in these creators’ work were the intensification of interest in the concept of user and the impact of the standardization of architecture on the concept of mass-production. The shift from an understanding of architecture’s addressee as individual towards its understanding as user occurred progressively. I could refer to the emergence of Ernst Neufert’s Bauentwurfslehre as a first sign of such a reorientation, but the most significant mutations occurred after WWII and are related to the ambiguity between citizenship and consumerism. In the third part of the PhD thesis entitled “Subjects as Interpreters of Signs: Peter Eisenman, John Hejduk, Aldo Rossi and Oswald Mathias Ungers’s Addressees”, I examined yet another shift in the understanding of architecture’s addressee: this time, rather than being apprehended as a user, he became a subject. I demonstrated how this conception implies that the meaning or signification of architecture cannot but be co-constructed by the architect and the addressee. The elaboration of the term “subject” implies the complementarity between object and subject and the complementarity between the architect and the addressee for the establishment of the meaning of architecture, reminding us the important fact that the interpretation of architecture depends on the de-codification of architecture by its addressee. In the fourth part of the PhD thesis entitled “The Fragmented Subjects as Actors of Programmatic Devices: Rem Koolhaas and Bernard Tschumi’s Addressees”, I analysed the processes through which Koolhaas and Tschumi converted the concept of program in architecture into a design strategy, taking as a starting point of the design process the dynamic nature of urban conditions.

In the following article you can read a more extended summary of my PhD Dissertation: Marianna Charitonidou, “Architecture’s Addressees: Drawing as Investigating Device,” in villardjournal 2, Università Iuav di Venezia, 2020.

My PhD dissertation was based on archival research in various archives at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal, Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, Fondation Le Corbusier in Paris, the Library of Congress in Washington DC and the Museum of Modern Art of New York (Mies van der Rohe papers), Avery Library’s Department of Drawings & Archives at Columbia University in New York, and Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo (Aldo Rossi papers) among other institutes.

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Η διάσταση ανάμεσα στην ερμηνεία και στη διαχείριση της αρχιτεκτονικής μορφής: διερευνώντας την αλλαγή του αντικειμένου της αρχιτεκτονικής

H διατριβή δομείται σε τέσσερα μέρη που αντιστοιχούν σε τέσσερις γενιές αρχιτεκτόνων, αναδεικνύοντας τα εννοιολογικά εργαλεία και τις μεθόδους προβληματοθεσίας που βρίσκονται στο επίκεντρο του αρχιτεκτονικού λόγου και της συνθετικής διαδικασίας κάθε ιστορική στιγμή. Διερευνάται ο μετασχηματισμός της αλλαγής του αντικειμένου της αρχιτεκτονικής μέσα από την ανάλυση των μεταλλαγών των μέσων αναπαράστασης που βρίσκονται στο επίκεντρο του ενδιαφέροντος σε κάθε γενιά που εξετάζεται και του στόχου απεύθυνσής τους.

Στο πρώτο μέρος της διατριβής αναδεικνύεται ότι αυτό που ήταν στο επίκεντρο του ενδιαφέροντος ήταν ο ατομικός και αστικός χαρακτήρας του αποδέκτη της αρχιτεκτονικής και η αρχιτεκτονική συμβολίζει την αξία της κατοχής της από τον αποδέκτη. Εξετάζονται οι λόγοι για τους οποίους οι αρχιτέκτονες Ludwig Mies van der Rohe και Le Corbusier προσδίδουν ιδιαίτερη σημασία στη χρήση της προοπτικής αναπαράστασης. Στο δεύτερο μέρος της διατριβής, που εστιάζει στο έργο των το έργο των Ludovico Quaroni, Ernesto Nathan Rogers και Team 10, εξετάζεται η εντατικοποίηση του ενδιαφέροντος για την έννοια του χρήστη και η επίδραση της τυποποίησης της αρχιτεκτονικής στη διαμόρφωση της έννοιας του μαζικού χρήστη. Στο τρίτο μέρος της διατριβής, που εστιάζει στο έργο των Peter Eisenman, John Hejduk, Aldo Rossi και Oswald Mathias Ungers, εξετάζεται η μεταστροφή από την κατανόηση του αποδέκτη της αρχιτεκτονικής ως χρήστη προς την κατανόηση του αποδέκτη της αρχιτεκτονικής ως υποκειμένου. Παράλληλα, αναδεικνύεται πως η μετάβαση από την κατανόηση του αποδέκτη της αρχιτεκτονικής ως χρήστη στην αντίληψή του ως υποκειμένου υποδηλώνει ότι η σημασιοδότηση της αρχιτεκτονικής συν-διαμορφώνεται από τον αρχιτέκτονα και τον αποδέκτη. Επιχειρείται μια διεξοδική διερεύνηση των επιστημολογικών μεταλλαγών που συνοδεύουν τον παραπάνω αναπροσανατολισμό της κατανόησης της έννοιας του αποδέκτη της αρχιτεκτονικής. Στο τέταρτο μέρος της διατριβής εξετάζονται οι διαδικασίες μέσω των οποίων οι αρχιτέκτονες Rem Koolhaas και Bernard Tschumi μετατρέπουν την έννοια του προγράμματος της αρχιτεκτονικής σε μηχανισμό αρχιτεκτονικής σύνθεσης, λαμβάνοντας ως σημείο εκκίνησης της σχεδιαστικής διαδικασίας τον δυναμικό χαρακτήρα των αστικών συνθηκών. Αναδεικνύεται ότι οι προσεγγίσεις των παραπάνω αρχιτεκτόνων και η σημασία που προσδίδουν στην κιναισθητική εμπειρία της αρχιτεκτονικής βασίζεται στην παραδοχή ότι εντός του ίδιου υποκειμένου υπάρχουν αντιμαχόμενες μεταξύ τους τάσεις και δυνάμεις.

