Reconstructing the topographies of the modern *city: The late CIAM debates

Marina Lathouri, University of Pennsylvania


The subject of this dissertation concerns the reorganisation of the knowledge of the modern city that occurred in the mid-twentieth century. The emergence of the urban as an expanded field of architectural intervention as well as the increasing interest in the multiple relations between social patterns, territory and history, threw open a discussion on the heritage of the modern movement, and settled the grounds, upon which the rethinking of the city developed after World War II. The work is concerned to identify not a succession of concepts but the ways, in which earlier ideas and forms of spatial organisation were transformed and absorbed into approaches shaped by the specific circumstances of the post-war reconstruction and the theoretical debates of the time. Sections through the CIAM (Congrès Internationaux d'Architeture Moderne ), and in particular the congresses that took place between 1947 and 1959, are used as an analytic device rather than evidence. Themes, visual strategies and projects discussed in the post-war congresses convene a range of issues, which are contingently appropriate to describe conceptual reconfigurations of the modern city and their spatial, formal and historical implications. The hypothesis is that a different understanding of architecture and the city began to emerge, one that absorbed or transformed previous suppositions and methods on at least two fronts. Firstly, the sense of a building, or a city, embodied in its three-dimensional geometry was gradually combined with the idea of an order that followed the dictates of social and environmental needs. Secondly, this manner of thinking that sought to inquire into and materialize the relations between the different parts of a broader system, underpinned the move from an absolute identity to a contextual identity. Thus the intention of the thesis has been twofold. It seeks to delineate a process directly involved in shifting perspectives on the city, and consequently, acknowledge a continuing discourse on the urban as well as its intersection with architecture and spatial organisation. Ultimately, the aim is to address questions of architectural historiography, only to the extent that they enable us to understand mechanisms also engaged in contemporary interpretive and design strategies.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Lathouri, Marina, "Reconstructing the topographies of the modern *city: The late CIAM debates" (2005). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3211100.