In the book “Modern Architecture and the Mediterranean”, the complex connection between Mediterranean and modern architecture, “a meeting point” according to Fernand Braudel, of varying social, economic and cultural realities, is the binding thematic aspect of the compositions in this collection. A source of vernacular and classical ethnicities, The Mediterranean basin lured in people from the northern nations who went to its banks to search for education and leisurely peace and at the same time inspired the resident architects and artists of the region in the south to dig into its material, spatial and visual history in order to acquire creative renewal.

The Dogon Community and the ‘Otterloo Circles’

According to the book, in 1953 the year that CIAM 9 took place; Aldon Van Eyck drafted a memorable article in the Dutch Architectural periodical Forum. Under the heading “Building in the southern Oases”, in this article, Van Eyck presented a pictorial report of the kind of architectural structures he witnessed during his tour of the Algerian Sahara. He created this together with Corneille who was a Dutch COBRA artist and also Herman Haan who was also an architect. Seven years down the line he toured Africa again this time visiting Mali. He decided on visiting Mali in order to learn and take photographs of the settlements of the Dogon community.

His knowledge of the Dogon community was from of Le Minotaure in Marcel Griaule’s account. (1931-1933). Van Eyck later termed these Dogon settlements as the milestones of an enduring culture that only slightly differ only slightly to the situation five millenniums previous to that time. The same stones used, the space allocated inside and outside is the same, the same absolute conversion of light and dark and the same embryonic familiarity.           

In the circle on the left hand side (“by us”), Van Eyck embodied 3 architectural traditions by using 3 drawings: a cluster of houses in the villages of Aoulef in the Algerian Sahara, a building by Van Doesberg and the Acropolis or the Parthenon of Athens. Later, Van Eyck designated the diverse traditions as “vernacular of the heart”, “change and movement” and “immutability and rest” respectively. The circle on the right (“For us”)

With the Ortello Circles Van Eyck sought to put illustrate and suggest that if modern architecture tried to respond to the entire human identity , then it had to absorb the elementary values that the diverse architectural traditions had presented all through the ages. The Aoulef villages situated in the Algerian Sahara were a major factor in this view. They were, in Van Eyck’s opinion, the manifestation of an architecture that was involved directly with the symbolic needs and aspirations of the inhabitants. This notion of a “vernacular of the heart” would be additionally developed into two parts in the publications Via and Forum in which the Dogon villages – constructed from mud and dirt – were used as an illustration. In these publications Van Eyck portrayed his fascinations for the vital role of the Dogon society’s mythology. Influenced almost entirely by the works of anthropologists Ruth Benedict and Marcel Griaule, he elucidated how Dogon space and time are differentiated with an assortment of symbols.

Modern Architectural Styles

The recent architectural styles include; contemporary, post-modernism and modernism

Modernist Architecture: Modernism is a style that was founded in the early years of the twentieth century. An icon of modernist architecture is Le Corbusier’s Unite d’Habitation in Marseilles, France. Modernist architects were against the ways of their predecessors who relied heavily on ornamental architectural designs. They had a rather different perspective of architecture, and thus their interest lay in creating space and structure exactly the way it was needed. Designing a simple structure reminiscent of the natural world that surrounded it is a good example of modernist thinking. Many a time buildings designed by these architects were said to be competing with nature due to the fact that they were built in the shape of their surroundings instead of blending in with the surroundings. The famous phrase “less is more” coined by Robert Browning and later adopted by Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, a renowned scholar, is understood to be the underlying principle of the modernist design theory in architecture.

Post-modernism Architecture: The era of modernist architects was followed by the age of post-modernism which commenced in the early 1970s. Postmodernism was more of a blend between modernism and the era prior to modernism. This was due to the fact that postmodernist architects relied on decorative and ornamental features and additions in their designs of buildings. This type of architecture was, therefore, an improvement on their predecessors, despite having decorations and unplanned angles. Advances in technology fostered discovery of new architectural ideas and concepts, and ultimately the expansion of the architectural field. As a result, post-modernist architecture has come to be more modifiable and more sculptural. These properties of post-modernist architecture are a response to the prior modernist architectural outlook, design and movement. The post-modernist architecture has over time transformed into a more profound, less rigid and sculptural form of architecture. The most notable post-modernist architects include Richard Rogers who designed the Centre Georges Pompidou museum in Paris, France, and Frank Gehry who designed the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

Contemporary Architecture: Contemporary architecture is generally understood to be all the architecture that was developed in the 1980s. However, this type of architecture has evolved over time due to the advancement of technology, the discovery of new architectural ideas and concepts, and ultimately the expansion of the architectural field. Advancement in computer technology has made it possible to simulate architectural designs, thus shedding light on conceptual thinking and architectural styles. Advances in computers have taken the theoretical thinking as well as insight into recent architectural styles to new heights, and given rise to a new style that has never been experienced in the architectural world before.. Contemporary architecture is very much influenced by post-modernist architecture due to being a lot less rigid, sculptural and also having an ornamental and decorative aspect. Contemporary architecture is continuously pushing the envelope in an attempt to formulate something new, while trying not to forget that contemporary architecture has its origins in post-modernist principles. These periods continuously influence and intersect with each other resulting in the emergence of new architectural ideas. Therefore, the modernist, contemporary and post-modernist theories unceasingly develop by impacting and building off each other

