1. I am very delighted that my proposal for an article entitled “Gottfried Semper’s Perplexity Before the Crystal Palace: Stoffwechsel as Osmosis between Decorative Objects and Architecture” has been selected by the committee of the journal FACES. My article will be published in the forthcoming 77th issue of FACES! https://www.facesmagazine.ch/numeros/
Gottfried Semper’s Perplexity Before the Crystal Palace: Stoffwechsel as Osmosis between Decorative Objects and Architecture
This paper examines how Gottfried Semper’s approach triggered the shift from an understanding of ornament as artefact to an experimental model. In parallel, it reveals the implications of such a reorienta- tion of the concept of ornament for both design and architecture. Pivotal for this shift was Semper’s “On the Formal Principles of Adornment and its Meaning as a Symbol in Art” (1856), which marks, firstly, a relocation of the quest for demonstration to theorisation, and, secondly, an intensification of the interaction between graphic illustration and abstract speculation. What is argued here is that Semper’s cosmological inquiries on ornamentation enacted a comprehension of ornaments as non-autonomous objects, upgrading them into reflective devices.
Semper was in exile in London between 1850 and 1855, after his escape from Dresden on 9 May 1849 when Prussian and Saxon troops defeated the revolt in which he had participated in support of democratic rights and the unity of the German state. The presentation will focus on Semper’s comments on the 1851 Great London Exhibition, and especially on his critical remarks regarding Sir Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace whose design for the Great Exhibition had been accepted in the summer of 1850. Some months later, in February 1951, Semper drafted a school programme including lessons for engineers and architects. In March of the same year, Edwin Chadwick invited Semper, on behalf of Paxton, to become an assistant of the latter while working on the Crystal Palace. Semper rejected this offer, presenting as an excuse his involvement in the establishment of a school for architects in London, which, as he stated, had garnered publicity in the German and Swiss newspapers. Despite the fact that Semper interpreted the Great London Exhibition as a “world phenomenon” representing contemporary cultural conditions, he described the sentiments that a walk through it provoked as a “Babylonian confusion”, claiming that the perplexity it induced prevented an intelligible perception of the exhibited objects, making the impression they instigated non-compatible with his aspiration for a “practical heuristics” system.
My objective is to examine whether the questions that arose in Semper’s mind when experiencing the Crystal Palace pushed him to question the understanding of architecture that he had previously developed in The Four Elements of Architecture , which was published shortly before his arrival in London, according to a distinction into four elements: the hearth, the roof, the enclosure and the mound. Additionally, I will investigate the extent to which his encounter with the Crystal Palace played a role in his use of the concept of stoffwechsel, which Semper introduced from biology in order to describe the material transformation of artistic forms. The elaboration of this notion allowed Semper to argue for replacing the conception of ornament as artefact by its understanding as architectural element. In other words, it is through this concept that Semper defended his integration of the decorative object into the history of architecture. These questions will be discussed in relation to an analysis of why Practical Art in Metal and Hard Materials (1852) was pivotal for the re-invention of decorative objects’ meaning.
