Transatlantic crossings : new forms of meaning in the city of the 1970sTransatlantic crossings : new forms of meaning in the city of the 1970s
Faculty of Design Sciences
Henry van de Velde
Planning perspectives : an international journal of history, planning and the environment. - London
31(2016):1, p. 103-113
University of Antwerp
This micro-narrative explores transatlantic meetings of influential European and American figures at Cornell University in the 1970s. It focuses on Colin Rowe, Oswald Ungers, and Rem Koolhaas, respectively authors of the widely known books Collage City (1978), The City within the City (1977), and Delirious New York (1978). The article argues that their time in the USA led them to produce a body of urban thought that may be seen as a tipping point in design, both for European cities and the USA urban landscape. The twentieth-century discourse on the city is markedly transnational and has often sought a neutral logic for configuring the built environment, yet it also bears the marks of the places in which it was conceived. The disillusionment with the universalizing and technocratic discourse of modernism was already tangible throughout the European debates on the city at the time. The Cornell period incited these three figures to abandon a societally engaged approach to the city in architecture in order to develop a body of work that reclaimed architecture and urban space as domains of cultural meaning. From a background of the social agendas of Europe and confronted with the unselfconscious American environment, Rowe, Ungers, and Koolhaas developed a specifically architectural perspective on planning and urban ideas.