The City Lived: Architects on a Mission

Seminar (052-0827-23)
Veranstalter: Professur Avermaete
Dozierende: Dr. Maryia Rusak
Zeit: Donnerstags 15:45 - 17:30
Ort: ETH Hönggerberg HCP E 47.3

International Delegates of the First Meeting of the United Nations Committee on Housing, Building and Planning
Source: Ekistics 15, no. 90 (1963)

The course will explore the figure of a “global planning expert” that emerged in the post-war period, along with changes to planning practice brought by this transnational turn. During this time, architects converted to jet-setters who travelled the world on “missions” to solve complex problems posed by rapid urbanisation and mass migration. Practitioners like Otto Koenigsberger, Ernest Weissmann, Jaqueline Tyrwhitt, Constantinos Doxiadis, Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry were commissioned by the newly-independent states for large urban development projects initiated by the United Nations. Such projects required new interdisciplinary expertise, as planners and architects worked alongside politicians, sociologists, anthropologists, economists and engineers. And although these planning “missions” were arranged under the seeming neutrality of “technical assistance” by the United Nations, they relied on Western ideas of modernisation and development, often at odds with local realities. Architects developed new knowledge as they adapted imported models to specific social and climate conditions and local material and logistical networks. Coupled with the discipline’s participatory turn, these projects delegated design agency to the users, profoundly shifting the architect's role in the design process. Through three main modules—Projects, People and Knowledge—this course explores how these transnational design projects conceived under the idea of “development” redefined the position, agency and knowledge of the architects.

The course is based on weekly two-hour seminars, workshops, and group research work. Following the introductory session, the first module explores transnational urban development projects initiated under the Technical Assistance programme of the United Nations. To help students contextualise selected case studies, we will read a selection of texts that discuss how architecture and urban planning were mobilised as tools of development.

In the second part of the course, we will focus on concrete people behind these design projects. Students will investigate professional figures of transnational planners and architects and study their roles in the selected projects. Through archival and literature research, the students will also try to discover other less-known actors that were involved in these projects—politicians, UN officials, engineers and other experts. As a final task for this module, students will produce a map of concrete people behind their selected projects using an online mapping tool like Miro Mind Map.

The last part of the course will expand on the previous exercise and produce a knowledge map of different concepts and ideas related to international planning projects. As a final deliverable for this part of the course, students will expand the actor’s map with a layer of new architectural knowledge that emerged from these international planning projects.

Throughout the course, students will work on individual project diaries. This exercise tests the format of the architect’s field notes, which is popular in the context of international planning. In their personalised version of a project diary, students will be able to integrate hand drawings and notes based on their selected project’s research they have conducted during the semester. The course will conclude with a small exhibition with individual presentations of these project diaries.

Course Reader. 

Course material

Seminar 1 (21/09) — Course Introduction.
Gürel, Anthony, 2006. 
Hyde, 2017. 
Koeningsberger, 1978. 
Seminar 1 slides. 

Seminar 2 (28/09) — On the Nature of Aid.
Avermaete, Casciato 2014. 
Aggregate, 2022. 

Seminar 3 (05/10) — Building with Nations.
Ekistics, 1963. 
Ekistics, 1965. 
Wolffhardt, 2020. 

Further Reading:
Committee on Housing, Building and Planning, 1963. 

Seminar 4 (12/10) — Workshop Day.

Seminar 5 (19/10) — Architects of Development.
Abrams, 1964. 
Lagae, De Raedt, 2013. 

Further Reading:
De Dominicis, Tolic, 2022. 
Pacheco, 2022. 
Ekistics, 1963. 

Seminar 6 (09/11) — Networks of Experts.
Bjazic Klarin, Bojic, 2018. 
Lee, 2017. 

Seminar 7 (16/11) — Midterm Presentation.
Schneider, Till, 2009. 

Seminar 8 (23/11) — Concept Clusters.
Ekistics, 1968. 
Le Roux, 2020. 

Further Reading:
Tyrwhitt, 1985. 
Delhi Seminar, 1956. 
Anderson, 2021. 
Pyla, 2007. 

Concept clusters:

Tropical Architecture
Phokaides, 2013. 
Warwick, 2021.
Baweja, 2008.
Le Roux, 2003.

Climate Adaptations (Passive cooling/ventilation)
UN Seminar, 1956.

Sustainable Development
Pyla, 2002.

Low-Cost Construction
Koeningsberger, 1951.
UN, 1959.
Weissmann, 1961.

Self-Help Construction/Sites and Services
UN Manual, 1964. 
Kwak, 2018.  
Lausch, 2023. 
Ivanovic, Tamura, 2014.  

Anthropology of the dwelling/Local vernacular
Vellinga, 2011. 
Karim, 2018. 

Urban Planning in Development
Habitat Conference, 1975.  
International Development, 1969. 
Weissmann, 1966. 
Dainese, 2019 

Education/Tropical Studies
Solano-Meza, 2017.  
Solano-Meza, 2017.  
Berlanda, 2017. 
Shoshkes, 2009.  

Seminar 9 (30/11) — Guest Lecture.
Muzaffar, 2018. 
Mardell, 2019. 

Diary References:
Siddiqi, 2017. 
Tyrwhitt, 1934. 
Tyrwhitt, 1954. 
Sanyal, 2022. 

Further Reading:
Shoshkes, 2018. 
Solano-Meza, 2017. 
Tyrwhitt, 1968. 

Seminar 10 (07/12) — Final Review.


Dr. Maryia Rusak