3. My paper entitled “From Harlem to New Haven: The Emergence of the Advocacy Planning Movement in the late 1960s” was published in the proceedings of the international conference of the Jaap Bakema centre “Architecture and Democracy 1965-1989: Urban Renewal, Populism and the Welfare State” (Convener: Dirk van den Heuvel (Jaap Bakema Study Centre). Advisory Board: Tom Avermaete (ETH Zü-rich), Hetty Berens (HNI), Guus Beumer (HNI), Maristella Casciato (Getty Research Institute), Dick van Gameren (TU Delft), Carola Hein (TU Delft), Laurent Stalder (ETH Zürich))
This paper examines the advocacy planning movement and the socio-political climate of civil rights around 1968, focusing on two case studies that are closely connected to the critique of urban renewal in the United States: firstly, the founding of the Architect’s Renewal Committee in Harlem (ARCH), the first organization solely devoted to advocacy planning in the United States, and secondly, the establishment of the City Planning Forum at Yale School of Art and Architecture, an independent governing body which consisted of all full-time faculty members and students and – in dialogue with the civil rights movement – had as its main purpose to bring greater diversity to the department. Special attention is paid to the approaches of advocacy planner C. Richard Hatch and advocacy-inclined city-planner Christopher Tunnard, Chairman of the Department of City Planning of Yale University’s School of Art and Architecture between 1966 and 1969. The advocacy planning approaches considered urban renewal to be incompatible with any kind of socially effective approach to urban planning. The ARCH was concerned with changing the architect’s role and replacing the idea of city building with that of city living. Max Bond, its executive director, believed that “architect[s] should be […] representative[s] of the poor people, responding to their wishes, rather than […] advocate[s] of the white middle class imposing its compartmentalizing values and gridiron street plan upon Black and Spanish-speaking people who have quite other social ideals”. This concern about involving neighbourhoods in the planning of their own housing became a central issue in the Department of City Planning at Yale School of Art and Architecture after the appointment of Tunnard as Chairman in 1966. Tunnard, who, since 1954, had established City Planning at Yale, largely criticised the involvement of Yale University in urban renewal projects in New Haven. In 1969, a group of students from the Department of City Planning of Yale University’s School of Art and Architecture, who marshalled a critique against the university’s role in the top-down urban renewal strategies, founded a new governance committee named City Planning Forum, which soon joined the Black Workshop, an activist group formed by ten African American design students in late 1968.
My aim is to shed light on the emergence of the advocacy planning movement around 1968 and its aspiration to respond to the fulfilment of needs related to the welfare of society as a whole and the responsibility to provide equal housing opportunities and equal access to public amenities regardless of race, religion, or national origin. ARCH and City Planning Forum’s aspiration to democratize urban planning should be understood within the context of the struggle over civil rights for African Americans in the United States in the 1960s. A paradox underlying their efforts is the fact that, despite their intention to broaden opportunities in participation, they were based on policies that maintained the centrality of federal aid and the prominence of professional expertise. The paper examines to what extent their strategies were aligned with the ambition of President Johnson’s Great Society to renew citizens’ role without undermining existing institutions. Special attention is paid to the tension between the intention of advocacy planning approaches to bring equality into the planning process and the risk of being co-opted by a local bureaucracy or a more powerful interest group.
4. My essay entitled “Music as a Reservoir of Thought’s Materialisation: Between Metastaseis and Modulor?” will be published in the edited volume Aberrant Nuptials: Deleuze and Artistic Research 2, edited by Paulo de Assis and Paolo Giudici. Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2019.
5. Marianna Charitonidou, “An Action towards Humanization: Doorn Manifesto in a Transnational Perspective,” in Nuno Correia, Maria Helena Maia, Rute Figueiredo, eds., Revisiting the Post-CIAM Generation: Debates, Proposals and Intellectual Framework. Porto: IHA/FCSH-UNL, CEAA/ESAP-CESAP, 2019, 68-86.
You can download my paper entitled “An action towards Humanization. Doorn manifesto in a transnational perspective” here:
In 1957, Ernesto Nathan Rogers, in “Continuità o Crisi?”, published in Casabella Continuità, considered history as a process, highlighting that history can be understood as being either in a condition of continuity or in a condition of crisis “accordingly as one wishes to emphasize either permanence or emergency”. A year earlier, Le Corbusier in a diagram he sent to the tenth CIAM at Dubrovnik, he called attention to a turning point within the circle of the CIAM, maintaining that after 1956 its dominant approach had been characterised by a reorientation of the interest towards what he called “action towards humanisation”. The paper examines whether this humanising process is part of a crisis or an evolution, on the one hand, and compares the directions that were taken regarding architecture’s humanisation project within a transnational network, on the other hand. An important instance regarding this reorientation of architecture’s epistemology was the First International Conference on Proportion in the Arts at the IX Triennale di Milano in 1951, where Le Corbusier presented his Modulor and Sigfried Giedion, Matila Ghyka, Pier Luigi Nervi, Andreas Speiser and Bruno Zevi intervened among others. The debates that took place during this conference epitomise the attraction of architecture’s dominant discourse to humanisation ideals.
