Introduction Le Corbusier’s first Unité d’Habitation
The Marseille Unitéd’habitation which literally means unit of habitation is the first of the series of experimental and futuristic housing blocks developed by the Architect Le Corbusier after WWII. It became one of the most influential Modernist buildings of all time with countless iterations tried by other Architects all over the world and developed in different directions and with different levels of success.
Corbusier himself built four more Unité d’Habitations in Europe. The Rough concrete he used ‘béton brut’ became the signature of the style known as Brutalism. Simply put if you are are interested in Modern Architecture or the History of Architecture this is one of the buildings you should know.
An exhibition Secret Cities will start 3rd May at the National Building Museum in Washington. The Manhattan project sites where Americas Nuclear program built the first atomic bomb are now national monuments read about them here, also a great essay or two about the building of the secret cities that had to be built alongside.
The Building of the city to support this effort is fascinating, the scale of it required immense planning and of course prefabrication so these projects give an early glimpse into the way buildings more and more are conceived now. Looking at the floorplans from them the only thing really that looks out of place with a contemporary plan is that the kitchens are separate from the living and dining spaces.
In 70 years the typical housing layout of kitchen, dining and living room as separate rooms has given way to the open plan living space where all of these spaces are in a single space, kitchens in most Finnish new builds are open. It is through the Kitchen that we see the most change over time in the design of homes and it’s through the kitchen I think we learn the most about our ancestors, Though maybe things will change?
The tallest timber framed tower in the world (just now).
Treet or Tree in Norwegian is a 14 storey apartment block in central Bergen. At 49 meters its the tallest timber framed building in the world, although there are a few on the drawing board that if built would dwarf it.
The higher cost of the structure in wood as opposed to concrete and steel was able to be offset by the quicker and easier erection time, four storeys per 3 days and it also meets passive house standards. The building was erected in modules of 4 the already completed apartments slotted into the wooden framework as it was erected.
The exposed glulam structure front and back really makes this project, instead of hiding the structure at the ends they are on front and back elevations infront of the glazed balconies providing a striking feature for the building and also for the inhabitants of the tower.
The above picture is of Amsterdam with the buildings coloured by date of construction. A dataset of 9,866,539 buildings to come up with this amazing map. It is a mesmerizing experience and informative, Rotterdam bombed by the Nazis in WWII is light blue compared to the red of Amsterdam which wasn’t bombed. (via)
How do you get rid of a listed building when you are redeveloping? Add a new elevation and ‘partially demolish it’ as is the case in my hometown of Edinburgh with the old Scottish Provident building on St. Andrews Square. It’s a beautiful 60’s building in its own right and in context I agree with Malcolm Fraser. Keep it.
UCL’s New Hall Housing a student apartment block in London had won this years Carbuncle Cup in the UK. An award for the worst building. Why is it so bad, well read this article on the Guardian about it. Cheap, ugly,designed to maximise paid student numbers cramming them together like battery hens. Not only this but like in the example in Edinburgh above planning regulations have been bent and floated cynically. A deserved winner.
Anna Minton has carefully researched and traced the outline of the policies in the UK behind not only the privatisation of public buildings and space, but have also shaped how we use and think about the city. Grand regeneration projects have turned public space with potential value to everyone into private, corporately managed and policed space, from which the original inhabitants have been all but excluded. Housing Projects have divided communities, created fear and loathing. CCTV and policing policy have exacerbated social divisions.
This thoroughly researched book takes us historically through the key projects and key policies that have brought us to this situation. From the Docklands in the late Eighties under Thaterism through to the present day taking in other major developments across the country. In Liverpool with Liverpool One and Manchester in Exchange Square to name a few of the other major developments that follow this model.
It’s a more encompassing book than just looking at the Urban developments though. It clearly links crime and fear of crime in the UK to the changes in the law and running of developments and housing in the UK. Government policies have reinforced or created these negative effects, the Pathfinder scheme, ASBO’s and Secured by Design. These policies along with the rise of gated communities all over the UK and of CCTV cameras (more in the UK that in the rest of Europe combined) which actually increases the fear and insecurity in society as well as social exclusion. As an example of good writing which clearly links social policy to concrete outcomes in the urban fabric of cities and with actual social outcomes this book sets the bar.
Published in 2009 around the last crash in 2012 an extra chapter was added to cover the Olympic Games of 2012 itself probably worthy of a book. In the conclusion Anna Minton tries to find some silver lining to the dark clouds. Urban Space Management stands out as the lone example she can muster, their Development in Trinity Buoy Wharf an example of how things could have been all over the country. It’s compelling but sobering stuff a must read for anyone in this field and hopefully it has helped to shine a light on an area of public policy which is so opaque but which we should be much more engaged with.
I can’t help but to link this book to The New Aesthetic, the blog by James Bridle that recognises the crossover of the net into the physical world. The use of drones and (mentioned in this book) the mosquito, CCTV and gated communities, all examples of places that exist because of new technology and the ability to produce action at a distance to monitor,control and segregate from anywhere anonymously. Is Britain becoming a visible artifact of the network of control and commerce which has grown up in the last twenty five years in the UK? I sure hope it’s not that bad.