The CIAM and rise of Team X

With the 3rd and ultimate stage of CIAM idealism triumphed entirely over the greed of that era. During CIAM 6, In 1947, at Bridgwater in England, where it was being held, CIAM attempted to rise above the abstract desolation of the ‘functional’ town by confirming that ‘ the goal of CIAM is for the conception of a physical surrounding that will please man’s material and emotional needs. ‘ This theme was further developed under the sponsorship of the MARS group of England which prepared the subject matter ‘The Core'[which stood for the urban core – alleged to be the basis of community and identity] In 1951, CIAM 8 was hosted in Hoddeson, England.

In selecting the topic ‘The Heart of the City’, MARS instigated the congress to address itself to a subject matter that had previously been proposed by Fernand Léger, José Luis Sert and Siegfried Giedion in their declaration of 1943, where they stated that the people wanted structures that signify their community and social life to give extra functional satisfaction. They would like their ambitions, excitement, pride and joy to be fulfilled. ‘ Nevertheless ‘ the old guard of CIAM showed no sign that they had the capability of realistically assessing the complications of the post-war urban dilemma; with the consequence that new partners drawn from the fresher generation became more and more disillusioned and agitated.

At CIAM 8 Giedion acclaimed the playground designs of the youthful Dutch architect Aldo van Eyck. The critical split between the young ‘turks’ and old-guard, came with CIAM 9 hosted at Aix-en-Provence in 1953. In this occasion, the young ‘turks’ led by Peter and Alison Smithson and Aldo van Eyck, posed a challenge to the four Functionalist groups of the Athens Charter. Dwelling, Work, Recreation and Transportation, Recreation, Work and Dwelling. Rather than proffering an different set of concepts, Jill Howell, John Voelcker, Shadrach Woods, Jacob Bakema, Georges Candilis van Eyck  and the Smithson’s looked for for the structural philosophies of urban growth and for the following significant unit beyond the family cell. Their discontent with the altered functionalism of the older generation – with the naivety of Gropius, Kunio Mayekawa, Ernesto Rogers, Alfred Roth, Sert, van Eesteren and ultimately le Corbusier – is mirrored in their critical response to the CIAM 8 report.

They stated that Man may willingly identify himself with his individual household, but not simply with the city within which it is located. ‘Belonging’ is an elementary emotional need – its overtones are of the most basic order. From ‘belonging’, comes the improved sense of neighborliness. The small narrow street of the slum thrives where expansive redevelopment often fails.  Owing to these thoughts, they stopped recognizing both what Frampton defined as the ‘Sittesque sentimentality’ of the old guard and the coherency of the ‘functional city’. In a nutshell they established a strong position for themselves in the field on the basis of the re-assertion of the vitality of both the symbolic and social facets of the built environment.

This position was on the basis of the assertion of the vitality of building forms and vernacular values whether in the type of Nigel Henderson’s photographs of London street life (displayed by the at Aix-en-Provence) or the Algerian housing system displayed by Georges Candilis (founded on vernacular housing forms). At CIAM 9 the John Voelcker and Smithson’s presented designs for a variety of housing types for the purpose address matters of community. Candilis exhibited his Algerian mass-housing system. These apprehensions hit an instant chord with van Eyck, who together with his friends and Hannie, his wife, had embarked on tours to the Sahara and published his photos of the vernacular settlements he witnessed there.

This clutch of young enthusiasts was to form the central part of the successor to CIAM, Team X, which disbanded after the following and final Congress, at Otterloo in Belgium.Without pursuing needlessly the history of the growth of Team X it is obvious that the original unity of purpose in the assembly was short-lived and although they were still in the course of doing away with the old-guard of CIAM their dissimilar interests resulted to an conceptual split between Bakema and the Smithson’s on one side whose curiosity in mediating the distancing effects of universal flexibility via the creation of ‘place’ paradoxically by the use of elevated pedestrian areas  and megastructural housing units and – and van Eyck who addressed himself to matters which the Team X majority would have wished to have left vague. No other Team X participant appears to have been ready to attack the distancing concept of modern architecture.

Impact of Structuralism

In the 1950’s and 1960’s in both Europe and the United States the impact of structuralism thought already predominant in anthropology and linguistics began to change the most daring architecture of the period. Levi-Strauss work in anthropology and De Saussure’s work in Linguistics led to the notion of the presence of ‘deep structures’ in their individual fields of study. Generally, it is clear that, structuralism was regarded as the effort to study the connections linking phenomena instead of the phenomena themselves in segregation. This led to an understanding that individual phenomena are mutually part effect and of a larger jointly interactive matrix or web of phenomena as compared to the outcome of a direct chain of effect and cause. Levi-Strauss’ studies of traditional cultures brought attention to the built formula of these cultures and their additive nature.

