Theses Doctoral

Architecture, History, and the City: Reconceptualizing Architectural Modernity between Italy and Iberia, 1968-1980

Caldeira, Marta

This dissertation studies a critical turn in Southern European discourses on urban form, one that shaped new approaches to political engagement in architecture and urbanism in the 1970s. Beginning in the 1960s, a group of left-leaning architects and intellectuals in Italian academia, concerned with the effects of speculative development on urban populations, theorized a new political approach to the city based on critical histories of urban form. I argue that this discourse on urban form carried an “historical imperative”—a demand to analyze the history of a city prior to any plan or project. Essential to this imperative was the idea that the history of modernity, in its processes of development and social relations, was inscribed in urban form. Accessing this knowledge via urban analysis meant accessing tools to reposition the architectural profession and critically engage with the development of the city. This study examines the discourses on urban form in the context of the Spanish and Portuguese transition to democracy, and how Iberian architects translated and deployed the central concepts of typology and urban morphology toward democratic processes such as decentralization, social preservation, and urban rights.
While the history of modern architecture and politics has been typically associated with visionary utopias and state technocracy, this dissertation challenges this perspective by concentrating on the translation of discourse into the reform of professional institutions. In a circular movement between Italian theories—of Carlo Aymonino, Aldo Rossi, and Manfredo Tafuri, among others—and their Iberian translations, this study traces four institutional fronts reshaped by this critical approach to urban form: the reform of urban pedagogy and planning led by Manuel Solà-Morales in Barcelona; the introduction of typology in the preservation of historical centers; the creation of a decentralized housing program in the Portuguese SAAL process; and the revision of modern architectural historiography by Ignasi Solà-Morales, Josep Quetglas, and Víctor Perez Escolano. Interweaving the histories of Italian and Iberian architectural discourse in an expanded intellectual map, this study offers a critical reflection on the intersection of conceptual and institutional frameworks of architecture, politics, and urban form, and repositions architecture in relation to democratic processes pertaining the city.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Martin, Reinhold I.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 2, 2018