Friday, February 23, 2007

Yesterday's City of Tomorrow

Your industrious Euro Like Me reporter has been working on a film script (!) The movie is about a housing complex called Interbau, which was built in Berlin in 1957. The architects were pretty much the hot-shit superstars of concrete-and-glass at the time: Gropius, Aalvar Aalto, Oscar Niemeyer, and several others who perhaps should have been famous. In doing the work, I've come across a remarkable document: it's a booklet that was published at the time the buildings were opened for occupation, and it lays out the manifesto of what these builders were trying to achieve for the residents. It's by turns eerie, ridiculous and poignant, and it says a good deal about the European (leftie) intellectual head in the fifties. Some of it sounds totally five minutes ago, other parts sound like they were beamed in from Planet WonderWorld.
Anyway, the booklet is organized into a series of numbered Precepts (like, er, biblical verses). Here's a few of them, interspersed with some pictures I took of Interbau while I was there in January.....

"24 The family used to be a unit of several generations, living, working and spending their leisure time together. Today the large family has been reduced to a small one by the splitting of the old from the younger working generation.
25 Even this small family flies apart today towards its various places of work and interests. The members of the family drift apart."

"6 But none of us would voluntarily go on living in tenements, and each desires healthier dwellings in natural surroundings for his children.
7 All long to relax in the forests, wander among fields, bathe in clear lakes and rivers, and enjoy activity in little gardens."

" 17 Superficial and senseless distractions are on the increase as recreational activities.
18 The celebrity and the star are becoming universally accepted, delusive models.
19 Amidst this transformation the circle of politically and economically responsible persons has not yet achieved the character of a new elite, a genuine governing class.
20 There has arisen the type of professional official whose specialized capacity for thought does not move beyond the scope of devoluted duties.
21 Creative spirits, almost unknown to the masses, have their being in seclusion. But the value of their achievements has not yet been restored to general effectiveness."

" 4 In the city of tomorrow the people will live in urban residential areas with a free view and linked with their neighbors. At the same time each has the opportunity to lead his personal life."

(all quotes from The City of Tomorrow, Interbau GMBH/International Building Exhibition, Berlin 1957 booklet #1)

1 comment:

Ed Ward said...

Oh, man, the Hansaviertel. I lived on the outskirts of it when I first moved here, and I always wondered who would live there voluntarily. In the summer, there'd be these groups of Japanese architecture students, carefully parsing the distinction between the various kleenex-box shapes. But then, I've always said that one of the shortest books I could write would be Masterpieces of Post-War German Architecture.