The City and the Political. Presentations by Maria S. Giudici and Dubravka Vranic – April 28th

Ph.D. In-progress presentation series.
Presentations by Maria S. Giudici and Dubravka Vranic
J.J.P Oud Room – April 28 – 16.00-18.00

16.00 – 17.00 Spectacle versus pedagogy: from Haussmann’s boulevards to Cerdà’s urbe.
Maria S. Giudici

The urban plans by Haussmann and Cerdà are two early examples of projects for the industrial metropolis, accommodating – and harnessing – the labour force in an apparatus of production and reproduction. The present inquiry will retrace in these paradigmatic cases two different approaches towards the issue of the city as apparatus, as well as discussing the historical roots of the relationship between architecture and urbanization. Both cases address the same emerging political subjects – namely, the bourgeois and the factory worker – but while Haussmann constructed an urban narrative, Cerdà designed a pedagogical device. If their take on the space of the street is apparently similar, and rooted in functional concerns, the two cases present a radical difference in terms of political intention. The paper will try to uncover these differences and discuss the potential consequences of the two legacies today.
In Haussmann’s plan, circulation becomes a choreographic tool where every user is given a specific role to play; the layout of the built and unbuilt spaces is highly figurative, generating a readable hierarchy in terms of land value. On the contrary, the isotropy of Cerdà’s Ensanche is aimed at the redistribution of value but also at the generation of analogical relationships between the part and the whole; ideally, the manzana becomes “una urbe elemental” through which the citizen can achieve a heightened consciousness of his or her own space. Haussmann’s urban spectacle and Cerdà’s analogical mechanism are opposite examples of an urbanization that has not got rid of architecture yet. The experiential quality of the spaces they generated is worth discussing as it still tries to open a clearing in the logical impossibility of politics in the age of biopolitics.

17.00 – 18.00 The Resistance of Architecture to Political Regimes: The Case of Novi Zagreb
Dubravka Vranic

In the last 150 years Zagreb has gone through a change of numerous political regimes. It has been in constant transitional state of change where every change of government signaled a new beginning in urban policy. However, architects and planners in Zagreb learned not only to anticipate and adapt to frequent changes but also to instrumentalize change to their own advantage. They learned not only to operate in such unstable and irresolute condition but have also made it into an open approach to design and generate the city. In that way the city is conceived as a project that is dynamic and open-ended and architects and planners as agents of that urban project.

In that respect the research will focus on Novi Zagreb as a paradigmatic case of how architects and planners in an autonomous way through architectural experimentation and speculation have anticipated the development of one consistent part of the city. It will concentrate on one specific time in city’s history – the socialist period after the Second World War during which the most significant urban project in Croatia – Novi Zagreb – was conceived. When we speak about Novi Zagreb we can not say there was an articulate and clear project won in the competition in a particular year conceived by a certain architect, unlike Novi Belgrade at the time the capital of Yugoslavia. We usually associate its origins with the relocation of Zagreb Fair in 1957 on the south side of the river Sava. The biggest Fair in Yugoslavia was logically planned and built in Zagreb as the most important Yugoslav industrial center at the time. Owing to the political neutrality of the country as a founding member of Non-Aligned Movement, Zagreb Fair was the only International Trade Fair at which United States, the Soviet Union and Third World countries exhibited regularly throughout the Cold War. It is widely accepted that South Zagreb, as it was called by the 1970s, has developed as series of housing districts built around the fairgrounds for the growing number of workers in the distraught postwar period starting from 1957. However, the thesis will argue that Novi Zagreb was precisely thought-out, strategically planned and tactically carried out project by architects for the new modern city. The culture of architecture, namely modern architecture that has developed in 1920s and 1930s, was so strong and deeply rooted in Croatian society that even during the Communist Regime the language of modern architecture seemed to be the only logical choice for the development of the new modern city which was to accommodate 250.000 inhabitants.

In the postwar years after the radical split between Tito and Stalin in 1948 Yugoslavia was placed on a somewhat precarious line between East and West. While remaining categorically communist, the country opted for a position of geopolitical neutrality. Immediately after that historical break Yugoslavia entered a short period of heightened orthodoxy, which for art meant a heightened command of Socialist Realism, but at the beginning of 1950s when the system of self-management was established and when Yugoslavia became economically more independent from Eastern Block, it started slowly to open up towards the West.

In these on going changes on the political and ideological level, the situation in cultural and artistic production in Croatia has, in fact, demonstrated a surprising constancy – the lasting tendency towards modernism. While in other fine arts modern and abstract form was rejected by the regime, the pure abstract form of modern architecture was accepted by the Government and even used to represent the new socialist State. The question is what is inherent in architecture that is resistant to political changes and is vocabulary and aesthetic of architecture something that is acceptable to all political regimes?

In order to find the answer to that question the thesis will focus on the notions of ‘form’ and ‘space’. It will look at the city in terms of ‘form and space’. The ‘form’ and ‘space’ meant as categories which are related to the experience they are capable to enhance and events and rituals accompanied with them, as well as the memory implied as the product of the collectivity and the relation we have with collectivity through them.

Today Novi Zagreb is a part of Zagreb in which roughly lives one fourth of its inhabitants (200.000 people). Although heavily criticized at the time when it was built in early 1960s and during 1970s a recent anthropological study of Novi Zagreb told from the biographical perspective of its inhabitants based on their lived urban experience has shown that the inhabitants, actually, very much like to live there.