In a different context, the Doorn manifesto (1954), signed by the architects Peter Smithson, John Voelcker, Jaap Bakema, Aldo van Eyck and Daniel van Ginkel and the economist Hans Hovens-Greve and embraced by the younger generation, is interpreted as a climax of this generalised tendency to “humanise” architectural discourse and to overcome the rejection of the rigidness of the modernist ideals. This paper presents how the debates regarding the Doorn manifesto evolved in the pages of the following journals: The Architectural Review, Architectural Design, Casabella Continuità, Arquitectura, L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui and Forum. An aspect that is closely investigated is that of which epistemological tools coming from other disciplines – philosophy, sociology, anthropology and so on – are more dominant in each of these architectural journals. The fact that each of these journals is closely connected to a specific national context – U.K., Italy, Portugal, France and Holland respectively – offers the opportunity to discern to what disciplines architecture was attracted within these different contexts during its effort to “humanise” its discourse and conceptual tools.
6. 14 January 2018 Publication of “The Architectural Drawing as a Mechanism for Investigating the Epistemological Changes of Architecture” (“Το αρχιτεκτονικό σχέδιο ως μηχανισμός διερεύνησης των επιστημολογικών μεταλλαγών της αρχιτεκτονικής”) in Archetype
7. 30 November 2018 Publication of “Some thoughts on the lecture cycle of Andreas Giacumacatos ‘Traveling in 6 Cities: Six Lectures on Architecture’” (“Κάποιες σκέψεις με αφορμή τον κύκλο διαλέξεων του Ανδρέα Γιακουμακάτου ‘Ταξίδι σε 6 πόλεις: Έξι διαλέξεις για την αρχιτεκτονική”) in Archetype
8. Forthcoming Publication of my article “Architecture’s Addressees: Drawing as Investigating Device,” in villardjournal 2, Università Iuav di Venezia, Selected according to double peer review process.
The article examines how the concept of the addressee of architecture is transformed, demonstrating how the mutations of the dominant ways of representation in architecture are linked to the evolution of the significance of the city’s inhabitants. It presents how the reorientations regarding the dominant modes of representation depend on the transformations of the way architects conceive 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 the 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 shift from Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe’s fascination with perspective to the Smithson’s Cluster City diagrams and Shadrach Woods’ “stem” and “web” to Peter Eisenman’s search for logical structures architectural components’ formal relationship and his attraction to axonometric representation to Bernard Tschumi’s concern with uncovering the potentialities hidden in the architectural program.
9. Forthcoming Publication of my article “The Immediacy of Urban Reality in Postwar Italy: Between Neorealism and Tendenza’s Instrumentalization of Ugliness,” in Architecture and Ugliness. Anti-Aesthetics in Postmodern Architecture, edited by Thomas Mical and Wouter van Acker, London and New York: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2019.
Ugliness was used as a productive category in post-war Italian architecture. This chapter unfolds the debate among protagonists of Tendenza (Ernesto Nathan Rogers and Aldo Rossi) and neorealist architecture (Ludovico Quaroni and Mario Ridolfi) about the notion of ugliness in Italian cities after the Second World War, aesthetic views informed by the post-war urban reality. Rogers, Rossi, Ridolfi and Quaroni believed that post-war (sub)urbanization contributed to the ‘uglification’ of cities. An analysis of the design of the Torre Velasca project (1950–8) by Ludovico Belgiojoso, Enrico Peressutti and Ernesto Nathan Rogers (BBPR), and the development of the Tiburtino district (1949–54) by Ludovico Quaroni and Mario Ridolfi, in collaboration with certain young Roman architects, such as Carlo Aymonino, reveals how the anti-aesthetic and anti-elitist stance of Tendenza and neorealist architects was applied. The essay thus sheds light on the shared intention of Tendenza and neorealist architects to reformulate the ways in which we judge architecture. They theorized and built new models for urban expansion, and with these models established new criteria for evaluating urban aesthetics that took into consideration the struggle for social reconstruction characteristic of post-war Italian cities. The emergence of such new models by which to evaluate the aesthetics of a city is interpreted as a symptom of the debate regarding the reconstruction of the city’s identity after 1945.