Στα πλαίσια της διατριβής, παρουσιάζονται τα κύρια σημεία του μετασχηματισμού του αντικειμένου της αρχιτεκτονικής, που ακολουθούσε τον μετασχηματισμό αυτού στον οποίον απευθύνεται η αρχιτεκτονική σε κάθε εποχή. Η επιλογή να διερευνηθεί ένα ειδικό μέσο για την αρχιτεκτονική, όπως οι τρόποι λειτουργίας της αναπαράστασης, έγινε προκειμένου να διαγνωσθούν οι μεταλλάξεις του τρόπου με τον οποίο η αρχιτεκτονική ενσωματώνει ή ανταποκρίνεται σε καταστάσεις που ανήκουν σε ευρύτερες σφαίρες, όπως οι κοινωνικοί και πολιτικοί τομείς, οι αρθρώσεις μεταξύ της ειδικότητας της αρχιτεκτονικής και του κοινωνικού και θεσμικού πλαισίου της. Επίσης, αναδεικνύεται ότι οι σχέσεις μεταξύ των μέσων της αρχιτεκτονικής και της ευρύτερης σφαίρας μπορούν να γίνουν κατανοητές όταν η ανάλυση έχει ως αφετηρία την εξέταση του τι διακυβεύεται σε συγκεκριμένα αρχιτεκτονικά έργα.

Η διατριβή συστήνει ένα μεθοδολογικό εργαλείο κατανόησης των επάλληλων μετασχηματισμών του αντικειμένου του αρχιτεκτονικού σχεδιασμού μέσα από τον πραγματικό και φαντασιωτικό μετασχηματισμό αυτού στον οποίον απευθύνεται. Ιδιαίτερη έμφαση έχει δοθεί στην ανάλυση των μεταλλαγών των μεθόδων διδασκαλίας στις σχολές αρχιτεκτονικής που εξετάζονται και στη σχέση των μεταλλαγών αυτών με τους μετασχηματισμούς του επιστημολογικού αντικειμένου της αρχιτεκτονικής. Παράλληλα, διερευνάται η εξέλιξη της σχέσης της φιλοσοφίας με την αρχιτεκτονική κατά τον 20ο και 21ο αιώνα.

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Georgios Parmenidis, Professor NTUA
Jean-Louis Cohen, Sheldon H. Solow Professor in the History of Architecture, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University
Panayotis Tournikiotis Professor NTUA

Dissertation’s Examination Committee:

Georgios Parmenidis, Professor NTUA
Jean-Louis Cohen, Sheldon H. Solow Professor in the History of Architecture, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University
Panayotis Tournikiotis Professor NTUA
Pippo Ciorra, Professor School of Architecture of Ascoli Piceno, University of Camerino
Constantinos Moraitis, Professor NTUA
Bernard Tschumi, Professor GSAPP Columbia University of New York
Kostas Tsiambaos Assistant Professor NTUA

You can download the poster of my public PhD thesis defence here

Link to the website of the School of Architecture of the National Technical University of Athens 

Link to the website of the National Archive of PhD Theses

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cover volume one_PhD thesis Marianna Charitonidou

εξώφυλλο τόμος 2_Μαριάννα Χαριτωνίδου



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Photo taken during my public PhD defence on September 13, 2018

Η αφή της μνήμης: Επαναπροσδιορίζοντας το εικαστικό στην περίπτωση του Giueseppe Penone (2009)



Penoneπεριεχόμενα πενονε 2

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Giuseppe Penone, “Albero di dodici metri”, 1970