The Impossible architecture

By Martina Cima
Artwork by Diego Soprana

Week 02

It is difficult to define “impossible” architecture, nevertheless over the years, the desire to change and improve the living conditions of man drove great architects to raise complex issues in response to the hardships and needs of the time. Often the proposed solutions were not strengthened by earlier successes, but were based on ambitious ideologies and avant-garde methods that aimed to facilitate change and living conditions.
The risk in building and theming new urban landscapes and living complexes, is that this utopian architecture is often unknown, fails or is simply too progressive.
In part, this transformative desire is inherent in the DNA of architects, who project after project are not satisfied with what exists but fantasize on what could be. Some have undertaken meticulous and maniacal study and research in the mad attempt to change the rules and habits of the population.
Not all utopian projects were failures however. We are now accustomed to many of them, which were unexpected for the time and proved to be successful. However these projects were often risky and their objectives were not always understood.
Some architects devoted their entire life to this radical design, such as Le Corbusier, loved and hated at the same time for his genial temperament and self-righteousness. Best known for his most “trivial” work, few know how much serious research he undertook in parallel.
His ideas were aimed at planning an ideal city, an urban complex that had at its foundation the relationship between “living” and “circularity”.
Many of these projects were never realized. However there was one that was completed and proved to be a success. I am referring to the city of Chandigarh in North India.

Legislative Assembly by Le Corbusier

Alber Mayer initially won the architectural competition to create the master plan of Chandigarh, the new capital of the Indian Punjab. He discontinued work on the city when his architect-partner Matthew Nowicki died in a plane crash in 1950. Government officials recruited Le Corbusier to succeed Mayer and Nowicki.
Le Corbusier gave shape to Mayer’s initial ideas by using his Modulor concept, which aimed to discover mathematical proportions in the human body, and then to use that knowledge to improve both the appearance and function of architecture.
The city of Chandigarh is “anthropomorphic”, public buildings dedicated to government and administration lie at the head, while productive apparatuses represent limbs and entrails. Even public services follow this law and represent the veins, for example pedestrian streets that give way to freeways on the edge of the city, in order not to clutter internal traffic in the metropolis. Impeccable logic that soon transformed this city into the most orderly in India.

Punjab and Haryana High Court by Le Corbusier

Much closer to us and just as utopian, we find Aldo Loris Rossi.
Even his architecture is a research laboratory, different from that of Le Corbusier but always focused on space and human behaviour.
But Rossi does not just look at man and his measurements, he goes out and observes the environment around him, and thus his works organically relate to nature.
Dissociating the rationalist architectural vision and classical design, his work is complex, asymmetrical, breaks volume, and evokes a generative process that commences from inside and works its way out.
His urban “ecopolitano” model commences from rebalancing the urban areas through extreme measures such as scrapping the poor quality post-war buildings, and freeing the architecture from build-up, to arrive at a stimulating and compelling urban system created by sinuous shapes that are active and upbeat.

Casa del Portuale, Napoli by Aldo Loris Rossi