The paradoxical effect of both estrangement and familiarization at Torre Velasca creates a tension between ‘continuità’ and ‘preesistenze ambientali’ that Rogers espoused in Tendenza architecture. Paci’s view of the relation- ship between past and present helps us to see how both could exist at the same time: ‘It is while questioning the past (but not by becoming the past) that I understand the present and the interest of the present for its own transformation.’ Similarly, what is at stake in Rossi’s concept of analogy is a process of defamiliarization, which intensifies the semantic ambiguity Quaroni explored in his response to complexity of the modern city. The transformation of the status of the architect and his architecture has the potential to bring about the ‘città meravigliosa’, a term from his La torre di Babele, where he insists on the capacity of the ancient city to express what he called ‘qualità diffusa’. Quaroni’s quest for a diffuse or widespread quality is founded on his intention to conceive ‘new forms of developed fabric’, like his Tiburtino district, that responded ‘to current housing needs, and to the requirements of ready-made and quantitative multiplication’. In replacing beautiful/ugly with vital/non-vital, Quaroni demonstrates that the concepts of ‘città meravigliosa’ and ‘qualità diffusa’ cannot be understood without untying their existential load, which, as in Rogers’ and Rossi’s cases, moralizes ugliness. This appropriation of estrangement and defamiliarization and their existential implications justifies neorealism’s and Tendenza’s aestheticization of the ugliness of post-war Italian cities.
10. Publication of my article “Le récit autobiographique d’Aldo Rossi : introspection ou rétrospection ?,” in L’Homme & la société
11. “Aldo Rossi’s Transatlantic Cross-fertilisation: American ‘Urban Facts’ and Reinvention of Design Methods,” in ALDO ROSSI. Perspectives from the World International Conference, forthcoming publication of proceedings
Marianna Charitonidou, “Aldo Rossi’s Transatlantic Cross-fertilization: American ‘Urban Facts’ and Reinvention of Design Methods”, in Marco Bovati et al, eds., Aldo Rossi, Perspectives from the World. Theory, Teaching, Design & Legacy. Padova: Il Poligrafo, Biblioteca di Architettura series, 2020, p. 166-173.
12. September 2018 “Between Urban Renewal and Nuova Dimensione: The 68 Effects vis-à-vis the Real,” in Histories of Postwar Architecture, no. 2 (2018): 1- 25.
13. December 2017 “Revisiting the Debate around Autonomy in Architecture. A Aenealogy,” in Critic|all, Vol. 2. Book of Findings, edited by Silvia Colmenares. Madrid: DPA Prints. Architectural Design Department, ETSAM-UPM, 2017.
14. December 2017 “Archives of Architecture Museums: The Effects of Digitisation/ Archieven van architectuurmusea: de effecten van digitalisering,” Journal for Architecture OASE 99 (2017), TheArchitecture Museum Effect/ De effecten van architectuurmusea, p. 77–81.
15. July 2017 “Artefactual Value and Virtual Archives: The Digital Curator vis-à-vis the Plurality of Entry Points”, Journal de l’Université d’été de la Bibliothèque Kandinsky, 4, July 2017. ISSN: 2427-4119
16. December 2016 “Réinventer la posture historique: les débats théoriques à propos de la comparaison et des transferts,” in Espaces et Sociétés, 2016/4 (n° 167) ISBN: 9782749253541, ISSN: 0014-0481
Reinventing the Historical Posture: Theoretical Debates on Comparison and Transfers
This article presents a debate on historical comparison by reexamining the links between historical comparison and other disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. The questions guiding this debate are the following: What does comparison mean in history, beyond a simple debate on the comparability of sources? How can historical comparisons transcend national frames of reference? How do historians situate themselves in relation to other disciplines on the comparison of cultural transfers? How can one characterize the content of these debates? My intent in this article is to better outline the distinctions between a comparative approach, cross-cultural history, comparative history, the study of transfers, and a transnational approach to historical comparison. Thus, by revisiting these concepts and their origins, and by reexamining the relationship between these concepts and methods, my aim is to, on the one hand, present the internal debates on “definitions” and, on the other hand, to address programmatic perspectives of different historiographical postures.
