Pre-Organised Special Sessions

To be competed with more special sessions soon...

Prof. Aristotelis Dimitrakopoulos

Title: The Collapse of Great Metropolitan Archetypes: the Monumentalized City of Mummified Authenticity vs. the Urban as Genealogy of _Scape.

 

Chair:

Prof. Aristotelis Dimitrakopoulos

Architect, Aristotheke Eutectonics, Office of Architecture and Urban Design, Associate Professor of Architecture & Urban Design, Department of Architecture, University of Ioannina

 

Special Session Title:

The Collapse of Great Metropolitan Archetypes: the Monumentalized City of Mummified Authenticity vs. the Urban as Genealogy of _Scape.

 

Session Abstract:

This session consists of two pivotal segments, each identifying and questioning prevalent iterations of conceptualization for the contemporary “urbs.” Intent of this merger is to span over individual agendas and tentatively initiate a dialogue for today’s metropoles unhindered from enticing – yet highly introvert and oftentimes partial – formulations.

 

Subtitle A:

The City as Physis: landscape urbanities or the urban as a genealogy of _scape

Abstract A:

Historically, the urban artifice has been widely conceptualized and handled through its acclaimed antithesis with nature. Anthony Vidler’s claims for a “third typology” unveil such a case, culminating to an advocacy of neo-rationalist approaches. Still, nature has often served as a positivist model for the urban, as in Cerda’s reference to the medical discourse. Then again, nature has been perceived – consciously or subconsciously – as a field concentrating modernist fears and phobias, thus revealing an anthropological and even psychic tension between the human subject’s natural origin and its rationalist development.

Cityscapes as artificial nature: More recent discursive strands tend to examine the urban not as an isolated island within the natural – not as an exception to physis – instead emphasize directly or latently the notion of _scape as a noumenal tool spanning two formerly separate realms. The session addresses urban exegeses that prioritize an interdisciplinary understanding of the metropolitan in its intrinsic relation to the concepts of nature (physis) and scape. Examining the urban as a genealogy of _scape terminology, the papers aim to bridge previous oppositions or contradictions by exploring at once conceptual natures (human ideological constructs) and tangible natures (the material artifacts), their interfaces or inter-dependencies.

Arti-Physis, or ‘meta-physical’ nature: In the sphere of conceptual natures, the rather neglected paradigm of Joseph Rykwert’s The Idea of a Town is re-surfaced as a case analyzing notions of resilience through urban meta-physics. In his introduction Rykwert compares Rome to commerce-led and profit-geared town-founding, such as the U.S. city of Detroit. The very term “Urban Renewal” is in the U.S. synonymous to the ultimate devastation of cities, through the erasure of historic centers, districts and neighborhoods in a C.I.A.M.-like design approach. Rykwert directly criticizes such experiences and effects of centralized government planning aligned with business initiatives, trusting instead a meta-physical iteration town-founding, as a most resilient strategy for self-propelled urban renewal, precisely via its conceptual nature; on the basis of an ineffable heritage. A critical examination of such theoretical tones is sought here.

The domain of tangible natures addresses physical landscapes yet re-iterates those as mental constructs. Given also the continuous dissolution and expansion of urbanities towards the natural, the portrayal and conception of ‘landscapes’ has emerged as key notion organizing and depicting the urban condition both visually and verbally. Linking to Art theories towards landscape drawing and re-considering the recent emergence of a _scape literature in urbanism, this directive attempts to comprehend the change of paradigm from limited enclaves or definite entities to expansive aggregations as well as their advocates’ aestheticizing and romanticizing panoramas as advertized within architectural discourse.

The proposed session endeavors to interlink series of such cases. Individual papers attempt to interlink a series of cases that explore divergently the terms addressed. These may be:

  • The city as a field condition
  • Urban physis: the urban as natural
  • Conceptions, theorizations of nature vs. artifice
  • Nature and the natural as archetypes for the city and the urban at large
  • Urban landscapes and landscape urbanities
  • The city as reflection of inner and latent landscapes
  • Archaeologies of _scape in the discourse of urban history
  • Culture vs. civilization as two distinct traditions of human evolution
  • The subjectivities of historicizing: urban history as self-reflective practice
  • The inception stages of an urban physis: intents, dynamics, (sub)consciousness
  • Urban exegeses and meta-physical notions: the idea(s) of a town
  • ‘Urban renewal’ as an armature of anti-resilient agendas

 

Subtitle B:

Authentically Disneyesque: Cultural Heritage, Monumentality and Locality as Mummified Iterations of Identity.

