ArgumentNo. 11/2019

Prudent recovery of the city in the collective dwelling. Anthological hermeneutics between three concepts: historicism, formalism and post-functionalism

  • / “Ion Mincu” University of Architecture and Urbanism, Bucharest, Romania


The objective of this research aims to re-evaluate and bring again to the professional attention an European model of urban and architectural practice concerned with collective dwelling in favor of the city, too quickly fell into oblivion: Internationale Bauausstellung Berlin (IBA) 1987. The methodology of this reassessment is based on a concrete experience at IBA locations in Berlin during my recent visits there, followed by an extensive historiographic research on the architectural publications that officially accompanied the event and its architectural competitions. I have interpreted this architectural phenomenon through collateral theoretical texts, relevant both for a hermeneutic endowed with the capacity of weakening the scientific hard frames of understanding the reality, as well as for what I would call in a broader sense an intellectual cartography for our profession, recalling anthological concepts such as historicism, formalism and post-functionalism in order to return to the principles of collective dwelling for the city, motivated by the evocative power of critical urban reconstruction.

The middle of the seventh decade of the twentieth century represents a turning point in the theory of architecture, whereby the issue of the collective dwelling deviates from the functionalistic-scientist ideology and the "New Objectivity" that governed the rational principles of post-war reconstruction in Western Europe. Between 1965 and 1987, a widely-inspired by philosophy hermeneutics intensely developed itself inside the critique of architecture, orienting it towards the historical horizon and the idea of recovering the city by dwelling. Misunderstanding or ignoring the fundamental stake of this interest in the current practice makes us now recognizing in our local context too few examples of good practice where collective dwelling is explicitly situated in favor of the city.

The interpretative approach concerning IBA 1987, mainly addressed to collective living, draws out some essential conclusions, which are now relevant to us more than ever: 1) urban renewal must be prudently done, by fragments, looking analogously to the valuable historical precedents and abandoning the rudimentary scientific discourse of progressism; 2) the architectural conception occurs as a consequence of the typological understanding of the historically settled urban tissue in which the street, the square and the urban island are the constitutive morphological elements inside a collective memory; 3) collective housing and differentiated public space can not be dissociated in the theoretical approach, concrete reality and perceptual experience of community space sharing.


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