The City Represented

Prof. Dr. Tom Avermaete


The automobile has reshaped our conceptions of space and our modes of accessing and penetrating the urban and non-urban territory in multiple ways, revolutionizing how architects perceive the city and contributing significantly to the transformation of the relationship between architecture and the city. The seminar examines the architects’ automobile vision. Its main objective is to help students understand how the automobile influenced the architects’ perception of the environment and how its generalized use provoked the emergence of new theoretical concepts and eventually led to new design perspectives. It aims to untie the specificity of car travel as a new episteme of the urban landscape.

One of the main learning objectives of the seminar is to help students understand that the emergence of the generalized use of the car is related not only to a new epistemological regime, but also to a new representational regime. The new representational regime, which relies upon photography, film, new modes of visual mapping and particular diagrams, serves to capture this new epistemological regime. The seminar offers awareness to students that there is an agency and an intentionality behind this new representational regime.

This course took place during the Spring 2021 semester.

Dr. Marianna Charitonidou

Architectural history has long been narrated as the achievements of a select group of pioneering and heroic master architects. New perspectives prompted historians in the 1980s and 1990s to write a ‘critical history’ that eradicated the Eurocentric bias, with ‘global histories’ that started to acknowledge the worldwide dimensions of history. This seminar goes one step further, and develops and tests an intertwined history of architectural ideas prompted by an international ideas competition originating in Japan.

‘The City Represented – Visions of Urban Living’ is concerned with the production of new architectural knowledge that occurs when different cultures and interests come together. In particular, the seminar explores to what degree ideas infiltrate or merge – in appropriated form – with the design knowledge of others. It does so by traversing the Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition (1965-2020), an annual housing ideas competition that originated in Japan but attracted entries from all around the world. Students investigate different competition themes and connect them to the wider architectural debate on ‘metropolis’, ‘comfort’, ‘style’, ‘programme’, ‘historicism’, ‘localism’ and ‘digitalisation’. In parallel, students explore the works and theories of well-known architects who posed the competition themes and served as the single judge, including Charles Correa, Michael Graves, Richard Meier, Toyo Ito, Bernard Tschumi, Rem Koolhaas, and Kazuyo Sejima. In addition to the competition brief, the particulars of the multiple winning entries and each judge’s final remarks, we read primary and secondary sources to understand the historical and sociocultural context of the competition as well as its pre-, side- and after-effects on the architectural debate at large.

During the first class, students are asked to choose one of the pre-selected competition editions to focus on in-depth over the course of the entire semester. Next, students analyse their selected competition edition by addressing the following questions: How did the competition theme come into being? Who had access to the competition? What is the mechanism driving the competition? What was the larger issue reflected in each edition? How is a common design problem interpreted differently by contestants? Did reviewing the entries influence edition judges’ original perceptions? In what way did the competition theme resonate in different architecture cultures afterwards? In the guise of a detective, students gather relevant sources in the library that could contribute to answering the research questions posed above. The semester-long research culminates in a comprehensive digital Kumu concept map that forms part of their final presentations.

This course took place during the Spring 2020 semester.

Dr. Cathelijne Nuijsink

Competition announcement of the 1996 Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition judged by Kazuyo Sejima. (© Shinkenchiku-sha)

The first in The City Represented seminar series departs from the premise that depictions of cities enable an alternative understanding of their underlying structure and character. The seminar examines drawings and paintings depicting urban life and environments and correlates them to underlying ideologies. From the comparative analysis of artworks from different times and cultures, we extrapolate various conceptions of cities as they evolve over time. Students are encouraged to draw connections between the subject matter, the composition, and representational techniques employed, and the contexts of their circulation. Three analytical tracks are used for the analysis of city portraits. The first involves examining the purpose for which the images were created and the context of their circulation. In the second, we analyse the techniques used: medium, composition, viewpoint, framing, degrees of abstraction or figuration. Finally, we discuss the ideological register, the messages about cities and civic and social life the images convey. Thus, the course offers access to different ways of conceptualising the city to those usually made available in studying the history and theory of urban design.

This course took place during the Spring 2019 semester.

Hover Image: Formerly Piero della Francesca, Ideal City, Galleria Nazionale delle Marche Urbino

Dr. Irina Davidovici