There existed a limited variety of related components arranged in a partial range of variations conferring to a particular set of guidelines. Just as there appeared to be deep structures shaping the social configurations of these cultures there appeared to be ‘deep structures’ describing the organization of their traditional built setting. This realization made a deep impression on significant North American and European, architects of the time and several of them at least initiated speculation on the possibility of existence of deep structures connecting late 20th century western civilization and its built environment with those of ‘traditional’ Asian and African cultures.

This curiosity in deep structures displayed itself in two ways in architecture. To begin with, the reflection of deep structures in language resulted to the establishment of a procedure for studying them. This new science of semiology, which came to be known as semiotics, was first suggested by De Saussure early in the 20th century. By the 1960’s the assumption that there could also exist a conforming language of architecture, the arrangement of which could be exposed and evaluated, led to a semiotic examination of the built environment.

The leading figure in this investigation was possibly the Geoffrey Broadbent, the English architectural academic and its most noteworthy outcome was the establishment of a ‘pattern Language’ methodology to architectural form by Christopher Alexander the architectural theoretician who was previously an English mathematician and whose team working from the University of California at Berkeley came up with a number of periodicals of various Pattern Languages for a range of architectural types  and urban configurations. Noteworthy were the Group’s entrance to the PREVI Lima housing competition in 1967, their Pattern Language for ‘Multi Service Centres’ and the 3 volumes only served to title a Pattern Language which tried to set out an array of general rules for urban form from the widest to the finest scale. This work yielded a predictable reaction from theoreticians and architects who possibly irrationally, resented what they perceived as the narrow dimension to this work and properly and more rationally noted the clandestine aesthetic aspect of the work. This might be characterized as an amalgamation of medieval village and the hippy wood-butcher reaction to the widespread materialism of late modernist world. This study petered out by the mid-1970s and resulted in a limited number of built projects to allow the evaluation of its usefulness.

The more straight-foward consequence of the architectural aspect of structuralism, came from the curiosity of a number of architects who only embedded onto the traditional architectural project a clutter of formal gestures which merely symbolized the wider shift in thought in western culture which structuralism represented. In the broadest formal sense, the outcome of this was architecture organized as relatively flexible arrangements of substitutable but usually clearly defined components. Space was branded and divided according to use designs and combined conferring to devised sets of guidelines. The component of architectural form was, in general, clearly voiced – it was easy for one to tell, for instance, where load bearing became non-load bearing and column turned to beam.

Aldo van Eyck a Dutch Architect who, for some time edited the powerful magazine Forum energetically pursued his curiosity with the connection between the built form and the social structures of traditional values, making a number of field trips to the Dogon people of north West Africa to learn their indigenous shelter. He wrote books and lectured very extensively on what he witnesses as the teachings for urban planners and western architects to learn from the Dogon. Van Eyck interests lay in the aspect of the city as a macrocosmic equivalence for the dwelling and the dwelling as a microcosmic equivalence for the city; therefore, public squares in cities equivalent to living rooms and pathways in dwellings were equivalent to streets. Van Eyck also had an interest in the psychological significance of archaic characteristics of built form, for example, the thresh-hold and the hearth.

Aldo van Eyck was born in Holland at a town called Driebergen, in 1918. He resided in Golders Green, London from October 1919 to July 1935 with his family. He went to school in London, England at Prince Alfred Primary School in Hampstead 1924 to 1932 and to Sidcot School in Winscombe, from 1932 to 1935. He went back to Holland and became a student at the Royal Academy of Visual Arts in The Hague. He studied there up to 1938. He then moved to the Eidgennössische Technische Hochschule in Zurich where he studied architecture up to 1942. He continued staying in Zurich up to the end of World War 2. In 1943, he then married his Hannie van Roojen who was his fellow ex-student. They had two children, Quinten and Tess. While residing in Zurich they came across Carola Giedion-Welcker who familiarized them with the 20th century art avant-garde.

The Van Eyck’s left Zurich for Amsterdam in 1946 where Aldo was employed as an architectural designer of the Amsterdam Public Works Department in the City Planning section up to 1951. He took part in the COBRA movement. From 1951 to 1954 he taught Art History in Enschede, at the Academy of Art and Industry. From 1947 he was an associate of the CIAM group in Dutch ‘de 8 en opbouw’, an associate in the Nagele project and Dutch delegate at a number of international congresses from up to 1959. He began a private practice in 1951 as a partnership, with his partner being Theo Bosch from 1971 to 1972 and in in partnership with Hannie, his wife from 1983 to 1999 when he passed away.

From 1951 to 1966 he taught Interior Design in Amstredam at the Institute for Applied Art Education and from 1954 to 1959 he taught architectural design at the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture. Aldo Van Eyck was one of the founders of “Team 10” with J. Voelcker, A. & P. Smithson, G. Candilis and J. Bakema, in 1954. Van Eyck taught all over Europe and northern America emphasizing the need to reject Functionalism and criticizing the lack of creativity in majority of post-war Modernism.

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