Cet article présente les débats sur la comparaison en histoire. Il s’agit de revisiter les liens de la comparaison en histoire avec d’autres disciplines des sciences humaines et sociales. Les questions qui guident la présentation des débats théoriques sont les suivantes : Que signifie comparer en histoire, au-delà des débats sur la comparabilité des sources ? Comment la comparaison en histoire pourrait-elle désigner les transferts au-delà des cadres nationaux ? Comment les historiens se situent-ils par rapport aux autres disciplines à l’égard de la comparaison et des transferts culturels ? Quel est le contenu de leurs débats ? L’intention de retracer les distinctions entre la démarche comparée, l’histoire croisée, l’histoire connectée, l’étude des transferts et la démarche transnationale en histoire conduit le récit de cet article. En réexaminant les notions et leurs origines, et les relations entre les notions et les méthodes on vise, d’une part, à présenter les débats internes sur les « définitions » et, d’autre part, aborder les perspectives programmatiques des différentes postures historiographiques.
Reinventar la postura histórica: los debates teóricos sobre la comparación y las transferencias
Este artículo presenta el debate sobre la comparación en historia. Se trata de revisar sus relaciones con otras disciplinas de las humanidades y de las ciencias sociales. Las preguntas que guían la presentación de los debates teóricos son las siguientes: ¿Qué significa comparar en historia, más allá de los debates sobre la comparabilidad de las fuentes? ¿Cómo la comparación en historia podría designar las transferencias más allá de los marcos nacionales? ¿Cómo se sitúan los historiadores con respecto a otras disciplinas en cuanto a la comparación y a las transferencias culturales? ¿Cuál es el contenido de sus debates? Este artículo tiene la intención de discutir las diferencias entre el método comparado, la historia transcultural, la historia conectada, el estudio de las transferencias y el enfoque transnacional en Historia. Reexaminando los conceptos y sus orígenes, y las relaciones entre los conceptos y los métodos, se pretende, por un lado, presentar los debates internos sobre las “definiciones” y, por otro, abordar las perspectivas programáticas desde diferentes posturas historiográficas.
Plan de l’article:
- Origines des notions et construction des « comparables »
- Les démarches comparatives en histoire et en sociologie
- Les méthodes de l’histoire croisée
- Les méthodes de l’histoire connectée
- Les méthodes des études sur les transferts culturels
- Les méthodes de l’histoire transnationale
- Pour conclure : comment réconcilier le décentrement et la contextualisation des méthodes historiques ?
17. November 2016 “From Semiology to Deconstruction: Metaphysics and Subject”, in Research in Architecture, edited by Giorgos Parmenidis, Athens National Technical University of Athens, p. 374-399.
18. September 2016 Publication of my article “From the Search for a Helleno-centric Modernity to a Multiplicity of the Present: ‘Greekness’ in Architecture or Architecture in Greece?” in Greek architecture in the 20th and 21st century, edited by Andreas Giacumacatos (Athens: Gutenberg) ISBN 978-960-01-1794-3
19. June 2016 Publication of my article “The Debate between Contextualism and Autonomy in Architecture: a Genealogy” in the proceedings of the II International Conference on Architectural Design & Criticism critic|all at the Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. ISBN: 978-84-608-9062-1.
