1 The City as a Space of Contact: Street Architectures before the year 1000
2 The Age of Perspective: Florence, Ferrara, Rome 1450-1550
3 Specific Spaces: Government and the Emergence of Architecture d’Accompagnement, Paris 1584-1765
4 Urbanization and the City: Pedagogy and Spectacle, Paris – Barcelona 1848-1900
5 The Wonderful World that Almost Was: Stalinallee vs. Lijnbaan, Berlin – Rotterdam 1953
6 The Paradigm of Infrastructure: From Generic to Commonplace, a conjecture
Maria Shéhérazade earned her MA in Architecture from Mendrisio Academy, Switzerland, with an award winning project for Venice developed in Elia Zenghelis’ unit. She worked between 2005 and 2007 in Bucharest-based office BAU before graduating at the Berlage Institute in 2009 with the team thesis Rome-The Centres Elsewhere, published in fall 2010 by Skirà.
The last fifty years of theory have not managed to produce a consistent body of knowledge about the street and its architecture. On the contrary, human and urban geographers have discussed the street as arendtian space of public appearance, railing against the contemporary disregard for streets as citymaking elements.
This lack of interest has its root in the very nature of streets as places of conflict and stage designs for subjectification processes. Far from being merely the space between buildings, streets are the battleground of the negotiation between public and private interests, power and citizens, city and architecture.
It is a widely accepted cliché that while traditional urbanism focused on space, contemporary urbanism produces objects; this dichotomy has served as an excuse to produce objects that do not take responsibility vis-à-vis the space of the common. In the meantime, debate about the concept of place has reached a standstill, caught in the irreducible ambiguity of the dialectics of exclusion entailed by the idea of placeness.
Both theoretical thought and militant architecture find themselves in a stalemate, stuck between nostalgia for authenticity and proliferation of unreadable objects. In this situation, the street looks depleted of any citymaking potential – for streets negotiate the relationship between space and objects, and they are by nature places rather than spaces. A possible way out could be represented by the rediscovery of commonplaces. In the Aristotelian sense, commonplaces are the basic structure of a discourse. Streets are urban commonplaces par excellence, and reevaluating their ability to mediate between space and objects means to seek a possible grammar for the contemporary city.
By reconstructing the political and economical roots behind the crystallization of a number of street paradigms, the thesis will lay out an archaeology of citymaking by streets. The street will be analyzed as narrative apparatus aimed at enforcing specific behaviours, an urban fact that manages both our use of space and our use of time, a narrative chronotope of sorts. These chronotopes are often scenarios for wars that, in time, shifted from being literal sieges to urban guerrillas to intestine political struggles. The conflicts of the biopolitical era, though, are far more difficult to read than the past ones. They are left unspoken on purpose, relying on the rhethoric of infrastructural neutrality to better force the contemporary subject into his role. Through the unveiling of the mechanisms of past street paradigms, the thesis will try to test the potential for contemporary paradigms.
As much as past paradigms stressed identity and spectacle in order to enhance through metaphors their ritual and ideological status, a street project for the postindustrial society could rely on commonplace and abstraction, and acting as non-referential framework to reconstruct the lost link between city and architecture, space and objects, place and subjects.