 Abstract B:

Common definitions for monumentality often refer to frozen states of cultural evolution: desired physical traces or conditions, collective events or public places, anonymous buildings, vernacular ensembles, urban districts and even entire townships, become loci of ‘identity’ formulated through multiple ‘cinematic’ freezings. In this context, scenographic moments, arbitrarily and subjectively selected, ‘construct’ iconographic assemblages; constitute stylized formulas. Such – often commerce-driven – notions of genius loci articulate narratives of locality as embodied in ‘regionalist’ architecture as much as in populist media, covering thus all grounds and levels from elitist art to mass culture and disposable ‘lifestyle’.

The reduction of culture and heritage to tangible figuratives – morphologies, styles, symbols and motifs – may absolve non-physical qualities, modes of societal organization, idiosyncrasies of economic and political structure, invisible or non-material infrastructural content. As ethical, philosophical, ideological, religious, social and political “regional” structures are mostly dismissed under the aegis of political correctness – in a hypocritical mannerism avoiding direct conflict and antagonism – concomitant phenomena of alienation and de-contextualization emerge as the incredible “norm” of our era: the perfect scenographic kit of a Cycladic island can be transferred and replicated to any location, exactly like Venice is re-constructed as a private Las Vegas Casino resort, and like a cowboy-town is copied as a Disneyland Tokyo spectacle. Even in their original location, ethnic scenic sets appear as alienated and artificial as in any other global sites, announcing a profit-geared monumentality of the bygone. Indeed, “local” environments are not constructed to be experienced on a short-term basis from recyclable masses of touristic ‘nomads’. Modes of organization, economic structures, spatial organization, social roles and occupations are altered or erased by the very arrival of globalizatory forces. Monumentalization thus acts as a gravestone for what is purportedly defended.

Contemporary globalism emerges as a system of economic power centrally administered, projecting, re-introducing and periodically recycling appliqué flavors, profoundly de-politicized “tastes” and styles, to a holistic but neutral market field; a system assigning price-tags, issuing temporary certificates of validity, and legislating status to exclusive, mummified iconographies of supposed extra-ordinariness and uniqueness.

This segment of the session expands on the above issues through interdisciplinary theoretical research and field studies addressing the the fields of social theory (Fredric Jameson, David Harvey and others), architectural criticism (such as Robert Venturi & Denise Scott Brown etc.) and architectural history (Vincent Scully and others) attempting to navigate through the contradictions and dilemmas of contemporary discourse on locality and monumentality.

 

Special Session Organizer Resume:

Aristotelis Dimitrakopoulos. Associate Professor of Architecture and Urban Design, School of Architecture, University of Ioannina, Greece. Architect and Founder of Aristotheke Eutectonics Office of Architecture + Urban Design, Athens, Greece. Aristotelis [born: Athens GR, 1974] graduated in 1998 as an Architect-Engineer [Professional Dipl. Arch. Eng.] from the National Technical University of Athens School of Architecture and earned his Master of Architecture degree from the Yale University School of Architecture [2000]. Aristotelis worked with Robert A.M. Stern Architects [2000-01]  and Bernard Tschumi Architects [2001-02]. Has taught at the University of Patras GR, the Savannah College of Art & Design, School of Building Arts, Frederick University in Nicosia, Cyprus. Aristotelis has written extensively in English and Greek on diverse topics in urbanism and architecture under historical, theoretical and critical scopes, focusing on the regional as well as at an international scale. He has served as member in editorial boards for several sector periodicals in Athens, GR. Design work by Aristotheke Eutectonics© is frequently included in collective, peer-reviewed, regional architectural exhibitions. Participated in conferences at the Universities of Ulm (2007); Hasselt (2015); Bauhaus Weimar (2008); ETSAB, ETSAV, Barcelona (2014); Leuven (2017) Aristotle, Thessaloniki (2007); Patras, Rio (2004); Athens (2015), Thessaly, Volos (2015); N.T.U. Athens (2015); School of Fine Arts, Athens (2014) and in independent academic conferences, such as REHAB in Porto (2015); Changing Cities 2 in Porto Heli (2015), Public Space in Thessaloniki (2011), ArchTheo in Istanbul (2015), and more.


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