20. June 2016 “Towards a Narrative of Connected Geographies: Display of Architecture and Transnational History” in the Proceedings of the fourth European Architectural History International Meeting, Dublin Castle, 2-4th June 2016. ISBN 978-1-5262-0376-2
In order to shed light on the ways in which the adoption of a historiographical point of view regarding the construction of national identity can be depicted through the conception of architecture exhibitions we could compare the following two exhibitions: World War II and the American Dream: How Wartime Building Changed a Nation National, which took place at the Building Museum in 1994, and Architecture in Uniform: Designing and Building for the Second World War, which took place at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in 2011 and was transferred to the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine in Paris and to the MAXXI in Rome in 2014. The first exhibition included in its material a range of building projects undertaken during the wartime; its main aspiration was to show how they contributed to technical innovations and social changes concerning postwar architectural production. The catalog that accompanied this exhibition addressed the chronology and architectural, technological, social, military and planning legacy of wartime. The exhibition aimed to show how the materials of wartime building and the visual language of their representation influenced architecture. The focus of the exhibition was centered on the nation, since, as the poster at its entrance reflected, its purpose was to present “how a wartime building change a nation”. By contrast, the second exhibition, which treated wartime technological products as components of the puzzle of the interactions of different national contexts, escaped the danger of celebrating economic productivity, political organization, and social consensus within the constrains of a national perspective. This was made possible through the inventive narrative zig-zags of its sequence, which was based on cross-sections that shed light on the policies undertaken in parallel by the belligerents jumping from one significant place to another, from Los Angeles to London and from Auschwitz to Moscow. In this case, the use of archival material coming from different institutions in different national contexts as well as their historical interpretation played a key role. Its main purpose was to make visible and comprehensible to the spectator that every fragment of the history narrated can take on different meanings if the interpreter adopts a different point of view. The curator based the research and its display on archival material coming from different institutions in order to make explicit the deformations that can take place because of the change of the perspective from which the events are diagnosed. The historical archival research preceding the exhibition was based on material coming from different institutions. Its narrative instead of producing consistencies it aimed to reveal disruptions. My presentation aims to show how architecture exhibitions are able to reveal different sets of cultural meanings through the strategies according to which the artefacts, that constitute their material, are articulated and through the tactics according to which the sequence of their narrative is conceived, functioning as a vehicle of transnational historiographical research.
21. December 2015 “Revisiting the encounters of the social concern with the utopian aspirations: is a crisis of utopia and utopian thinking under way?,” in Critic|all, Vol. 1. Book of Findings, edited by Silvia Colmenares. Madrid: DPA Prints. Architectural Design Department, ETSAM-UPM, 2015. ISBN: 978-84-944265-2-0
22. November 2015 Publication of my essay “L’AUA entre le Team 10 et le postmodernisme” in the catalogue of the exhibition entitled “Une architecture de l’engagement : l’AUA 1960-1985” at the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine in Paris, curated by Jean-Louis Cohen and Vanessa Grossman (Editions La Découverte et Cité de l’architecture & du patrimoine) ISBN: 978-2-37368-006-5
23. December 2014 “Historiography of Architecture in Greece between XX and XXI Century: Architecture and Arts between “Greekness” and Globalization” in Art History journal ISSN: 2241 – 7338
24. June 2014 “Revisiting the Encounters of the Social Concerns with the Utopian Aspirations: Is a Crisis of Utopia and Utopian Thinking Under Way?,” proceedings of the I International Conference on Architectural Design & Criticism critic|all (Madrid 12-14 June 2014) ISBN: 978-84-697-0424-0
25. May 2014 “Historiography of the Interwar Period as a Reflection of the Ideological Constructions,” proceedings of the “1st Colloquium of History of Architecture in Greece” on the historiography of architecture in Greece in the 20th and 21st century “Art and architecture: between local and globalisation”, organised by the School of Fine Arts in Athens
26. May 2013 “Scripting Cultures, Parametric Urbanism and Adaptive Ecologies,” in the Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Intelligent Environments Intelligent Cities // Intelligent Users (16-19 July 2013, Athens, Greece). ISBN: 978-1-61499-285-1 (print) | 978-1-61499-286-8 (online)
27. December 2010 Publication of the Greek translation of Le Corbusier’s “Le poème de lʼangle droit” (1953) in the book Vers L.C. Contre: 16 + 9 positions for the actuality of Le Corbusier (Athens Futura, 2010) in collaboration with Lois Papadopoulos. ISBN: 978-960-9489-06-5