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From ‘minimum dwelling’ to ‘functional city’: reappraising scale transitions in the early history of CIAM





In comparison to the historiographical interest in the founding meeting at La Sarraz (1928) or its fourth congress (1933), less attention has been accorded to the role of CIAM’s previous two congresses in Frankfurt (1929) and Brussels (1930) in shaping the organisation’s trajectory. This article offers a critical reappraisal of the these two congresses, and of the entire 1928-30 period, as a determinative phase in the history of CIAM. I suggest that this period mapped and sanctioned a transitional dynamics based on scale expansion (from dwelling to building to site to city) in CIAM’s field of analysis. It also produced – through clash and synthesis, success and failure, intention and chance - decisive path dependencies for the future direction of the organisation. I use the trope of ‘transition from’ – rather than ‘transition towards – to draw attention both to the dynamics unleashed by each of the two congresses and to the importance of what transpired in the intervening periods. I argue that CIAM2 and especially CIAM3 represent de facto ‘critical junctures’ that produced new directions of historical travel, generated reactive sequences to antecedent events, and supplied the intellectual and programmatic wherewithal for CIAM's subsequent leap into large-scale urban utopia.

Acceptance Date Dec 31, 2019
Publication Date Jan 16, 2020
Journal Planning Perspectives
Print ISSN 0266-5433
Publisher Routledge
Keywords CIAM, urban planning, scale transition, city, minimum dwelling, high-rise architecture
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